I grew up outside of Chicago but my mother was from Mississippi, so I had experiences in the South as well as the North. Although I was lucky to go to schools with high academic ratings, I always wondered why there was not more joy and excitement about learning in “good” schools. I also was repelled by systems that sorted students into categories. Growing up, I kept thinking there had to be a better way and I’ve spent 50 years working in education trying to promote schools that foster active student engagement and empowerment.
Along with a group of fellow parents, I founded a small, alternative K-8 school where students were not graded in traditional ways and learned through experiential learning. The school closed after ten years because of funding issues. However, it proved to be an excellent opportunity to learn how to organize effective inquiry and project-based learning. After this experience, I was convinced experiential learning was powerful and needed to be the cornerstone of all schools.
I grew up in the U.S. Deep South trying to figure out why I was not the image of a white southern belle. School was no help in understanding that problem or any other. The main thing I learned in my traditional high school was there must be a better way to do school. Through studying sociology of education in college, then many years teaching in public schools at every level from preschool through college, and working to change community youth programs, I became a firm believer in “it takes a village.” That theme is the subject of my recent novel, School Tales, where teenagers tell their story in a school designed to meet their needs. I am excited about this website dedicated to strengthening student voices and self-direction to pursue learning based on personal interests and sense of purpose.