Free to Innovate and Educate at Green School

Now that we have crossed the threshold of the 21st century and have exited an era of education that processed kids like the cubicals and assembly lines that they were destined for, we are left to figure out how to raise these generations for the amorphous nature of our interconnected world of today.  This shift has blown the doors of education wide open and we have drastically evolved beyond the simple “private” vs. “public” schooling option.  Today there is a dizzying spectrum of options that parents, kids and even teachers toil over to get the right fit.

Many public schools have abandoned the one size fits all model and have been dissected into charter schools or restructured as magnet schools.  Independent schools have adopted holistic pedagogies to give students diverse learning pathways.  More parents are buying into home schooling and some are even taking a leap of faith by unschooling.  And to confuse things even more Khan Academy and other online education services have emerged as legitimate alternatives.

I am a high school math teacher who has run the gamut of options from the most standards driven curriculum to where I am now at Green School in Bali, Indonesia.   This is not to say the Green School is a radical de-institution, but as a teacher I am entrusted and have never had more freedom to do math the way that I want.   Most educators appreciate autonomy and at some point during their career dream of getting out from under the thumb of imposed standards and expectations to start their own school.  Countless times I had this thought and have even hatched plans with teacher buds sharing similar views, and while these brainstorming sessions were fun and imaginative they merely ended in rhetoric as pretend schools.  It wasn’t until Green School that I realized I was not pretending and was acting upon the ideas my right brain was cooking up.  The curriculum is alive and something new and special is created at Green School everyday.  For those of you who might be wondering, yes there is a curriculum backbone and I draw heavily from American and British textbooks to ensure that my students are keeping stride with their global peers, but I replace the faff with relevant Project Based Learning.  For example, learning about the quadratic equation and parabolas is a class titled “Boomerang Math, Mate” and is coupled with aerodynamic designing, up-cycled crafting, and throwing techniques of boomerangs.  This model for learning was born by the progressive minds at Green School, championed by our Head of High School Leslie Medema and authenticated by the brilliant teachers I am surrounded by each day.

Indeed, Green School is a jackpot of inspiration and hotbed for making things happen whether teacher or student.  The collective brainchild of the senior students service program this year was a biodiesel bus.  The ambitious group worked through transportation complexities to be the first to bring this form of green transportation to Indonesia.  Also this year, in the middle school a team of students signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Governor to reduce the use of plastic bags on the island by 2016.  Now you tell me, is this a place that is true to its vision to “empower(s) and inspire(s) students to be creative innovative green leaders”?

Green School has had innumerable successes since opening in 2008 and while the needle on the compass has been jostled occasionally over the past six years the growing pains have certainly been worth it.  Green School is brave and a unique evolution in education from the dogmatic approach of the 20th century.  The freedom to design and creatively implement my curriculum alongside this inspiring community means I do less daydreaming and am more thankful as an educator.

Pak Kyle King

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