February 5

Would You Go Here?

I came across this article about a school in the Netherlands called Agora. It is a fascinating model where there are no classrooms, no curriculum, and the teachers are more “coaches on the side” than teachers at the front of the class (espcially since there are no classrooms!)

As I was reading it, I kept wondering…what would our parents think of this? What would our students think of this? What would our teachers think of this?

Rather than wonder, I’m here to ask! Let’s start a conversation.

Hey students! Would you want to go to a school like this? Do you think this kind of environment would work for you and your learning style? Do you think you would be productive? If you were completely in charge of your own learning, what would you learn? Does this remind you of anything we do in our school? If we could have elements of this in our school, what would that look like?

Hey parents! Would you choose to send your child to a school like this? What elements appeal to you? What would you find challenging as a parent? As you see in the arlicle, progress is measured in a very different way than we’re used to. How would you respond to that?

Hey teachers! This model sounds like so much of what we strive for in our school…(North Stars alers!) student voice, ruach, a floor but no ceiling… Could you see yourselves giving up the control as the teacher at the front of the room? The students at Agora are at least 12 years old. What would need to be true of your teaching now to prepare our students for a school like this?

 

Are there any other thoughts you’d like to share? Please comment below and let’s start a conversation!!


Posted February 5, 2021 by melissathompson in category General Information

40 thoughts on “Would You Go Here?

  1. hayes1

    Hi ms thompson, i would go to this school this looks really cool if I went to that school I would learn editing and robotics, this would be hard to get used to because I usually have a schedule and im a kinesthetic learner, its also really interesting that you get to pick what you learn and when you learn it.

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Hayes1,
      I agree that it would take some getting used to. Did you know that before COVID times we had a robotics club? Hopefully once we can do clubs again you will join the team!
      Hopefully you have learned different skills and techniques to support your kinesthetic learning style. Good thing we have Genius Hour where you are able to learn about something you’re interested in! What have you been learning for that?
      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  2. Lily

    Hi, Mrs. Thompson I really like this school. Of course, I would go to this school. when I first saw this school (through pictures). I was like wooh that seems fun. is it true from what I could see, was someone camping on the roof. the main point is this seems like a good school. thank you for this article. from Lily.

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Lily,
      I noticed that person sitting on the roof too, and got nervous that there weren’t any railings! I’m glad your saw some things that interested you in this school. Is there anything specific you think we could start doing in our school? Does this inspire you to choose a different topic for Genius Hour?
      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  3. ethang4

    Hello, Miss. Thompson that is so cool I would love to go to that school. I don’t think I would stay on task but I would like to go. I would probably want to do computer science and coding.
    I am just wondering how would they monitor the kids? What would they do if every school was like this?

    Thanks,
    Ethan

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Ethan,

      I am so impressed that you know yourself well enough as a learner to think this environment would not necessarily be the best for you. I agree that it would be hard to stay on task with so much freedom. They did say in the article though that the teachers, or “coaches” check-in with the students and make sure they are learning. They just get to do it at their own pace and in their own way. It definitely would take a specific type of learner and teacher to go there!
      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  4. bluelighning

    Hello Mrs. Thompson: I think it would be soooooo fun to just have freedom and doing what you want to do. I think I would be able to learn freely and I would fit into this school. I think I would probably play around and then realize I should probably go learn something XD. If I was in charge of my own learning I would probably go get a device go to that high place in the picture and I guess learn something :). That is why I would really enjoy this place. Bluelighinhg

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi bluelightning,

      It looks like there are so many cool places to learn in there! The fact that the students have the freedom to learn what they want reminds me of what we do for Genius Hour. What are you currently learning during that time? Maybe if this school is interesting to you, a good place to start would be to choose a topic you want to learn more about for Genius Hour!

      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  5. Eliya

    Hi Mrs.Thompson I read the article and I was so amazed and as soon as I saw it I was like I want to go there. I think it would be a good school I like being able to choose my subjects. Yes I think I would I am am a good independent learner and it would work. I would learn how to be a vet how to drive and robotics. We have some free choice at school . I would put in more robotics.
    Eliya

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Eliya,

      I love that you know that you are a good independent learner! Did you always know that about yourself, or has learning from home during COVID helped you realize it more?
      Thank you for sharing some of your interests. I didn’t know you wanted to be a vet! You could always narrow it down to something even more specific for Genius Hour and get started on that dream now! Maybe you could start learning what programs in school you need to take, how long it takes to become one, and the best schools to learn! Or you could research the most common issue people bring their dogs to the vet for and create some type of awareness campaigne for dog owners…just a thought πŸ™‚
      Thanks for commenting!
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  6. Lazer

    Dear Mrs Thompson,

    Student: Yes, i would like to go there. I think that the school would work but I don’t think the environment would be different then here. I am not saying that I would not like it there because I think I would. I don’t think it would be as productive as our school but I think it would still productive. If I was in charge of my learning i would learn about a ton of animals, maybe some coding also. I don’t think that school is much like ours, one of the things I do think is like or school is the choice part. Though our school does not have that type of choice in most blogs we get to pick what we do it on. If our school was like that I think we could just have the way of teaching, not the background. By the background I mean what it looks like.

    -Lazer

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Lazer,
      I’m with you, that while it’s really cool to think about, especially for an elementary school, it might be a little too much freedom for us. It’s great that you have choice for blogging. You also have Genius Hour! Have you done anything on animals for that? What kind of animals specifically are you interested in? When I was younger I used to want to be a Marine Biologist. I’m happy I became a teacher though πŸ™‚

      Thanks for commenting!
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  7. Eden

    Hey Miss. Thompson! I read the article it is very interesting. To answer your question I would not link to go to school there because it will be to noisy. And how would emergency stuff work? I don not think That it will be a good learning style because some people are auditory learners but it will be to loud with no door or walls. I don’t like people will be productive because people will here other people so it will be very distracting. I would learn things that we need in the world like, taxes, spilling, math stuff and the world stuff. I do not think it looks or reminds me of our school. I don’t really know what my elements will be. But I hope this helped

    Thank you for this!
    Have a good day!
    Eden

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Eden,
      Thank your for reading the article and sharing your thoughts! I wonder if they have solutions there for students who need a quieter learning environment. As my students can tell you, I get VERY distracted by noise and so I too would need a quiet workspace. I love seeing that you would learn about things that will be useful to you in your real life. Fortunately we spend a lot of time on all those subjects in Grade 5 and Middle School! You are in good hands here πŸ™‚

      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  8. adam

    Hi Mrs Thompson!

    This school is not my type of school I would enjoy learning with a limit it isn’t my kind of school, If there was anything I would take from that school would be free periods! Like we could work on projects and homework.

    Sincerely, Adam P.

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Adam,

      Thank you for your honest response! I agree that this school would not be good for everyone. And it makes me happy that you are happy with the way we teach and learn at our school! Seeing how many students think this way of learning has positive elements though makes me wonder how we can add more choice time, like we do for Genius Hour. Do you feel you use this time well to choose projects that interest you? What have you chosen to work on this year so far?

      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  9. bianca100

    I wish I went to a school like that. I love projects and it even said you could customize your desk! my dream…And I would for sure like to choose what I am learning and being able to move around and not have to sit around in my desk all day. the only reasons It maybe wouldn’t be so good for me in that school is that it might be really crowded and maybe I would get lost and I don’t know if i can even trust myself being in charge of my own learning.:)

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi bianca100,
      Your response made me laugh! Do you know that when I first came to OJCS I used to get lost with all the different hallways and stairwells! I bet you would learn your way around very quickly.

      I also loved the idea of designing your own desk and getting to work in different areas. Hopefully we will get back to a non-COVID year so we can have a little more flexibility back.

      What project are you currently working on for Genius Hour? That’s what I kept thinking about when I was reading about choice. It’s the best way I can think of to implement some of what they do at that school in our own.

      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  10. charlotteb01

    Hi Mrs. Thompson the school is so cool but I would rather be in a school where I have actual learning classrooms.
    Thanks,
    charlotte

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Charlotte,

      Thank you for your honest response. I’m glad to hear you like the way we learn in our school. And I’m sure Miss M, Morah Ofra, Morah Tal and Mme. Raymond are happy to hear it too! Just because something is cool doesn’t mean it’s flawless. I think for elementary school there is a lot of value in teaching and learning the way we do, with some room for choice, like with Genius Hour.

      Thanks for commenting!
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  11. Callie

    Hi Mrs.Thompson I read the article and I think it’s so interesting! I would definitely want to go to that school. I think if I went there I would probably do coding and learn about animals. I think that if I got into that school I would probably get distracted at the beginning them notice and start working. It would be really fun if we could do that in my school.

    Callie

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Callie,

      You touched on something very important when you say you would probably get distracted but then would get to work once you noticed it. That’s probably the best life lesson. When you are older and have a job, you will have things you will need to get done, but no one is going to sit next to you and make sure you do it. That’s why we spend so much time trying to help you all become independent learners. There will always be distractions, but eventually, you need to take responsibility for yourself and get to work πŸ™‚
      Are you enjoying the coding we’ve been doing this year? Is it your first time coding or have you done it before?

      Thanks for commenting!
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  12. Sharon Reichstein

    What a fascinating article and such a different way of looking at education. Thank you for sharing and opening up this conversation. I have such mixed feelings about it. I LOVE the concept of students owning their own learning, learning how to learn, how to problem-solve, how to persevere, how to struggle through a problem, how to seek support from peers, community members etc.. but my worry is if students only focus on what they are interested in, they may be missing a whole set of skills that they may need but wouldn’t pursue.

    Things I wonder about are, how and when and how do students learn to read and write, edit and spell, learn basic math facts? If a student hates to read, can and should they avoid it? If there isn’t an interest in writing, does it mean a student shouldn’t learn how to write?

    One barrier I potentially see for our school is that we are a Jewish day school with an emphasis on Hebrew and Judaics. I wonder how that would work? Do they only learn second/third languages if a student is interested in that? I wonder how they decide what they want to learn – do they have criteria to cross different disciplines?

    In terms of how this school is like our school, I love that we are starting to offer more and more choice within our framework and helping our students personalize their program and own their own learning. This definitely gives us a lot of to think about and strive for. Such a great conversation. Can’t wait to read what others think.

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Sharon,

      You’ve expressed so many of my own feelings. There’s a lot I love, and a lot I feel I would have a hard time with as a teacher.

      When I was reading the article, I kept having to remind myself that this school starts at age 12. I would assume that a lot of the basics like reading, writing and math facts are already known. They say they have outcomes that students MUST know by a certain age, they just don’t specify HOW they learn it or WHEN. The role of the teacher is completely different. I guess you need to be very aware of what each student is learning, and guide them towards things that they need to learn. If a student develops a new product for example, encourage them to decide on a price point based on production costs, competitive products and profit, make an advertisement for it, code a site for ordering, etc.

      The part I really loved was how they got parents involved. During the ISTE Conference this year, I learned that for Genius Hour, students should be encouraged to find a mentor who isn’t the teacher. Given that students in many different grades have started doing Genius Hour in their class, I could absolutely see something like this being implemented. If parents “advertised their skills,” students would have people from our community who they could reach out to.

      Thank you for joining in on the conversation! Hopefully we’ll hear from more colleagues, parents and teachers soon πŸ™‚

      Reply
  13. kitkatojcs

    Hello, miss Thompson. I would like to attend this school because this school lets students learn what makes them happy. I personly would enjoy this school
    That’s all I have to say-Kitkat

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Kitkat,
      I’m happy you found some things you’d like about this school. If you could learn about anything right now, what would you choose? Is there something you’ve always wondered about that you’d like to investigate further?

      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  14. bobmcbobberson

    Hello Mrs.Thompson. I think this school will be fun but maybe not super productive because if you had anything to do we might just do anything we want to at school but if we managed to control ourselves I think this would be a fun and nice school because if you were learning things through listening to them a bunch of times it wouldn’t stick but if your actually enjoying it will stick. Also if you were just listening , sitting and working it’s pretty boring. Another thing is that if anyone does anything they want there might be accidents and people might get hurt.

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi bobmcbobberson,

      Having self-control and being a self-directed learner is a definite must for this school. Even though the students get to learn what interests them, I would imagine there are still rules and ways they help the students stay on track and stay safe!
      I can guess from your response that you like exploring things and being active, rather than simply listening. You sound like a kinesthetic learner, and that’s a really great thing to know about yourself to help you learn better!

      Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  15. Jordan CM

    As long as there are also quiet spaces and options to learn-and-teach as a project, I’d be in favour of it. In my career as a researcher / engineer, I try to organize all of my work into projects (and the crazier, the better). My best learning in elementary school (yes, at Hillel / OJCS) came from projects. This wasn’t just in science — there were Torah fairs, French plays, social studies reports, math contests, etc. I liked being challenged and doing something to learn more than I liked pretending to pay attention to my teachers while they explained things. I never became very good at the pretending, maybe because it had never been phrased to me as a challenge.

    Would I encourage project-based education? Of course! Would an enormous “maker-space” style lab be needed for that? It would be nice to have, but I don’t think it’s the essential ingredient.

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Jordan,
      Thank you for joining in on the conversation! I’m so glad to have your perspective.
      As teachers, we are trying to prepare students for “the real world” and part of that is getting to know themselves as learners. You are lucky that you identified early on what motivates you, the structure that helps you be the most productive and apply that to your current work.
      You mention some contests and activities that I remember from my childhood as well. It feels like, in elementary school especially, we have moved away from more public competitive activities, like math competitions, Bible contests and spelling bees. Do you think these types of competitions are important for students or can they cause more harm than good?
      Hopefully once COVID is done and we are able to move around the school more freely, students in all grades will get to use our amazing new maker-space! Until then, we will take all the feedback from students, parents and teachers, and try to give the kids as many opportunities to explore and learn through projects as possible.

      Reply
      1. Jordan CM

        Thank you, Melissa.

        If you don’t want to be good at anything, don’t enter any competitions. Whether your school has the worst basketball team or the best, you won’t put in the same training time to be better if there is no one to play against.

        I think that translates to other parts of school life. In elementary school and high school, I learned a lot of material in a lot of subjects by doing extra-curricular contests. Certainly a lot of the art that was showcased around the school was done for contests. It’s a motivator and an outlet, and it’s also a proof point. You believe in your learning a lot more when you can see what you can do with it.

        Competitions are everywhere. To get into a university program, you are competing. To get customers, project funding, grant money, promotions … there is competition. If we teach students to avoid competitions, we teach them to avoid growth and success. It’s true that no single competition will appeal to every student, and competitions that focus more on sorting winners from losers than engaging students in the challenge and showcasing their efforts may be harmful, but the answer to that is more opportunities, not fewer.

        Stories are boring when there are no obstacles. We want to have interesting stories — there have to be motivating challenges. Those can be projects, they can be competitions, they can be personal goals having to do with play. But if we can’t find a challenge that speaks to us, why should we get out of bed?

        Reply
  16. Tehila

    Hi Ms. Thompson, I would want to go to this school because it looks really fun, exciting and different. I think it would be cool to see what it is like. I think I would be productive. It doesn’t really remind me of things we do in school its kind of different and cool in its own way. If I went to that school I would learn math and French. It’s also really cool that you get to pick what you learn and learn it whenever you want. If we could have elements of this in our school it would probably be a bit different and would take getting used to.
    From Tehila

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Tehila,

      Thank you for your honest comment. I’m so happy to hear that you would learn math and French because, the good news is, you are learning those in our school too! Now that your teachers know these are two areas of passion for you, I wonder how they can integrate that into your learning more?

      Great thoughts πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  17. Samuel B

    Hi, Mrs Thompson I think that Agora is amazing because it has many resources and you can guide yourself but it’s hard for me too choose all the projects I do. I enjoy learning math and having quizzes so I think Agora isn’t the right place for me. If there was ever a mix between Agora and OJCS that would be the perfect place for me.

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Sam,
      Thank you so much for adding your thoughts to our conversation. You identified something that I think A LOT of students have a hard time with – picking a topic for a project. When you have so many things that interest you, it’s hard to narrow it down and know where to start. Knowing you love math though is a great beginning. So much of what we do every day involves math. Even thinking through a world problem to identify possible solutions can be considered math!
      Hopefully we can continue to work on finding ways to give students more choice and voice at OJCS!

      Thanks again for commenting πŸ™‚
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  18. map13ojcs

    Hello Mrs Thompson,I would like to go to a school like this because you can choose whatever subject you want, and usually I don’t get to so it would be great!

    I don’t like my parents would send me to a school like this. As a parent it would be hard because we would first have to get all the way from canada to the netherlands but it definitely would be fun!

    It would be kind of confusing because there is no rooms but maybe as a 12-18 year old I wont. Like it said you have to come up with what you want so i come up with something I want and then tell the teacher.

    Thanks, map13

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi map13,
      Your comment made me laugh! I think ALL parents would agree that the Netherlands is a little too far away to have to commute back and forth πŸ˜‰
      If your teacher told you today that you could learn any subject you wanted to learn, what would it be?

      Thanks for commenting!
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  19. jeremyo2

    Hi, Mrs. Thompson, I would totally want to go to this school it sounds so awesome. I could study whatever I want. but it would take some getting used to. I would learn a bit of everything.

    from Jeremy,

    Reply
    1. melissathompson (Post author)

      Hi Jeremy,
      I also thought the school sounded so cool, which is why I wanted to see what others thought. I love that you say you would learn a little bit of everything. It shows that you have a lot of different interests, and that’s important! Is there one subject in particular that you enjoy learning a bit more than the others? Or something we don’t learn at OJCS that you would like to learn?

      It definitely would take some getting used to, but I think there are a lot of positives with an environment like this.

      Thanks for commenting!
      Mrs. Thompson

      Reply
  20. ark

    Hi Mrs. Thompson, I am a little torn. I want to go that that school because I get to choose what I learn about. But I would not because I like to have a schedule that my teachers make.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply

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