A few months ago, a high school teacher wrote about her experience attending classes for two days as a student. After being at the front of her classroom for 15 years, she wanted to learn what the experience was like for the kids in the seats. After one day as a 10th grader and one as a 12th-grader, she was shocked.
“It was so eye-opening,” she wrote, “that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding.” Too bad she doesn’t teach at an online high school like Sterling Academy. Her “student experience” would have been radically different. Let’s take it point by point.
Her Takeaway #1: “Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.”
It sure is. She couldn’t believe how tired she was after her school days. Other than walking between classes, she was parked in a chair the entire time. She said she couldn’t stop yawning and it was all she could do to keep her mind from “slipping into oblivion” as the day wore on.
Sitting isn’t just mind-numbing, it’s unhealthy. Ask any doctor.
At Sterling Academy, teachers do not dictate when or where students learn. Online students never have to sit, unless they want to. Like health-conscious office workers, they can stand at their desk, walk around tablet in hand, take as many breaks as they want to refresh their blood flow. They can clear their mind if they’re feeling frustrated over difficult content, or just go do something else for a while.
Remember recess? Why is it traditional brick-and-mortar schools think students don’t need to move around during the day once they leave 5th grade?
Her Takeaway #2: “High school students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90% of their classes.”
Yikes. Her experience, she said, was one of endlessly absorbing information but “never grappling with it.” She realized that students have little autonomy and little control or choice over their learning. She was saddened, thinking back on all the missed opportunities to mix things up for students rather than spending every classroom session standing in front lecturing.
She was also dismayed to realize the inevitable consequence of this teaching style is that classes move inexorably forward, tick tock. Student questions, confusion, etc. usually just fall by the wayside, deadening enthusiasm.
Here at Sterling Academy, variety is the norm. We use an exceptional curriculum, and courses are delivered 100% online in formats from reading and writing exercises to audio, video and hands-on labs. Not only is this far more interesting and engaging for our students, but it enables them to connect with material in a way that matches their own learning style.
Our teachers focus on mentoring, coaching, explaining and supporting as needed. Whenever a student wants to consult with their teacher, they simply arrange a time that works for both of them. They get the teacher’s undivided attention, one-on-one.
Her Takeaway #3: “You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.”
Ouch. She was repeatedly told to “be quiet and pay attention.” As a teacher, she understood that to cover a certain amount of material in a given time period, time must be used wisely.
Unfortunately setting a time limit on learning is not wise. It fits no one. At Sterling Academy, our students have complete time flexibility. When material comes easily to them, they can zip through it, and when it’s not so easy they can stay with it until they have mastered it. The goal is understanding, not scheduling.
Our student-for-a-day teacher was also embarrassed at the amount of “sarcasm and snark” directed at students. Sadly, in traditional high schools teachers can be bullies just like classmates. When questions are met with an eye-roll or some other disparagement, students learn to stop asking. That puts struggling students at an even greater disadvantage and tells gifted students they are causing trouble.
This teacher-blogger noted that designing learning from the student perspective would make students more “engaged, alert and balanced.” That future already exists. It’s called online high school. When you’re ready to learn more or get started, Sterling Academy is ready for you.