My last post is titled, “What a Micro-School Is.” If you’re new to the world of micro-schools, you may want to check that one out first and then come back to this one.
Many people assume that micro-schools are nonprofit ventures. Some of them are, but it is not a core aspect of their design. I have never and will never design a micro-school as a nonprofit. Firstly, there is nothing inherently altruistic about the not-for-profit structure. Many overpaid CEOs lead nonprofits while capitalizing on the misconception that they are inherently altruistic by underpaying and overworking their employees.
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Designing, launching, and leading a micro-school is a brave endeavor that requires strong boundaries and a clear vision. This is doubly true for leading one that relies on a strength-based framework and trusts children as the authority of their educational experience. Nonprofits are ruled by boards of people. Most people harbor unconscious bias in favor of authoritarian, hierarchical, and deficit-based education methods. No matter what their conscious thought is when the fear that a child is not progressing at the speed or manner generally regarded as “correct” or “on time” begins to creep in, the vision and integrity of the mission begins to erode.
Secondly, maintaining a for-profit micro-school does not have to automatically mean extracting as much profit from the workers and enrolled families as possible. Sunnyside Micro-School was quietly managed as an open-book venture, meaning we were ready and willing to share our financial data with whoever was curious. While micro-schools run on thin margins, it can be difficult to understand where all the money goes when families are culturally conditioned to expect school to be “free.”
I would love to see more micro-schools emerging as worker-owned. I can envision a team of generous, brave, and driven educators coming together to create something amazing for their community. When the issue of private education is approached creatively, there are so many ways to create accessible, innovative programs for kids who conventional school is not working for.
Micro-schools are for everyone. I just happen to be called to serve twice-exceptional families and to strongly believe in humanistic, strength-based education. Another person may want to design something more or less specific depending on who they are hoping to serve. I personally have had dreams of designing a micro-school focused solely on service learning, climate activism, and preserving indigenous cultures. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination.
There are also things that a micro-school is not. A micro-school is not an opportunity to exclude or discriminate against families based on bigoted ideals. They are not for denying science, history, or justice in general.
I’m going to stake a claim and insist that, at their core, micro-schools are about caring for one another, particularly the most vulnerable. While they are created with the needs of a specific population in mind, micro-schools are not in the name of propagating anti-social and dysfunctional values. Rather, the purpose is to widen the spectrum of what is available in educational design so that as many children can access appropriate and loving learning environments as possible.
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You wrote about learning systems driven by “unconscious bias in favor of authoritarian, hierarchical, and deficit-based education methods” all in the name of “correct” and “on-time” progress. This is deeply resonant and succinctly expressed.
It’s resonant in that my own experience lies in models that try to both hold connection/relationship and compliance simultaneously in hand and with equal weighting. It’s a noble pursuit, but an approach that may be extremely difficult to achieve, even with the best of intentions (and at great cost not only of resources, but also to human beings). Especially when bureaucracies, advocates (for the already privileged), and attorneys are pushing toward compliance.
Thank you for this series. What we need has a way of showing up at the right time. And it’s food for my mind and soul. I’m looking forward to more. Thank you.