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I have been running my own school for nine years now. As you can imagine I have had people asking me tons of questions throughout those nine years. I've taken those questions and compiled them into the top five that are always asked. I’m always open to answering questions about my school, how it started and what my vision is.
1. Why would you want to start your own school when there are tons of schools already in place? This is has always been the big one, and the first one people ask. There are two answers I have to this question. When I went to college to teach, I had this vision of making a difference in the lives of children. I wanted to be the type of teacher who helped children love learning and look forward to coming to school each day. As I was thrown into a classroom and began feeling my way around the life of education I quickly realized that my vision was not the norm. The amount of politics and day to day garbage that I had to wade through in order to meet state and federal guidelines was to be the priority and not the 25 sets of eyes that looked at me everyday. It broke my heart. I also wanted to make sure that the ideology of ‘every child can learn’ was followed through. Again, in a regular school (public and private) this was not the priority. Therefore my solution was to start my own school, with like-minded staff, that put the priority on the children and their holistic education.
2. What do you do about testing and reporting in your school? Oh, don’t even get me started on this one. First,I need to establish that testing does have its place. Tests can be a great measurement tools when used appropriately and not as a single measurement. However, I feel that testing has been given way too much weight in the education of our children. Anyone who has taken a statistics or tests and measurements class knows that test results can be skewed to read what the tester wants them too. We also know that test results cannot show what a child can demonstrate over the course of a year and that most of the time, teachers are made to ‘teach to the test’.
I use the IOWA Assessment and I make testing optional for first grade and up. I never look at the tests until the day I give them. The kids are never told they are going to be tested in April of the school year. I use the test results to back up what I observe in class. Since I am able to keep a good line of communication with my families they are very aware of what their children are doing in class and test results come as no surprise to them. The results from the IOWA Assessment are my report cards given to students and I let students and parents know that.
3. Why is your school not accredited? This one is also a 'heated' issue. Remember, I can only speak for the state of Oklahoma, so if you are thinking about doing a school it is your responsibility to find out what accreditation would mean for you. Accreditation does three things for Oklahoma schools: funding, state guidelines, state objective. First, depending on which institution you are accredited through, you may be eligible for state or federal funding. Since I am tuition-based, I don’t need either. Second, accreditation ensures that you are meeting state guidelines for all staff salaries and benefits. Once again, tuition takes care of this for me. Third, accreditation requires that schools meet the objectives that are set out for the state. Since Oklahoma ranks 46th out of 50 states and has such low objectives, why would I even want this? Also with accreditation the state can come in at any time and dictate what I can and can’t do. The objectives I have for grade levels are way above what the state sets out. Trust me our accredited state schools and even some private facilities are doing just fine on failing our students. I have no desire to fall into this category.
4. How did starting your school affect your family? This one is always tough; however, don’t get me wrong. Starting and maintaining this school takes A LOT of time. When I first started out and the school was in my home, all three of my kids were with me. Plus with it being in my home I could still throw in a load of laundry or whatever during our lunch break. I know it sounds corny, but the first few years were like that, and everyone was happy. Once the school took off and I realized that a need was being met, it became more and more difficult to separate school from home. Erecting a building helped with this a bit, since I actually went out of the house and stayed ‘gone’ all day, but it was still like a black hole drawing me in after hours.
I am not going to sit here and say that it’s been a bed of roses every year or that it’s easy to do. I still work at least 12 hour days, and am usually at school on Sunday afternoon. What I did do though was sit down and figure out how to make it NOT affect my family. For example, I leave school at school now. I may leave at 6:30 PM, but I don’t take anything home with me. Please also remember that all three of my children were WITH ME the first three years of the school and that my daughter is STILL with me. My youngest son decided that he wanted to switch to online school for his last two years of high school, so he is there with me as well. My oldest son is 18 and in college. My kids are actively involved in outside activities. Both boys work at least 30 hours a week at their jobs. My daughter is a competitive dancer. We are busy, but every family is busy. My husband is a high school teacher. He knows what an impact the school has had on families. He supports me 100% and does all the building maintenance for me. If you ask them, I truly believe they would say that I have managed family work just as well as anyone else. They would probably even say that I was more actively involved with them because I made it a point to not be an absent mother. I was tired maybe, but never absent. Don't think I didn’t 'ride them' about their own school stuff!
5. How long do you think the school will be around? This one is tough. With the way the economy has been over the past few years, I have seen my enrollment drop. My answer to this question is that the school will be around as long as there is a need for it. Throughout the years we have served families whose kids would have fallen through the cracks in a regular school. We have had special needs kids join our school family. We have had families come to us who were at their wits end on what to do with their child. And we have met these needs with success. As trite as it may sound, the only answer I have to this question is that we will be in existence until God decides that we have served our purpose. If that happens next year or in 20 years I can definitely look at it and say that I think I have succeeded in what I set out to do as a teacher.
Any other questions are welcomed! You may either leave a reply, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Enriching Foundations, feel free to check out my website at www.paulakayglass.com.