Creating an Inquiry-Based Inclusion School with Karen Schade
May 24, 2022
Creating an Inquiry-Based Inclusion School

We know that kids learn best when they’re interested in the curriculum. But our traditional model leaves a lot to be desired. Prescribed curriculum regurgitated in front of a classroom full of quietly sitting children is not the way to interest those children.

Instead, we need kids to be involved. We need them to forge their own paths and learn through inquiry. That’s exactly how School Lane Charter School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania operates. And the school is on the cutting edge of finding new ways for teaching and learning with inclusion in mind.

This week, I’m talking to Karen Schade, leader of that school for the last 20+ years. She shares my beliefs that not every child is destined for a four-year university, and yet we can still support them to academic excellence. That achievement looks different for every child and we must educate our communities that yesterday’s style isn’t what today should look like.

Listen in to how School Lane Charter School is making waves with its teaching model, grading system, and inclusion opportunities for all students, no matter their path.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:46] – Creating a learner-centered school
[3:32] – Find a place where your values can come to fruition
[4:42] – Using a co-teaching model
[6:09] – It wasn’t just inclusion; it was about figuring out what they wanted to do in future
[7:18] – Pick the best when you start a school
[9:01] – Other key features to School Lane
[11:09] – Unique grading system
[13:40] – Unique school day and school year
[15:22] – Biggest struggles to creating a new model for community
[18:00] – Every student is an individual
[18:48] – Creating opportunities based on something different from others
[20:22] – Kids don’t have to go off to 4-year college
[22:19] – Limiting gatekeepers
[23:43] – Rigor isn’t a bar that everyone reaches; they all have their own bar
[25:31] – What leaders and parents can do to create a school like this
[28:07] – Turbo Time
[29:25] – What you need to know about student-driven learning
[32:09] – Karen’s Magic Wand
[34:02] – Maureen’s takeaways

Links & Resources

 

Transcript:

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of at active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Karen, it is so good to have you on Education Evolution today.

Karen Schade 1:13
Nice to meet you.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:14
And listeners. today I’m chatting with Karen Schade of School Lane Charter School or SLCS in Bensalem. Pennsylvania, under Karen’s 20 years of leadership at SLCS. She has taken a fledgling K eight charter and created an inclusive IV World inquiry based K 12. School with more than 1000 students and an extensive waiting list. Let’s hear how Karen has created such a learner centered school. Karen, I’m curious in your Genesis story. We know our schools must evolve to serve all learners. Where did this story of school transformation begin for you?

Karen Schade 1:58
I think for me, the space where, you know, looking at schools differently really came from my principals program and Master’s program. And I spent about five years teaching at a public high school. And then I took some time off to have my children and then ended up in in a variety of spaces for education I taught in an adult school. I taught it in a private, very small a Hebrew day school. And I also had the opportunity to provide adult education for homeless people to try to help them support them in getting jobs. So I saw a real space where school didn’t have to look like your traditional public school. And when I ended up in a master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania, I think that the opportunity to talk with some very progressive educators sparked my interest in WoW, school doesn’t have to be one size fits all and really shouldn’t be one size fits all. And I was very lucky to end up interviewing for curriculum position as curriculum director here at school, a charter school. And they had some basis, their mission vision statement is very, I thought progressive at the time. And they were looking at they really owned the idea of inclusion, where students were really in the classroom that there wasn’t pull out for those students that had learning disabilities. And again, finding a place where you know, your values about education can come to fruition was like, spot on for me. And so I thought, this is a great place for me. And I started here as the curriculum director, and unfortunately, the principal who was here was like, go five weeks into my tenure.

Karen Schade 3:58
And so that was a very interesting thing to have happen. At the same time, the Board of Directors asked me to take on the role of principal. And I was a little hesitant, but did decide that I would stay and you know, kind of see how this school grew. I hadn’t been there very long, but I was really, really passionate about their mission and vision. And it spoke to me. And so about, I would say probably another eight weeks later, I decided that yes, I would take on the principal role. And that was the opening for me to really look at what do we need to have as an inclusion school? Like what parameters should I set into play? What learning environment did I need to create? And so we piloted a co teaching model, where the teacher was in the classroom, all of math, all of language arts periods, we were K to eight at that time. We were pretty small. We only had about 400 students. And we were really it was an interesting model to pilot we ran it in two sets of classrooms. And, you know, we learned a lot in that first year about caring people. And you know, making sure that we have space for collaboration for teachers to have that discussion time, and planning time. And, but the student success was really the space where I thought, Oh, this is incredible, like the kids really flourished. And I think from not just academically, but socially, as well, and not just the students who had learning disabilities, but all students. Yeah, because they learned to work with each other. They learned, you know, how to support each other. And, you know, they learn empathy, which, you know, at a young age, when it starts young, then that just grows with them over the years. And so we carried that model for several years, and really saw all kinds of positives from that perspective. And when we decided to start high school, which was a huge uplift, yes, huge, huge uplift and finding space where our mission and vision would marry with a high school program that was different from what our district does, was my goal. That was really the space for me. And so I did a lot of research in different spaces and looked at a lot of different models of what we could do. Because again, it wasn’t just inclusion at this point, because for students at a high school, it was also about figuring out what they wanted to do in the future. And so finding a way to have multiple paths for kids was a key that there was space for, you know, everyone, and so the IB model became our place to look. And when I looked into the IB program, I would say that, if I didn’t know any better that the IB model was the basis of our original mission and vision statement, it was so close. And our techniques of how we teach we use backward design model and unit planning and essential questions, which was very similar to International Baccalaureate unit planning process. And so for us, it became an easy fit.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 7:15
I love it. Yeah, I think that’s the nice thing about starting a school is you can pick the best I know, we did that with my microscope when we started in 2013. And for people that aren’t different listeners that aren’t familiar with inclusion, there’s either a pull in or push out. And most public schools say, hey, this kid needs extra help in math or English or behavioral, we’re gonna push them out to a special room with other kids like them. And I get the philosophy, but like you are micro school is inclusion, because we all benefit from learning about differences and playing to people’s strengths, and seeing the whole human and empathy is a huge piece. So kudos to you, because we do it on a tiny scale. And we co teach on a tiny scale, either of our campuses, capped at 30 students, so teeny tiny scale. And for you to make this happen with so many kids is amazing. And the other piece I want to unpack a little bit for our listeners is IB is International Baccalaureate and it’s huge overseas. When I was a high school principal, in Budapest, it was the gold standard. And it’s super rigorous. Like in the United States, we have a lot of advanced placement kind of on that scale, but it’s a whole program and the elementary or the middle school program for people that opt into that. It’s so holistic, and it’s so whole child and so comprehensive. It all the way up has components of service and self discovery and introspection. So I am just impressed that you looked internationally, you looked everywhere and pulled pieces together that creates such a unique model C of inclusion of IB. Are there any other key features to schooling.

Karen Schade 9:03
I’m trying to think at one point, we also looped our teachers for a while, where the teacher stayed with the student for two years. And we did that pretty successfully when our our teaching population stayed intact, I guess is the best way to put it. But as we started, and I would imagine that this happens in other schools as a charter school, our pay scale isn’t the same as the district schools around us. They definitely pay more than we do. And we were great at training our staff, obviously, as we had this inclusion model and co teaching model collaboration that we do with our staff, that our teachers started getting poached quite quickly, and we found that looping was a difficult thing to continue. However, there is still some tenants of that that I think play a role as we look at how we plan year to year that our students or teachers Make choices of where kids place for the following year that they then meet, each grade level meets the grade previous and the grade after, in order to have conversations about students and their needs in the classroom, because every student obviously learns differently, and they all have little idiosyncrasies that help us, you know, have success right from the beginning of the school year that the teacher doesn’t have to learn who the student is that there’s information that’s flowing between the grade levels that I think is really important, we have a really, I think, comprehensive MTSS process, where it’s, you know, fully discussion model, where teacher input is, is valued greatly. There’s a lot of space for that. And but we also are bringing in guidance, we’re also bringing in the nurse, we’re also bringing in the social worker, again, where the supports are for the students, how do we make sure that they have success from an educational side, but also from a social side. So I think that that’s another level. I think, too, there’s the one other piece I would say that we have that I thought is also important is our grading system isn’t really different. It’s all rubric based, it’s rubric based, elementary school. And for middle and high school, it’s also its IB, we use the IB grading system, we don’t do traditional grades at all. And so it’s much more of a reflective model for our students. But it’s also a reflective model for our families to see. More specifically, rather than just giving a grade, that there’s always a great descriptor of what that grade means. And in the IB model, there’s the rubrics that provide the mark schemes that provide descriptors for each subject. And so it’s specifically to southern we do that similarly for our elementary school as well.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 11:53
Wow, love it. And you know, if you can’t loop and have that third grade teacher stay with them for fourth grade, that’s hard, especially with with turnover teachers, that that wisdom is shared with the next grade. And then the third grade teacher is also learning from the second grade. So that it’s like, hey, here are this kids strengths. And here are here are ways it really works well, to take that time. So that that wisdom is passed on, so that the kids hit the ground running. That’s an extra investment. And not a lot of schools have the capacity or the model. It’s just okay, you had ninth grade English, we’ll see what 10th Grade English fits in your class and in your schedule, and off you go. And it’s logistical and transactional. And what you’re doing is more than that transformational we care about the human eye, we’re going to let that determine where we plays and how teachers address that’s powerful. And then the MTS s are Multi Tiered Systems of Supports. We all know, there’s a lot of tier one kids that just need the basic, how do I get organized. And then the tier two kids that need a little more small group and reinforcement, and then some tier three kids that maybe need one on one or continued intervention. So for you to build that out and get a sense of which level of supports the kids need, and then be able to apply them consistently so that that kid has the right services to be successful, again, is a model, it’s an idea. But every step of the way, it sounds like you’ve really embodied and created you’ve picked and choose and created a really unique and successful model. So congratulations, it’s a lot easier to be cookie cutter. I also understand is your school day or school year also more extended than perhaps your public school neighbors.

Karen Schade 13:44
Both this longer school day, we go about an hour additional every school day, and then our school year is 10 days longer, as well. So that provides uh, you know, when we, I think at one point, I calculated that out and you know, it’s a significant amount of time over a 12 year model, you know, for the students to be here. It provides years of extra time for this for the students. And again, how we utilize that is important that it’s not just throw away time, you know, that they’re not sitting in study hall or recess that it’s time where, you know, academics are part of what we’re looking for, especially as the kids get older.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 14:24
Yes, that’s super important. And I think sometimes, I know in Washington state charter schools are pretty new still, and there was a lot of pushback that’s gonna take from the public schools. And I’m a firm believer that there are enough kiddos, especially kiddos with big needs to go around. And I find that charter schools in Washington are serving an underserved population and like you extended days, extended school years, helping kids catch up and they’re not taking the varsity athletes. And, you know, the the honors scholars, they’re taking kids that were kind of overlooked anyhow, so It’s unfortunate that it feels like there’s a scarcity mentality with a lot of people when charter schools traditionally do have extended resources for kids. So good for you for going that extra mile, even though you have less financial resources than your neighboring public schools. That’s impressive.

Karen Schade 15:19
Thank you.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 15:21
What do you think that some of the biggest struggles are roadblocks to creating a model that has blended in a way that may not look familiar to parents or to the community?

Karen Schade 15:38
For us, I think one of our struggles is getting the community to understand what we actually do. For educationally we don’t look traditional. And so when when kids come home and say, This is what I did today, or this is how I learned today, it sounds odd to families, or the families feel like they can’t help their students do the work, as we’re an inquiry based school, so we don’t do a lot of note taking and direct instructions with our students. And a lot of parents are like, Well, I just want to help my students study, where’s the notes? Can I help them? And because we base a lot of our curriculum on student interests, you know, we start from a phenomenon, and then kind of roll into what drives students questions. And then those questions the students are, are taught over the years to try to find their own answers. And then we teach on the back side, some of the things that the state requires us to fill in as content to make sure the students meet all the state standards. But ultimately, it’s it’s very student driven. And it doesn’t follow the same pattern year to year. So what if you have a family and student per student through gets concentration in one area and student two comes through and gets a little concentration in something different, that can throw off a family saying what happened? Why is this so different? Our grading system being so different is also difficult for parents to understand it’s not an average system, it’s a trajectory. Over time, we’re looking at students to grow their skills over time. So again, that sometimes is a difficult piece for families to understand. You know, we do have parents that our local district does use the AP system, the you know that everyone goes to get that AP test. So having family stay with us through 12th grade, because they don’t understand what the value of IB is in this area. It’s also not very well known. And we talk about it, but it doesn’t make sense to them. They just know what other people have gotten if they go to the traditional high school, that, you know, student a got this, you know, got this grade on this AP exam and was able to audit that class in college, and we, you know, can tell them, it’s the same here. We’re a young high school. So we don’t have a lot of information from our graduates, we’ve only had three graduating classes so far. So we’re we’re making progress in that area. But it is a different model. And so and we’re pulling from different places, and so you can’t just say, Oh, go read this website, and get an understanding of how we handle things. We do try to look at each student as an individual and see what their needs are. And sometimes we’re pulling other things in, that aren’t what is prescribed on our website, even. And so that’s another piece of the puzzle is trying to make sure that we’re graduating students who are ready either for a career or ready for the military or ready for college. And so because we’re relatively small, we can do that in a way that’s specific to some students that need something extra, or something special. And so that works well for the parent who has that knee. But sometimes others see that as a negative, because they feel their child is missing something. So it’s a balance.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 19:12
It’s hard. Yeah. And any innovative school leaders that I speak with school leaders of innovative programs, say the same thing, and I experienced it to parents think they know what education is from what they had in school. They want the best, the best of the best. And we default to what we’re familiar with. And so it’s like, well wait, they’re not all in rows. They’re not memorizing, and they don’t they know that kids mental health issues are rising. They know kids are college ready future ready with the present system oftentimes, but they’re so afraid of something new. It’s it’s kind of a catch 22 For you to be innovating when parents want the best but don’t see student student driven learning. I mean, where you’re going with their interests where you’re making them do the thinking And then do the inquiry is so much higher level than I talked for whole period, you take notes and you go home and do some written work that kind of regurgitate that as my daughter would say. So what you’re doing is so important, and so empowering. And then the other piece, I think that you just threw in there, naturally that I see pushback on is, My child has to go to a four year college are all of your high school kids going off to a four year colleges, I know a lot started dual enrollment, and they stay at a community college. Some don’t want that. So we’re helping them look at some careers. It’s kind of like, again, four year college means my kid is a success and be wonderfully happy in life. And it’s like, no, it’s not. And maybe it’s not right now. So you’re already getting past a lot of that stigma. A lot of schools want to tout their four year colleges, stats, and everybody else is considered less than. So I love that you threw all of these options in one sentence, not like, Oh, here’s the gold bar. These are other things for lesser ambitious kids or something. So you’re so progressive, and I can see parents pushing back because they don’t quite get it.

Karen Schade 21:06
That is you hit it on the hit it on the head, for my perspective is exactly what happens. And yeah, at times, we have families leave us because they don’t see Oh, that 85% of our students aren’t heading to college, or four year colleges. And, and that’s not necessarily who we are, even though we do have the International Baccalaureate program. And I value that greatly. And I value all of our kids being a part of that program, our big push, all of our kids are MIP students so that all kids are really yours, students. And our push right now is dp for all that’s our big neck.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 21:47
So that is huge, because a lot of places International Baccalaureate is like advanced placement, you have to test into it. And some kids just take one or two classes, which is kind of like AP taking one or two. But the diploma, that means their full 11th and 12th grade is IB and these two year classes, it’s super intense. And you’re seeing again, inclusion, we want all kids to have this experience and not just some scholarly cream of the crop. And so kudos to you for not making it something exclusive.

Karen Schade 22:19
And that was a large part of of my bringing IB to schooling was that we limited the gatekeepers, that’s hugely important that you know, we we differentiate our instruction, we differentiate sometimes our expectations for that student, if we know that they want to try a DP class, that’s 100% Their option. And we try to do our best to differentiate the the information for them. And again, more kids, we can get to have the full diploma experience. But even if you can sit in one or two diploma program classes, you do your put your thinking is pushed. And so that’s the goal, our goal is to help students recognize there that they can do more than they think they can. And that with support, you too can be successful in this realm. I think that that goes a really long way for setting up School, a school to career success, whatever that is, you then career military college, that, you know, recognizing that you’re able to work something out, work something through, be resilient and persistent. Those are great skills to have. And that only happens when we look at how do we raise the rigor level for students and we don’t set rigor as a bar really high for everyone to reach at the same point. We create rigor individually. So every student has like a rigor place for themselves. So, you know, for some students, yes, it’s, you know, really reading something that’s really difficult and analyzing something really difficult and for another student might be wow, you know, what we we know you’re struggling with how to analyze, so we’re going to provide you with, you know, two or three reading samples to utilize. rather than you having to pick something on your own or go find something on your own. We’re going to help scaffold this for you. And we’re going to show you where the steps are to pull out this information. How can we help you sometimes talking things through is is easier than writing so let’s start there. Where someone else’s you gotta go, you know, you can handle this on your own and we were you know, we’re here to support on the backside but for others, you know, it is it’s a scaffolding process. It’s a differentiation process. So for for us that that’s a huge, a huge goal of ours. We’re certainly not there yet. But we’re working on it and we started by all of our students, this upcoming school year are going to be in in diploma program English for grades 11 and 12. So we’re starting small, and we’re starting with one class. But we want everybody to know that we believe that they can do the work. We’re setting them up for success starting seventh grade and moving forward, and then kindergarten through sixth grade sets them up for seven through 10, which is the middle years program. And that sets them up for success. 11 and 12.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 25:21
Love it. Wow. So what are three steps were about activism and getting people involved? What are three steps that others parents, school leaders, educators could take to create an inclusive, inquiry based learner driven school, like school lanes Charter School?

Karen Schade 25:41
I think that, you know, if you want to look for from an inclusion perspective, inquiry based, they’re very, they can be the same, but they also can you do two parallel paths, or you can combine those paths, I really think that part of it is finding like minded teachers who want to take on this task, it is not an easy lift to be an inquiry based educator, it there’s not a lot of curriculum out there, that’s pre worked for you. So it’s you doing the work, you establishing the relationships with the kids to figure out what their interests are. So you have an idea where the questions might come from finding those phenomenons or those, you know, the hooks that we get kids into the beginning of a unit. So finding like minded people from a teacher perspective, who want to take on the task, I think is important, I think looking at your school and and you know, for us co teaching is kind of in a pair setting. So it’s the teachers to teachers sharing one special ed teacher that goes into their classrooms. So is that, you know, a place for you to model this? How do you model this? How do you look at where can you place teachers? How many teachers do you have to work with, that can do inclusion, where it’s a pushin model where you’re dedicating a teacher to that classroom every day, it’s really hard to do co teaching when you’re not dedicated to the class every day, because then you’re not co teaching, you’re really not that hard. So you have to as an educator, as the principal in the school, you have to look at your scheduling and how that would work for you. And then I think it’s it’s educating yourself and educating your staff, on, you know, what are best practices in both of these places, going and seeing schools that are doing this kind of work, is another nice step to take to see. You know, examples always are great to help us spark our own thought processes on how it would look in your building. So those are some of the steps that I take. And then again, research, you know, going out and seeing what’s out there from a research perspective, because you are going to have to defend what you’re doing. Because it does look different.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 27:57
Yes, love it. And these are doable steps for all of us. So thank you. I love to ask a few turbo 10 questions, every interview just to get the leader a little better. So from our overall list, let’s see, who are two inspirational folks you’d love to me.

Karen Schade 28:16
For me, that would be a huge forgot ski fan, sociocultural learning theory is where I faced all of my ideas on so that idea that the whole child, everyone together, learning from each other is incredibly important. So I think I’d love to pick his brain. And I think another person be Gloria Steinem. You know, from a women’s rights perspective, I think that for me, I called my way into the spot in some ways, you know, not that old, but I have to say my guidance counselor was not very helpful when I was in high school as to like, go into college, and you know what you can do? And so, you know, I just am a huge proponent of anything that has to do with women’s rights. So I think that again, for somebody who has did that years ago and had such a strong voice, I’d love to know where that voice came from and what kept her active as an activist.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 29:15
Yes, yes. What do you think is the biggest thing you wish folks knew about student driven learning?

Karen Schade 29:24
It’s more about the student. I think we say student driven learning. I think when people think about learning, they think that somebody should be telling you what you should know. So for me, it’s about creating curiosity and having and teaching students how to ask good questions, and then finding the answers. So when it’s student driven, is really about the student and the teacher has to take a huge step back and allow them to grapple with some thoughts and you know, finding the answers on their own. I think we really have to spend more time thinking about how do we set our students up to be successful as adults, and no one tells you what to do when you’re an adult. Yes, you have to figure it out whether you’re at work, whether you’re at home, whether you’re a family, whether you’re a parent, you have to figure it out. And if we keep telling everybody what to do and how to do it, we’re not setting students up to be successful or doing it for them even. And we do that, too. So student driven learning is about the student, let them be curious. Let them ask. Let them figure it out.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 30:33
Yeah. And maybe it takes multiple tries. It’s okay. First try. Yes, exactly. A pet peeve of yours.

Karen Schade 30:42
pet peeve of mine. Oh, I’m a. So for me, I’m not a reward system person. I have a hard time with schools that use rewards as a way to change behavior. I don’t think that that’s a long term solution for students. And I think that it sets them up to look for more rewards bigger ones. And so we really have to teach intrinsic value and, and why we do things that make us feel good. In order to really set kids up to be more successful. So yeah, I’m a, I’m a, no go on. reward systems for kids.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:20
Love, but yeah, ultimately, the aim as a parent is paying for every A is extrinsic. But when you let students have learner driven, have a voice, have a hey, I’m curious about this, can I take it further? Then you’re getting to that intrinsic in a really powerful way. Right?

Karen Schade 31:37
Building, you’re building the feeling of like, wow, I accomplished this, because I wanted to know, and I drove myself to do this. And so that just can only from my perspective, builds the opportunity to do that more, as opposed to somebody from the outside, saying, here’s what you get when you do X.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 31:57
Yes, yeah,

Karen Schade 31:58
I have to rely on somebody else.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:00
Exactly. Right. I’d like to close with a magic wand moment. So Karen, if I hand you a magic wand, I know, you really believe that one size doesn’t fit all for students. So what would you wish? In every Middle High School? What would you wish? The model to include? If I handed you a magic wand? What would you make sure happens.

Karen Schade 32:29
If I had a magic wand, I would have more teachers in order to have more inclusion, co teaching in my classes. And teachers that have been with me for a long time, so they could build their skills in inquiry and inclusion, which means I need more money.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 32:53
Yeah. Yes. Love it. That is perfect. And I think you’re right, we do. We are underfunded, and education. But you’re not just saying throw money. Here are the specific things I’m doing here, why I would need more teachers. And here’s what they’ll get trained in. So it’s not just like, we need more money in a generic way. So I think that policymakers would hear that and go, Oh, got it. Karen, thank you, what you do is hard. Because it’s not by the books, like so many systems, you’re not managing a system and transactions, you really are that transformational leader. So thank you for the amazing work that you are doing.

Karen Schade 33:31
Thank you for having me. I love talking about the work we do here. I think it’s really special. And I think it provides an opportunity for our students at least to experience school in a different way. I just wish it could happen more often to more kids.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 33:46
Great. Thanks again.

Karen Schade 33:49
Thank you.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 33:58
Karen’s schooling charter school sounds amazing. It’s interesting to see the common thread as I speak with a lot of educational innovators. This thread of needing to educate the community and parents, we all tend to be comfortable with what is familiar. And when it comes to our children, we’re so focused on their well being, that what we’re familiar with feel safest. As a mom, I get it. Sadly, what we’re familiar with is usually teacher driven content that kids tune out of, especially our high school students. inquiry based learning is what our families in Canada and northern Europe and other places are familiar with. It’s not some random concept. The Canadian teachers I worked with overseas called it constructivism, with students constructing their knowledge based on exploring their particular questions around a topic. The result of inquiry based learning is students who do the thinking. And because students get to pursue questions about a topic that are of interest to them, they are motivated and tuned in, the teacher becomes a guide. And in Karen school add on to this inquiry based philosophy, the idea of inclusion. If we have a special ed teacher down the hall working with a small group of students, and a classroom teacher working with the rest, why wouldn’t we want to explore, including that small group that have been excluded and pulling in the teacher to so that we have a co teacher that can differentiate the learning and break down tasks, so that the, quote, special ed students and quote, and many other students have that CO teachers support, and teachers love it, we can all thrive and create synergy when we don’t have to go it alone. co teaching is a really fun part of the model that my micro school uses. The teachers can collaborate and figure out each student’s unique learning profile much better when they don’t have to do it in isolation. And the content teacher can focus on the overall topic, while the CO teacher can help with the classroom management. And then perhaps later in the day, the content teacher becomes the CO teacher. It’s a win win.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 36:26
Karen suggestions for others to make school change include finding like minded educators? Yes. What if the special interest groups each created their own school, and students could go to the one that works best for them? I see that in my neighborhood, public school district, they have an environmental school, they have a Latin School, they have a hands on school, they have an international school, and kids get to choose between them. There’s also a huge waiting list. So families would obviously like more of these. We do so much better when teachers want the model that they’re using. So in both high school in mind, that means finding teachers that are willing to do the extra work of building relationships, and finding student interests as they do the inquiry based and project based learning. The other important suggestion Karen offers is that we all have to educate ourselves on best practices. I know I learned a lot as I interview this wonderful group of educational Innovators for the podcast, the world is changing quickly. And neuroscience is giving us a lot of information about how our brains work in matters such as trauma, mindfulness, physical movement, and Passion Driven learning. But to do this research and then apply it to our classroom means we need to give our teachers time and a learning community. A few years ago, Professional Learning Communities PLCs were a popular feature in schools, like a book club, this group of professionals would study a book or a subject matter. And that’s a start in the right direction, but only if there is time and interest and opportunity to apply the learning to our classrooms. Ultimately, this time and innovating, take added resources which come down to money.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 38:30
There are countries that fund more per student than the US they are getting great results. I understand that our politicians have a lot of competition for their dollars, and that there would have to be a well thought out and research plan before funding additional dollars to our schools and teachers. So I’m glad that there are organizations like a for Arizona, that are providing innovation grants to schools to make it possible for new ideas to be happening. A for Arizona’s model would be great to use in other states. So we could make a difference in our country’s outdated educational landscape state by state. Okay, now I’ll step off of my soapbox. Karen’s magic wand wish for every middle school in high school is she wants more teachers so that we can be inclusive. We can have our inclusion models with co teaching everywhere. And she wants these teachers to be well compensated so that they will be long term, and they can build on their skills and keep applying them within the same model. This long term commitment would also allow for extended relationships with the students within the school. Yes, please. Let’s be moving in this direction. Our youth deserve it. It was great talking with Karen today. And as always, thank you for being a part of the education evolution.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 40:21
If you are finding yourself thinking, I need to do this in my school, let’s talk about it. I consult and also have a book, TEDx talk an online course to support starting learner driven schools and programs. My goal is to help schools and individuals find new innovative solutions to reaching every student. Let’s create an action plan together, visit educationevolution.org/consult to book a call and let’s get started. Education evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today. I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now. Before you forget. I really appreciate it. Thank you listeners. Signing off. This is Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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