Andrew is the Founder and Director of The Workshop. The Workshop is a new independent middle | micro | maker school for diverse students and families in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Over the next few weeks, Andrew will introduce you to the school, the founding team, and many of the school’s core beliefs. Just below, he explains a bit about how he came to starting this school.
When I was younger, I was terribly bored at school. Well, I loved to learn. I read the newspaper every morning; I had a library of fantasy and science fiction books next to my bed; I even read the encyclopedia cover to cover. Can I be completely honest? When I was 8, I stole my parents’ credit card to order a series of National Geographic books on animals around the world.
But the truth is: I never completed a book that a teacher assigned in school. (Maybe because I was too busy reading and learning more interesting things?)
I like to say that I started school in college, and, well, I haven’t stopped since. I’ve gone on to receive 4 advanced degrees, and I’m currently working through research for my doctorate in education. Even more importantly, each year, I name one project or skill I want to master, and I set out to learn everything I can. Because there’s something magical that happens when we’re deeply passionate about an idea. There’s a way the world disappears when we discover a new and suddenly important part of ourselves. Learning, I’ve come to believe, is the strongest superpower ever known.
The problem is: traditional schools work against student creativity and individuality. They stifle authentic learning — even for students who naturally love science or math or history. What students often learn is that school may not be for them.
During the last 20 years, I’ve tried to energize and reform public school classrooms in Chicago and New York City. To help children and young adults learn to love learning. As a social worker, classroom teacher, and school leader, I’ve imagined, directed, and advanced ideas that transform how students discover and learn.
But, too often, I’ve found that our schools limit exactly this kind of thinking. So I started to wonder: what if school were different?
Over the past 12 months, I’ve organized an exceptional group of colleagues, advisors, and community partners. Together, we’ve spoken with hundreds of educators, parents, and students to learn more about this work. We’ve read academic research and educational theory. We’ve brainstormed innovative ideas for curriculum and assessment. And we’ve directed pilot projects with diverse children and young adults.
Because middle school can be amazing!
The same traits that can make adolescents challenging to parents and teachers are the same seeds that grow brave and insightful leaders. The same habits that make adolescents so frustrating families and friends are the same qualities that create transformative change.
Adolescents are creative, independent, and passionate. They expect us to be our very best selves. And I think we should listen! Your child is smart, talented, and powerful. Middle school should be, too.