Imagine you're in charge of building a new school from the ground up. You've worked on it all year and now it's time to open the doors to your first class of 4-13 year olds. What is your life like right now? In this podcast, we'll hear from Matthew Clayton as he faces this exact scenario.
Matt is founder of Slope School, opening this month in Provo, Utah. It's part of the Acton Academy network, a fast-growing micro-school model that began in Austin, Texas and now has over 200 offshoots.
Matt was the chief operating officer for Acton Academy for four years and has answers for why its model is growing so fast. “When I first saw Acton Academy, it changed my life,” Matt tells us in the podcast. He explains how Acton reframed his brain about what is possible.
So why did Matt leave Acton to start his own school? Matt shares how why he and his wife, Maria, decided to take the leap.
"K-12 education is roughly 16,000 hours of a child’s life," Matt says. "Big picture, what should all that time accomplish?"
Matt explains the seeming paradox that technology is not the heart of Slope School, but that tech frees up the learning community to have even more human interactions with each other.
Slope School, like other Acton Academies, has several key elements—Socratic discussion, Core Skills, Public Exhibitions, Learning Quests. Which of those elements does Matt believe he absolutely has to get right? Matt says if he had to prioritize, he'd choose team building and helping students learn to drive their own learning through goal setting and follow through.
Matt describes a few of the key elements in detail:
Socratic discussion The Hero’s Journey The first Quest: “Pitch a Playground” At the end of the show, Matt suggests two strategies that every educator can adopt to empower their learners:
Give Respect—Always give learners the respect that you’d give to a trusted friend or coworker. Avoid the words “student,” “child,” or “kids.” The goal is to avoid hierarchical language. We are fellow travelers on a journey together. A metric to measure is how many times learners need to come to you to ask for help. What systems can you equip learners with so that they can solve problems themselves and with each other without requiring your instruction? Empowering your learner is a sign of respect.
Give choice—Invite learners to set their own ground rules. You could start by saying: “Here is our mission and purpose. We need some ground rules to get there.” Then discuss and arrive at those commitments together. Also, get out of the mindset of teaching students and into the mindset of equipping learners to learn. Look for tools that give more choice around content, direction, pace, and timing. Listen in for more details about how Matthew Clayton is opening the most talked-about school in Utah this year.
Accompanying Ready to Blend blog: Opening a School like Slope School