For the first episode of the podcast we spent a cup of coffee with Harvard Graduate School of Education student Megan. Over the course of a grandé, we discussed Megan’s drive to implement a truer inclusion program for special needs students as well as the difficulties of professional collaboration when new teachers meet existing systems.
Coffeehouses have provided places to plan revolutions, write poetry, do business, and meet friends.
- Mark Pendergast, Uncommon Grounds
A blended online and face-to-face school.
The school is a coffee shop. It’s not like a coffee shop or based on a coffee shop. The school is a coffee shop.
Initially a 6-8 school, as the first class matriculates, it becomes 6-12.
In addition to their online learning, students are required to attend regular class meetings at the coffee shop.
Depending on need and what’s being investigated, these meetings are either hetero- or homogenous along the lines of age and subjects. As student needs shift, some courses are hosted by completely virtual schools and augmented by enrichment inquiry-based programming within the school.
Younger students are required to accumulate a set number of community service hours working within the elementary schools most convenient to their transportation abilities.
As they grow older, students must clock a certain number of hours helping to run the shop and can work outright in the shop after those hours have accumulated. Even once the shop is fully staffed, students have marketable, transferrable skills as well as well-developed resumes and favorable employer recommendations.
Taking a page from 826 Valencia, local writers, artists and thinkers are invited to join the school as tutors and guest teachers with the added bonus of shop discounts. Student artwork and music is showcased alongside local community artists on the shop’s walls and during various open mic events.
Once the upper school component is implemented, the school designs an internship program similar to SLA’s Individualized Learning Plan program connecting the shop with local organizations, farms, and businesses. Utilizing the space’s inherent plasticity, internship interviews are hosted at the shop.
As these connections are fostered, the shop serves a point of contact for the various community service organizations at which the students complete their internships and those people the organizations work to serve.
As an example, the shop serves as a drop-off/pick-up point for community supported agriculture programs to which students’ families can opt in at a reduced price.
The open, blended schedule allows older students to participate in a wide range of dual-enrollment courses with few time restrictions.
For physical fitness, students join local club teams and other community sporting groups.
Any profits from the shop are distributed among student activity funds as well as scholarships for the school’s graduates.
Graduates who attend universities near the shop frequently return as customers seeking a place to study, thereby providing a tangible model of success for younger students.
Teacher hours are malleable and shaped around programming needs.
As part of its professional development, the school hosts informal themed teach-ups for any interested local teachers.
Once enrollment hits the set maximum, the school is prepared for replication.