Class trips are always among the most highly anticipated days on the calendar for students. Hours-long learning sessions outside the confines of the school building — at planetariums, zoos, museums, and other enclaves — are exciting if only because they break up the monotony of the school day for so many kids.
Imagine a high school that “learns” you before you learn from it. Where you are surveyed prior to even stepping into a classroom and your curriculum is personalized to your interests, abilities, talents, and dreams.
Students at Tennessee’s Elizabethton High School had goals to redesign their school. So, they entered into a competition called XQ: The Super School Project as part of a class project, learned about the history of public education in the United States, and designed a school that would carry them into the future. They named it The Bartleby School (an homage to Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener), a place that would subvert the status quo by challenging what was asked of students and giving them the scope to develop their own assignments. Now, with an XQ award in recognition of student leadership, Elizabethton High School has seen what it’s like to foster a learning environment in which students can exercise their voices. Through the process of designing their ideal school, students had a chance to ask for age-mixing in classes, practice leadership as student school board members, and get involved in community organizing improvement plans.
Senior Cory Fitzsimmons became the first student liaison to work with the Elizabethton City School Board, which taught him how to actively engage in decision-making and leadership. Fellow student Eliana Rangle says that working on the competition and electing Cory gave her an opportunity to learn “about working with other people and how to solve problems in different ways and not just look at it from one point of view.”