Burned Teachers Are Starting Their Own Schools Instead of Giving Up Their Passions—And Succeeding

Kerry McDonald

Teachers across the country are feeling exhausted and drained, especially as school coronavirus policies and staffing shortages make their jobs more difficult.

According to a survey by RAND Corporation, nearly a quarter of teachers plan to leave the teaching profession by 2021, and a higher percentage of teachers experience work-related stress and depression than other adults.

A recent letter from teachers and staff at a small public elementary school in Vermont to the director and members of their school board echoes the feelings of many public school employees. “Everybody is trying to do what is asked of them; everyone feels deprived, exhausted, and defeated most of the time,” Written educators at the Ottauquechee School in Hartford. “Colleagues are questioning whether changing careers is in their best interests.”

Instead of giving up their passion for teaching, some educators have discovered that they can do what they love and avoid the bureaucracy and stress of a typical classroom by starting small schools. their own.

Microschools are a modern hybrid of the old, one-room school model, where small groups of students of all ages learn together in more intimate educational settings, such as private homes, with individual attention from adult educators and moderators. Interest in small schools has grown rapidly over the past year, as school closures prompt parents to consider homeschooling “pandemic foci” to help their children learn in small, safe groups. whole.

Some teachers were recruited to lead the group, while others began to create their own learning communities and mini-schools. These entrepreneurship educators find that they have many resources available to launch their own innovative schools.

Kirk Umbehr, co-founder of a school, a learning management platform for teachers who are creating small schools. “Instead of them leaving the profession entirely due to burnout, teachers can create a learning environment where they can thrive and get better results with maximum autonomy and sustainability,” he said. . Umbehr explains that a teacher can leave a public school and create a small school with 10 to 15 students, earning the same or more with less stress and more satisfaction.

The a.school software is free to use and helps educators create and manage their preschool website, enrollment, communication and reporting systems, and allows them to customize the program its own teaching and policies. The edtech startup takes a percentage of the credit card payment fee.

Umbehr founded a.school earlier this year with his brother, Dr. Josh Umbehr, a family physician in Kansas who recognized the parallels between healthcare and education. High levels of burnout, more paperwork, and less time for personalized attention affect both doctors and teachers.

A few years earlier, two brothers had built Atlas.md, a practice management portal to help self-directed primary care physicians deliver high-touch, member-based healthcare services without insurance and complex organization involved. Doctors can serve fewer patients with higher-quality medical care while earning as much or more than they did in larger, red tapered health facilities.

“As our kids grew up, it became clear to us that teachers were having problems that were almost identical to the ones we were helping doctors solve,” said Dr. Umbehr. . “For doctors, there are many difficulties due to the cumbersome administrative system, more paperwork, less patient care and less pay. You can make similar correlations with teachers who are seeing more children, spending less time with each child, doing more paperwork, dealing with more bureaucracy and teaching. for the test than maybe being creative,” he said.

Just as doctors create first-hand primary care practices, teachers create small schools that help them avoid burnout, earn a good living, and get the job done with ultimate freedom and flexibility.

Microschools gained traction before the pandemic, with school networks as small as those based in Arizona Prenda guide. When I file Introduced in this October 2019 column, the company has 80 small school locations across Arizona, mostly in homes, serving approximately 550 students. Now, Prenda enrolls nearly 3,000 learners across Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, and New Hampshire.

“Between the teacher strikes, Covid and the school board, there is a lot of energy going into the battles between adults, at the expense of children’s education,” said Kelly Smith, founder of Prenda. He added: “Many educators, parents and policymakers are beginning to see small schools as a form of balance between small groups, flexibility and academics.

Arizona students attend Prenda preschools for free through state-rich school choice policies that encourage educational innovation, including supporting virtual charter school providers like EdKey, Inc. , with which Prenda collaborated.

The relationship with EdKey is what helped Tamara Becker quickly open her micro school this year in Fountain Hills, Arizona. As an educator for over 25 years, Becker has worked in both the district and virtual schools as a teacher, administrator, special education director, assistant superintendent and most recently superintendent Director of Primavera, Arizona’s largest online school.

In August 2021, Becker launched Adamo Small school with 12 students from kindergarten to seventh grade. Today, the school has 20 students and continues to expand, especially as parents of children in schools in the local district become increasingly frustrated about the mask and classroom quarantine policies. She plans to open more Adamo microschools in the coming months.

Adamo uses a combination of project-based, hands-on learning, as well as a digital learning platform, Bright Thinker. The preschool uses only certified teachers, which Becker says her school separates her school from from other small school networks. She works hard to create a family-centered learning environment that prioritizes parents and customizes learning to the unique needs of each student. For example, Adamo currently has two autistic children in the program who Becker says have thrived both socially and academically in the small school setting.

“It really re-energizes me,” says Becker. “As you advance in an administrative role, you connect less with students, so it was nice to reconnect, go back to my teaching roots, and do something different,” she said.

Becker believes the pandemic has created the conditions needed to ignite entrepreneurship and transform education, as more and more parents demand more learning options for their children. “The way we have always structured education is not how all students learn and grow,” says Becker, who encourages other educators to set up small schools of their own.

“Let’s take the leap,” she urged. “We need people to take risks, think outside the box and step outside of their comfort zone because otherwise we will continue to fail with a large percentage of our students. Students need to be aroused and engaged and love the work they do every day at school,” says Becker.

Teachers should also feel stimulated and engaged, and love what they do every day.

This article has been republished with permission from Forbes Magazine.

Kerry McDonald
Kerry McDonald

Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at FEE and the author of No Education: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Regular Classroom (Chicago Review Press, 2019). She is also a Adjunct Scholar at Cato . Institute and often Forbes Contributor. Kerry holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Bowdoin College and a master’s degree in economics. in education policy from Harvard University. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and four children. You can subscribe to her weekly newsletter on parenting and education here.

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