When I arrived at Landmark School the wheels had clearly come off the bus. It was not pretty. As is typical with a lot of new students at Landmark my reading, spelling, and writing were well below grade level. Not only were my grades in shambles but my behavior was reflecting my poor academics. I was in trouble.
I would be lying if I told you I was excited about going to Landmark as a sixth grade boarding student. After a few days in the dorm, it hit me. I missed my friends at home; I missed my house, my dog, and most of all my parents. I cried myself to sleep for the next two weeks. My father would say, “The harder you work the quicker you can come home.” I worked my tail off at Landmark.
I would routinely spend hours each night doing homework, but I didn’t mind the work. For the first time, I could do it. I never stared at the page and wondered, “What am I doing?” I would plug away and churn out the reading and writing worksheets with a sense of accomplishment. I was no longer the kid with the blank look, the kid that prayed he wouldn’t get called on, the kid that sat in the back and hoped the teacher didn’t notice I was there.
I only spent a year and a half at Landmark. In the end, I was glad to return to my friends and family. It wasn’t until I was much older that I fully realized the success I experienced at Landmark. My teachers cared about me and helped me learn. They invested in me in a way no other school had or would for the rest of my academic days. The Landmark process, methods, routine, and community took a kid who was on a road to nowhere and made him a functioning student again. For the past 41 years Landmark has used the same successful strategies with thousands of students.
But it’s not always possible to attend a school like Landmark for 1, 2, or 3 years, get what you need, and reenter your old school system with new confidence and skills. Education reformers around the country are attempting a significant shift in the system and this is admirable. To me, taking our education system to the next level should really be about establishing school cultures that make a variety of teaching and learning methods available to all students. One size cannot possibly fit all. The question remains, how do we provide a free and appropriate education to everyone and innovate a tight and adaptable safety net for all learners? Quite simply, how can we provide an education that “fits” each and every student?
Please post a comment and let me know what you think. What have you noticed in education that works? How can teachers reach all children and still do their jobs effectively?