FINDING AN EDUCATION THAT “FITS”

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?

Submitted by Will Goldthwait, Landmark School Trustee and Managing Director, RBS Global Banking & Markets

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2 Responses to FINDING AN EDUCATION THAT “FITS”

  1. drkatescott says:

    Will, It is great to read your post here. I would love to discuss your questions with you–perhaps over lunch. I hope that you and your family are well. Best to you, Kate Scott

  2. Stephanie Johnston says:

    Will – This is an excellent piece, you ask the same questions that so many of us have. Our supposedly top-rated school district failed our son so miserably that we sold our house in order to give him a few years at Landmark. The public schools can’t be all things to all students, but they can do alot better. We were constantly astounded by the lack of knowledge, common sense and compassion that our son encountered on a daily basis in his public school. I don’t have the answers but a few suggestions: 1) As part of their degree programs, all education majors should have a semester or two of classes that give them an overview of various learning differences and special needs – they can’t all be “experts” but they should have enough knowledge to understand the basics and know when to refer or seek additional help. 2) While class size may not easily be reduced, some of the Landmark teaching methods can certainly be integrated into any classroom, especially true for most students when it comes to composing a written body of work. Students are frequently told to write a paper, but they are not taught how – I experienced this myself years ago and I see that problem persists today. 3)Students need to be taught basic whole number concepts and they should throw out the spiraling, language-laden math confusion that many districts cling to. 4) Stop the testing insanity – good teachers are hamstrung by the testing, students are being frantically herded through the rigors of preparing for testing, their stress levels are increased while meaningful learning and true education fall by the wayside. Something has to change – the current system is destroying students and teachers alike. Thank God for Landmark and good luck to all of us!

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