Por Flávio Marcus da Silva
In June I visited a school in Belo Horizonte that amazed me. It’s so different from other schools that it made me ask myself: “Is it really possible?”. Its name is Escola da Serra.
It’s a High School where students don’t have classes, the official year lasts three years (it’s called a cycle), they don’t have blackboards and the teachers are there all the time in big rooms, with a lot of students of different ages, tutoring several individual or group projects.
The students have programs to go through but they can negotiate with their teachers what subject or object of study they’ll dive into, and how. For example: If I want to study Pedro Almodóvar, the Spanish movie director, a group of teachers (Sociology, History, Art, etc.) will help me to create an interdisciplinary project that includes this object of research, in order to teach me some topics of Sociology, History, Art, etc.
The method is not totally free, the students have to fulfill the programs of the subjects, but it’s flexible enough to create an atmosphere of freedom and pleasure in the school. It’s fun!
They don’t have normal tests there, the evaluation happens during the processes by different ways (oral tests, written exercises or just by observing the assignments being made). And there are no grades! The control exists, but with abbreviations like IS (In Study), SC (Study Concluded), NFY (Not Finished Yet), etc. It’s very uplifting!
Another example: On the second floor there is a big room. There, the students who had chosen to study Languages, History and other Human Sciences in that day are reunited with five or six teachers to help them to work on their projects. As I said, there are collective and individual projects of studying. Students working on similar scripts can be assembled by a teacher in a bigger group and taken outside or to a laboratory for a practical work or even a speech. It’s free. If one of the students doesn’t want to go, because he’s studying something and doesn’t want to stop, he could stay.
At Escola da Serra the learning processes are based on problems to solve, projects, contribution, art, pleasure… I’d love to be a teacher there or in another school that uses this method. It’s my kind of school. It’s my kind of teaching…