Micro-Schools: An Exciting New Career Path for Frustrated Flipped Learning Teachers

Special / January 28, 2020

– Maureen O’Shaughnessy, Ed.D – 

Many of us got into teaching because we believe we have the qualities of a good teacher, the skills to be a good teacher, and we simply enjoy teaching. If any of these sentiments ring true for you, you’re not alone. An international study of teachers confirmed that most of us start out with a very strong belief that we will be good teachers – maybe even great ones. But then we get into “the school system,” and things don’t quite go as expected. Most teachers who have considered leaving the profession know exactly why their dream career became a nightmare. What many don’t know is how micro-schools might be the dream opportunity for frustrated Flipped Learning teachers. 

Change schools, change careers or change the system 

Sometimes teaching seems like we’re “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” It’s like we’re slowly sinking in a system that often drowns our passion for teaching and our students’ desire to learn. As a frustrated teacher, I pushed hard against the status quo. Teaching sixth grade as a young teacher, I rallied for teaching reading from literature to foster a LOVE of reading instead of killing the joy with canned short stories. Then as a high school teacher, I was appalled at the kids falling through the cracks and lobbied with other teachers to get the administration on board and create a community for these fragile and brilliant at-risk kids. 

In 2012, I finally gave up on our educational system. Not only had the system stifled my ability to teach well, the system also committed the unforgivable for this mama bear–it totally let down my daughters in their high school years. Livid that high school in a multitude of different models was painful and purposeless, I helped both daughters graduate early. As a career educator and innovator, it was the best way I could end the pointless suffering. But I was beyond FURIOUS. That rage at the injustices of our broken school system led me to do something insane…I opened my own school. I was able to use my extensive skills and best practices so that all kids could be seen, heard, and valued. Fueled by the Flipped Learning framework, my happy, scrappy, micro-school LEADPrep is now in its seventh year and has two campuses.

New possibilities 

One precise definition of a micro-school does not exist.  So here’s a crowd-sourced definition: 

Micro-schooling is the reinvention of the one-room schoolhouse, where class size is typically smaller than that in most schools (15 students or less in a classroom) and there are mixed-age level groupings. Generally, micro-schools do not meet all 5 days of the school week, and their schedules look different than a traditional public or private school. Classes can be taught using a flipped classroom approach, a form of blended learning, though not all micro-schools focus on technology in the same ways. Classes tend to be more impactful due to meeting fewer times in the week. Classes may use instructional methods, ranging from traditional lecture-based approaches to hands-on and activity-based approaches. Micro-schooling is viewed as a replacement for various school paradigms that are standard worldwide. 

Like most teachers, I would never have considered starting my own school if the frustration with “the system” hadn’t pushed me over the edge. I might never have experienced what it’s like to take reaching every student to the next level. Most importantly, I might never have discovered micro-schools and how virtually any Flipped Learning teacher can use them to create powerful learning environments for students and a deeply rewarding career path. The best part is you can create a micro-school within your current school!

New partnership 

Last November, I reached out to FLGI about how we might collaborate and Jon Bergmann introduced me to Errol St. Clair Smith, Director of Global Development at FLGI. Errol and I envisioned an international network of independent micro-schools based on the LEADPrep model and powered by Flipped Learning 3.0. Over Thanksgiving weekend, we signed an agreement to make LEADPrep the flagship model school on which to build a network of advanced Flipped Learning academies based on the AALAS Global Standards. 

LEADPrep immediately began upgrading to the Flipped Learning 3.0 framework because it is the ideal operating system for high-quality micro-schools. I know of no other framework that I can honestly say is following best practices and staying current. The more I learn about FL 3.0, (which wasn’t developed when I started LEADPrep), the more impressed I am. As I completed the first level of certification along with my staff, I am relieved that LEADPrep is aligned closely with the latest in the framework. I am loving both the affirmation of what we do and the new strategies and resources it is providing.  

New resources 

So here we are, kicking off 2020 with this inaugural monthly column for Flipped Learning educators who would like to learn more about micro-schools as a potential step on your Flipped Learning career path. We’re also hosting a new podcast to bring you more personal insights from teachers who have made the leap to micro-schools. Some of the topics we have on tap include:

    • YOU are an educational pioneer!

    • What is a school-within-a-school (SWAS)?

    • Analyzing the micro-school potential in your building

    • The seven steps to starting a micro-school.

    • Introduction of the Advanced Flipped Learning Academies (AFLA)

    • Resources needed to create a school-within-a-school/AFLA

    • Creating a plan to take to an administrator

It feels like the chocolate of the Flipped Learning framework and the peanut butter (crunchy, of course!) of the LEADPrep model is a magical collaboration with amazing chocolate-peanut-butter-cup micro-schools as a potential outcome. I am thrilled and honored to support others in creating powerful learning environments so that each student is seen, heard, valued, and nurtured…prepared to do well in life beyond high school.   

The FLGI’s mission to reach every student and forge powerful relationships resonates deeply with how we operate at LEADPrep. So follow this column as we bring you a step-by-step monthly series on starting and managing a micro-school within your current school powered by Flipped Learning 3.0.

Maureen O'Shaughnessy
Dr Maureen O'Shaughnessy
Maureen is the founding director of FLGI’s flagship flipped school, Leadership Preparatory Academy, a 6-12th grade micro-school with campuses in Seattle and Kirkland, WA. She also founded a micro-school in the Andes and a school-within-a-school in a large suburban high school. A fierce and dedicated mother, Maureen is passionately determined to create schools that work for ALL learners. Her K-college teaching has focused on gifted and at-risk learners, and includes leading and creating a community of learners for the Washington State Kaplan online Academy. Dr. O’Shaughnessy is a career educational innovator and school leader who has served in seven international schools and stateside. Her masters and doctoral work focused on systems, educational innovation, and the dilemmas that face innovators. She has served as an accreditation lead for AdvancEd and WASC and is the author of Creating Micro-Schools for Mismatched Kids. Maureen is Flipped Learning 3.0 Level-II Certified.

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on February 3, 2020

This sounds interesting. Are you saying that we should start our own micro school? Not sure where you are going with this

on February 6, 2020

You mention a podcast in the article. Is that here on FLGlobal? Or where can I find it?

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