Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Big Shift

When Rocketship started almost a decade ago, we were outliers.  We believed that students learned best when they were taught developmentally for academic skills and through projects for developing their hearts and minds.  This bifurcation between the methods for teaching was not generally accepted.  Most of the highest performing teachers and schools were not trying to teach each child.  They were developing amazing school cultures and work ethics that would help students to overcome their deficits.  

Fast forward to 2014.  Because of the popularization of blended learning, flipped classroom and a massive increase in classroom and at-home technology, most teachers and schools think a lot more about teaching each child today than they did a decade ago.  While a decade ago, it was considered insane to remediate the hundreds of skills that a student might be lacking from previous years, now it is on people's minds.  That is the good news.  

The bad news is that teaching each child using current tools is an intensive manual effort.  I sat with an amazing teacher for the first half of last year watching her assess and create learning paths for each child in her class.  It took her 10 to 15 hours each week to do this well.  The spreadsheets she used to track the skills and gaps of each child and plan their activities was amazing.   It worked fantastically!  Students were learning a ton in her class.  But seriously, how many teachers are going to do this?

We created zeal to solve this problem.  Our hope is that by reducing those 10 to 15 hours to a few minutes of a teacher's time each week, we will accelerate the shift to treating each child as unique.  Our goal is to make it so simple to teach each child that it is less work than whole-class instruction.  This will buy back time for teachers to teach the whole child, all of the skills that help children succeed in life - persistence, teamwork, empathy, how to solve hard problems...

Zeal's work has been intense this past year.  We have been working with a dozen classroom teachers through many iterations of our program.  We are so thankful to our early "zealots" for helping shape our system.  We are about three months away from opening up our closed beta program for teachers ready to teach each child.  If you are interested, follow @gotzeal and come to the website and sign up for our beta.   We are excited to accelerate the big shift to honoring each child's unique gifts and letting off some of the pressure teachers face.

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