The Right School for the Right Kid

A parent at one of our recent Information Sessions wanted to know what sort of students we were looking for. Who does well in a project-based environment?

It’s a great question, and one we talk about a lot. We believe strongly that no school is right for every student. High school kids are far too various for any one school to be a great fit for all of them. Here in Atlanta, teenagers are thriving at Grady and at Paideia, at Westminster and at Maynard Jackson. Some students find the best fit at Greater Atlanta Christian, others in a home school environment. But there are also students who find these schools a poor match. Unfortunately, these kids (and their parents) often believe that the problem is with the kids themselves, not with their choice of school.

This idea – different kinds of schools for different kinds of students – is giving a lot of energy to the small schools movement in the United States, a movement that The New School is proud to be a part of. What if, instead of having a few, large high schools that tried to be all things to all students, we had a number of smaller high schools that provided real choice to families in Atlanta? While that might seem like a pipe dream, many educational thinkers see it as a very real future for our cities. The New School is one small step in that direction.

We believe that students who will thrive at The New School share some core qualities. They will be curious about their world, and about how things work, and they will find joy in true learning–in making sense of things. They will express themselves in different ways – kids who draw, or write a story, or play an instrument to wind down. They will like making things – whether that means cooking dinner, knitting a scarf, or building a go-cart.

Students with many interests will find a home here. We’re looking for kids who tell us that they are bored in traditional schools. Or those who can focus intensely on a project they love but don’t always remember to turn in their homework. We’re also looking for kids who love asking questions and making connections.  Kids who are already passionate about something—rocket science, fashion or animal rights—will fit in, as will kids who are open to finding out what their passions are. Our student body will include those who have been described as “over achievers” with sterling academic records as well as those who have been told that they are “not living up to their potential.”

We’ll be working to teach skills such as resilience and adaptability to our students, so teens who require a lot of structure in their day-to-day lives, or who absolutely hate to change plans, or can’t stand to try new things might find it hard to adapt to project-based learning, at least at first. As a rule of thumb, those who would thrive at military school would probably flounder at The New School.