Yesterday, I got the opportunity to explore and hear about PSII: Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry. This was a fascinating experience for me having never heard of this school, I was unsure what to expect. PSII is an independent school in Victoria, but it is not your typical private school or public school. This high school welcomes all kinds of learners and adapts to many kinds of students in a way that will help them achieve their best. PSII is changing the structure of the public education system in a way that maximizes student engagement, independence and success. This is done through innovation and inquiry, students are asked a set of questions around their curiosities and interests which are then formed into a set of inquiry questions. This varies strongly from other school systems where students are taught all the same thing, at the same time with little room to integrate what interests them. Growing up in the public school system, my peers and I were rarely given the choice to explore or do inquiry projects on what makes us curious or interests us instead, we were all assigned the same project with a strict deadline. At PSII, they focus on students’ strengths and allow them to improve on areas of weakness in multiple ways. Where in traditional school, collaboration may be seeing as “cheating”, PSII welcomes it in their collaborative space while still providing rooms for students who need that independent time. They do not operate on a bell system or use grade separation, this encourages students to be self-sufficient and disciplined to get their work done in a way that best suits them. Something that really stood out to me was that the students are constantly being prepared for many “adult” or “real world” tasks for when they leave high school. When students arrive at school they begin by planning out their day and making sure they use their time wisely. Because the students do not have a teacher constantly telling them what to do and when they have to be disciplined with their time management and knowing when to reach out when they need help. After speaking to a few students, this seemed to be the hardest part when adjusting from public school to PSII, however, many said once you get the hang of time management and self-discipline everything is much better. When getting to the school, a concern I had was about their student to teacher ratio, but after talking to Jeff that did not seem to be a problem at all. They have created a system that is actually less stressful for teachers and students and he went as far as to say “that teachers and students have a better quality of life at PSII”. Overall, this was a very positive and eye-opening experience, Jeff and his students have shown me that traditional schooling has its flaws and that it does not work for everyone. I plan on taking some of their philosophies and understandings around individualized learning into my teaching career. My hope is that more school systems look into what PSII is doing and their sustainable approach to students becoming advocates of their personal education.
January 29, 2020