The main thing I would see is the kids are excited to learn. They come in ready to get together to share ideas of what they want to learn and the goals they have. Then they get started on their independent learning but are not afraid to seek assistance if they need it. They switch back and forth between individualized work and group activities. They are excited to present their learning through various methods that are meaningful to them. The kids all recognize it is ok to have differences of ideas but still are supportive of each other. We all have the attitude of giving a fish means eating for a day but teaching to fish means eating for a lifetime. Although everyone maintains responsibility of themselves, they also understand compassion towards others and helping out are also important.
Student empowerment is so important. It builds confidence and allows the students to discover knowledge on their own. It is important to have people who can help guide them and give some direction. However, what they learn on their own will stay with them the longest. It is also more important than ever that students have critical and creative thinking skills. There was a time when memorizing all the facts was important. Now that we can look up that info with the phone we always have with us, fact memorization is not as important. It is more important that we can figure out how to use that information to come up with new ideas.
When I taught kindergarten for several years, often I would have some incoming students who were taught to memorize facts, how to spell words, etc. If I asked them to spell “I can see a cat”, they had no trouble. However, if I asked them to think of a sentence about a cat, they could not come up with anything. They were already so used to micromanagement, that they could not think creatively on their own. Or perhaps, they were too scared of not having the best sentence that they were too frozen in thought to express it. The funny thing is these were the kids that were moved through the advanced track. Meanwhile, there were other students who could come up with great little stories, but had no idea how to spell them on paper. As I write this, I am thinking perhaps they could be amazing partners… the yin and the yang. But if they are partnered, would they grow in the opposite direction or would they become reliant on each other to always be there to do the opposite part. If that were the case, what happens if one is no longer there? Which one truly has the advantage? Decades ago, perhaps the one who could write everything. Now, with voice to text, perhaps it is the one who creates and then has the technology to actually write it out.
Later, I moved on to teach the advanced 2nd grade. I absolutely loved teaching that class. The reason being is we focused on the critical thinking and creative thinking. Because they were already ahead of grade level, I had a little more leeway in focusing on creativity. At different times, we implemented chess, genius hour, and even tried young entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish Young Entrepreneurs as that is when everything shut down for Covid. But over the years, I witnessed a whole new excitement in learning when we added these opportunities. We also did a fun project the last quarter called “Teacher for a day… well for 45 Minutes”. The kids could teach about whatever they wanted but could not teach math or language arts (to avoid confusion on tests). They had to come up with their lesson and some sort of method to check for learning and then grade it (Only I saw the grading of it). I recommend every teacher try this as some are very reflective of how the teacher teaches. We had amazing topics. We had someone teach about the Titanic (They taught way over their time), skateboard safety, hair braiding using yarn, some basic Spanish, some basic Turkish, Beethoven, etc. These kids, when asked to teach about something they loved and empowered to do it, however they wanted, could present on their topic without notes or any trouble for 45 minutes and beyond. They came up with relevant assessment means. The girl teaching braiding brought in a set of three pieces of yarn taped together for each student and they taped the top to their desk and each proceeded to show what they learned. Those teaching language used worksheets with matching of some sort. The kids who taught about the Titanic had several activities and even wrote a story that took place on the Titanic placing the other students and myself as characters. What I saw was truly amazing and transformational. Every kid got to show the others what they were passionate about. Everyone thought everyone else did great. One kid took the papers home and graded them next to her dad who was a teacher while he was grading papers. These kids were empowered and they took that seriously. If we can build their confidence that they can create projects and lessons and speak in front of their peers and so much more, they can eventually transfer some of that to topics that may not be their favorites because they already have sensed success.
Unfortunately, schools shifted during Covid and encouraged apathy instead in the name of relieving stress. Then when they saw the kids were behind and state assessment scores were going to start mattering again, they seemed to panic. This led to a push to have everyone doing the same thing and less room for creativity and empowerment. This was the point where I knew I needed something different. The split between the top kids and the bottom kids was now bigger. They not only lost the empowerment but many were no longer motivated by that. I want to have my microschool empower the kids to reach their goals and give them opportunities to build confidence and explore new things. That is why our tag line is “Empowering Minds, Building Futures!”
For several years, I have wanted to have my own school. Before the concept of microschools, it just seemed too out of reach to find the space and go through all the regulations. As microschools first gained traction, I had already started Coy's Camps And Classes. Our initial focus was on chess which we used instructors for. We added some coding with Lego Robotics and used a teacher for that as well. Recently, I added a Young Entrepreneurs class which I taught myself and really loved. I realized I missed teaching and it was time to reexamine my dream to open my own school. We had thought about adding a pre-k and kindergarten, but I just wasn't quite sure about our location.
I decided to really think about how we could make it work and what grades would be compatible with where we are and what my credentials were. I am a certified elementary school teacher with endorsements in Early Childhood Education, Structured English Immersion, and Gifted and Talented Education. I did some research on what is out there and what I would like to see and offer.
That's when it hit me. So many schools were focused on catching students up... especially after COVID. Unfortunately, there is also a great deal of behavioral and political distractions going on in the classrooms. What about the students who want to focus and learn but are being held back because of these other issues? How can they be helped? I then decided I would like to open a microschool that focuses on the kids who really want to learn. They want to set goals and be able to work on what they need and what they are curious about. I want to offer a place where students have some power, as well as responsibility, in their education at an age appropriate level. I also want them to learn critical thinking skills as well as empower them to express their creativity.
I am super excited to start this endeavor and welcome our Founding Families. We will cap at 15 students for our first semester (Spring 2024) so that we can really focus on making it a great experience. As a thank you for being a founding family, we will waive our registration fee and lock in the tuition rate for two years. You will also get to be an integral part in forming our school culture.
We initially started Coy's Camps And Classes in October of 2019. We were located in a very small location that was suitable for small classes, camps, and chess tournaments. We started off with some small camps (chess, habitats, and art) for kids and some small chess tournaments. Unfortunately just as we were starting to get a small customer base, COVID hit and everything shut down. We did a couple activities online to stay active in the community. At the time, I (Molly Coy: owner) was still teaching at an elementary school full time.
Fast forward to the summer of 2021. Places were starting to open up and we decided to try to grow the business. We found a location in the Tucson Mall and set up shop. It took some time, but we went from a couple chess classes twice a week to several over 4 days a week. We started getting more players for our tournaments, and students for our camps. Our retail area grew as well. The mall required us to be open and staffed all hours so I ended up quitting my teaching job to focus on the business. Personally, it was a financial hit but we felt we were growing and we were offering something good for the community.
Since our start, we have added other classes such as Young Entrepreneurs, Rubik's Cube solving, and some coding classes. I taught the Young Entrepreneurs Class and realized how much I miss teaching, so we are excited to introduce our upcoming microschool: Prodigypreneurs Academy. We will start with a focus on 2nd through 5th grade with the goal to expand. Classes will start on January 10, 2024.