The Uncommon Survive

Why the factory model of education is over?
In the late 1800s, the modern day school was formed.  School buildings were built like assembly lines – age-based cohorts, whole class instruction, and standardization.     In recent times, learning has been increasingly standardized.  Most of today’s students take the same tests,  get the same rigor, and learn the curriculum.   Many families who seek faith-based, private, and independent schools want the weird.   If your school is not different enough from the competition, expect it to go under in the near future.

Are you too similar like the public or charter school down the street?
According to Seth Godin, “People with more choices, more interests and the power to do something about it are stepping forward and insisting that the world work in a different way. By enabling choice we allow people to survive and thrive.”    Parents have more choices of where their children receive an education.  The more weird your school is – the more it will stand out from the competition.

Do you wander why families pursuit public education?  I get asked this question often.  Sometimes, there is not a sizable difference curriculum-wise between your school and the one down the street. Some private and independent schools follow the same state standards, engage in the same fads and use the same tests as the public schools in their area.   Many parents don’t see a difference between your school and public education.  Simply, they just see private or independent education as a waste of money.

Would a family packet up their bags and move from another country to attend your school?
Michael Strong, founder of Ko School, and I had a conversation recently about his school in Austin, Texas.   He founded a tiny school of around 30 students, so unique families move half-way around the world just so their kids can attend this microschool.   Today’s families, especially in the days of remote workers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers can pick up their things and move for their benefit of their child.

So how does our school develop the weird?
Encourage Students Unique Talents /// Some kids love music while other students will love science or sports. Each child has different skills and abilities. Private and independent schools must lay the foundation so each student can pursue their own talents. Leaders must develop networks, partnerships and programs with museums, theaters, farms, and labs so young people can explore, discover and learn.

Provide One-of-a-Kind Experiences /// Your school needs to stand out from the one down the street.   How are you different from that one?  Religious experiences are one way, and travel opportunities are another way.  There are several other ways from high school internships, off site locations, schools-within-schools, special programs, and more.  Figure out how your school can be different and run with it.

Ask Millennial Parents /// Forty-percent of Millennial parents desire a private school for their children. Christian schools have a huge market of future families!  You need to get the advice from your parents.   Give them opportunities to provide feedback on a regular basis, and co-create when possible.

Then Tell Your School’s Story of Weirdness
Share your school’s weirdness with those in your tribe.   After all your school is not fit for everyone, it’s set for a specific tribe, who will benefit from your people and programs.   Develop a marketing and enrollment plan, and continue to develop your story.

And Make Sure It Is Funded
If you want to ensure your school has a special program or a project, then get it funded.   Research to donors – parents, grandparents, alumni, and others – to ensure your weirdness can continue well into the 21st century.
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