A SchoolHouse for Everyone

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Introducing SchoolHouse

Brian Tobal
August 17, 2020

Take a moment and think back to the best educational experience you've had.

Chances are you’re thinking of a teacher. Maybe it was a teacher whose passion for a subject activated your own, or maybe they helped you see that you weren’t “bad” at something, you just needed an explanation that fit the way you learn.

The teacher is largely responsible for the educational outcomes of the class, yet our current educational structure tends to burn teachers out. In the U.S., 44% of teachers quit the profession in the first 5 years. I understand this because I’m one of them. I loved my work. I miss teaching science at the Harlem Children’s Zone. But even though I enjoyed teaching, I had little control over my curriculum, class size and schedule, and despite working overtime every week, I couldn’t afford to raise a family.

My co-founders, Joe, and I started SchoolHouse to help move teachers to the center of the educational experience. We want to give them an alternative to an outdated structure: too many kids in one room, too many forms to fill out, too many staff meetings. Our mission is to enable teachers to create the kind of classrooms that meet the needs of each and every student. We seek to empower these teachers to do more of what they love — teaching — and less of what gets in the way.

We help teachers to do what they do best by breaking down the barriers of traditional structures. This means reducing class sizes and forming into pods or microschools, but also we’re personalizing the instruction and building flexibility into the curriculum to allow teachers to adapt to the student and instill a love of learning in every student.

We do the heavy operational lifting — we vet quality teachers, we help parents form pods of 5–8 students, we handle the administrative and legal back-office work, and we build software to make each pod a best-in-class learning experience. We’re SchoolHouse.

Small Class Sizes

Teacher Austin B. demonstrating math projections to his students on the computer in the living room.

Online learning has its benefits, especially for adults. For most of my career, I thought online teaching was a panacea that could scale the “best teacher” to everyone in the world. Zoom for education, as I’ve said before, has made it easy for everyone to access education. The problem is remote learning has its challenges, especially for kids, and there is no “best teacher” for every student.

I found that scaling the best teacher is a flawed viewpoint, as it focuses solely on the teacher as a presenter and fully overlooks the needs of the student. Students need more from a teacher than just dissemination of information, they need help debugging their mistakes, solving problems, along with personalized guidance and emotional or motivational support. They need a teacher who understands how they learn best, and can give them their full attention when they need it most.

Decades of “lecture as teaching” have led many of us to think that a teacher’s skill is presentational, when in fact at it’s best it’s largely interactive and consultative. At SchoolHouse we believe what really matters in the learning experience is the amount of time and attention a teacher can provide to each student. Think about what this means for students in a typical classroom. Would you rather have one thirtieth of a teacher’s attention or one fifth?

At SchoolHouse we keep class sizes small not just because learning in small “pods” is necessary during a pandemic, but because it’s a better way to give students the level of attention they need from a teacher to achieve their full potential.

Best of all, kids get to learn with friends (not just their parents or a tutor) in an environment that puts their individual needs ahead of what’s easy to standardize in a classroom of dozens of students, or a school of hundreds.

Personalized Curriculum

“Education as a process was an effort to realize human potential, and even more, it was an effort designed to make potential possible. Education was an exercise in optimism.” — Benjamin Bloom

SchoolHouse was founded by a team of teachers who believe education is not about finding out what you’re good or bad at, it’s about developing potential. To make this possible for as many students as possible, we’ve built a model that matches exceptional teachers with very small classes of students, and we’re developing software that makes the process seamless, at scale.

This system will allow teachers to:

  1. Learn the developmental level of each student
  2. Adjust the curriculum to their individual strengths and weaknesses
  3. Automate follow-ups to reinforce the learning

Early tests have shown that this system has a drastic impact on students’ abilities in a particular subject matter (post coming soon). Since learning is tailored to what each student needs, it also helps them enjoy it more. You know you’re on your way to solving a problem when you hear a student exclaim, “I actually feel like I’m learning!”

We trust the experienced teachers we hire to make the best decisions for their students, but we also provide oversight and support to ensure the outcomes match the promise.

We gather data to ensure quality across the board, and our model makes it easy for parents to have constant contact with their children’s teachers so that concerns are addressed just-in-time, rather than months down the road at report card time.

What’s Next?

Two students from the Care Bear learning pod working on their vocabulary in the backyard

We envision a world where every child gets to find the teacher that makes them love learning. Pods and microschools are just the beginning of what we’re going to do. We’re creating programs that give kids the ability to learn about anything they’re interested in, from advanced math and creative writing to rocketry, baking and computer programming.

As we grow, our aim is to make this kind of education accessible to as many families as possible, while giving more teachers the opportunity to truly make an impact.

We’re SchoolHouse, and we’re building the best educational experiences in the world. Learn more about us here: www.getschoolhouse.com

Brian Tobal — CEO SchoolHouse