Updated: May 9
Where to begin? Let's start with our name, The Hedge School Cooperative. The traditional Hedge Schools originated in 17th century Ireland during English Reign. Two of the things the Irish were forbidden from doing were learning or speaking their mother tongue, Irish, and they were not to practice Catholicism. Irish priests and academics held illegal schools sometimes literally in the hedges, but usually in barns, homes, and other places. There, Irish scholars learned the cores - writing, reading, and maths. They learned and conversed in Irish. They learned their Catechisms, Greek, Latin, Reasoning, Philosophy, and more. The pursuit of knowledge was held so dear that both students and teachers broke the Penal Laws imposed by the English. Now, finer scholars than I have written wonderful histories of the Irish Hedge Schools, so I will defer to them for any further nuances. In seeking to create an schooling model that would inspire that same tenacity for learning, the Hedge School Cooperative was aptly named.
I started the Hedge School Cooperative back in the Fall of 2020. The Covid epidemic revealed a fair few failures within the Public School System, including in Public Charter Schools, where I previously worked as a teacher and then a principal. I know we will discuss these issues as we continue with the blog. In short though, government legislation and testing do not support our students and teachers, and I would argue actively harm them and our education system. I had recently stepped down from my position as Principal and taken a few months sabbatical - consider it a grieving period. About midway through the first semester of the new school year, I was approached by a group of parents and students who were looking for a better educational model. I agreed to explore with them the possibility of starting a school. Together, we met, discussed, and mapped out an educational experience that returned the power of learning into the hands of the students and teachers. We set a time that works best for teenage learners; granted that students ought to have a voice in their classroom and the directions in which it travels, and importantly, did not produce a student handbook of rules and regulations. My thinking here is that rather than welcoming our students with a list of rules we would be watching and waiting for them to break, we would start from a place of trust. And so, in the Spring of 2021, the Hedge School Cooperative had its inaugural class in an open barn at the beautiful Still Waters Retreat Center in Austin, Texas.