“For a kid who is kind of outside that box, they keep trying to shove them back in and I think their self-worth really suffers because of that, because they are told they are not good enough,” Lisa said. “He just disengaged, and his self-esteem was really low.”
She explained that although Gavin is a normal, smart kid, he happens to have a slower processing speed than other students that are his age.
“While he can grasp the concepts and learn just as easily as they can, the pace [of public school] wasn’t individualized and they’re teaching to this test, the standardized test, and he just got to the point that he was trying so hard, he gave up on trying to catch up on what he was missing because of the speed,” Lisa said. “And so, he just literally disengaged, head down. I would go into the school for one reason or another, he would have a hoodie, it would be up, and his head would be down on the desk. You know, the teachers would ask if he could participate and he was like, ‘Nah, I’m good.’ He just didn’t want to do anything.”
After a few friends recommended Midwest Academy, Lisa knew she needed to set up a shadowing for Gavin.
“The thing that really got me was, she [a friend] said ‘Imagine your kid going to school with a bunch of moms,’ because all the teachers are like parents, they care that much.,” Lisa said. “So, that was what prompted me to say, ‘Ok, we need to check this out.’”
Gavin added that some of his best friends are classmates he met while shadowing.
“They were so welcoming on his shadow day, which I had been told that would happen and he shouldn’t be nervous at all because somebody comes in to shadow and everyone is like, ‘come on in! I want to hang out with you,’” Lisa said. “There is truly no bullying here…. The teachers and the administration are so good at what they do here. They really just cater to not only educating them but giving them more self-worth and realizing their potential and just making them happy kids. He was excited to come back after break.”
The Gavin Midwest Academy knows and loves is far from the formerly disengaged version of himself described earlier. He now enjoys his classes, specifically noting that they are discussion based and include more fun things, and is involved in after-school clubs.
In the morning students rotate through their core classes, followed by lunch, recess and electives. Reaching further than the standard art and music courses, Midwest Academy offers technology, robotics, yoga, karate and animation to students. The school also houses The Projectorium, a wood working space which, as Gavin was quick to point out, contains many big, sharp tools.
“If you need a break, there are these chips and you can put a chip down and walk out of the room,” Gavin said. “You put a chip in a specific place so the teachers know you’ve gone somewhere and then you can rest and relax.”
Gavin explained that there is a Lego wall in the hallway and a quiet room that students can access throughout the day if they need to unplug and relax.
The school follows an ability-based structure rather than a grade-based one. While Gavin would be in seventh grade in a traditional school setting, at Midwest he takes courses that support the level he is at alongside students ranging from ages 10 to 17 years old.
“It’s all based on their comfort zone and ability and getting them in the right learning zone,” Lisa said. “And they will switch them in and out based on how they are doing. If they are ready to progress, they don’t wait they’ll just do it.”
She continued on to explain that lessons are taught in a way that plays to their interests and keeps them engaged.
“It’s a good school,” Gavin said. “I think that’s kind of obvious. Finally, school is fun.”