The Many Ways People Learn with Kim “Possible” Neal-Brannum

Kim Neal is the Founder and Executive Director of BELIEVE High School in Indianapolis, but all the titles in the world pale in comparison to the passion and commitment she has for her students. Continuing with Jal Mehta’s reminder that our children are human too, Kim begs us to make schools more human.

At BELIEVE High School, Kim’s first step in the right direction is meeting students’ basic needs. Access to Ibuprofin and readily available snacks seem like minor details but details like these are the difference between a legally sanctioned attendant and a ready and capable learner. 

High School students are on the cusp of adulthood – isn’t it time we start treating them like it? Kim believes that a hardworking student in class deserves a break in their 8-hour day, and not the break we want them to have like, squeezing in a study session or cranking out extra-credit assignments. Kim launched her school with the expectation that students attend class, focused and ready to learn. During a passing period or free block, social media, texting, and music are all available to decompress. Music is encouraged for students working independently to promote productivity. And instead of enrolling every student into PE 1 and PE2, Kim and her staff engage students in conversations about their mental and physical health, exploring their interests and how they want to log their daily exercise and keep their minds sharp for class.

By teaching our students to figure out what they need in order to have the peace of mind or a mindful moment, in order to continue with the day, I think it’s super important. And I teach them how to do that proactively.

Kim goes on to share the calculated steps she’s taken to build a school that stands out, that respects and honors educator and learner growth, and that prioritizes holistic wellness. From creating a teachers’ lounge that includes a stocked fridge, K-Cups, and a couch to carts scattered around the school with sanitizer, tissues, and lotion, Kim actively pursues ways to make her staff and students feel at home. She believes when people have their basic needs met, they’re in a position to excel at anything you put in front of them. 

“I’m also not trying to force a round peg into a square hole because we have some kids that are very articulate and clear about what they want to do in their future and we need to listen to our kids”.

To hear more about Kim and how she supports her “brilliant babies” at BELIEVE High School, tune in to the Bored of Ed, Season 2: Episode 2.

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