HourSchool is a platform built from your community, offering in-person, peer-led, bite-sized classes. Anyone can teach anything to anyone, and HourSchool helps enable a community of peer education.
Our value promise
We promise to help you gain confidence through teaching, and to build a community of supporters focused on a particular topic or skill.
How it all begin
This began as a project about homelessness. We began by hitting the streets with the idea that we would talk to some homeless people. The first night out didn’t go so well. We walked up to a few people we thought might be homeless, but quickly realized we didn’t know how to approach them. How do you start a conversation with a homeless person? How do you ask them about being homeless? What happens if they’re not actually homeless? We spent most of that first night out just trying to answer these questions. We didn’t actually talk to anyone.
The next day we had to try something different. We went down to the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH), sat down at a table and laid out a big piece of paper that had two words written on it: Today on the left side and Tomorrow on the right. We also brought with us stickers with all kinds of images and words printed on them. Almost immediately, people started coming over and asking us what we were doing. We asked them to throw some stickers down on the paper that they felt best represented their day today and tomorrow. As they were doing that we asked them to describe to us why they were putting the stickers where they were. Before we knew it we had a whole bunch of people standing around the table, telling us stories about their day.It turns out that homelessness is not the guy you see with a beer in the hand at the corner of the street. In fact, 40% of the homeless population in Austin is made up of women and children. Frankly, they are people like you and me, going through some tough times, and trying as hard as they can to improve their situation. That day we didn’t meet homelessness, we met people. People with stories, people with good days and bad days, people we began to know by name. The biggest problem facing people experiencing homelessness is a problem of perception – both the way that society perceives them, and how that then affects the way they perceive themselves.
A different view of Maslow’s Hierarchy
Our perception changed the day we began asking one simple question: ‘What’s the best part of your day?’
Over and over again, we heard that the best part of their day was when they could help others and share what they know – from where to buy a bus pass and writing a resume to cooking and painting.
A common way of thinking about the homeless is with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, describing that the most fundamental of needs (like food and water) must be served before one can move up into other needs (such as self-esteem and being part of a community). Many social service agencies work extremely hard to provide the homeless with these fundamental goods and services. But we believe they are not enough to lift someone out of homelessness.
If the Maslow’s hierarchy considered from a bird’s eye point of view, self-actualization is at the core of what makes us human. It is an innate human need for us to not just be able to live, but also to have the desire to live. That desire is often what separates between the chronically homeless and the ones that are trying to change their situations. For homeless people to feel empowerment to change their situations, we began to look at how they could help others; thereby, how the homeless could achieve self-actualization. Our innate need to share and give remains true regardless of our economic situation. HourSchool was built as a launchpad for everyone seeking to give, share, teach and learn – one hour at a time.
We believe in taking responsibility for how interesting our lives are. We believe the best old stories were once new experiences. We believe the beer tastes better on the way home from a good adventure. We believe trying new things isn’t something we have to justify to anybody. We believe in being beginners, because we know passions are found through experimentation and involvement. We believe if we can’t fix it, we don’t truly own it. We believe if learning isn’t a little bit scary, we’re doing it wrong. We believe there’s an enormous amount of knowledge in the people around us — we just need to pay more attention to the quiet heroes. We believe as soon as we take the first step, people will come out of the woodwork to help us. We believe we are the experts of our own stories and sharing them makes our communities stronger. We believe success shouldn’t be defined by what we have, but what we have to share. We believe learning isn’t consumption, it’s participation, and it’s time to participate in our own lives.
- Hourschool on ATX Web Show
- Interview with HourSchool founders Alex & Ruby
- Hourschool in Huffington Post