TGIF! Jan 5 2018

TGIF!

Happy 2018! Here are a few interesting articles to get your mind back into the swing of school after the holidays.

Student Agency is key

The tricky thing with being innovative is that if you try to measure success by the same old yardstick, it will usually push you back to the same old ways of doing things.  Consider this:

The challenge with implementing personalized learning is that it can be done authentically, with substance, or inauthentically, with only the form… Advocates for personalized learning emphasize that it is about the whole child and a new way of teaching. Personalized learning… require[s] a significant shift in teacher mindset and a giving up of control to students so that they can take ownership of their learning, learn deeply, and be intrinsically motivated. All of these can become co-opted by traditional teaching methods in the implementation.  … So how do you know if your personalized learning initiative is working? You could focus on test scores, but there is a problem with that being the metric that is measured. When you focus on test scores as the thing that is measured, teachers will receive feedback on their success/failure based on the test scores. This will incentivize them to move away from a path and a new mindset that feels risky to one that is comfortable – teaching to the test. They may maintain the “form” of personalized learning, but the “substance” will be lost. The implementation moves into a negative spiral of increased pressure to increasing test scores leading to inauthentic implementation of PL, leading to less improvement in test scores.

But there is another metric that drives a positive cycle: student agency. …Student agency is the canary in the coal mine – when student agency is dead, student learning is stagnant and inauthentic. When student agency thrives, so do students and their learning.

 

Modern apprenticeships offer path to career – and college.

No longer an either-or proposition, students plan apprenticeships then college on the way to the workforce:

In Colorado, there’s a nascent effort to use apprenticeships to give high schoolers work experience, and to do so in high-wage, high-demand career fields. At the end of the apprenticeships, which last three years, students have on-the-job experience, a useful credential in hand and one year of college credit. They also earn about $30,000 in wages over the duration of the program.

 

In closing….

Thanks for reading, more next week!

 

Kim

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TGIF! Oct 27 2017

TGIF!

Let’s do a quick Q&A edition this week.  Here are answers to a couple of questions I’ve received over the last two weeks or so.

So where is the high school going to be?

So just to clarify, we haven’t signed anything and it will take another couple of months to determine if the site we are investigating is going to work out.  Here’s what I can tell you so far: The site is located in the tri-cities of Grand Haven / Spring Lake / Ferrysburg, and is fairly central to all three communities.  It’s bigger than we need in the first year (and potentially a little bigger than we even will need at full capacity) – but, there is the possibility of co-locating with another interested tenant and we are exploring how that could work out. It offers the possibility of leasing rather than purchasing and could be made ready for use as school at minimal investment. If all these stars align (minimal renovation to meet code, lease versus buy, and sharing the space) this would all help to keep our start-up costs much lower.  That reduces our fundraising burden AND it means more of the money we will need to raise can directly impact our future students – purchasing the furniture they will work in, the technology they will leverage, the books and materials they will use, etc… and less of it needed just to update mechanical aspects of the building itself.

[From a student]: I heard we’ll be able to try out different jobs at your school.  Could I try out being a photographer?

I actually get this question a lot (well, fill in any of a dozen different careers at the end!) And my answer is usually both liberating and scary for teens.  The liberating part is that they don’t have to worry that their interest won’t be “on the list” because we (the adults in the building) aren’t going to be picking out internships for the students.  The scary part is, they will be.  But as I told this young lady on Wednesday, we’ll help with all the preparation necessary to identify, approach, and secure an internship and they definitely CAN do it.

Learning Links

There were a few good articles lately all relating to how traditional grading practices get in the way of actual learning.  From author Stephen King, “That fearlessness always comes when a kid is writing for himself, and almost never when doing directed writing for the grade.”   And another piece on how tough it is for students to work for learning, as opposed to doing work for a grade.

In closing….

Do you have a question I didn’t answer today?  Just reply to this email and I’ll respond either personally or in the next TGIF (or both).

Kim

TGIF! Sep 29 2017

TGIF!

Good morning and happy return to fall.  We continue to look at different building options for the high school and while our hope is to purchase a suitable existing facility (or really cheap land!) we also want to look for a contingency plan to get up and open with our initial class of 9th graders.  This would be a couple-of-classroom-sized space we could use for the first year (or two).  If you are a member of a community, civic, social, or religious organization that has some spaces that sit unused during the weekdays, we would be interested in learning more about potentially leasing that space.  The #1 clue that the space might meet school building code requirements is if it has a newer sprinkling system. So, look around as you go through your week this week – our school’s first home may be sitting under your nose!  We just need to hear about it!

See below for a few thoughts on why we need to see this school come to be, in the first place.

Purpose at the center

Our mission is to support each of our students to construct a life of meaning and purpose, and this mission is built into the heart of our school design.  This is an opportunity students in traditional high schools don’t often get, as Mind/Shift pointed this week in Helping Teens Find Purpose: A Tool For Educators To Support Students’ Discovery

“For you to have a sense of purpose you need two things: One, you need to know what’s important to you and what you care about,” Cook-Deegan said. “And two, you need to know how your work is going to have consequence in the world.” Many high school students go through four years of school doing exactly what they are told to do. The work often feels divorced from the real world — a prescriptive set of “shoulds” that adults say will lead to a happy life. But for many students, the end goal of all that work — college or a career — is a hazy future, not a tangible one.

The article goes on to point out two key structures that help bring purpose into focus for students – Advisories and Real World Experience. Learning in real-world internships allows students to test drive “possible futures” for themselves, and the support of their Advisor helps them to make sense of those experiences and grow in their understanding of their own talents and passions.

Cause and effect

I think the other reason for the “hazy future” problem is that our traditional schools, to the degree they address developing purpose, get the sequence backwards.  From another great piece, How to Help Teens Find Purpose:

“Young people do not usually develop a specific purpose and then go become an expert in that thing. Rather, they are exposed to something new that helps them develop their own sense of purpose. In short, in most cases experiences lead to developing purpose, not the other way around.”

Most people (4 out of 5 according to the Stanford Center on Adolescence) don’t have a clear vision of where they want to go, what they want to accomplish in life, and why.  And that’s OK.  But what’s not okay is telling 80% of young people to mimic those 20%: just pick something you think you can be passionate about, then go to college and study that thing, then get a job and make a career out of it.  (I’m not sure that works for the 20% all that well either.) We need to give kids a different roadmap:

“Most people do not have that one thing they are passionate about—that singular motivator that drives all of their life decisions and infuses every waking moment with a sense of purpose and meaning. (If you’ve found that studying the mating habits and evolution of mollusks from the Cambrian period until the present day is your purpose for living—we salute you. Charles Darwin spent thirty-nine years studying earthworms; we salute Charles Darwin.) …[But] most people are passionate about many different things, and the only way to know what they want to do is to prototype some potential lives, try them out, and see what really resonates with them. Once you know how to prototype your way forward, you are on the path to discovering the things you truly love.”

Our school model provides for that prototyping, and starts young people on their life’s journey so that graduation is just another step, not the end of the road.

 In closing….

Thanks for reading.  Please share our newsletter, and share our story with people you meet!

Kim

TGIF! Aug 11 2017

TGIF!

Last week was quite a long post. We’ll keep it shorter today by just sharing a few links from our Facebook feed over the past couple of weeks.

If you prefer not to use social networking, but are curious about the articles we share and post on our page, you can view all our posts publicly without having a Facebook account.  Just browse on over to www.facebook.com/imaginewestmichigan/.

College application insanity

“High schools need to realize that, while students amassing millions of dollars in scholarships and hundreds of college acceptance letters seems like an accomplishment, the outcome for many students is the total opposite. Too many students end up not going to a school that is the best fit for them, taking on piles of debt, and dropping out with no workforce experience. The goal should be that each high school student will graduate having a grasp on their career path (and experience in that field), scholarships to the school of their choice (full rides or little to no debt), and be confident in where they will be spending the next four to six years of their life.” https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/07/18/my-high-school-told-me-to-apply-to-100-colleges-and-i-almost-lost-myself-in-the-process/

Work-based learning for credit in Vermont

“I just thought it was really awesome to have the chance to explore your interests in ways outside the classroom setting and gain skills that may actually be useful in the workplace,” Eurich said. “Because it’s really hard to gauge that just by taking classes similar to a career.” http://hechingerreport.org/one-state-students-ditching-classrooms-jobs/

A lesson from preschools – how to prepare kids for an AI economy

“A big challenge — and one he said is essential to preparing children for a labor market in which routine and individualized tasks are being automated — is making sure this style of education is not lost in higher grades, when teachers turn to lecturing and standardized curriculums… learning to work in groups and be creative – and that this problem you’re facing today looks like a problem you faced in a different context a year ago – is a process that is very hard for artificial intelligence to replicate.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/upshot/how-to-prepare-preschoolers-for-an-automated-economy.html

In closing….

Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Kim

TGIF! Jul 28 2017

TGIF!

Lots of good discussion about internships this week as we continue to talk with local businesses.  What kinds of preparation will 14- and 15-year-old students need to be ready to contribute at a professional level?  What kinds of jobs, roles, or projects could businesses see our high schoolers performing?  We hear the same things over and over again – employers need critical thinking, problem solving, and communication!

How can students prepare for internships?

It turns out, preparing for and acquiring an internship is a process with almost as much benefit as the learning that comes from the internship itself!  At Acton Academy, advisors support students to find and secure their internships on their own.  Here are some nuggets from their process:

1. Digging deeply into your gifts, activities that bring you joy and deep burning needs in the world to create a prioritized list of apprenticeship possibilities.

2. Writing a compelling introductory email to a business owner you see as a hero or role model, asking for a short phone call to explain the Acton apprenticeship model.

3. Crafting a phone pitch explaining how apprenticeships work, including a promise to show up early, work late and do whatever it takes to add real value, and asking for a chance to meet in person.

4. Creating an in-person pitch, where you ask for a chance to prove yourself.

5. Learning to manage a portfolio of apprenticeship possibilities, just in case your first choice runs into logistical problems.

6. Negotiating a contract with your employer and parents to make sure goals and promises are clear.

7. Having a plan to add value in the first few days and a way to capture the lessons you learn.

8. Following up with thank you letters and a request for a reference letter.

Learning Links

Elon Musk – the importance of Why to learning

Todd Rose – high school dropout turned Harvard professor on why no one anywhere is average – and why education needs to change to reflect that

Benefits of Social/Emotional Learning – in life and in academics too

 

In closing….

And today it begins… welcome to Coast Guard Festival everyone!  Get out and enjoy this crazy vacation in our own backyard.

 

Kim

TGIF! May 26 2017

TGIF!

Wow!  What a great event Wednesday night.  I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share our school design with you, see your excitement and most importantly take time to answer your questions and hear your feedback.  Given all the end-of-school-year activities, concerts, sporting events and more, there were many people who told me they were interested but could not attend.  Should we do this again?  August perhaps?

Info Night download/debrief

If you couldn’t make it to our information night, I will make the presentation slides available next week. After sharing more details from parent and community feedback, the bulk of the conversation was sharing what this high school will include!  Our breakout groups chose to deep dive on internships, motivation, and advanced coursework/college credit.  I will spend some time over the next few weeks answering more of your questions on those topics, and more, in these pages.  Let’s start with…

Internships

Many of you have seen the vet video I’ve posted previously.  But one question that was raised was, “what about younger students, what kind of internships can they do (legally and capability-wise)?”  You also asked about how internship mentors and teacher-advisors stay in contact and how the internships tie into academic learning.  This short video answers many of these questions.

Why to How, Part V

New subscribers can read the first four segments, which traced our “why” to “what” to “how”, on our blog. Last week we dove into the first two keys of our “how” – ownership and personalization. Here’s our final installment in this series, wrapping up the last two keys of how we deliver on our vision for each student to gain the knowledge and experience they need to construct a life of meaning and purpose.

The third key is relationships.  Our relationships define our culture and are central to our mental health and happiness.  By limiting the size of the school to about 200 students, we ensure that everyone knows and is known by everyone else.  We organize the school into multi-age (9th/10th and 11th/12th) “crews”, made up of 18 students and one teacher-advisor.  By staying with one crew and advisor for two years, deep relationships develop as peers and adult coach and support one another.  Students at schools using an advisory model always use the same word to describe their crew – family.  And students will have to work at developing and managing these authentic relationships – skills that are critical for their future, both in the working world and more importantly in their interpersonal lives.

The fourth and final key is real-world experience.  This is how, within a relationship-based culture of ownership and personal development, kids are truly able to make the leap from childhood to adulthood.  By engaging with adult society – through substantial internship programs beginning in 9th grade, through Impact Capstone (our 4-year service project), and through real responsibility in the micro-economy that is the school itself – kids are able to learn and test real skills in real situations. This gives them the all-important feedback they need about what behaviors work out well and which ones not so well; what kinds of activity and environments allow them to be the best version of themselves, and which leave them drained and unfulfilled.  And, it gives them a sense of purpose and value, to have shown – to themselves and others – that they can contribute to the world in way that is meaningful and valuable.

 Learning Links

This piece on stress and learning shows that you can’t just slap on more open-ended problems in an otherwise traditional environment.  When it’s still about grades and other extrinsic markers of performance, there’s a shock factor as students try to figure out how to “be right”.  Lots to think about here.

Do you want to learn more about Big Picture schools? Here’s a quick overview from their website.

In closing….

Welcome to those who are new to our mailing list.  Look for a “TGIF” every Friday in your inbox.  Feel free to forward on to others who may be interested!

Kim

TGIF! May 12 2017

TGIF!

It is nice to finally be enjoying sunshine and warmth here in West Michigan. If you haven’t already heard, please see below for important information on our upcoming Information Night for parents, students, and community members!

High School Info Night – May 24, 6:30pm, Grand Haven’s Loutit District Library, Program Room A (downstairs)

This information night will allow us to share in more detail our plans for Imagine’s new high school, informed by the valuable feedback many of you shared during our parent interviews in January/February.  On Wednesday, May 24 this one-hour (max) session will include both an overview and Q&A on the school design, our project timeline to open by Fall 2018, breakout sessions for adults and for teens to share feedback and input, and finally the opportunity to (we hope!) sign your name to our “intent to apply” list so we can begin to quantify the strong interest we have already heard from you in our conversations!  Please “Like” and “Share” our event on Facebook (if you are a Facebook user), hit that “Going” button to let us know you will be there, or, just give a quick reply to this email to RSVP.  Feel free to forward this invitation to others, as well!

Why to How: Part III

In my last two posts (here and here), I talked in some depth about this whole process of growing up.  In short, just as the infant needs to experiment with his environment to understand the causes and effects that characterize the physical world, so to the adolescent needs to test himself in the social world which includes the economic, social, and civic aspects of society.  With less time and fewer opportunities to do so outside of school than in generations past, we propose that a 21st century high school must make these opportunities an explicit and non-trivial part of each student’s education.  What opportunities? Establishing and maintaining individual relationships (socialization at school is NOT a bad thing; in fact, it’s one of the most important things!), coordinating and collaborating with others in groups and organizations (much more robustly than in just doing “group projects”, but instead encompassing significant student ownership and real decision-making), performing authentic work with real economic value, and engaging with the community at large.  All of these kinds of experiences allow adolescents to make significant gains in growing in self-sufficiency and self-identity, in the low-stakes high school years, and under the guidance of trusting adults who know him or her well.  When we don’t include these kinds of experiences in high school, we not only provide false feedback (as I talked about last week), but we push too much of that growing up process to the post-high school years, leaving our older teens to construct their “adult selves” in a college environment that is higher stakes and rarely offers trusted adult partners to assist them.

Our vision for every student is this: “That they will gain for themselves the knowledge and experience needed to construct a life of meaning and purpose.”  And our job? To support them in every way possible in that heroic journey.

 Learning Links

Week-long internships in middle school? Heck yeah! https://fourcornersmontessori.com/students-take-learning-beyond-the-classroom/

Teens need for adult mentors https://nyti.ms/2q2Clnh

In closing….

Enjoy that sunshine!  Happy Mothers’ Day!

 

Kim