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

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TGIF! Dec 11 2015

TGIF!

Happy Friday from Denver, Colorado!   It’s actually still Thursday night here J.  I’ll be wrapping up the last day of the conference Friday then flying back home arriving late.  These are the quick hits, the raw and unpolished conference report – more to come, much more, once I get back and digest.

I’ll pick three things to share –

#1:  The Big Picture Learning network is pretty darn amazing.  Do you value respect, curiosity, innovativeness, supportiveness, passion, inclusiveness, love, and authenticity?  I know that is the kind of list I would generate if I were trying to describe the cultural values I would hope to see in a school.   But that’s not where I got that list – those are the traits I’ve seen here, in the educators I’ve met this week.   This is an organization that “gets it” and one that is passionately and vulnerably real.  The recipient of the Ted Sizer award, BPL principal Jeff Palladino, said “it’s not about me, this network is bigger than us”.  Carlos Morenos, co-director of Big Picture said, kind of off the cuff: “unlike other education conferences, you will hear the word love floating around.  Because it’s real, it’s at the core of what we do.” I’ve felt that love over the past three days as we were welcomed with open arms.  I say “we” because I am here for all of us, and everyone I met is excited by our story and our community and wants to see us succeed in opening this high school.  We put Michigan on the map this week – without us, there only would have been 22 states in attendance. I was proud to represent – and proud to discover that I don’t look funny on a horse.  Time to charge.  Time to change.

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#2: Like begets like.  It’s no surprise that that kind of culture has an amazing impact on kids.   Wednesday night we heard from a Junior at the University of Denver who graduated from MEC (Mapleton Early College High School) in June.  Re-read that sentence again.  She has a classmate who received a full scholarship to Princeton.  We spent the day at MEC with two young people who were asked, on their way in the doors to school this morning, if they could guide a group of visitors around the school.  An hour in I was having a hard time convincing myself they were only 17 years old.  Three hours in I had completely forgotten, as they became as intimately involved in our advisory debriefs as any of the adults.

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Check those laces – brightly colored footwear also seems to be a BPL distinguisher!

#3: Last thought. We are incredibly lucky here in West Michigan.  Not only for the obvious social and economic blessings, but for the innovative schools that already exist for grades K-8 here, and for the comparative flexibility of Michigan’s charter school laws and competency-based graduation requirements.  I heard about so many challenges from colleagues here, that we simply do not have to face.  Not to say everything is perfect or the road will be easy, but we have advantages and we should be grateful for them.

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That’s it for now – more to come.

Kim

TGIF! Oct 23 2015

TGIF!

Welcome to our new readers!  I am excited to share with you more about our vision for a different kind of high school for the Tri Cities.  If you would like to see previous issues, they are now posted on our website.

Latest News

I had the opportunity to introduce our ongoing efforts at a meeting of the Walden Green Montessori School’s Families & Foundation (parent’s group) on Tuesday evening.  I’m pleased to share that several people attending asked to be added to the newsletter, and I held a small-group “Coffee Hour” just this morning for further discussion and dialogue.   Please consider joining me for a “coffee hour” or “happy hour” over the next couple of weeks.   I would love your input – times and locations are listed here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/20f054fa8ad29a57-imagine

Learning Journey

The next key theme of successful learner-centered secondary schools is the importance of Real Work: learning through internships, entrepreneurship, and service.  The most comprehensive example of this is at the Big Picture Learning Schools, which make internship experiences the central element of their schools’ educational design.  Students spend 10-12 hours, two days per week working under the guidance of a mentor to complete authentic projects with deep investigations.  These projects are connected to the student’s interests and meet real needs of the mentor.  This video, from the San Diego MET, shares how they do it.

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(Click on image to go to You Tube.)

Changemakers Coaching

Here is a summary of the listening and conversational practices from Otto Scharmer’s Theory U, which I’ve been describing over the past few weeks.  We’ll dive into some new topics starting next week.  For now, just let these ideas sink in, and please continue to practice them mindfully!  We are seeking to make a big change in our community, and what may be exciting to one person could be threatening to another. Good listening goes a long way.

I may start out by…

Downloading: I seek to reconfirm old opinions and judgments; I hear what I want to hear.

When I open my mind, I can then listen…

Factually: I notice differences.  I am open to new data that may disconfirm my old opinions.  I leave the conversation with new information.

When I open my heart, I can then listen…

Empathically: I make an emotional connection. I can see through another person’s eyes.  I leave the conversation with a new perspective.

When I open my will, I can then listen…

Generatively: We are able to collectively create something new – a thought, or idea, or connection – that did not exist before. I leave the conversation a changed person.

 

Thank you to those I have shared empathic and generative conversations with this past week.

Kim