Big Picture Study Tour – Selected Schools Tour, USA
(5th November – 16th November 2009)
– Big Picture Education Australia
This tour includes extended visits to up to 5 selected Big Picture schools across the USA
Emails received from Jen McCutcheon and John Hogan (Big Picture Education, Australia) while they are on the Big Picture Study Tour are as follows:
Wednesday 4th November 2009 – Jen McCutcheon
“Kia ora Mike
Am emailing you from Sacramento Met. We've had an exhausting but wonderful day looking around the school (very small..around 200), talking to Allan the principal and especially talking to the students.
Lots of interesting ideas and challenges presenting themselves. The students are very friendly and self directed. They do "workshops" intermingled with personal work time, and have two internship days per week (Tuesday and Thursday). Quite hard to get access to a computer so you'll hear from me intermittently.
Sacramento Met is in a very old building. We are working alongside the staff and kids here for the next two days and fly to New Orleans on Friday where we are attending part of a Conference.
I'm with 5 Australians.. three from Tasmania, one from NSW and one from Perth.
Sacramento is a beautiful city. Not too big. It's VERY warm here.
Thursday 5th November 2009 – Jen McCutcheon
“Kia ora Mike
A fantastic day today talking much more closely with students and some LA's. We start out from where we're staying at 8am.. school starts at 8:30.
Getting more insight into the very real importance of the RIM idea. Tomorrow I am going out with three students to their Internships. Quite a process before the kids get an internship and not all year and the mentor is actually their business mentor only.
Great learning experience.
6th November 2009 – John Hogan - US Tour
It might pain you to know I’m in the USA visiting some BP schools, some friends and attending some conferences. Or you might be pleased it is me who endured the 15 hour flight and numerous hours ahead to be spent in airports and not you.
Either way I’m going to write a few things each day. Clearly there is much that I could write...and others in our group would choose other things to write down....and much paper work will be collected to...some of these other things will be shared along the way and into the future.
I’m with 4 other Australians and a New Zealander. We are all together for the coming week spending three days at the Met Sacramento (A BP School) and three days in New Orleans at a Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum. The group then splits with some heading back to San Francisco and other going to Providence. More on that later. Today was our first day at the Met Sac.
A snazzy quote that captures our work with each other and our work with students. The LTI Coordinator of the Met was talking about what he tells the students as they are going about finding their internship.
“We’ll go as fast as we can...and we’ll go as slowly as we need to”. I think it captures something in our work generally.
We saw some clothes hanging on a rack. Nice shirts, smart skirts, coats etc. One of the students had noticed that some students can’t afford professional clothes for interviews, work placements, and important meetings like exhibitions, talking at conferences etc. She set up a process to get the community to donate the clothes, etc to the school.
Internships when they are attained are celebrated by the community. A running board of internships achieved is kept in the hall. The list is interesting...the Sacramento Opera, the Office of a key senator in the Capitol, the state housing authority...and on it goes. There seem to be quite a number of students involved in political and community action groups.
The school had 70 year 9s start this year. The three advisors (yes they start with 23 or 24 because they lose a few who get transferred out during the year) worked with the whole group together for the first two weeks giving them activities of various kinds to encourage interaction and group work. They spent much of that time observing who did what to who and how. Who worked well with others and who didn’t. Who worked well on their own and who didn’t. They also wanted to ensure that the three advisory groups would be as heterogeneous as possible and that each would have equal numbers of students who were second language speakers, students with special needs, different cultural backgrounds etc.
The year 9 advisory teacher (who has been through the full run from year 9 to 12 before)...talking about how she expects students to phone her if they are going to be late to school...she still has strong contact with her former year 12 group...she asked some to talk to her new year 9s...she asked some to participate in their first round exhibitions...she has used some to talk to individual students.
Enough anecdotes for day one.
Big Picture Education
6th November 2009 – John Hogan - Day two at Sacramento Met
"Learning through Internships
Most of you know that I’ve previously had a go at suggesting that we ‘slow’ down the internship process by following the steps set out in our LTI summary booklet. That is, getting an internship as described by BP, isn’t a case of ‘cold calling’ and requesting someone to be a mentor etc. We had an hour and a half talking to the LTI coordinator at Sacramento Met. A terrific young man called Andrew Frishman who has previously been an advisor at the Met in Providence. See attached his summary of the steps they work through in order to establish an internship for every student in their school. Notice that the word internship doesn’t appear until step 11!!!!!!!! Nothing about internships is talked about with workplace folk until after a student has completed a shadow day, finished their reflection, written a thank you note etc. Each of the bolded sections on the form comes with other paperwork which I will send to those who want it. The students are taught the processes at each step of the way. This work is not the sole responsibility of the LTI coordinator. The work is done with the Advisor and the student too. The advisor role is the key one.
Even after a successful shadow day... it has to be a place that the student wants to go back to...the mentor (potential) has to be someone the student wants to relate to...and the work place has to a place of opportunity for learning...and there has to be a chance for student to do something that will help the workplace. If the place doesn’t meet these criteria then another site for shadow day is identified etc etc
They are nearly two months into their school year...nearly all year 12s have internship (set up by them many last year)...most year 11s...some year 10s...NO year 9s...only a few quick and bold year 9s have even got close to or doing a shadow day.
However once the deep structure is put in place the work itself becomes ‘one kid at a time’...some are faster than others at finding their interest...pursuing a place...doing their shadow days...etc etc. In some ways this becomes helpful. The fast ones show the way. They can inspire other students. Successful internship placements are celebrated.
AND...he quoted Elliot Washor...this work is like playing jazz...underpinned by the clear and definite structure but then played out differently with each individual student and with groups of students...and some days it is all out of wack and doesn’t quite work for the band or the audience...then other days it is about being in the zone and magical things happen. I’m sure you have your own analogies that work for you.
We attempted to film this session with Andrew with hand held video. If it works (and audible) then hopefully we can edit it and put up podcast on web.
The power of the advisory teacher going through second time around
There are a number of advisory teachers at SacMet going through the process from year 9 to 12 again. It has been interesting listening to them talk about their work. They talk about how much they learned first time through and how much this informs what they are doing now. They also occasionally have to remind themselves that they can’t short-cut the process but they can do things now KNOWING the impact of their actions will likely have for when their students are older. Also spent a bit of time with a teacher not only being an advisor for the first time at a BP school but is also a first year out teacher. He was much more focused on ‘getting through today....I get the kids writing at the start of the day...and I do some silent reading at the end of the day...in order to give me some time to get my breath back’. He was fortunate too in having two other year 9 advisors who were starting on the journey second time through and who were helping him every step of the way.
I met up again with Oliver. Oliver (some of you may have met him in Australia) did an internship working with Viv White (National Director of BPE) and Summerhill Media. His family sort of lived in Sydney for a couple of years so he did an internship with us and still did his ‘school’ with SacMet. Oliver is now in year 12 his final year and applying to go to university. Oliver spends three days a week in his internship with a state parliamentarian (Sacramento is the capitol of California). This guy is setting up to run for election to the senior education position in the state and Oliver is working on his campaign identifying the key education people across the entire state that he will/may need to talk to in the coming year. Oliver then gets to sit in on meetings with the Chief of Staff and the rest of the team as they plan their response to legislation...as they work on the policies that they want to see put in place...and while his boss was taking me through the Capitol Building Oliver was asked to attend a staff planning meeting tomorrow. Oliver is also completing two college units...one in Philosophy and another in Ethics. He has become so interested in this interplay between these worlds he is putting in to study philosophy and political science at university next year. I think he said his first internship four years back was at a photo-shop. He is doing the state mathematics requirements for graduation at night school because he hasn’t got time to do it during the day. Now Oliver was one of the few kids at this school with a privileged background. But he is great example of how the BP design enables students to go deep around their interests and take his learning much further than what a high school course on politics would allow!
Ok...lots more...others in our group spent a lot of time today interviewing (and filming them) students. Some great footage for others to see to we hope.
Tuesday 10th November 2009 – John Hogan - Day 4
Day Three of the trip...flying to New Orleans while the rest of the group participated in internships at SacMet. Day Four I attended day one of the Coalition of Essentials Schools Conference. Some of you would be aware of the connections between the ANSN and the CES. The CES is built on the work of Ted Sizer and the 10 principles for school (over the years and in different contexts there are more or less than 10 and vary in description a bit). They are much more generic than the BP principles. BP spells out how BP attends to and works to the principles.
In the CES (and the ANSN) a school has to work out what it is going to do in response to the principles.
Day One Conference
Dennis Littky (Director of the Met in Providence and the new College Unbound) and Ariel (student in College Unbound).
College Unbound is the BP go at a three year Arts degree course. it is connected to the Roger Williams College (University). You can read about the course in flyers that can be found on the BP Learning website (USA). Essentially is has the BP design and processes at its heart...student interest...internships and practice in placements...learning what you need to learn to support that work (including taking classes at Roger Williams and other universities nearby)...a weekly set of readings and a seminar to work through ideas...connect them etc etc etc. It is great that a degree course using Big Picture methods is being developed. It will help us all show that this isn’t just something for ‘those kids’ to occupy their time because they have to be at school. He is hoping (over time) that once proved other universities will accredit it and take on this as a way of doing a program within their suite of degree programs.
It has started 2 months ago with 8 students. Why 8 students? They have a house that can house 8 students (they live-in). They wanted to start with students who had graduated from BP schools. They wanted a small group to prove the method first.
Dennis said that right now it feels like the hardest three months of his life. He didn’t think it would be so hard. He underestimated the transition period for students in moving away from home...in adapting to college...in working through issues of living together...in just dealing with life itself. He said if we thought changing school systems was hard...try the university system!! A lot of interesting tales told by both Dennis and Ariel as they told the story of the first two months. A couple of things have stuck...
Dennis set up the internships by identifying key business and enterprises that would provide students with worthwhile, challenging, and interesting projects to explore. He did this because he wanted the students to hit the ground running, have the internship a crucial part of the college work from the start, and because he thought the students would have had ample experience at internships (4 years) to adapt quickly. WRONG. Only a couple of them have worked so far. WHY? Well Dennis set them up not the students. The projects were interesting enough even related to their interest in some way but they were not the students deep interest. I was surprised that after such a short time the students would even have an internship because of the process. Another driving force for internships to be set up prior was that the course costs a lot of money (63000 per student) and they were wanting to raise that money for them so that cost was not a problem. Dennis got 8 business’ to pay 15000 for having an intern at their workplace. The internship process was then in part driven by who was willing to offer an internship rather than the student interest seeking out the business (or community or...etc). This has implications for schools too. Schools will and should canvass the community (local and wider) to let people know about internships and seek their support for offering them. But a person’s willingness to be a mentor...or a business to have internships at their workplace...shouldn’t lead directly to signing up students to do internships there. Student interest first...student interviews the person....student completes shadow day(s) there...then once there is obvious interest and the beginnings of relationship then the internship and mentor relationship can be established. This last bit was my lecture. Ariel talked a lot about her experiences. Her internship has worked. She is looking to do psychology and/or social work. One little story....She is placed on internship at the Met School WITH Social Work interns from Brown University who are doing their graduate placements at the Met School. (maybe their are other types of ‘prac’ students who can help you at school?). As a result of this she gets to sit in with them for their supervision sessions with their professor that are held every Wednesday. So as a first year university student at one university and sitting in on with a graduate group at another university...and as she said she would never have got to Brown otherwise. (Brown has prestige). She has already been told that her writing is on a par with these students. She knows she can do it.
Overall it was interesting watching Dennis explore his thinking and be redesigning as he talked and sought our feedback. In this work we are always learning, evolving, maturing, and then reviewing and rethinking.
Golly and that was just session one
Tuesday 10th November 2009 - John Hogan - Day 4 Part 2
CES FALL FORUM
Day 1 Session 2
A group from the CES have just published a book called Small Schools Big Ideas – a guide for change. Jill Davidson (CES Editor for Horace the CES Journal) is one of the writers. Can’t remember full title or all authors and I’m writing this without any references.
While the session was about launching the book it was panel session where people asked questions and where the members of the panel responded from their perspective – leaders, teachers, students and coaches.
Dennis Littky popped up again as he introduced the session. He said two things that resonated with me and the ANSN. Not quite direct quotes but close. The usefulness of the book and the CES generally: “It is written about practice and describes practice...and the theory is drawn from the practice. We need to keep doing this.”Importance of the CES network “when I was Principal and alone and needed support I felt I had more strength to cope because of the CES. I could count help from the CES network.”
There are four sections to the book but which are also core to the way to generate, implement and integrate change.
1. a commitment to equity
2. Principles which inform your design
3.Principles of learning which use
4. Keeping it going.
A few other key ‘things’:
A key set of tensions for schools was around the different values within the school to the values of the community in which the school was located. They suggested: recognising the tensions, acknowledging the tensions, and working with the tensions.
The work often feels messy. The CES principles sustain the change and the effort. Sometimes forgotten by always there to use as a reflection and to review progress. Important to work on a tone of decency and un-anxious expectation for students and between and for staff. As we often say staff need to adopt a ‘spirit of generosity’ towards each other and the students. We won’t always get it right. We need to be forgiving. We don’t always understand each other. We need to try and understand each other. We don’t always have the same time-line. We need to compromise.
Community engagement...the importance in some communities where different ‘groups’ exist of identifiying a leader in those groups and working with them to help communicate to others.
One of the students was asked to describe the exhibition process and she said ‘We teach the group what we’ve learned during the term.’ I rather liked that...not just telling...but teaching.
One maths teacher in one school had used the ‘no child left behind’ slogan (that Bush had brought in but didn’t mean that at all...rather it meant let’s measure everyone with the same multiple choice test to see who is being left behind.’ and other nasties too)...anyway the teacher got the class to adopt it as their mantra and to help each other and other kids in the school to learn...and in this case their mathematics.
Enough for this one for now.
Wednesday 11th November 2009 – Jen McCutcheon
"Kia ora Mike
Spent today at Lafayette at the BP school. Met some people you met at the conference - Megan, Susan. Have had a great day here. Met with the Board as well.
Getting some interesting information and contradictions. Am driving with Elliot and two of the Aussies to Philadelphia tonight.
Thursday 12th November 2009 – John Hogan - Day 4 Part 3
I’ve been getting some email non-deliverable messages...and judging by response many obviously get through...i know I’ve re-sent some of the emails so I apologise if you have received multiple copies.
CES Fall Forum
Debbie Meier on ‘Role of Play in Learning’
I went to this session because Debbie is another person I heard a lot about as a school Principal, writer and activist. See her website http://www.deborahmeier.com/
This session was general exploration about the role of play in learning. In Debbie’s view play is the way we learn...not just play as in games (although that too) but also in that we play with ideas...imagine....explore...test...check...etc.
She feels as adults we need to play if we want the children we teach to play. And her provocation was that schools seemed to be designed to eliminate play – both being playful and playing with ideas. Dennis Littky (yes he was at this session too) wondered about how to bring joy and playfulness back into our own work. (me...maybe its an attitude...a state of mind...maybe we can just choose to be a bit happier...jolly...and embrace the problems we face with a bit more vim and vigour? Maybe not?)
She reminded us that we use the word ‘play’ in different ways...we play sport...we play the piano...but then we also talk about ‘playing the game’...the right way...obeying the rules and in the right spirit...that all sounds a bit less like play and bit more like being obedient?
She then showed a short movie of a class of 8 year olds in her school from 1979. We watched the class go about their work...did I say work?...we watched them too at play...we watched them making things...making things up...doing things...dressing up...we watched some kids looking after two snakes...we watched them deal with the snakes dying...we watched them bury the snakes and write reflective notes/poems etc about that experience. The writing was magnificent. She was posing the question then...do we have time for this sort of play/work with kids in schools today? Is this time being reduced by the pressure of basic skill testing? She thinks play requires engagement, action, activity, and thought.
It reminded me of when I visited (with my friend and colleague Steve Miolin) the Holweide School in Koln in Germany. This was a year 5 – 12 comprehensive school structured around groups of 6 teachers working with about 90 students and staying with them from year 5 to year 12. One interesting aspect of their work was the time-tabling of ‘free play’. This was additional to the breaks for recess and food. The younger kids play areas (had to be inside in winter) had big piles of bits of wood and cardboard so they could make cubbies etc...older kids more relaxed but included being able to access music rooms and the like. Teachers did not tell students what to play and how to play. The students were left to decide. I’m just writing this from memory but might be able to find the articles that described this more fully. The ANSN worked with Anna Ratzki the Principal of this school and also joined with a like group in southern Germany who did a lot of similar work including something called Team-Small Group training teachers in how to build the culture and groups they taught. The ANSN documented that in a book which is in a kit for teachers. Maybe BP advisors might find this kit useful again? Lets have a look heh?
Thursday 12th November 2009 – John Hogan - Day 8
And still they come...
I have skipped to day 8. Still thinking about the second day of the conference (day 5). Day 6 was spent in New Orleans having a look around. Day 7 travelling to Syracuse and then driving half an hour out to small rural school where the Lafayette BP School is situated ‘inside’ the existing high school.
We spent a day at the school. it is in its second year with one year 9 class and one year 10 class. 15 students in each but intends to grow to small school from year 9 to 12. There is a Principal (ex Deputy of the high school) and an LTI coordinator (paid for by a grant they won. She is a trained social worker – not a teacher). So they are setting up for when the school is operating fully. The larger school runs separately with no staff crossover. Although that is quite small too with not too many more than 200. The Principal – Susan Osborn – and both advisory teachers are male (one ex Science and one ex Maths). Both are enthusiastic and love their new roles. The school is close to a native american reserve. Many (but certainly not all) of the BP students are native american from the Onondaga Nation. We also visited the school (K – 8) on the reserve during the day. Great school although I think they were starting to struggle with the kids by year 8. BP seems a natural fit for education of the students from this school. the BP school was set up by the District Superintendent as a strategy to provide an alternative to traditional schooling when it clearly wasn’t meeting all the students’ needs.
The Onondaga Nation is a member of theHaudenosaunee (“People of the Long House”), an alliance of native nations united for hundreds of years by traditions, beliefs and cultural values. Also referred to as the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations, the Haudenosaunee consist of the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca,Onondaga Nation's and Tuscarora nations.
Have a look at http://www.onondaganation.org/ if interested in more information.
We spent the day just having a look...talking to teachers...talking to students...talking to parents...having a look at their work...and we sat in on one young woman’s first ever exhibition and the first one for year 9. This was a highlight for our tour so far (for me). She was just delightful. Her goal for the term was to overcome shyness....and here she was going first and with pile of outsiders in the room too...she had read 8 novels for the term and spoke eloquently about some of them explaining the key messages in a couple of them too...there were a few other ‘holes’ in her program but that is all about building over time anyway. Her grandparents and mother were there and watching her grandfather give her a hug at the end was quite emotional. Just great. If we just looked at her learning plan then we might have thought there were a lot of gaps. But as she develops her knowledge and confidence she will see what she can do against the various goals and tasks.
The year 9 advisor showed me how he was using google docs to keep track of the students...provide the students with information...give the students a way of writing up their thoughts and keeping that online. Now I send this out with a plea to be ethical about its use. I’m assuming that you’d like to have a look. I’ve asked him for access to a couple of more things that don’t seem to be here and i’ll share those if he sends them. He isn’t saying it is perfect...or great...just something he is developing and using to do his and their work. He showed me how he was using it to fill in information on each student as he had regular catch-ups with them. His go at a running record I guess. Each time he keeps a check on how the students are going against all of their work that they are supposed to do.
It got me going into google docs anyway so now looking at how I should be using them for my work!!
Elliot Washor was with us. During the day he skyped a class at the Met in Providence and got the students from there to talk to syracuse students. As you might expect they were very shy. But heh...one of the shyest students ended up taking the computer on a walk around the school showing the Met students the classrooms and some of the other kids. So here again is another way of getting kids to look outside their place. See others...talk to others...be mentored by others...share projects with others...have extras involved in their exhibitions...cross cultural and country boundaries...something to think about?
All in all a delightful day spent with terrific staff and great kids.
Thursday 12th November 2009 – John Hogan - USA Trip Something else to ponder
"One of our Aussie BPE network recently requested some info about ILPs from the US BP and Kari Thierer, National Director of the School Network in BPL responded. Some of what she wrote is below for all of us to ponder as we go about our work. I’m not sending it around so much for what it says about ILPs but what is says about change, our work and our intentions. It indicates the ongoing flow of our work...remember Fibonacci? The dots between paragraphs indicate text that I’ve left out from her email which related to specific requests.
The ILP process is a constant discussion point for our schools - what is it supposed to look like, what is the purpose, etc. As a general rule - when I'm working with new or experienced schools, we talk about the ILP being the document that students use to guide their work - the map for what is expected of them for any given time period. In the U.S., most of our schools do some sort of public exhibition every 9 weeks - so the ILP serves as the guide of what the student expectations are for those 9 weeks and what will be exhibited at the end. The format changes depending on the school, and it changes depending on how the school accounts for student academic growth......
Schools tend to get stuck in the format of the ILP and spend less time on the purpose. What the actual ILP looks like is less important, but the guiding principle of having a document designed specifically for an individual student based on that student's strengths and areas for growth is the main purpose. It can look like anything - and many of our schools have changed the format many, many times. The other difficulty with the document is that it's a living document that must change as projects evolve. At the beginning of a term, students and teachers may not know what the projects will look like because they haven't been developed yet, so the document must change as projects evolve. However, I think even at the beginning of a term it is possible to identify the skills and content that students need to demonstrate - define the goals for the end of the term, and then as the projects evolve the 'how' becomes more evident. Does that make sense?...
Hopefully this helps. I'm glad that you are taking time as a staff to think about the ILP and the distinguisher's. Both are important in reminding you why you do the work you do - and refining your systems of belief is important. As a BP network, we are also thinking about these things - they've been around for 15 years - so what does the evolution look like - if we come up with anything great, I'll send it your way!
Monday 16th November 2009 – John Hogan - USA Tour Day 10
Bit behind...on day 8 after our visit to the Lafayette BP School we drove to Providence with Elliot Washor. So we had five hours talking to the BP founder about the school and other aspects of BP, the design, extending to new sites etc.
Wednesday the 11th November is a holiday in US for Veterans Day. It was good to have a day to recover.
We thought we were going to the Peace St Campus at the Met on Thursday but Elliot was asked to visit a new small BP school in Plainfields Connecticut – a small town about 50 minutes from Providence. So another drive and another school in a small town setting – a great opportunity. This school started last year and now has two classes and aims to build to a full BP school. there is no other high school in town. But there is (about 20 minutes away) a large (near 3000 students?) public year 9 – 12 high school. the school is renting a lovely old building from Catholic Church and has plenty of space to grow into. They got started with the help of the District Superintendent who just wanted to see each and every student getting the opportunities to develop, graduate and go on to further learning. Too many students in the local district were being crammed into the bigger school and not making it. Once not making it the options for students were continually narrowed. The BP design allows for the students to stay connected to going and doing anything beyond school. the classroom spaces were large and comfortable...and looked great with kids work, lists of things like where everyone was up to with their work...their internships...their tasks, and charts of various sorts etc on the walls.
But for me the day was about two young people
We were met by Crystal. Crystal had dressed up in her best clothes (with pearls). She was pleased to be telling us about the school and why it had changed her life. From what I could gather she had a terrible time in her middle school (being bullied) eventually being placed in a special school (that’s what it sounded like to me). When you listen to Crystal talk the decision to put her in that setting sounds extraordinary. She is in year 11. She showed us her learning plan. She is working on her plan at the moment filling in the connections between what she plans to do (and is doing), the Big Picture Learning goals and the state curriculum. She is doing it. She said just numbers the curriculum connections to the state standards because it is just too much to write out. Her plan for this quarter involves preparing for her ACT and SAT tests, writing a college essay...things to do if want to eventually go to college and university. She is finishing a book project on ‘the Hiding Place’...she plans to exhibit using songs with an explanation of why they relate and she plans to sing a song by whitney houston call ‘didn’t know my own strength’. She is participating in some skills workshops during class time in mathematics and literacy. She is setting up shadow days prior to an LTI with a senior citizens group. She is part of a peer book group. She is doing community service with a homeless shelter and a battered woman’s shelter. She plans to read 4 – 6 short stories and write a half page reflection on each. She is looking to be healthy and has set out a plan to maintain a diet (and keep a record of data), exercise program etc. Finally, she is writing a book. She is writing at least 8 pages a week. It is about teenagers and harassment (no surprise there). She is writing it from the perspective of the ‘bullyer’. She has since talked to some of those that made fun of her in the middle school and said she now understands a bit more about what they were thinking at the time. She thinks it would be helpful for people to read a book from their perspective...what is going on in their heads as they make fun of others. A very interesting young woman. Later we meet with some members of the Board and the District Superintendent. Crystal is there too. She tells us that it is very important that the BP school succeeds and grows. She said that the US was built on a group of people taking and making a big leap of change. That compared to that this is a small step so we all should make it and keep going. As they say in the US...’there you go’.
The other student we talked to for a while was a tall thin young man with long hair – called Zac. Zac didn’t say much. But he was happy to show us his newly made animated film. It went for about 6 minutes. This was his first go at using the software. Bloody hell...what will he be like when he has had some practice? It was great. I’m not pretending to have noticed all of the symbolism that Zac had built into his film and what was happening to his characters. I’d have to watch it again. But through it he also used various techniques to exhibit his art work from the first quarter too. There are drawings all over the classroom done by Zac. He is a musician too playing drums, guitar and piano. And at his first exhibition he turned up dressed as Count Orloff. Then proceeded to do the exhibition as the Count. Apparently he (the Count) had run over (or into) Zac on the way and promised Zac he would do his exhibition for him. I’m not sure if this was a piece of drama...or a way for him to do the exhibition without being him (my psychology isn’t good enough for this judgement but something similar to how Leith my wife gets to talk to our grandson about ‘hard’ things through use of a puppet. He wouldn’t talk to us about the issue but he will to the puppet even though he does know it isn’t real). Zac loves the school too. He didn’t like his previous school as his talents weren’t able to be used. Given that Providence is only 50 minutes away and has a well known School of Design and other related arts activities there I wouldn’t be surprised if Zac ends up doing internships in Providence itself. He is happy to travel if he had to.
As I said we met with some on the Board of the school and the District Superintendent. Three students participated too and all made contributions at various moments and without being prompted. It was great to see and experience. We talked about everything from learning to school to education...from US to Holland and Australia...it was a really lovely day.
There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in - Leonard Cohen 1992
Monday 16th November 2009 – John Hogan - USA Tour Day 11
Friday saw our group go to the Met in Providence. This is the original BP school. it is four schools on the one site and two elsewhere. You can visit the website for the Met if you want to see more. http://www.themetschool.org/Metcenter/home.html have a look too at youtube for a tv piece on the Met from a few years back. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgb8Co0M6SM
Next to the school is a three story house where the initial group of College Unbound students are living. The students are at Roger Williams University. See previous story about Amelia day four?
We met with Dennis Littky in his office and we talked for an hour or so. We got a good run down on how things work...and Dennis is always happy to talk about issues too. Like any school there are issues! One of our group – Cathy – is spending all of this coming week at the Met so he set her up to spend two days with a year 9 advisory and two days with a year 12 advisory. This is a great thing to do. See what the kids are like as they come to high school and see the same sorts of kids as grown ups. Dennis has a wood carving in his office. He uses it to say well the kids as they come in are like the shape as the work starts...and then each year they learn and grow gradually coming to know themselves and show themselves to the world more comfortable in their own skin. I’m not sure we have the fully formed adult at the end but maybe the carving shows the optimistic somewhat frisky young animal ready to launch into the next forest! I like the symbolism that this is a task we undertake over time – it doesn’t just happen. We can’t just expect all kids to be there at 13 or 14. That as teachers and leaders we are involved in this process of helping these young people learn and grow. That not all our work will be perfect but we have time to make changes to keep developing.
Dennis arranged for two young men to take us around the school. We visited the performing arts and media centre...the gym...the commercial kitchen...saw the plans for a new enterprise building...and visited two of the schools. We were going around just before lunchtime on a Friday. We didn’t see any pushing, yelling, aggressive behaviour. Everywhere we went kids were working – individually in some areas...small groups in others...whole class work in yet others. There is an atmosphere of respect and purpose. It is very impressive.
After our tour we met with Brianna Masterton who looks after BP communications across the network. She gave us more information about how they go about planning events, setting up the coaching support, creating opportunities for school visits and sharing materials.
Finally - there is/are work, charts, art, colour and movement on the walls – and nearly all of it recent. From things that are designed to be attractive to messy current pieces of work. It is great. They have a tv screen for notices in the buildings but even there student work is evident with videos made by students being shown and ideas for prompts in journals flashing up in between the usual announcements see in any school.
As we left we saw a group of students and teachers putting on The Met blue T-shirts. This was interesting as no uniforms in any of the american schools that I’ve been into. They were part of the group who were going to start visiting local schools to tell kids about the Met to encourage them to enrol there the following year. They don’t seem to miss a trick. Students are involved in everything.
Monday 16th November 2009 – John Hogan - USA Tour Day 5
I didn’t get around to doing this earlier. This is my summary of the sessions I went to on day two of the CES Fall Forum.
CES Fall Forum Day Two
Session 1: The Federal Policy Landscape and Educator Action
This was about the Forum for Education that has been created by a number of key progressive educators in the US. George Wood is the lead convenor at the moment. It is the policy voice of the CES in Washington. They asked themselves the question: What role can progressive educators play in the national education policy debates to ensure more equitable distribution of resources to support children more, support for teachers and assessments that are more than just bubble sheets? Given one of the roles the ANSN tries to play in Australia is to highlight national issues of importance it seemed a good session to go to. As I write this the ANSN is hosting a national forum in Canberra today looking at the ‘education revolution’.
You can read about it on http://www.forumforeducation.org/
They have set out to be an advocacy (not a lobby group) and want to tell the story of powerful education for kids in every possible setting so government can use them. They believe they need to find ways of getting the story and ideas to them. The current policy is deeply embedded with tests, teacher pay linked to test scores, and test driven (although use the word data) decision making. They want to change the language and that while President’s rhetoric is often ok even good the policy just doesn’t happen. They feel we have to change not just the politicians. But we have to talk to the politicians. Am I writing? Am I phoning? Am I making a statement?
1. The forum is currently doing a public campaign http://www.rethinklearningnow.com/
2. Linda Darling-Hammond is leading the development of a new policy framework so rather than
just chip away at fragments of the current policies to offer up an alternative way of framing
3. The Forum has a website and you can sign up for their regular email too.
So are there lessons here for the ANSN? BPE? How might we help reshape future education policy in Australia?
Session 2: A Group of Met BP Advisors (Providence)
Three of our group had sat in on a session by this Met team because they were returning to the west coast after the conference rather than going on to Providence. By the end of the session they had convinced the Met group to spend the next session talking to them...I happened along and joined the group. I was interested in what they said...and what we asked too! It was great to be able to just focus in on how they carried out their day to day work but also to hear their views on how their school (remember the Met is made up of 6 small schools) is going. The group (5 of them) were pretty clear about the idea that they are always learning. That there is an ongoing tension between implementing the BP design and adapting it to suit their circumstances. And their school had some problems with leadership and some turnover of staff. Their group was made up of mix of length of service from 7 years down to 1st year. They were keen to tell us not to lose sight of humanity, to keep a sense of humour, to spend some time together (as staff) having some fun and to maintain a ‘generosity of spirit’ (my words but can’t remember how they said it).
At this point I think I missed a session. Very tiring all this talking and listening and writing. I needed some space to breathe. Mmm what do we do when students want some time out?
Closing Session: Educating for Sustainability: Integrating Equity, Economy and Environment at your School. Tim Wise
Sounded ok...might even be interesting...guess I’ll make the effort since its the last session...thought i’d just go to see what would happen and didn’t even get ready to take notes...little did I know...bang pow smash bash ...I came out an hour and half later having been hammered like never before. I had never heard of Tim before. He has written books on race, being a white man and race etc. He argues that redressing racial inequity in education requires a clear understanding of the role racism continues to play in the maintenance of disparities between white Americans and Americans of colour. He was loud, clear, unequivocal, to the point, and hammered them home one by one...or was it the same point over and over...not sure. This is very brief summary of what I THINK he said. Of course, I’ll miss the stories and anecdotes that brought it to life. What follows is my interpretation from my memory might not be accurate.
1. We cannot stand by and say the sins of the past are nothing to do with us. We cannot stand by
and say it wasn’t our fault so we don’t have to do anything. If there is a mess and a stink and
we are the ones left to stand in it we HAVE to clean it up.
2. Every era of American history post white colonisation has purposefully created inequity.
Policy today continues to do so. He claimed that at least one state looks at black failed test
scores and drop out rates in order to budget for prisons 15 years out. Money there for prisons
but not education while they are school. He had a lot to say about this tracking from Jefferson
to the current day.
3. During the talk he suddenly launched into an extra-ordinary attack on Ruby Payne...not least
for the extraordinary amount of money she charges to tell teachers it is not about them as
teachers or the system but it is about ‘them’, their ‘poverty’, their ‘families’, ...stereotyping
poor people (of all colours). Sure maybe when you are on 8000 a year you might not plan for
the long term and live day to day. Who wouldn’t? But short termism isn’t a characteristic of
poverty...what about those (previously rich) folk selling derivatives? How short term is that?
4. He then critiqued the education reforms that have occurred in new Orleans post-Katrina
illustrating how the system is contributing to inequity. They have created new schools where
Principals get paid much more, the schools are selective, leaving the existing public schools to
be further residualised with less resources, more kids, less staff etc. and the majority of those
left in the public schools he argues are people of colour and poverty. Choice is fine...but who
gets to choose? As he said these things he said he wasn’t personalising but pointing out how
system was working. He had lots of examples like...we have enough security guards but not
The end got louder and more forceful and I just got the force of it not the content. Something like...colourblindness is a lie...people of colour are not having the same day...they are not experiencing what we are...and they are good people trying to do good things...they have same variation in aspiration as we do...we need to work with them...we need to work to change the systems at all levels including the classroom to ensure we aren’t by virtue of our systems and structures continuing to maintain inequity. Looks like I’ll have to read one of his books.
Tuesday 17th November 2009 – John Hogan - Cathy at the Met
Cathy may have done this already? But thought I’d forward onto the group just in case she hasn’t yet
You can feel and see the differences in approach from West coast to East coast.
I’m in Santa Fe now. Very cold. They had snow a few days ago!!
Met George Otero and a long term friend of his in community development (not so much schools). This guy has worked with native americans in Oklahoma, communities in New mexico, Ireland, etc. and I can't remember his name but I will.
Then George took me to a school he worked with over time on school as centre for revival of community. The community is one of the poorest in US. Looks it too. I’ve forgottne that name already too...i’m tired.
Tomorrow I'm visiting a charter school that is doing mentoring very well and sitting in on a school district board meeting where a progam leader is making a presentation about his program for 100 'excluded' kids.
Today's reflections- Cathy
"I am the last one left of the original study group now- I spent my first day at the MET in the guts of it all. I am based at Equality School ( the others are Liberty, Unity and Justice). Each has x2 classes of each year group, 9-12. Thats 8 advisories per campus. Rule: No advisory has more than 15 students. I have been hooked up with two advisories, one freshman ( year 9) and the other senior (year 12)- an intense day that i have been journalling about since my return. I am looking forward to visiting senior students out on their internships tomorrow.
Highlights have included;-
- a stand up comic routine at the school pick me up session at the start of the day, Mondays -
from a senior for whom something has just clicked, and come out of his shell in the most full on
way over the summer break..he could mix it with the best, I'm sure
- the amazing senior thesis project check in meetings with the senior advisor- the creativity and
content of projects has just blown me away- and the stories that have led students to where
they are with their learning now
- the courtesy and caring that the students demonstrate to each other
- the amazing support structure for advisors to operate in and for students of course, e.g a social
worker plus 3-4 interns at the school, not to mention all the other
- the qualification level of the advisors and their dedication to their work- e.g. masters seems
- the preparedness and professional capacity to deal with the tough issues though advisory
workshop curriculum; e.g. domestic violence;the novel Push & Rhiannons story
- the tough outside issues and life experiences that students are living with and their drive to
still learn and be there
- the ethos amongst students to give back to the community through their learning and work
- the preparedness of students to travel & the capacity of the school resources (school based
buses & advisors) and community infrastructure to provide for this
- the progress the school has made in literacy as related to the opportunity for students to access
authentic applied learning experiences
- an environment where the Learning through Internship projects are developed over time with
advisors and wp mentors ( as opposed to work placements)
- free breakfast and lunches at own school canteen for all
- the cleanliness and respect given to workspaces ( living spaces)
- the re pore between staff and students at all levels
- a principal who is intimate with the advisory content and participates, taking workshops too (ex- advisor)
- a principal who arranges for10 minute shoulder massages for staff, who take turns to duck out
of school meeting for this ( no BS!), food and drink supply at meeting and tells staff directly
how much their hard work is appreciated
Deary me, I could just burst into a rendition of the song from The Greatest American Hero ( for those of us who can remember when this show infiltrated our airways)...you know..."Believe it or not, I'm walking on air. I never thought I could feel so free..eee...eee, flying away on a wing and a prayer...etc. etc" but then again, I think i might be hitting close to 10 on the crapodometre... at lots of levels....so...
bye for now :-)
Wednesday 18th November 2009 – John Hogan - Today
I’ll be repeating this information but had to tell you now...Went to a charter school today that George Otero’s daughter is teaching at...and met an amazing woman (Paquita Hernandez) running a mentor program...it is brilliant...the kids work (clearly she showed me good stuff) was stunning...she had one boy doing Polymer Chemistry with a chemist for 5 years...and has his portfolio and essay (kids put together a portfolio of their placement and project but also have to do an essay 10 pages for 7s and 8s and 20 pages for 9s and above, the essay is additional to their portfolio which is prepared for a performance) for each of those years...so you could see his development....another kid with a physicist....another a mathematician...others art...music...another studying aids at a health agency....the full spectrum. Students must stay a year (once it has been set up). She has fantastic guides etc too underpinned by a philosophy of transformative education...and the gobsmacking thing for me...it is done in kids own time and their work is 'home' work ...they do have a requirement that they do 2 years of this mentor work in order to graduate from school and many kids do much more...but it basically doesn’t count other than what it does personally for the student. However back to mentors and interns...seeing what is possible when people are doing it in their spare time... reckon BP schools should be kicking much bigger goals around this stuff...much bigger than what I’ve seen so far. While the student work could count for much more than it does...and the time they are provided with to do it could be more...the school does support the program with three part time folk because there is little or no role by advisory teachers. Hence one reason for lack of ownership I guess.
Anyway I’ll try and get pdfs from her even if I have to buy them otherwise I’ll photocopy when I get home and forward you all a copy. They are worth a look. Very professional too. the mentors also get a fair bit of information. She does not shy away from giving them information about their role...student...school...who does what to who etc etc and given her approach today I’d say she goes through it all...she said they have an info day for mentors and they have a celebration for mentors event where they are acknowledged and they have a debrief review too. judging by the lists on the wall all the kids doing it this year are out. (she aims for 200 out of the 350 kids in the school every year). They have big banners made each year of each student name and mentor name which go up around the school.
Good example of how good philosophy underpins good structure underpins good materials underpins clarity and good work. Of course persistence helps.
She keeps the good examples so she can show kids what expectations are coming in
She celebrates the work of the mentors
She is very interested in how you transform schools and systems because she doesn’t know how. I said...neither do I...just have few ideas as way in...and of course like all schools we’ve visited here they are really coming under the hammer of their results...which has got them starting to put in more structure...more organisation...more school ‘as we’ve always known it.’ Being a charter school the state holds a threat over them of taking them back over. All pretty negative as a way to run things.
Wednesday 18th November 2009 – John Hogan - Ireland Brochure Summer 09
Monday 16th November was a travel day. I spent the weekend in Boston having trained up from Providence on Saturday. Parted company with the other two remaining BP colleagues. One – Cathy – is spending this week at the Met working with a year 9 advisory and a year 12 advisory (2 days each).
Despite it being a travel day I arrived in Santa Fe and was met by George Otero – colleague and friend who has worked with us in Australia too. We met with a long term friend of his Dr Michael Morris. He is a Professor at University of New Mexico and has a focus on community development, community learning and youth involvement in community. He has had an interesting career that has involved being a national coordinator of an adult learning network, a senior planner for a native american nation, an academic in education leadership, and directed a White House project in rural development and currently involved in range of community action projects in New Mexico. Some links to follow if you are interested in this community development work http://www.unesco.ulster.ac.uk/ a site I haven’t explored yet. And another one http://www.corrymeela.org/.
I have a memory of watching a documentary about corrymeela and how they were (still do?) putting catholic and protestant students together in residential groups to work through issues facing them. They’ve been going since 1965 so must know some things about this work by now. A bit from their site.
Corrymeela works throughout Northern Ireland and beyond, developing and delivering focused community relations work through single-identity, cross-community and cross-border community, and residentially based programmes. Each year over 6,000 participants take part in programmes at the Corrymeela Ballycastle Centre which has facilities for over 100 residents in 3 units. This work can be categorised under 5 strands:
1. Schools work which seeks to address community relations issues often through citizenship
2. Family work providing respite and development work with groups.
3. Faith and Life seeking to support individuals and church communities in their journey of faith
and to support encounter with different traditions
4. Youth work primarily focused on marginalised young people.
5. Community work looking at issues of inter-community relations, both on a single identity and
a cross community basis
Then George took me to a school he worked with over time on school as centre for revival of community. The community is one of the poorest in US. Looks it too. Met with the Superintendent of the schools (super Principal of a group of connected schools – early childhood, elementary, middle school and high school really not a district like we think of them). Roy Herrara. Pecos School. http://www.pecos.k12.nm.us/ It’s school Board recently won an award for best small school district Board in New Mexico. You can see the reference to this on the site. The school is gradually over time engaging with the community for the benefit of the students and the community. So enough for a travel day!
Thursday 19th November 2009 – John Hogan - US Trip Day 15
Went to the Monte del sol Charter School (http://www.montedelsol.org/). This school opened in 2000 with progressive philosophy and has a number of interesting features and it feels pretty good. Anyone in Santa Fe can apply to go to the school and they hold a lottery to select the students. This creates an interesting mix of students and currently they probably have a higher percentage of successful students than a typical public school but they also have a much higher percentage of students with special needs. They have strong representation of different cultures but less than typical Santa Fe schools. Some of these things might also relate to who puts in to go to the school. It only has about 370 students from years 7 – 12. However I had one amazing encounter...
I met a woman (Paquita Hernandez) who runs a mentor program. It is brilliant...students identify their interest...they get matched with a mentor related to that interest...they meet and agree to partner (or not)...the partnership goes for the full year (unless exceptional circumstances). The whole process is described in great detail in two brilliant booklets...one for students and one for mentors. She gave me a copy and I’m hoping that she will forward me a PDF of them so I can share easily with you all. I have promised if that happens that you would all be ethical in your use of the materials and acknowledge sources etc.
Students at the school must do at least two years of this work while at the school. They can do it every year if they want. She aims for 200 students to be out each year. The charts on her wall for this year are already nearly 100% complete. The process of placing students happens quite quickly but nothing is official until a contract is signed.
While working with the mentor the students must identify and then complete a project. They have a few months to get that in place. About then they also hold a mentors appreciating evening. The students then prepare a portfolio of their experiences including their project reading for a ‘festival of learning’ where they showcase mentorships. Not long after that an evaluation of the mentorship is completed. So students put together a portfolio of their placement and project but also have to do an essay 10 pages for 7s and 8s and 20 pages for 9s and above, the essay is additional to their portfolio which is prepared for a performance.
The kids work (clearly she showed me good stuff that she has kept) was stunning...she had one boy doing Polymer Chemistry with a chemist for 5 years...and she has his portfolio and essay for each of those years...so you could see his development....another kid was with a physicist....another a mathematician...others with artists...musicians...teachers....another studying aids at a health agency....the full spectrum. Keeping excellent samples of the students work must be very helpful to show students as they embark on this process.
And here’s the thing....and the gobsmacking thing for me...it is done in kids own time and their work is basically ‘home’ work although some may choose to use some time in the weekly ‘club’ period of one hour...but that would mean missing out on something else.
So it counts for 2 graduation points (out of 27) but it basically doesn’t count re their school content other than what it does personally for the student. It is clearly something the school uses to advertise itself and it does support the program with three part time coordinators (0.5, 0.4 and 0.4). But there is no involvement of advisor teachers and this is one reason it doesn’t connect to the other student work. None of the cross curriculum goals that were clearly evident in the student work I saw counts for anything for their other learning in subjects.
However back to mentors and interns...seeing what is possible when people are doing it in their spare time...I wonder if BP schools maybe should be aiming higher for both placements...project work...standards of work...that is, kicking much bigger goals around this stuff...???
The mentors also get a fair bit of information. She does not shy away from giving them information about their role...student...school...who does what to who etc etc and given her approach today I’d say she goes through it all...she said they have an info day for mentors and they have a celebration for mentors event where they are acknowledged and they have a debrief review too. She provides them will all the information. The booklet for mentors is over 50 pages. This is contrary to other messages I have got from people about being cautious of the amount of material given to mentors. She gives it to them. I wonder if the professionalism of the materials might help?
She is very interested in how you transform schools and systems because she doesn’t know how. I said...neither do I...just have few ideas as ways in...and of course like all schools we’ve visited here they are really coming under the hammer because of their test results...which has got them starting to put in place more structure...more organisation...more school ‘as we’ve always known it.’ Being a charter school the state holds a threat over them of taking them back over. All pretty negative as a way to run things.
You can look at website if want to know more about the school.
Also met with Miguel Angel Acosta in the evening. He is a community activist. He works flat out here, there and everywhere but the past 6 months hasn’t been paid by anyone. One of those people who just works and works for the cause. I guess people look after him too. He is about to set up a Partnership School in Santa Fe. This is for students who have been effectively ‘kicked out’ of their school. Mainly hispanic students. The school is partnering with the community. There will be about 60 students to start with. The students will do some ‘formal’ school stuff that they need to get their credits online learning but spend most of their day in ‘family’ (advisory) groups of 15 with help of people from the community and engaging with learning in ways that are similar to BP design – finding interests...lots of visits...lots of visitors...service learning and community service...internships...mentors...cultural events...and whole school meetings at start and finish of each week etc etc etc. He has been trying to get something like this going for a long time (he was on the District School Board for a while). But he could never get the state department to agree. But a couple of months back (in his words the stars aligned in a magical way) he was called to a school to help a hispanic student and his parents negotiate a conversation with a local highschool. Basically the boy was in trouble for wearing some gang colours (banned even though no uniforms are worn here anyway). He had not done anything wrong. He was being told by the school he should go and enrol at another school down the road that would be much ‘better’ for him. Miguel then talked to the school some more and found that they had sent dozens of students away from the school in similar situations. He started talking about this to his network. The state department responded to the community outrage and have given him his school.
Bit of context from the newspaper (probably not most reliable source but good enough)...students in USA qualify for free lunch if your family earns less than 28665 dollars per year. You qualify for reduced price lunch if family earns between that and 40793 per year. There were 16.1 million students in the free lunch category and a further 3.2 in the reduced lunch category. IN New Mexico over 70% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch categories. That’s a big proportion of families with kids going to school who earn less than 30000 per year! And guess where New Mexico comes in the test league tables????
Monday 23rd November 2009 – John Hogan - Developing a flyer as an Internship Project
In the past week in the US I’ve had conversations with a couple of people and a few emails with some others about the same topic - so I figured I’d share my thoughts. It is in relation to students producing a flyer as their internship project.
One view expressed that the production of a flyer was not sufficiently rigorous and became a meaningless exercise which resulted in rather poor products that contained trivial information, unattractive design, and often poorly put together. My own experience in having numerous flyers produced to try and capture some of my work is that putting together a flyer that you really do want people to read, that really does describe what you want it to describe and that is interesting to look at...well it is bloody hard work. It takes enormous effort and energy and great persistence with over a dozen drafts being required. And that is without me being involved in the design work (apart from having an opinion). So here is my response to the lack of rigour.
If a student is in a workplace and the project becomes the creation of a flyer then some things to check...
1. is this flyer something that the workplace actually needs? Is this flyer going to be something that it uses? If no and no then why is the student doing it? If there is no meaningful work then is this the right internship placement?
2. if the answer is yes and yes and it connects to student interest then great...do a flyer/brochure. But the work is just beginning. What is the purpose of the flyer?
For example, if the placement is a wildlife sanctuary it might be to write an information brochure that describes a particular animal etc...this is science not just brochure...how do others who do this work create information brochures about animals? Who is the audience for this brochure? Maybe visit the zoo to see how they do it? Maybe a science writer? We don’t want kids to cut and stick the first bit of stuff they see on the web or from a book. We want kids to approach the task as would the expert...so there is some learning to do before any flyer is developed...
For example, is the flyer going to be an information brochure about the sanctuary itself? Be used by the sanctuary in its presentations for funds etc.? The information to be used will be at the sanctuary itself. But getting the information to be ‘just right’ is hard...it takes many iterations... It has to be correct not mostly right...
3. But the development of the design...the production of the ‘look and feel’...who does that? An amateur? I don’t design my brochures. I ask experts to do it. I work with them on it. I’ve done lots over the years. So who is the design expert we need to find for that student to work with them on the design? Now the student might then get interested in what the designer is doing and might want to do that work too. Well now they might need to do a software training course...go meet/work with the designer as they develop the flyer etc....might be the beginnings of a new interest and new internship?
4. Finally...whatever the purpose of the flyer we have the process for getting the sanctuary itself (maybe they have a Board?) to approve the look and feel of the flyer, the information in it and then using it as intended.
5. Finally, finally of course the student would reflecting on all this at their exhibition(s).
So the advisory teacher role is right in there...negotiating with student and mentor...getting the development of the ‘project’ right...with depth...rigour...but doing this requires persistence...skill...pushing and pulling...ideas...and a striving for a product that is really going to be used and really going to help the workplace and in doing that it also becomes a project worth doing for school.
But from the beginning the place has to be right...the work has to be meaningful to everyone involved and the work has to be used by everyone involved.
Yes I know I can hear you saying...well that’s alright for you John. It is easy to write about...much much harder to do...every student is different...every context new...one kid at a time in a community of learners and over the long haul...Dennis Littky’s wooden carving might be an appropriate image for the activities we engage kids in too...some of our attempts will look more like the block of wood we start with...and occasionally we find ourselves in the zone where looks more like the gazelle leaping into the air.
Monday 23rd November 2009 – John Hogan - Finally Day Umpteen and Umpteen plus one and Umpteen plus two
Well I’m sitting at Phoenix airport ready to fly to LA and then on to Melbourne and then onto Perth. It is Sunday evening. I get into Perth Tuesday afternoon having gained some hours somewhere.
The last three days I’ve been at a National Community Education Conference. This group have been going for about 40 years. They include all manner of people who work in schools, with schools, with community groups, in various government and social service providers etc etc etc There seemed to be quite a number of people who are connected to providing after school programs of one sort or another.
I won’t recount it all. The first two days I had the privelege of working with a leadership group of 40 people who were starting a process of reviewing, rethinking and redesigning their network. The association (network) is going through some tough times and have issues with identity and purpose, governance, funding, membership, structure, marketing, etc etc etc. None of this helped by the current economic crisis here in US...competition for government funding (some win and some lose)...competition for private funding (most lose)...and I think too a work intensification that is reducing people’s capacity to participate in too many networks and groups...and of course one telling point was that there were few in the group younger than 50. I’ll say a bit more about this work for those on my ANSN network list.
However it was a fascinating couple of days as the people strived to listen...talk...understand...suggest...while staying respectful...earnest in their intent...and eager to progress their work. The facilitators for the two days used the World Café process (You can download a description of this process http://www.theworldcafe.com/hosting.htm ) It is good sometimes to experience a process you use as a facilitator as a participant. It is a good process to use with large groups and helps a group persist with hard questions...mix around and meet with each other...develop shared understandings...and not rush to decisions quickly before really sorting through ideas and problems. Maybe you could try it sometime when working with a large group?
The third day heard a talk by George Otero who some of you might know. George’s talk related his work on relationalearning and community development to the purpose and focus of the work of community educators and this association. His slides for his talk will be put up on the association website and I can give this link to you when it is. Of course he didn’t use most of his slides but I’m sure the talk he prepared was just as good as the one he gave!! The one he gave though hit the heart of most of the participants acknowledging their role and providing a way forward and was received with standing ovation.
I went to a session on Citizens Schools. This is a group who run after school programs – or extended school program - for middle schools (years 6 – 8). http://www.citizenschools.org/ Students stay at school for this program four days a week for three hours a day. many of the principles used by this group would be familiar to BP. To date it has been very successful. If you remember some of the statistics from states like New Mexico that I shared the other day then you would appreciate the need to run such programs for these kids. The program is dynamic, active and engaging. Of course it begs the question...why aren’t the schools they are working in using these same ideas? Happy to talk some more about this one if anyone is interested.
Finally the World Director of World Education for Microsoft Systems gave a presentation on Holistic Change for schools. He looked at least 30 years old but I’m sure he was older than that!!! He had some interesting things to say about need for changing schools...about the sorts of capacities we needed to be developing in students...about the sorts of activities we needed to be doing with kids (eg service learning, using hands, working together etc)....and images of technology directions (I think as each year goes past I will be at least an extra 4 years behind!!!!!!)....see the website. http://www.microsoft.com/Education/Default.mspx I haven’t looked at it yet.
Ok for those of you who read my emails...for those who responded...thanks for reading and interacting....for those who had to spend a minute every day deleting another bloody email...well sorry for the 20 minutes of your life you lost because of me.