Welcome to our blog

This is the story of two educators on one journey. Each day we will record our reflections on the process of being involved in an innovative educational environment. The decision on our part to leave the public education system was deliberate due to our growing frustrations over the factory "one size fits all" model of education. This model has dominated the educational landscape and is not designed to meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Step one in our journey was to find a place that would allow us the freedom to break out of the system. We needed a chance to just breath and facilitate learning in the ways that we both know are best for children. That step has led us to Rosemary Beach Florida to work with the students attending the OH Institute. The OH Institute is a unique educational environment that we find humane. The curriculum focus is on the individual learner with an infusion of technology project based learning. Currently, it has 20 students in grades 4-11 all of whom are seeking something different than what the factory system of education has to offer. This is where our adventure begins...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Monday October 11th


Today was a day where I got to sit and look at the global picture of what is going on on all levels. My work consisted of checking on students to see about pacing and needs and doing elementary math. I was able to sit and observe what students were doing and how Randy was able to work on things. One of the main things that I see is a lot of differentiation which is amazing. However, what comes with this differentiation for 20 students all working on different things at different paces becomes fuzzy in terms of organization. One thing that I really noticed today is that the students have way too many systems that they are suppose to be keeping track of. They have their own spreadsheet pace charts, a google calendar with their daily goals etc. So my big question is how do we make it simple for them?

The other thing that I really noticed today is that this is wearing Randy down. Ironically it is not the motivation and instruction that wears him down but it is the external expectation that all the students are doing things a certain way and the pressure of the accountability. He is so good at making kids feel good about themselves and motivating them to do amazing work. The biggest irony is that here he has way less freedom and flexibility to make professional judgments as to what the kids need. He is expected to keep them all on their FLVS pace, getting A's and B's while also facilitating a high level of PBL work in different areas while being a high school language arts teacher. He is expected to have all the standards covered for MS science and social studies, high school language arts, hs American history and teach elementary through inquiry. He is expected to contact the language arts teacher to make sure the students are covering the expected content. I realize now that this job for him is not an increase in freedom and trust but an increase in the accountability that so many teachers dread. The reason that teachers dread the accountability is not that they feel that they should not be held accountable but the focus of this accountability is skewed and does not treat them as the professionals that they are.

The students love Randy and will do anything that he wants them to do but he is stuck having to make sure they all are doing things that meet administrative expectations and that can be documented. This pushes things away from student choice driven learning and back towards traditional standards based making sure they all know the same things learning.

It is interesting to sit on the outside and watch a brilliant teacher be squelched by a system that is supposedly innovative but really holds many more unrealistic points of accountability than the current public school system.


In the morning we reintroduced the google calendars and explained that we won't have design this week. During block one I worked with elementary on their spore unit and we did some work with native American tribes. Hanna may do this formally as a project. Ellie worked on here family tree and this will be a formal project for her. MS and HS worked on FLVS.

During block 2 MS and EL worked on letters to chef Nelson and many of the letters look great. HS discussed our writings due tomorrow and their plans for next weeks presentation. Nathan will present this Thursday his project on the Great Depression.

Kickball was fun after lunch but it may be time to redo teams as it is getting a bit too competitive.

In music, HS felt unproductive, but some days are like that. On the other hand, Elementary is getting very very close to being able to play their song. Second music block was split between acoustic girls and middle school boys on electric instruments. Both groups are doing well and should have a song or two ready for the show in November.

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