Monday October 25
Today Amy and I met to really talk about how to make middle school more cohesive so that the students have a sense of direction with PBL. I'm excited about the possibility of having common themes and I think this is best for these students and families. I have great appreciation for Amy in making all of this come together for these kids. I could not do this alone, at least not very effectively.
Elementary went off on a fun tangent today when they questioned about the mysterious worms in the Axolotl tank. They are really the only group of students who have the capacity to drop everything and use their curiosity to drive them into learning. I think there are two reasons. One reason is that they do not have the same strict guidelines of learning with FLVS and standards expectations as the secondary students. The other is that they have not turned off their curiosity when it comes to school learning. I think this happens only after repeated standard courses that teach students "this is the correct pace" and "this is your grade" and "don't do anything until an adult (or computer) says it is time to do this."
I see from personal observation that the older students get, the less they expect or demand learning to be fun. A first grader will likely not accept checking the boxes to prove they are learning. They will expect fun, curiosity and wonder. A high schooler (personal observation not research) likely will not be able to even explain what curiosity or personal self learning is. In all honesty, there is not time for this as there are enough check boxes for each day until summer and they prefer to do this than think about what . . .well. . they prefer to do.
This change of mind seems like an almost unbreakable dilemma and I wonder if it is even possible to overcome. Today in this reflection, I think not. I will do my best to keep them happy, build community and contribute to their sense of achievement.
Today was a day that I had to be brought back around to remembering the environment that we are working in and what parent and administrative expectations are. There were two main themes for me today. One was back to acceptance that we are not doing anything new and innovative. The fresh part of OH is the multi-age environment and the working environment itself is really nice.
The other theme was that a chunk of my work is now planning and implementing a high school course in language arts and American History. This was the course that we were suppose to be doing with Telluride Mountain School and when the deal did not work out the course became ours to design. I would prefer to do it as a student run course but unfortunately with everything on the students' plates it would probably push them over the edge rather than having them buy in to creating it. However, on the other hand what I am seeing from the middle school and high school students is much the same thing that I saw at PKY. They do not have a curiosity for learning anymore and they simply demand to know what to do rather than have an appreciation for the learning itself. Because of this I do not feel badly about designing a rigorous and somewhat fun course for them.
Along these same lines my work has morphed in to making a structured way to do PBL that makes sense to all of the stakeholders. Structure, structure, structure...this is not what I expected here at all. However, it does make things a lot simpler because designing all of these things is what I have done for years. Although it can be a bit time consuming and tedious it is work that I feel comfortable doing. Again it is just not the work I expected to be doing here.
Other than re-framing my thinking I got a lot of good things done. I checked in with a few students, collected google calendars for the week, went back through the high school piece, created a middle school PBL frame, continued the task of grading the ITBS and met with Randy after school to plan.
It was a good day to have Randy to talk to as well. He helped a lot in terms of making me feel okay about the way that things are here. The way he described it is once you realize that you are still working at PK (i.e. in a structured environment driven by state standards and parent expectations) you can move forward and work. This is not a bad thing at all it is just not what I thought we would be doing.
It was a nice day but I still have a bit of a sad tug about the disconnect between what we thought we would be doing this year and the reality of the expectations being so traditional. Overall I am happy about the work we are doing I just needed to wrap my head around that we are still in the box.
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...