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 28, 2010

Wednesday October 27


Today I again saw what I call the unquantifiable component of what Randy does working with kids. He has this sense of motivational magic that cannot really be documented or captured. Because of this he is often misunderstood from the outside adult perspective but the kids totally get him and are with him.

What I am talking about is how he approaches his interactions with kids. We had some issues happening in middle school and my first reaction was basically okay we need to squelched this and get on them. Randy and I decided to call a middle school meeting and I let him take the lead. What he did in terms of getting the point across without making it a stressful or a feeling of them being in trouble was just amazing to watch. He started with a whip asking the kids to describe family. They started with all the nice things like" family supports each other etc." Eventually though they went down the road of families sometimes fight, get under each other's skin etc. After the whip he helped them connect the middle school to a family when they are together. He helped them see that currently the things that they are doing are making each other feel bad and that they need to care for each other.

He worked his magic again after lunch with the entire 4-11th grade community. We had a problem with the elevator in terms of our students pressing the emergency button for the third time this year. My immediate reaction was to be very straight forward and have a "serious" talk to the group. Again though I allowed Randy to take the lead and he magically made them understand it was not okay but that they were not in trouble. He tied it in to the responsibility of being a part of the community. I cannot even describe how he did it or what they conversation was but it worked. It just felt right and it was what I call the "magic."

By talking to kids, allowing them to feel valued (especially what they bring with them to school-cultural values etc), and respecting them in general Randy gets them to a point where they are willing to work hard. They are with him. They are on board. It is something that sounds simple but if it were there would be schools full of children working harder, learning more and most importantly feeling valued and invested in what they do.

Randy -
We are continuing our path into morphing into a traditional school. Is this bad or good? Does the questions matter? Is this a reality of trying to be innovative AND exist in a traditional system? How far can we get from the traditional model with the student and parent population?

One thing that comes to mind is the fear from parents and those who started the school about a less than desirable experience last year. Failure has clearly, in the eyes of the adults from last year, pushed the school quickly back to the industrial model. By this I mean that the two driving factors of student learning that we were presented with to work here, student choice and pace flexibility, are now completely reversed. Pace is governed by the teachers, parents and administrators and student choice has been squeezed tightly to get rid of student interest. I don't think projects can be taken to the next level without student interest which is very different than the notion of student choice. When you think about it, student choice could mean "They choose to listen to the adults and do what their told." This is very different than students having interest and using that interest to drive their learning.

However, I have come around and now have a more clearer understanding of our roles here and that makes it much easier for me to work. The best thing is, Amy is great and is the only person on this planet that I think really understands me (well. . .we ARE married) . .. as an educator and as a person. She is the best.

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