June 2015 marks the wrap up of my second full school year facilitating at Mosaic. This page serves as a personal reflection to mark what I’ve seen and learned throughout this time!
For review, here’s a timeline of the Mosaic community’s path thus far.
Below, I will share reflections from this year about what I’ve learned and about what I’ve seen the kids experience at school.
Below I share some highlights from this year that I experienced, as well as some things I’d like to upgrade/change at school for next year based off of my experience of this year.
Before I get into that, I want to share a specific highlight from this year that I found so meaningful: conducting the ALC Mosaic Report Card Activity with students. The blog post I wrote on this was really fun to recall and capture. After facilitating in this school for two years, it felt really rewarding to see how the students were excited to reflect on how we’ve grown as a school together. It was rewarding to see how open and honest they were with each other. It was rewarding to hear how they were really connecting with their honest assessment of where the school was in the fall and where it is now. They weren’t worried at all about saying what they thought the adults would want to hear. To me, this is a huge win. We’ve created a safe space where the kids don’t feel like they have to be a different person to the adults than they normally are. I love this!
I also wrote a blog post detailing the student reflection portion of our end of year documentation. It details the activity I led with kids in our Spawn Point the last few weeks from school and what I learned through the process.
Personal Highlights from the Year
- Overnight field trips with kids. There is nothing I love more than to take kids in small groups away from their parents. Something really special happens on a long trip…the depth to which I get to know and see the child grows and a special bond develops. The conversations are just so in-depth and happen so organically and spontaneously as we encounter something new in the world.
- Getting married. I wrote a blog post about this here, and Tomis wrote a beautiful one here. It was joyous to do this with the children upfront and center. I loved that this was a part of our day. There is nothing I would change about our amazing ceremony!
- Admissions Process/Kids & families joining the school. We’ve developed a much clearer admissions process, and it feels that that the process we’ve developed is not only clearer for kids joining us, but helping the current students really understand and remember community agreements, since we review these more thoroughly with each visiting week. The kids we’ve added to our school have immensely support culture creation at school and I’ve been so grateful.
- Finance Working Group. Shout out to Tomis, Lacy, Sarah C., Eric, & Kishore! This has been a huge weight off of my shoulders to determine how we establish tuition procedures with families.
- One Campus Excitement. We don’t have a physical one campus yet, but I feel like we’ve made major steps towards being one campus at heart.
- Culture Committees. The kids want clear support on how to resolve conflicts and how to feel heard and supported when they need it at school. They are actively supporting each other more and more and able to ask for culture committee support when they need it.
- Finance Kids Club. Kids managing money and making decisions about what materials and experiences they want to have at school is a huge WIN in my book.
- People signed up to come to ALF Summer. We were intentionally very selective for this summer’s program. We have people coming who are already working with kids or in a learning center they have created or co-created. I’m really excited to learn from these folks this summer and to expand our friendships with others doing amazing work in changing the educational paradigm.
- Personal learning & growth. I’ll write a longer blog post about this and add the link here when that’s finished. In a nutshell, I love my work with children and role as a facilitator. This doesn’t mean I know how to run a business or set up managerial systems. Mosaic was the first business I ever started. And it didn’t take me long to do everything I could to find more help so this school could run. Year two has led us more down the path of creating a community school, supported by parents and a growing staff to manage facets where each of us finds our strengths.
- Fundraising. When we needed it, we raised about 10K from Thanksgiving to the end of December. We ended the year with money in the bank, and staff and bills getting paid. Woo hoo!!!
- Class Dismissed Movie. This movie brought new members to our community and I’m so grateful.
What do I want to see upgraded/added/changed for next year?
- More facilitated time in the morning with kids to help them get in the practice of experience “flow,” or deep engagement in a passion or interest they have.
- More overnight field trips!
- Clarity of what is documented and who is responsible for documenting the goals, growth, and accomplishment of individual students. I.e., I want more clarity around staff roles and a working group with parents included to support staffing decisions at school.
- More outside artists/specialists brought in to share their passion or skill with the kids. I’d like to see more “resident specialists” brought in for a several week long offering. I’d like to raise the kids finance budget to allow them to choose who these people are.
- Community eating/snack time.
- More off-site classes, like the ones we participated in at Latta Nature Center, offered to the kids. I didn’t find out about those until late spring.
- More pleasing aesthetics in the space
- Interests of the kids more visible
- Clear work areas for individuals to store materials for on-going projects.
- Maker space that is inviting for children
- Areas that attract children to inquire and engage with new materials (Like a nature table, science inquiry table, etc)
- Having Nikki’s bunny at school.
- Team building exercises to mix up the groups of kids and help them work with others different than themselves.
- More consistent foreign language practice…I’ve been pushing this a lot at school and really trying to drum up student buy-in to learn while they are young. Would also like to manifest a German teacher for the girls learning German.
Where We’ve Been This Year…
Below is a photo gallery of pictures from field trips we’ve taken this year!
Ideas for field trips came from staff, kids & parents. Some were set from the beginning of the year – like all of our Children’s Theater trips. A parent sent out a list of plays and then, at home, parents asked their kids which ones they wanted to go to. Some were classes offered through Charlotte Parks & Recreation and kids could opt to sign up or not. Some had age restrictions so not all the kids could go.
At our Set the Week Meeting, we gathered interest for a field trip. If there were kids interested in going to a particular place, many times I would just write down those names and then see if we had enough drivers. Other times, kids would schedule planning meetings with other kids and a staff person to see if a field trip idea they had would be possible.
Hover of the picture for a brief description and the month the trip was taken. You can go to our ALC Mosaic Facebook Page and then look at the picture album for that month if you want to see more pictures!
Special Guests @ Mosaic
Sometimes, we don’t need to go anywhere to receive a really cool experience. Below are pictures of some volunteers or paid guests that came to share their passions with the kids at school. These pics exclude any offerings given by me, Charlotte or Dan (the everyday facilitators).
Tools & Practices
These are notes to mark where we are in regards to Tools and Practices. They are not judgments on what is good or bad, just marking where we are now. We’ll keep evolving and I think this is good to document so I can compare where we go from here at the end of next year.
- Set The Week. In March, we saw how Ryan and Abby digitally recorded and sent home weekly offerings. They actually have all the offerings from their whole year stored in an ongoing google doc. We copied them, so now we have a record of all the scheduled offerings since then. You can see that here.
- Kanbans: Oh boy…we started the year off with our physical kanban boards, and that was okay…until the stickies kept falling everywhere and I felt like we were drowning in sticky notes. Then we moved to having it be a digital kanban on Trello, but the kids can’t see it during the day and it’s not visual enough. At the end of the year, I head a Spawn Point Deep Dive with a group of kids and they were asking for the physical kanbans back. So I’ll be reflecting on that and keep working to make their intentions physically visible to them.
- Morning Rituals: We used to have pretty much a Set The Week Meeting every day. This became too much to bear for some students, who complained about meeting to long in the morning. So we moved to going straight to spawn points Tues-Thurs. Fridays we do Change-Up and then Spawn. Next year, I’d like to see kids staying in Spawn Points longer and having some more support to start their day off pursuing their goals/interest before dispersing. I also want to think about the “FOMO” effect (Fear of Missing Out). I see this happening and want to have a clear time given to kids to say, “This is the time you get to think about or pursue something that really interests you. This is what others are doing right now as well.” FOMO can cripple a kid from engaging in anything because they want to be doing whatever everybody else is doing…and sometimes that leads to forgetting about or not engaging in something they really want to engage in.
- Documentation. Here’s how things were documented this year:
- Weekly set the week emails and google doc
- Weekly updated photo albums on Facebook
- Mid-year student conference with google doc notes
- End of year webpage created by Charlotte or me on each student blog
- Student or Adult generated content on trello boards
- The beginning of the year we made each week’s trello board a .pdf and then posted it to their blog.
- In March, we saw how Ryan and Abby just made columns for each month to record student activities and have just one handy place to see what students have been up to at school, so we switched to that system in March.
- Afternoon Rituals:
- Gratitude Circle. Tomis suggested we implement NYC’s gratitude circles at the end of the day to increase a culture of acknowledging ourselves and others for what we are grateful for. They do it every day, but to start, at Change Up Meeting, we decided as a group to try this out on Thursdays and Fridays at the very end of the day. I personally love the practice and look forward to it. It seems like the kids look forward to it to. As they got used to doing this, many came prepared and excited to share acknowledgements to others about something they appreciated from the week.
- Clean Up: Clean up jobs rock. There are kiddos who just want to do the same job every day, and if given the opportunity to clearly know what that is, will rock out happily cleaning up. There are kiddos who just see more messes and naturally like organize and do extra cleaning…they can still do that too!
- Change Up Meetings: These used to be held every Friday. However, at one Change-Up Meeting, the kids asked to Change Up how long Friday’s were, they don’t like that school ends at 1pm. I proposed moving Change Up meeting to Thursday morning so that Friday could feel longer. That idea had a lot of enthusiastic support, so now Change Up is on Thursday. As the year progressed, kids become more actively involved in this weekly conversation of: “What do you want the community to be aware of?” “Is there anything you want more of/less of at school?” They are really learning how to co-create a community, voicing their needs, but also hearing the values of others.
- Conflict Resolution Steps:
- Step one: Take a breath. Decide how you want to respond.
- Step two: Talk to the person directly.
- Step three: Find someone to help you if step 2 isn’t working.
- Step four: Fill out a culture committee form and a voluntary group of staff/students will listen to you and help you discern what a next step is.
- Student Agreement. Our current Student Agreement form can be found here.