Tagged collaboration

Inter-ALC Mixing & Why I Love It!

We Are Not Alone!

Inter-ALC mixing, it’s what keeps us a community.

I remember my time teaching in a small private school before opening Mosaic. I was one of two full-time teachers and it got lonely. We had our ideas and would collaborate together, but I always wanted more people to bounce ideas off of and learn from. I wanted to visit other schools and form communities of schools where we’d fuel each other and spark new ideas to make awesome schools.

What I found through that time was that people are busy, and if what you are doing isn’t closely related to what they are doing, it’s hard to make time to connect. I would visit other schools with hopes of deep connection and a future relationship of collaboration, but then after the visits we’d return to our day-to-day life – and the next thing you know, a year had passed and the connection simply feels too distance to re-spark.

This has all changed since I’ve networked Mosaic with Agile Learning Centers in NYC. Mosaic opened to serve one community in Charlotte, and while I had close relationships with parents, I still wanted more educators to play with. Opening a school and being the primary person responsible for its operation and existence is pretty stressful, (especially when you’ve never done anything like it before and the model you are creating isn’t one where you can just ask others how to do it). I couldn’t go observe at my neighborhood public school and learn much that would be applicable to what we were creating.

I made one friend who owned another small private school in Charlotte who helped me learn some legal and administrative skills. Still, her school was very traditional and when I observed there it was clear we were operating in different paradigms when it comes to educating children. It was when I became stressed to the point of “How will I continue doing this any longer?” that I made a trip up north and found Agile Learning Centers. From there, our relationship became the kind I was dreaming of. One where we:

  • are constantly connecting and sharing what’s going on at our schools through the activity feed in our internal network site, emails & social media.
  • meet weekly to check in with facilitators in New York, Washington, North Carolina and Puerto Rico and talk about ideas and action plans.
  • arrange visits for kids and adults to go to the different schools.

This is inter-alc mixing, and what I’ve been up to this week.  I’ve been at the ALC in Manhattan for a week now with @Charlotte. For the first two days, two of our students were here too! I feel like Charlotte and I have been inspired and full of inspiration and ideas to take down to Charlotte with us to help Mosaic continue on its upward path of awesomeness. This blog post is about sharing what we’ve discussed upgrading in our school upon our return.

Why Do We Spawn?

On Monday, @Abbyo held a meeting with kids to discuss Spawn Point upgrades. A Spawn Point is where the kids start their day in a small group with a facilitator to state their intentions in the morning and then reflect on those intentions in the afternoon.

At this meeting, she opened with the question: “Why do we Spawn?” The kids made some really thoughtful contributions from this. Abby took notes and then made these two signs for the school:

I thought that we should make these signs for our school too; but with input from our students. I want to hear from them why they think we have Spawn Points at Mosaic – and if they aren’t clear on why we do it, then we need to collaborate with them to create meaning and purpose around this community structure in our day. Then we can make signs and posters for our school and place them in our Spawn Points to serve as a reminder that meeting in the morning isn’t something that is a chore to get through – it is an opportunity to connect with others in the space, get inspired, and get support!

Upgrading Our Entry Space & Morning Routine

When you walk into the school in NYC (see the door below with the EXIT sign), you see immediately to the right their wall of important information for the kids. It includes the daily schedule, a scrum box (see our tools & practices page for what scrum is) and kanban boards for group projects.

Charlotte and I would like to move our daily schedule right to the front of the school when you walk in as well. Here is a closer look at the scrum box and schedule for you to see:

What has currently been happening at Mosaic is that we have a whole group meeting every day to plan our day. We do this to remind the kids of what’s going on that day and to give them time to make new offerings if they are so inspired. While we want to make space to do that, it’s really not necessary to go through this long process every day. There are kids who pick out what they want to do from the Set-the-Week meeting or are working on individual projects/goals, and they are sitting through this meeting each day unnecessarily. In addition, sometimes kids make new offerings just because there is the meeting without a lot of intentionality behind it – they are just making offerings because they can. These new offerings can then conflict with prior commitments kids make from the Set-the-Week meeting.

In NYC, the kids only do one longer Set-the-Week meeting on Monday and then in the mornings on Tuesday-Friday, they come in and walk by this schedule board and plan other activities on their own as needed. If they want to plan something involving other people, they write in the “scrum box” what they want to plan. In the picture above, you see that Abby is requesting time with Charlotte this day in the scrum box. This shifts the responsibility to those needing plan their day in addition to Set-the-Week to themselves, rather than forcing everyone to meet as a group for the few who need to plan something. Having the schedule board and the scrum box in the entry area put it right in the faces of the kids and adults as they walk in the door as a HUGE reminder. If there is really a new offering that anyone wants to see happen, they could do this with the scrum box and take their own initiative to find the people they need to schedule the activity with.

In Abby’s Spawn Point, I watched how quickly a morning check-in can go – she would remind the kids what was going on that day, they would update their kanbans and then share verbally what their intentions were. It felt like a connective and gentle start to the day which I really appreciated and want to emulate in my Spawn Point in Charlotte.

 

Change-Up Meeting Easy Upgrade

Charlotte and I participated in ALC NYC’s Change-Up Meeting (read more on Change Up here) at the end of our week-long visit and had this huge “Ah-ha!” moment for a simple way to make our Change-Up Meeting more efficient.

Take a look at the picture below:

Just like Mosaic, they have a Community Mastery Board (CMB) that serves as a visual aid for what the community is working on as a group. Just like Mosaic, they visit the board each Friday during the Change Up Meeting.

However, the facilitators have a kanban board above the CMB that serves as a way to focus the meeting on the most important CMB items on the board that week. Each week, we try to go over everything on the board, and many items aren’t ones that are necessary to go into at length. There are typically only a a few items that we really need to discuss as high priority. We can pull those items up to the kanban and focus our Change Up Meetings to create solutions/action steps as a community for those items and then our meetings will be shorter and more focused on what is needed most.

It’s one of those quick fix things that just hit you in the face when you see it. I’m so glad we were able to see their meeting and how they focus the topics!

 

And Back to Inter-ALC Mixing

We had a few of our students and parents come visit the NYC school this week and that experience was simply magical. I fell in love with this school when I visited in November of 2013, and from that initial visit have since been come partners with the facilitators and with them, created a network of learning communities. This is the place where it all started, and this school continues to strongly demonstrate the kind of positive culture you can co-create with children. I love being here and loved seeing the faces of our community loving it here too!

I think having students see other ALCs is really important. Our students had the same general routines, they knew how to engage in Set-the-Week and were comfortable going to Spawn Points. They could navigate the structures of the school because it’s similar to their experience in Charlotte. It felt familiar to them to just hear offerings at Set-the-Week and join in on those that they wanted to. They can add to the culture constructively and bring new offerings to the space if they are so inspired. In addition, they can contribute to future culture creation at their home school based on what they see here. We can all learn from one another so powerfully in this way!

Here we are at the Natural History Museum:

I am excited to continue learning & playing with NYC and all the other ALCs that are in bloom currently!!

This week in review

I’m enjoying the efforts @Lacy and I have been making to collaborate more. (Lacy started this beautiful school with me and several other families throughout 2013, and now runs the ALC Mosaic early childhood program). She’s someone I admire a lot and miss seeing on a daily basis. One day I hope the school can be housed in one big plot of land, with trees, water, several buildings, and the homes of those who want to live on the property. Then the kids of all ages can have more opportunities to mingle, as well as the staff.

Lacy invited us to join the Roots crew this week at Reedy Creek Park, and I jumped at the opportunity to make this work! I offered this at Set the Week, and every kid at the meeting wanted to go.

At the park, I found out that they have homeschool classes for only $3 a person, a nature center, hiking trails, and an awesome outdoor play area! I couldn’t believe it was my first time ever visiting the park, and I know it won’t be my last. I also got to see some of the kids I was with daily last year that I don’t get to see any more. I loved seeing how much they have grown and changed!

Some other highlights from the park:

Dean and I took 16 kids on a hike through the woods! We were looking for some abandoned structure, but ended up making a giant loop instead. Despite not finding what we set out for, it was so wonderful to get to be in the woods!
Dan and the kids found geocaches – they were all over the park!
We officially have left our mark on the geocache!
It was so fun to see interactions between the younger and older kids. These two has a blast together!

Lacy and I also emailed a bit about Valentine’s day – both of us hadn’t really planned anything big for the kids, nor did we really seem jazzed to do so. Valentine’s has never been a big deal to me, and I also don’t like fostering the culture of, “How many Valentine’s did I get?” or building their own sense of self-worth around who gives them a little card with hearts on it. The other way I’ve seen it done at schools is to force everyone to give everyone else a card, and I guess that’s better, but…I guess I didn’t really care to do much about Valentines at school unless the kids really pushed for something, which they weren’t doing.

Lacy said that, while she didn’t feel an authentic connection to Valetine’s day, she’d think about doing a heart-self-love ritual. I thought that was the perfect thing to do! I printed out pictures of all the kids and glued those on heart cut-outs and set out on Thursday to share with the kids.

Valentine’s self-love hearts

It was so much fun! Most of them were able to do it Thursday, and hopefully I’ll catch the others on Monday. I hung up the hearts on the doors to the library and office so everyone can see them as they walk in! As we worked on them, kids would ask each other, “What do you love about me?” We all had fun thinking of qualities that we loved about each other, and that helped get us started because when someone asks you to say what you love about yourself, you might feel like you aren’t supposed to say an answer (because then you are bragging). What I was hoping to convey here is that appreciating who we are, identifying what we are great at and the wonderful qualities we have isn’t bragging or being conceited. We can allow ourselves to love who we are, and when we feel really good about who we are, we tend to look for the good in others. Doing these with the kids was my favorite offering of the week! Hearing the kids really look at others thoughtfully to help them think of what to write was so sweet. Some snippets of conversations that happened: 

  • Student 1: “I love your humor” Student 2: “Thank you! I wanted to say that, but I didn’t know if anyone else would think that too!”
  • Me (to a student): “What do you love about yourself?” Student: “Well, I love ME!” as they write the word “ME” in big letters on their heart.
  • When I was getting started and needed some help to do so, one student said that they appreciated my ability to plan trips or things to do for school, which warmed my heart – I don’t think “planning ability” would’ve been something I would have thought to write on my heart, but it is something that I do a lot for school and love that others notice and appreciate! I happily wrote this down 🙂
  • Student A: “What do you love about me?” Student B: “Well, I don’t know how to say this in a short sentence, but man you are so good at finding a new game and then mastering really quickly!” I could that student A in this situation felt just as I did in bullet point 3, having been noticed for skill they enjoy being good at doing.

Finally, my week of school ended with Valentine’s Foot Scrub! @Sassygirl26 wants to make her own cooking show videos, and we happened to have a parent donation of foot scrub ingredients to test out how to make a step by step video. We thought this would be great practice for when she got started with her cooking shows! We used my iphone and then I got a simple iPhone video editor. I needed to see if I could take short segments of video and then use an editor to merge the videos together – this way we could stop and start shooting for each step of a process. If I can’t shoot film in short segments, we would have a long messy video with us trying to not mess up any part.

Fortunately, my $1.99 app called Videoshop did the trick and we have our first How-To film up and ready for your viewing pleasure!

 

On Friday, school was closed so I flew up to NYC and visited Agile Learning Centers, our NYC home base. I loved walking into school Friday afternoon during blog time! The school was quiet and the energy was calm. The ALFs and kids were spread out around the school blogging. They have more teens than we do, so they can write their own blogs independently. There was a volunteer helping a younger student complete their blog.

This made me think – what if I let parents know that we would welcome them into the school from 12-1pm to partner with a child who isn’t reading/writing fluently and help them complete a reflective blog post? Even just having 1-2 extra adults around to sit with a child one on one would be amazing. I am excited to talk to @Charlotte and @Dthomasson about this idea next week!

Now I’m still in NYC after taking a silversmithing workshop at Liloveve where @Tomis and I made our wedding bands! They look wonderful, and I’m so glad we tried this out. At one point I thought I ruined his band (we each made the other’s band). I held the torch gun on the band for too long when soldering it together and melted a portion of it. Fortunately this was fixable and his band ended up looking great! Not only do we have rings with a story, I’ve learned a new skill that I hope to try out again. One of our former teachers, Lindsey, is a silversmith with her own studio. I hope to try out jewelry making with her soon, and possibly, with older kids who are interested.

Our bands!

Tomorrow @Tomis and I fly back to Charlotte to begin his two week stay at the school. I’m looking forward to having him back at school and to looking through an email from @Lacy where we’ll coordinate more whole school trips between our campuses for the rest of the spring 🙂