Tagged Mosaic year 2

End of Year Student Reflections

Our second year of school as ended, and our practices are getting more defined. At the end of last school year, I didn’t provide much by way of documentation for each student. I hadn’t yet had time and space to really think about what I’ve decided to call “responsible documentation.”

I believe that by simply being an observer, one can change what they see in front of them. We look for things to make our brains “right.” I want to document what the kids do, but I don’t want to change what I see because I’m “looking” for something. I feel that responsibly documenting includes sharing observations of the kids, but without value judgments placed on what is seen. I feel it also includes sharing goals, interests, ideas they have and any accomplishments they make related to those. As each year goes by, I hope to better my practice here and provide each child with documentation to mark and celebrate who they were in the past year. As they get older, I believe that responsible documentation happens with each student so we can match it to their future goals – especially in high school if they have clear plans to either find a job, go to college, or a vocational training program. I want them to leave prepared with enough documentation to pursue their next path with ease.

This blog post serves to mark the end of year documentation Charlotte and I chose to create for this year. During our ALF Summer program, I’ll plan on sharing this with other adults who have experience working with children in the Alternative Ed scene or in ALCs and parents of kids in our ALC so I can reflect and build on this practice for next year. I already see some things I’d like to change up for next year in this regard, which I’ll describe further down.

End Of Year Documentation Process for 2014-15 @ Mosaic (older campus, called Branches)

Charlotte and I decided to build out a webpage on each child’s blog to document their school year. We split up the kids in the school, each of us taking responsibility to do this for about half of the full time students.

In each of my student webpages, I included the following sections:

  • Observations from me. I tried to simply make observations and connections that I felt meaningful. Some examples include:
    • “You’ve loved to sell things to others. You like to count money and do it a lot. You figure out how many items you need to sell in order to make a certain amount of money. You are calculating and exploring math in this way. For example, one time you came to school with the goal of selling $5 worth of onions. You decided to sell 5 onions for a dollar, and figured out that you needed 25 onions to do this. You’ve also done this with fans and other crafts.”
    • “Without being able to tell time or read fluently, you’ve mastered the ability to figure out how to get to offerings that you know you want to do. You ask those involved in an offering to find you before it starts, and sometimes ask for an early reminder.”
    • “You love to play board/card games with your friends, like Life, Apples to Apples, Monopoly, etc. These games help you practice all kinds of skills, from math with money, cooperating & taking turns with friends, expanding your vocabulary, and more.”
  • Notes from both Dan and Charlotte. These include a short reflection for the other daily facilitators in the school.
  • Notes from their parents. I asked parents to include a reflection too.
  • Personal Reflection from the kids. Since most of our kids are elementary age, I wasn’t asking for an in-depth essay…If I did I’d get a lot of “I don’t know’s.” Instead I engaged the kids in a fun end of year reflective activity that I will describe very fully in the next section.
  • Pictures from the school year. I do my best to document via pictures activities of the kids every week. On Fridays I upload all the pictures to our monthly Facebook Albums. I went through each monthly album and looked for photos of the kids for a picture reflection of the year.

Individual Student Reflections

During the last three weeks of school, I led an activity during several of our Spawn Points that helped the kids support each other in thinking about what each student has engaged in this year.

One day, when they came into morning Spawn Point, there were three giant Kanbans laying out on the tables. They each had a child’s face pictured at the top and 3 sections below: “What I’ve Explored A LOT / What I’ve Explored SOME / What I STILL Want to Explore.”

I started by explaining to the kids that “exploring,” in the context I was using it, included skills and topics. For example, they may have explored the skill of cutting a lot. This is a fine motor skill many young children explore. Or they gained the skill of learning how to kayak, swim, dance, play baseball, write, read, etc. For topics, this means that they learned about some area of interest they had: space, dogs, starting a business, the underground railroad, etc.

Sometimes it’s hard to get started on a personal reflection. I was sensitive to this. That’s why I had the kids help each other. I also started off by timing the activity to give it a “fun” factor.

Excitedly, I told the kids:

“Okay guys, for the next 5 minutes, all of you will help your three friends remember the skills or topics you’ve seen them explore at school. There are sticky notes and brand new markers out on the tables. Are you ready? On your mark, get set, go!”

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The kids were really helpful to one another. They would point out things they saw their friends doing and each person was so excited to add to their own Kanban. It appeared to really be helpful having them help each other. Once a person heard several examples of things they explored at school, then you could see the wheels grease in their minds as they remembered more and more on their own.

We did this activity over two weeks, each day featuring different students to help. Many times, at the end of the timer, the kids would shout, “No!!” or “Can I keep working on this?” They loved seeing and thinking about the things they explored. I was kicking myself for not thinking to do this more regularly throughout the school year!

One day, as one of the students was working on her Kanban, she said, “Nancy, this is such a great idea! Now I’m remembering things that I wanted to do but didn’t get to! Like making a Warrior Cats board game.” She and her friend then spent the next few hours working on a board game for their favorite book series.

The kids were reminded and encouraged to, on their own, add to the last section of the Kanban, “What do you STILL want to explore?” I framed this for them by asking them, “Is there anything you aren’t learning how to do/exploring at school that you hoped to do this year? Have you found something over this year that you maybe learned about a little but really want to learn more about?”

I sent these Kanbans home with them so they could also think over the summer about any interests they have to add onto this.

What did I learn from doing this?

  • With a powerful morning reflective process, kids can get sparked to “get in the flow” embarking on a personal interest or inquiry. I saw this happen with the girls and their board game. Once they got into this in the morning Spawn Point, nothing could stop them from continuing to work on it throughout the day – it didn’t matter if the school was loud or if a marching band went through the hallway. They were in the zone.
  • I want to incorporate more game or activity-like reflections like this in my Spawn Points periodically throughout the year. I want us to all check in as a group on where we are as individuals – and see if we need any support from the group. Are we exploring all the things we want to be exploring? Are we in a rut and not sure how to spend our time each day? Do we want to see what other people are up to? Are there new things we want to be exploring at school?
  • Kids enjoy check-ins and want to know how they are doing. I liked that this activity wasn’t about if what they were up to was good or bad, but more about “What have they been up to?” The kids were excited remembering the things they have explored and liked seeing it displayed visually. I think everyone likes some kind of feedback and I think this was a fun way to do it. I want to give the kids more feedback regularly throughout next school year.

What are practices I hope to implement next year based on this experience?

  • Longer morning Spawn Points, with artful facilitation. This means engaging the kids in some fun manner to think about their goals and interests and to start embarking on an interest early in the day, while still having lots of room for spontaneity, games, or cultural check-ins – is there something happening between kids that needs to be addressed? If we are upset, hurt, or angry, it’s hard to really pursue our passions and interest. Artful facilitation also means being super responsive to the needs of the kids in front of you. This means you must know them, you must have a relationship with them. You know when to push, when to back off. You listen to your intuition and do the dance as best you can.
  • Regular individual check-ins with kids – a one on one either weekly or bi-weekly to see if they have new interests or goals, or if they need support to figure out what they really want to explore.
  • Regular group reflective activities (like the one described above). Maybe 4 times a year.
  • Starting the build out the student webpages earlier in the year. I’d like to add notes and pictures quarterly. This way my reflections will be in checkpoints throughout the year, rather than me in June trying to remember everything I saw the child doing.
  • Upgrading the use of Trello and blogging practice– this is each child’s primary way to document what they are up to from their perspective. I think we can better store this information by teaching the children to use the trello tools to write comments on something they want to document, and to be choosier about what items they want to store for their portfolio. Items from Trello that are really exciting to an individual can be marked as “blog post worthy.” At the end of the week, many kids aren’t sure what to blog about. If they are tagging items throughout the week, they will have some choices to write about something that was really meaningful to them, with reminders of what they wanted to say about it.
  • Upgrading my level of support to give visible feedback to kids in an engaging way. In the NYC school, the kids are consistently using physical Kanbans. Ours don’t, and perhaps they really need this consistent push to do so. Or if it’s not a Kanban, I need to develop another visual way for kids to see what they’ve been up to at school. They seemed to really like seeing this.

Over ALF Summer, I hope to develop a clear starting plan with other ALFs and parents that can grow from the reflections I share here!

ALC Mosaic 2014-15 Report Card

[Please note this is a report card from the Branches campus, not Roots!]

Report Card….Whaaaa????

Some of the kids asked me in the spring for a report card. When you are running a school with no grades, where you are hoping to foster an environment where people are intrinsically motivated, well, this may seem like an odd request.

However, I get it. People want to know how they are doing. We learn who we are in relation to our world and other people. Still, I wasn’t going to give out report cards that perpetuate a belief system that I choose not to buy into. Giving arbitrary grades for assignments – that mostly prove your ability to comply and follow directions – isn’t my style. I’d rather support children to create their own goals to meet and help them see whether or not they have achieved the goals they created.

I also wanted to have some type of end of year reflection with the kids to mark the end of the school year. I have been musing over the ideas of rites of passages and rituals that have existed in many cultures to mark the entry into a new phase of life. This journey the kids have taken with me, the rest of the staff, and their families has been one full of joy, challenges, fun & hard work. There have been hardships I want us to acknowledge in a healthy manner – to reflect on and then move forward with hope and new understandings (so we don’t repeat past mistakes), and things we’ve done really well that I want us to mark and celebrate. My goal is for us all to enter the next school year with our minds focused on what is possible & what we want for our community, rather than marred by what we didn’t do well or to just stay stagnant and repeat actions that don’t serve us.

 

Cross-Network Support

I decided to get some support and thoughts from the other ALFs in our network. I asked them if they had end-of-year rituals/routines or any ideas that may be good to try out. This led to some sharing of what we did for individual students (this year at Mosaic, we made each child their own webpage chronicling their year at school) or with the community (in NYC a community potluck is always held on the last day of school). Still, I was looking for a group activity to do with the students that would help us feel connected as a group to our community goals.

Drew began talking on the call about how it might be possible to use the community mastery board as a part of this group reflection…and as he kept speaking he planted the seed in my mind for where I could go with this for this year.

I felt grateful to have a community of Agile Learning Facilitators to bounce around this idea. It’s exactly the type of support we can provide each other through having a network of schools.

 

The Mosaic Report Card is Born

So, to give the kids an experience of evaluating self-selected goals, I conducted an activity with them at our last Change-Up meeting where we gave our school a report card.

It went like this:

“We are at the end of YEAR 2 of Mosaic!!! As a community we’ve grown and changed, and I hope we will continue to do so each year so we can create a better and more awesome school continually! I was asked by some of you for report cards this year, which I had to think carefully about before responding. You all have a reflection year-book on your blogs that we’ve made for you, but this isn’t exactly a report card. I don’t want to just assign grades or values that don’t mean anything to you.

Instead, I thought we could create a new kind of report card together, based on goals that you helped set for our school.”

I went on to show them a list they helped to create to answer “What Kind of School is Mosaic?” I did this activity with the kids in January, after I had re-watched Bruce Feiler’s TED Talk, “Agile Programing for the Family.” You can read a prior blog post I wrote about this TED Talk here.

We posted this list above our Community Mastery Board, which we use each week at our Change Up Meetings to decide what we want to work on as a community. This list is meant to serve as a reminder of what ideals we want to grow to as a community so we can be inspired to create “change-ups” to our community practices that help us move towards our self-selected goals.

So I told the kids:

“I have written all of the items on this list on sticky notes. For this Change Up Meeting, we’ll work together to evaluate how our school is doing on these goals we’ve set for the type of school we want to be.”

I then showed them a continuum on a white board. The kids at Mosaic are familiar with continuum’s to evaluate statements, so this made sense to use here.

I then divided up the kids into 3 groups (each group having several kids who can read) and distributed 3-4 stickies with each of the statements that is on our list of “What Kind of School are We?”

What Kind of School Are We?

  • The kind where we have choices
  • The kind where we go outside
  • The kind that goes on fieldtrips
  • The kind that is awesome
  • The kind where we are creative
  • The kind where we clean up
  • The kind where we can lie down if we need to when we need to
  • The kind where we’re respectful
  • The kind where everyone is friendly
  • The kind where if someone asks, “What’s wrong?” There is time to really talk about it

“I’m going to split you into groups and hand you a couple of sticky notes. You are to read them and then place them on this continuum based on how you think we are doing as a school on the particular item.”

Reading through their stickies in the small group.
Reading through their stickies in the small group.
Adding stickies to our continuum - does it "Still Need Work?" or do we "Rock This!!!?"
Adding stickies to our continuum – does it “Still Need Work?” or do we “Rock This!!!?”

The groups then decided where they would place the statements they had on our continuum. Do we still need to work on this as a community? Or do we rock at doing this? After each group was finished, we went over all of the statements as a group and decided if we wanted to move any of them. From this place, the kids naturally ended up making some suggestions for next year. I didn’t want to forget these, so I made a “Goals for Next Year” section and captured those ideas on stickies so we wouldn’t forget these ideas. Our “Mosaic Report Card” board ended up looking like this (white board smudges included!):

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Our Results, With More Detail:

We Rock This!

  • Going outside
  • Being creative
  • Going on field trips

Great!!! The kids feel that these are items that are important to what kind of school they want to be a part of. They feel we ROCK at being a community where we these items are apparent and a part of school culture. Through the cheers of the kids, it felt pretty apparent that everyone agreed we are a school that does three items!

We Are on the Way to Rocking at:

  • Having choices.

The kids have a lot of choices. But by coming to school, they do agree to attend community meetings and clean up. A part of being at school means they agree to our Student Agreement. However, I don’t think this is why the kids didn’t put this item on “We Rock At This!”

From conversations with the kids, it seems that they want more choices to be presented to them to choose from. Some kids struggle with generating ideas for activities they would like to do/participate in at school. They want to have some cool options presented. Not every child or person is good at just generating “Today I want to make a board game and I know all the steps and materials I’ll need to make that happen!” Some want some more scaffolding and support to come up with the ideas and a plan.

In addition, some have interests and desires to experience and learn many types of things, but they need more support in the steps of how to get there. For example, if a child is interested in architecture, they need support in identifying what options are available for learning and experiencing more about architecture. I see this as an opportunity for the ALFs at Mosaic to learn how to help children set and reach goals they have.

  • Cleaning Up

We’ve gotten SO MUCH better at this. Personally, in January, I began setting the intention in the morning, (in front of the kids), to be happier at clean up. I decided to stop just being frustrated or angry about how clean up was going and to just clean up happily, and from that place, generate ideas with the kids about what would make clean up easier.

What we have grown to, and has worked really well, is this structure:

On Mondays, we meet at 3pm and review clean up jobs. Each room has 3-4 clean up jobs associated with it. Children choose clean up jobs. On Mondays, they can ask to switch jobs with another kid if they are tired of their job. We swap and then review who is doing what and allow for clarification questions or conversations to happen with specific kids, i.e. “Hey, _________, I have been cleaning the room all on my own. Can you make sure to start your clean up job on time and _____ (wipe tables, sweep, etc) this week?”

The jobs have been a huge help. The whole community was excited to reflect on our growth on this particular item.

  • Being Awesome

At first, this item was placed on the continuum all the way on “We Rock This!!” One of our students, Isabella, very astutely pointed out to all of us that some items that we placed more toward the “Still Needs Work” side of the board. She thoughtfully stated that it’s kinda strange to put that we are”Rocking” at being awesome when we still need work on “being friendly” and “being respectful” to one another.  I personally noticed this but didn’t bring it up, wanting the reflection to be heavily weighed on by the input from students. I was pretty impressed that she saw this and felt comfortable to bring this up. We decided to move this back to in between “Doing OK” and “We Rock This!!”

  • We can lie down if we need to, when we need to

This led to a discussion of how, through using our CMB at Change Up Meetings, we have implemented practices as a community to allow for quiet space at school. The kids agreed that at the beginning of the year, it was loud in the building, making it hard to find a quiet space to read, rest, or just get away from noise. We have gotten so much better at this by speaking to each other about the need for quiet space at school and reminding each other to keep some type of play outside or to communicate via Set-The-Week or Daily Spawn Point when a need for reserving the big room for loud play is desired.

We are Doing Ok/On the Way to Doing Ok at:

  • Where if somone asks, “What’s Wrong?” there is time to really talk about it.
  • Being respectful
  • Being friendly

Before jumping into the conversation with kids about how they felt our community needed to work on improving these three items, I reminded them that positive culture creation is the biggest learning we have the opportunity to learn how to do at an ALC.

Most schools where I have worked simply told kids how to act and treat each other, and used behaviorism techniques to make kids “appear” respectful to one another. For example, using tickets to “pay” kids when you catch them being “good” as a way to increase the “good” behaviors you wanted to see. Or, you just keep kids so busy with worksheets that there is no time actually practice being social with one another.

In absence of a curriculum, who we are and who we show up as becomes the curriculum. We’ve learned a lot about each other as individuals, and many students have shared powerful reflections on themselves throughout the year that help us understand one another. From here, we can develop an inclusive culture that supports each other’s differences while still being a community. This is what we have the opportunity to learn how to do since we aren’t so bogged down with busy work and worksheets. We are not just individuals coming to school to have our own needs met by everyone else. We must learn to hear each other and gain a broader sense of community needs so we know how to be at school in a way that honors our individual needs, while also respecting the needs of others. Sometimes this means doing something differently than the way you imagined or having self-restraint (i.e., “Wait, I should take this soccer ball outside to play. I know that as a community we are working on having quiet space inside, and by playing soccer in the hallway, this isn’t helping our community goal).

A few students mentioned our culture committees being a support to helping kids talk though issues that feel recurring at school. Sometimes it’s just listening and then generating ideas to help empower an individual to navigate a particular social dynamic. Sometimes, we need to work with a couple of kiddos who need support to remember community agreements.

Something that has come up a bunch at the end of the year is kids excluding others from games. We’ve spent time practicing how to ask for space from others in a respectful way. “Right now, I would like to work on/play with _________. But would you like to play/do ___ at 1pm?” We are still working on how to create space for kids to play/do an activity with a small group without it feeling exclusive to others.

As a group, the kids felt that we have improved on these items and would like to continue improving on them throughout next year.

Their ideas for goals for next year?

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These statements either came during conversation of our report card or after when kids wanted to add items. This will be a great starting point for our first Change-Up Meeting next year when we can generate a new list of “What Kind of School Are We?” We can see the kids are really valuing feeling respected by others and feeling like everyone is friendly. Coming up with items we can practice as a community to get us to move these items from “Doing Ok” to “Rocking This” will be a high priority for us next year! How to turn these items into actionable community practices will be something I’ll be mulling over during the summer as well. I’ll also spend time brainstorming about how well this year-end reflection went with the kids and whether or not we should do something different next year. Fortunately I’ll be spending 4 weeks with a bunch of really amazing and radical educators that I get to learn and play with 🙂

 

Schooling the World

This film is incredible. I hope that there are parents and ALFs in our ALC Mosaic, Agile Learning Center, and Agile Learning Facilitators network that are willing to watch this film and share it if they so feel moved.

Please click here to watch Schooling The World.

Many people feel good when they “support education.” But do you know what you are supporting? Take a look at what our education system is doing world wide, and also consider…what is it exactly that we are teaching our youth?

“A lot of [people supporting the spread of western education] are very well intentioned, good people who are actually thinking they are doing something good for their communities, but a lot of them don’t understand the much larger game in which they are pawns” (quote from the movie) We are actually taught to believe that what we learn in school is good for us, and the western way of thinking is superior to other ways. But how is teaching superiority helping us to have compassion and to love and respect one another?

I believe that my great-grandchildren will view western education as we now view slavery: How could we possibly do this to human beings?

Wedding Vow

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I had the pleasure of marrying @Tomis last Thursday, May 14th, 2015, on my 32nd birthday. I am so grateful to have gotten married at my place of work, with all of the people I see daily. I’m thankful that the kids at school, who have watched the love between Tomis and I grow for many months, could be a part of our day in a fun, relaxed and easy way. I loved inviting them to be a part of our ceremony and preparations and that my husband loves all the kids just as I do. I have never been good at separating my work from my life. My life is my work and and my work is my life…those lines have always been blurry. And now my husband is all up in that mix with me!

For this blog post, I wanted to share what I spoke out loud to Tomis at our ceremony. It was important for me to only make a vow that that resonated with my beliefs about love, abundance, and life. I’m glad I wrote it down (in a google doc, of course) so I can connect with and remember this magical day always – it’s a little glimpse into my 32-year-old brain in this moment.

Reading my vows before the ceremony in the school library.

I’d like to start with quote from The Way of Mastery:

 

If You Would Know Love, Know Your Self

 

“Love embraces all things, allows all things, trusts all things, and thereby, transcends all things. Love is never possessive. Love is never fearful. Love is simply Love. Love cannot shine with specialness upon anyone at any time. For specialness, itself, is a contradiction; the attempt to take Love and make it shine only on one object, only on one person, only on one being, only within one universe.

 

…Love resides within you as the core and the Source of your very being. Therefore, if you would know love, know your Self….Then indeed, Love will flow through you.” [TWOM page 71-2]

 

I vow to you and our family & friends today to remain rooted in Truth and remembrance of who I am, which is love. Because it was because I knew my Self that I was able magnetize the opportunity to know you in my life. Your dreams are my dreams. We don’t just support each other to pursue our dreams, we share the same dream. This fact alone is something I never knew was possible to have in a relationship. I feel overwhelming joy that we have been able to create this for ourselves. So if knowing my Self and being connected to who I Am brought you to my life, it’s important for me to always take the time to meditate and be still to remember who I am and my dreams in life. I vow to do that and request your support in reminding me to do that if it seems I am losing my way.

 

“God thinks infinitely, timelessly, patiently, and certainly, above all, God thinks playfully.” [TWOM page 101] This is how I see you thinking and moving through life. It’s what drew me to you so passionately when we met. I was magnetized to you because to think like this is what I desire for my own life. By virtue of just being you, you connect me daily to the infinite game of life – a game that I love to playfully play in with you. I see how to treat others and how you respond from a place of infinite love in every situation the universe provides you. I followed your example and I have become more playful, joyful, and patient myself.

 

You are perfect love in every way. You support me daily to remember how simple and perfect my life is. I am so thankful to be your wife and to play the infinite game of life with you and to remember always that love is all there is.

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I appreciate so greatly all the people who came together to help decorate, set up/clean up, bring food, run errands, provide incredible musical gifts, and share their love and blessings with us on this day. When I get pictures organized I’ll write another entry so I can recap more of amazing contributions people added to our wedding day!

The Tiny House Movement & Accountability

On the Tiny House Movement

Over the school year, I’ve become more and more fascinated by the Tiny House movement. I’ve watched the Tiny movie with the kids at school, as well as Tiny House Nation on Amazon Instant Video at home, and I follow the movement on social media (with much thanks to Zack Jones). This year, I’ve grown to see how “living tiny” is not just a fad of building a cute house with cool storage compartments.

While I don’t live in a tiny house, I do live in about 600 sq. ft (if you don’t include @Charlotte’s room), and am trying to adopt a “tiny” mindset as a practice before I ever do seriously consider living tiny. To me, a tiny mindset is about living your life intentionally, knowing that every material you own will take up space in your dwelling. You have to think very carefully about what you buy and if it’s something you really need. What you do have, you treat with a lot of honor, care, and respect. You don’t have junk, every item you have has meaning and purpose in your life. You carefully and intentionally choose each item that enters your home. The tiny mindset also includes the idea that your life’s value and success doesn’t come from acquiring items, but it comes from how you live and experience your life.

Over this spring break, I organized a community yardsale to help me clear out what I didn’t need in the house and make a little cash along the way. In my own life, I’m working on the practice of knowing everything I own and why I own it.

And since everything in my life is interconnected, it seems that this idea I am trying to embody is also something that is transferring over to how we set up our school environment as well…

On Accountability

A few weeks ago I was discussing with one of the parents who helped me create Mosaic, Vidya, if she had an insights about how we might be able to improve some things at school. Vidya used to teach at a play based preschool, one of the most popular progressive preschools in Charlotte. I wanted input in the flow of our day and also the arrangement of our space.

Vidya came to observe for a day, and then following that, invited @Charlotte to dinner so she could share some of her observations. One of the main observations she had was that she didn’t feel like the kids felt accountable to the materials in many of the rooms. Charlotte and I chewed on this for a little awhile, thinking about how to encourage the kids to feel ownership for the materials we have at school so they would feel inspired to care for them with respect intrinsically.

Fast forward to yesterday after our yard sale: Charlotte and I are in the school, clearing out and rearranging the library in a way we feel improves the flow of the room and has a better organization of materials. Charlotte is bringing up the accountability aspect again: “Nancy, all of this stuff was just given to us. We don’t know what to do with it. Because it’s not important to us, we don’t feel accountable for its care or use. How do we expect the kids to feel that way?”

Then the whole accountability aspect that Vidya brought up really hit me and how it ties to the intentional practices I am implementing in my home life. When I was starting the school, I had so many people donate items to the school, which was so kind and appreciated! I would see items and then think, “Oh, we could probably use that one day!” and then put it somewhere. But all these items begin to add up. As we collect more and more, we forget what we already have and there is nothing thoughtful or intentional about what we bring into our school space.

If we want the kids to feel ownership over and accountable for the items that are brought into the space, they need to be a part of choosing what comes in and how it is used and stored. Otherwise, the things in the school are just things. If something breaks, it breaks. There’s no real upset or meaning behind that because more stuff always comes in.

Charlotte and I thought about this and decided that a new process for items entering into school needs to be in place: 

1) Kids finance club purchases all new crafting/art materials (markers, crayons, colored pencils, construction paper, etc). They have enough now and can buy these items as they go.

2) Donations to the school must be presented to children after one of our weekly meetings (or another time that works for the person donating). Kids and staff must discuss why the donated items are a good addition to their space, and decide where to store them and how they are used BEFORE they become “owned” by the school.

Rationale:

Through this process, children and staff will feel connected to each material brought into the school. They will see WHO the item came from. They will see HOW this item has a purpose and use in the school. They will BE A PART of deciding how it is stored, used & cared for.

Charlotte and I feel passionately about embodying and teaching the message that we are all connected. We can demonstrate this to children through the simplicity of showing them that every donated item to the school comes from a person, who used it for a purpose. If we wanted it, we can connect that item to a new purpose that has meaning to us.

We have had a great spring break – including lost of spring cleaning – and we are excited to continue to put into practice an intentional mindset about what materials we have in our school!

 

Our Magic Book Movie!

Imaginon, one of our most frequented places to visit for its Children Theater Productions, also has a special place in their Teen Loft called Studio i. Apparently this is very underutilized which is a shame! I think more people just need to know that this place exists – and is free to use for teens 12 & up (or for families of all ages on Saturdays). In Studio i you have a stop motion film area, a blue screen (like the green screen for the weathermen), and a music recording studio.

@Alonalearning and I wanted to go in and use the blue screen equipment to make a mini movie that maximized the use of different backgrounds. I came up with the premise of the plot: Kids find a magic book in the woods that transports them to different places in the world. When they figure out where they are, the book reveals a page of information about that place (kinda Jack and Annie style). @Alonalearning and I had a lot of fun looking up places to go!

We only had 3 days to prepare this project (script writing, auditions, rehearsals), so I wrote most of the script to get the ball rolling. Then we held auditions. This was a really fun process to watch the kids work in groups to deliver their audition scenes. I wish I could’ve taken them all, but with Studio i being for teens only (but they’d let me slide in with a younger child who was very mature), I had to consider that this was our first time going and maturity was a big factor. I wasn’t sure what to expect so I needed to bring kids that could wait around bored for periods of time during movie editing. This turned out to be huge – the editing took forever!

Once we finalized the cast, the kids made changes to the script – even adding the trademark “comic relief” character. I was impressed how they used their own personalities to help them create the different characters. The kids practiced all day Wednesday in preparation for our visit.

At Studio i, we filmed and then @Alonalearning sat with the Imaginon staff to learn how to edit the movie. Unfortunately, the staff wasn’t super skilled in using imovie since they only recently started using this software. After @Alonalearning spent an hour and a half editing the movie, the computer crashed and we lost everything! We had an hour left before the end of the school day. What were we going to do? We couldn’t come back another day because one of the kids in the movie was leaving for Canada (he was just visiting that week). We decided to quickly re-film and have @Alonalearning come back and edit the movie herself, without staff help, the next day.

We were able to do it!! The movie turned out pretty great – especially for our first go at it. We learned that you have to find images that have at least the bottom third looking like ground (sometimes they are floating!). We also learned that mid-scene you can’t talk to your friend -the microphone picks up everything!

Also, just to note, somehow one of our picture scenes was missing from the computer when @Alonalearning came back the next day to edit. When the kids travel to Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park in China, @Alonalearning had to put in a swirly colorful background instead of the actual picture which I’ll put here, so please imagine this picture in the video when you watch it:

And now….DRUM ROLL, PLEASE….here is the movie!!!!

 

We hope to make more in the future 🙂

 

 

What Do You See Happening in Education in the next 10-15 Years?

It is the last day to apply for our ALF Summer Program. In the last 24 hours we’ve had a lot of applications come in! It’s exciting. It’s exhilarating. Reading each application brings so much energy to me. Our second summer program has attracted some incredible people who are all working to create they change they want to see in the world. And this summer we all get to play, learn, and grow together!

As I’m reading the applications, I’m drawn to the responses to one of the questions we ask, “What do you see happening in education in the next 10-15 years?” Without any paid marketing, we’ve had so many people find us because they too want to be a part of a big change in education. Below, I’m sharing what the parents & educators applying to our program have to say in response to this question. It’s really, really, really cool to read. I highly suggest reading each one!

What do you see possible in the next 10-15 years? Respond in the comments! Want to work on creating that with us? You’ve got a couple hours left to apply! Or get to know some of our current ALFs through our blogs and join our conversations!


“We are moving in the direction of having an interconnected web of physical and non-physical places for people of all ages to work and learn in a way that supports and honors each person’s unique path, process, learning style, etc., and that helps each person access their own inner wisdom.”


“I see education bleeding outside of the classroom and becoming more open source, intergenerational, multimedia, as well as applied.”


“My hope is that education will become much more collaborative and interdisciplinary. Life in not linear and education requires a more wholistic approach.”


“I see it shifting to a more universally personal focus on individuals and the things that make them human and not the things they need to do to fuel the machine of Molloch industrialization anymore.”


“I think more parents would want to find alternative ways to provide education to their children. People are realizing the traditional school system is failing, and as the world becomes smaller through technology, education boundaries would be minimized. The way education has been will not be able to translate into the real world. Guided self-initiated learning would be something more parents and youths will consider to learn in the new age.”


“Because of the impact of efforts like ours, the factory model has not been completely eliminated, but it is seen as outdated and is on its way out, with a much wider acknowledgement that learning is a dynamic, relational process that cannot occur outside of intrinsic interest and a supportive community. Places like Agile Learning Centers are widely seen as the leading edge in educational progress.”


“I see more schools following the lead of Finland with fewer school hours, less homework, and the integration of subjects around a real topic. I see education focusing on real problems facing the world and kids doing real work. I think the evidence will grow that self-directed learning models are more successful at helping kids know themselves and live the life they want to live, whether it be college or entrepreneur or artist or whatever, and that more support systems will pop up for self-directed learners.”


“Sadly I see very little change in the vast majority of education. Beauracracies like the public school system move at a snails pace and an overwhelming majority of the constituency don’t care or believe there is nothing they can do to impact change.

For people who share my worldview and believe that school is broken, I see a rapidly changing landscape with lots of opportunities and alternatives. I do not have a clear vision or imagination of how that will look, but I definitely believe that there is a bit of a tide change in the opinions of education and learning for young children.

I think Sal Khan, Khan Academy, and things like Khan Academy are rapidly making people understand you can learn anything, anywhere, at any time. That’s a major blow to “establishment” education. But again, how that shift plays out, I just can not wrap my head around. The beautiful thing is that in today’s culture innovation, risk, radical updates are welcomed and accepted. The parents of children who will be school age 10 years from now will have grown up with kickstarter and indiegogo. Adopting significantly different options will be comfortable and normal to them. So education will look different in 10 years. Very different and that is exciting.”


“More homeschool.”


“Classrooms, basic subjects, teacher-directed learning are eliminated. Schools become obsolete under the increasing emergence of makerspaces and learnerspaces. The local community becomes the scenario and playground for our children’s education and all community members become involved and deeply invested in any child’s learning experience. Immersion, direct experience, creative collaboration and self-direction become the norm in education.”


“I see public schools reaching toward individualized tech driven content delivery and privatization and a backlash from families and communities. Simultaneously, I (wishfully) see alternative education demonstrating how to balance individualized tech driven content exploration with old fashioned relationship building to address all of a student with content delivery as one piece rather than the center.”


“Hopefully reforms.

Ideally, new possibilities for child directed learning, in and out of a traditional/formal school infrastructure. Merging camp like interactions to incorporate socialization and learning.

Smaller class sizes and no testing, grading.”


“In the next ten to fifteen years, I see education becoming even more standardized, as states will flounder to get control of a failing system

By the same token, alternative education will be the dark horse of the education revolution in the next ten to fifteen years! And while we cannot predict the outcome of human development and learning, instead, groups like yours will continue to focus on creating the conditions under which learners have the opportunity to flourish, where education is personalized to whomever the learner is, instead of expecting diverse persons to mold themselves to fit our system. An educational model based more on personal development and autonomy, creativity, and the expression and exploration of feelings will have grown and might even replace our current model!”


“I think education will change to be more individualized and student centered. More and more I notice that the academics are becoming less the focus, and finding a student’s best abilities, ideas and creativity are becoming more prominent. I think there will be more project based learning centers so that students will be able to have more real-world, life skills and experiences. Entrepreneurialism will become the focus as students generate ideas about what they’re passionate about and what they find to be beneficial to the global population.”


“It is my hope that more parents will come to understand that their children’s education doesn’t need to be boxed in. I hope that more schools can operate on a model that is child led and doesn’t involve grades or tests. I think the momentum is building for alternatives to the traditional school model. I would love to see the public school system do away with grade levels.”


“Within the next 10 to 15 years I see education changing to involve more technology. I think it will move towards more information and knowledge being available online. I think people will realize that the way we teach now will not be capable of teaching students what they actually need to know. Society will be calling for a reimagined form of education and I think that there is a great deal of people working now to create this new form. I hope and believe that there will be a greater emphasis on life-long learning. We will understand that life is about learning and then relearning.”


“Education will become self learning whereby people will be able to get all the information they need by themselves since it will be on their finger tips, for example all the information anyone would need to know will be on the internet.”


“I don’t know what CAN happen, but what MUST happen is a revolution in the way we teach people to adapt to and learn from their environment and each other. Teaching must be about teaching people how to learn and to think because society demands that they be constantly learning if they are to be both happy and productive members of society. I see only frustration and failure in the system that has existed for decades. I studied alternative education back in the 70’s and very little has moved formal education in the direction that will create self-empowered, creative and motivated individuals. Without a change in the philosophy of what students need to be part of the next century I am afraid that our society will fail.”


“I don’t see that… I don’t see anything “happening” in education as it exists now.

If I HAD to put something out there, I would say that colleges and universities
go extinct, that the prison schools we have today shut down and are replaced by
small grass roots start ups in communities all over the planet.

My vision only includes transformation –
that is why I want to do this facilitator training!!
I am ready to be a part of the new paradigm of intuitive learning.”


“I see education becoming more and more decentralized. And I see the federal government fighting that decentralization.

I also see a lot more students opting for apprentice programs and alternative schooling. Some students will always need to have a lot of options in front of them before they choose a calling. Other students who have traditionally been stifled by the compulsory schooling system and want to pursue their passions more in-depth will be able to do that.”


“I would love to see a shift toward trade/vocation oriented education especially starting at a younger age than high school. Unfortunately I imagine that the current system of conventional education will still largely be in place in the next 10-15 years with a growing percentage shifting toward alternative education of various types as my generation move into becoming the parenting generation.”


“Increased dependence on technology and metrics to measure learning. Continued overuse of the word “entrepreneur.” Honestly, nothing pretty from the traditional education system.

As a potential repercussion — people getting frustrated and looking for alternatives. I think having a strong network of alternative schools / groups for people to find is invaluable in this context — a healthy ecosystem of alternatives, and easy ways for people to understand what’s going on and get engaged.”


“Lots of small groups “reinventing” education on their own, with a focus on SDL [self-directed learning]. Which is honestly one of the biggest things that draws me to the ALCN, the network is hugely important. And also part of what my vision was as teenager. These small groups being very *grouping in the dark* if you catch my meaning. I think societal-level change has got to come from something bigger.

I personally don’t have high hopes for public education reform. Though I highly value what public education sets out to do and the fact that it’s free childcare for so many.
I think an affordable (. . . probably state sponsored) alternative has to emerge and slowly grow alongside public education before devouring it and CREATING A BETTER WORLD. And that might just get done with AGILity. Eh?”


“I envision the world of education becoming more focused on supporting self-directed learning. I see more and more technological integration–using technology as a powerful tool in learning experiences. I see more and more alternatives becoming widely available and successful.”


“This is a really tough question because I’m not really a part of mainstream education. Where do I see the future of mainstream education? Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of hope for change within that short time period. We are on the verge of change, I believe that. But it will take decades for it to reach policy-level.

But that is not my world. In my world of education, possibility surrounds me. I am filled with hope and witness potential and progress at every turn. I see change when I become aware of organizations like ALF; when I attend a co-op based on outdoor play; when I see the number of homeschooling families increase; when I hear of Montessori public schools.”


“I’d love to see more schools with the ALC or similar model spring up all over the country. I’d love to see more self-direction implemented in the more traditional models. I’d love us to shift our cultural mindset toward lifelong learning. I think that all this is going to happen in the next 10-15; the only question is, to what extent? A big part of that depends on us!”


 

 

Facilitating vs. Policing

I’m an Agile Learning Facilitator (ALF), at least that’s what I’m always striving to be. What does being an ALF mean? I am working on an entirely separate post about that, but what I’d like to share here is a beautiful excerpt I found on a blog from Lisa Nalbone called, “Cultivating the Future: Inspiring Communities of Learners.

A great teacher is a loving human being whose top priority to help the students value themselves, learn how to learn, and to connect. No matter what the subject matter, a teacher has a duty to help the students see their strengths and tune into their own intrinsic motivation, so that they are ultimately choosing to learn for their own reasons and take actions to meet their goals. We want them to become self-directed learners!

 

This can’t happen unless the teacher in the room knows how to create a safe learning environment, and can lead learners in sharing both success and struggles, and collaborating to create new value for themselves and the community.

 

How? The teacher must embody and model everything they are trying to teach and to show that everyone in the community is a learner, The teacher must be willing to share the power rather than wield power. To learn from the students. To learn WITH.

Nalbone uses the word “teacher” while I prefer to use “facilitator,” but that doesn’t bother me because I see the message she is really trying to hone in on:

  • Adults in a space with children must come from a place of love
  • Adults in a space with children have the main focus of creating a safe learning environment (unlike in traditional systems where the main point of a teacher is to make children master the content in a particular curriculum)
  • Adults in a space with children work WITH children (as opposed to ON children)

Facilitating or Policing?

What I am currently thinking about are the times when I feel like I’m not facilitating, but policing. Whenever I feel like this, I know it’s really my own fault. I choose to relate to seeing kids doing things that I know their parents wouldn’t be happy about in this policing type of way. (This is why in my opening sentence I wrote that I’m always aiming to be an Agile Learning Facilitator- are you ever “arrived?” I don’t know – I’ll add that thought to the other blog post I mentioned earlier). When this happens, I am aware that I choose to feel responsible for how the kids spend their time and I choose to start policing them rather than facilitating with them.

There are circumstances I have come across during my time at ALC Mosaic where a child is not allowed to do something at home and then when they get to school, that is ALL they want to do. If the facilitators are not aware of the child’s particular restriction, and what the child is doing is not in conflict with others in the space, well, then most of the time the child will indulge in this fancy as much as they can while they have the freedom to do so. When facilitators know about a particular at home restriction, each ALF must then make a decision about how to respond. In order to cultivate a relationship with the child that is not authoritarian, it feels important to me that ALFs master the ability to work WITH a child from a place of honesty rather then telling on them to their parent. For example:

Example: The adult at school knows a particular child is not supposed to eat refined sugar, and does not have this type of food at home. At school, the child begs for candy from the lunches of other kids.

Facilitating response: Speak honestly to the child from the heart. “I feel uncomfortable watching you ask repeatedly for candy when I know that this is something your mom doesn’t add to your diet at home. I’m curious if you know why you guys don’t eat refined sugar. Has your family talked about that?” (Then the ALF accepts whatever answer is given and engages the conversation further if it seems the child wants to engage AND allows the child to make their own decision about whether or not to eat the candy).

Some possibilities from this response:

  • The child and the ALF might end up looking up resources on refined sugar together and then teach others along way about it.
  • The child might say, “no” in the moment and eat the candy anyway, but later on ask their parent this question at home (or not!).
  • The child might say, “yes I know why” and then explain it and then make an informed decision about eating the candy.
  • Food sharing is a practice that can happen at school (which is something that humans normally do in many cultures when coming together to eat)
  • The child practices making an informed decision – (possibly setting them up to continue to do this as they age when it comes to food, sex, drugs)

Policing response: Tell on the child to their parent, create a rule that there is no food sharing at school, or create firm restrictions on what foods are allowed at school.

Some possibilities from this response:

  • The child hides their actions from the ALF in the future.
  • Food sharing cannot happen at school – and there is a distinction made between “how we eat at school” and “how we eat at home or at our friend’s houses.”
  • The child views adults as in control and they look for ways to take that control back in their own life.
  • The child doesn’t eat the candy. The child knows that they cannot eat candy whenever they are in a situation where they can be caught.

What I’d love to hear from parents and other ALFs in our network is feedback on what facilitating looks like rather than policing. The question I am keeping in the forefront of my mind when I think about which role I’m choosing to step into is: “Am I trying to control the child’s behavior so I don’t hear parent complaints, or am I working to facilitate a loving and safe learning environment where I work WITH children?” For me, acting from the former elicits fear based actions coming from me to the child, while the latter encourages loved based actions coming from me to the child.

 

 When you are facilitating, you would:  When you are policing, you would:
  • View conflict as an opportunity and ask:
    • What can we learn from this?
    • How can the resolution to this conflict help us create an even more awesome community?
  • Work with children and other adults to get to roots of conflicts. Is willing to invest time to do this, and genuinely interested in hearing the perspectives of those involved.
  • Talk through conflict with the children/adults involved
  • Accept that you, yourself, are the only person you can control the thoughts/actions of and use that gift powerfully.
  • Views conflict as problems that mess up the day/waste our time.
  • Tries to create rules that make it so this conflict will no longer take place in the space. These rules tend to be band-aids to the problem and never get to the root issue though.
  • Desires rules to point to rather than have a conversation: “Well the rule is that we can’t bring candy to school. That’s just the way it is.”
  • Strives to control the environment and the actions of the people in the environment.

 

If you want to add to this table, please email me or comment with additions and I’ll add them in and tag each author!  I could also see this being a conversation to expand on during our ALF Summer Program this year too 🙂

 

 

Trip to the Vet

We are just returning from a trip to the Veterinarian and I’ve asked the students who came on the trip to blog their reflections right after while it’s still fresh on their minds. Since one thing we believe in is “medium is the message,” I’m also going to blog about the experience!

This trip came out of a winter project @Alona and I started where we looked up careers and what it took to be those careers and how much money you’d make if you had the career. One career Alona expressed interest in was being a veterinarian. She loves animals! I shared with her how I also wanted to be a vet when I was young but that when I realized you had to cut them open and perform surgery as a vet, I then changed my mind around 18.  I volunteered at a vet office for one day and someone brought in a box of dead kittens – it was one of those moments I realized that being a vet is not just about seeing cute animals. There’s a lot of hard work and you’ve got to have the ability to do and see things that may make you upset.

I asked Alona if she’d be interested in interviewing a vet and she was really excited about doing that. So I emailed Daisy’s vet, Dr. Wheelock from Dilworth Animal Hospital, and got a quick response of “YES” to allowing the kids to interview him and get a tour.

Before our visit, the @Alonalearning, @sassygirl26, @hermoine, and @reagan met and came up with questions. I emailed them to Dr. Wheelock and he printed out our email and had those ready to answer when we got there! Here’s briefly what I remember as his answers, summarized through my lens:


 

Is it painful seeing the animals going through getting shots and surgery? It can be, but when you know that what you are doing is ultimately helping the animal, you feel good about it. 
Does it really really feel bad if you fail? Yes it can. You have to be able to admit when you don’t know what is wrong with an animal. Even if a person can afford all the tests to try to figure out what is wrong with an animal, sometimes you still don’t know the answer. It can feel like failure, but really you can’t look at it that way. You just have to try to do the best you can.  
Did you ever doubt you could perform surgery or give shots to animals? I can’t really remember his response to this question. 
What age were you when you realized you wanted to be a vet? Dr. Wheelock said he wanted to be a vet when he was a kid. He added that now as an adult, he realizes how hard it actually is to be a vet – that’s something he didn’t know as a kid. 
What did you have to do to become a vet? Dr. Wheelock said he needed really good grades in high school and then to graduate college. After getting his 4 year degree he applied to vet school, which lasts 4 years. If you want to specialize in a particular field – like studying lab samples, then you have to do even more school, maybe 2-8 more years. He also told us that getting into vet school is harder than getting into human medical school – but the difference is that once you are in, it’s pretty typical that you finish vet school. In human medical school they work to weed you out through the program so many people never finish medical school.
What is the most difficult type of animal or animals to work on or diagnose? Why? Zoo animals are really hard, like tigers, because you have to try to treat them without getting hurt yourself or having them hurt themselves. It’s also hard to treat pets that don’t want you near them, like an angry, sick dog that is trying to bite you. He said you have to be really creative in figuring out how to treat animals in these circumstances. 
What is your favorite type of animal to work on? Why? While Dr. Wheelock admits that puppies and kittens are cute and fun to work on, he feels that older animals are the most fun to work with. He says you can look into their eyes and see that they have personalities and have lived.
 
Was there ever an animal that you couldn’t diagnose? What happened? This was kinda covered in the failure question.

Here are some pictures from our visit:
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Waiting in the reception area to meet the vet!

 

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We got to see a dog under anesthesia getting his teeth cleaned. He told us about teeth care and what they have to do while he is under to keep him safe. There is a tube going to his lungs so that if he stops breathing they can keep pumping oxygen into his body.
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We went into the X-ray room and saw a lizard full of eggs! The owner was wondering why it wasn’t eating, but the lizard was just too full of eggs it was about to lay!
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You cant see this from the picture, but right behind Dr. Wheelock is a box full of samples taken from animals to be examined by the lab to see if the samples are benign or malignant. We are right outside the main surgery room here.

I am so thankful for Dr. Wheelock’s time with us! I have always loved this animal hospital for Daisy, but now I’m even more in love with this place 🙂

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!!