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Month: March 2015

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:
Waiting in the reception area to meet the vet!


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.
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!
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!!