Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Do I Know

The other day I facilitated a meeting between a family of a struggling learner and building-level administrators.  It has been a rocky start to the new school year.  The meeting was held to see what could be done to reverse the unfortunate start through intervening in a meaningful way.

I recommended to the all who were present that some alternative scheduling options be created.  This particular student struggles within the confines of a traditional high school.  We had to creatively look at our schedule and find avenues through which this student could pursue a personal passion or extend course work that sparks genuine interest.

In discussing possible options, I shared that in a couple of years the student will be graduating.  Like with all students, it is a personal belief that learners should have options when graduating from high school. Regardless of whether the preferred route is college or a professional career, graduates should have the capacity to be life-long learners and be able to find ways in which they can intellectually grow.  This was a point I attempted to stress through our discussion and served as a driving force behind the options were brainstormed at the meeting.

However, after the meeting, I started to think about the exchange.  Specifically, am I in a good position to discuss what life is like in the professional world and what skills students would need to excel in a professional environment?  I have spent my entire professional life in the classroom and on the basketball court.  I have never worked outside of a school/camp or without kids.  I read a range of texts, follow varied sources of information and exchange ideas through social networks, but in the end, my past experiences have been limited to a specific environment. 

What about an internship program for educators? We talk about internships, service learning projects  and capstone experiences for kids, but what about creating the same avenue for teachers.  For example, I am a 12th month employee.  Would my time be better served over the summer interning than coming to school.  Could I spend time in a news room to see how the role of the media is changing as a result of the internet?  Would my time better served spending two months with a community service organization or even with a more global organization?

I see value in establishing a process where any educator can leave the school environment for part of the year to experience "life" outside of the classroom. These out of school experiences can be shared with students and reflected upon to craft authentic and meaningful engagements.  I might be in a better position to craft interventions that result in positive outcomes that not only make an immediate impact but are manifested over time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Many Voices

Just wanted to share some pathways being forged by students and teachers this fall.  Using public spaces to open up conversations between stakeholders and inviting others in as well.


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Monday, September 12, 2011

Source of Inspiration

I would suggest reading Nicholas Kristof's  We're Rich (In Nature) op-ed piece in the Sunday Times.  Politics aside, Kristof poignantly expresses the collective need to cherish our national parks, national forests and other public lands.  Simply put all of us need to get outside more and experience "America’s most valuable assets."

Kristof shares a hike he took with his family over the summer in central Oregon.

After one 20-mile day in August of trudging mostly upward, sometimes struggling over huge snowfields, we arrived exhausted at Thielsen Creek in central Oregon. The majesty of the scene — snow-clad Mount Thielsen soaring overhead, the creek burbling below us, no one within miles — took our breath away.

I'm sure most of us have been touched in a way described by Kristof.  I am always moved by sunset over Center Pond, a lake in the small town of Becket, Massachusetts where I spent many summers.  Even though I have seen the sun set hundreds of times over Center Pond, I always stop to admire the scene of the sun setting over the hill across the lake.  I have been able to enjoy this sunset with friends, family and at times, lost in solitary reflection. 

There is a message in Kristof's piece for educators as well.  We need to get kids out of the classroom.  Inspiration can be found outside of school buildings.  Where I work, several educators are flooding the Board with field trip forms or are taking walking tours of the surrounding neighborhood.  There is also a plan being developed to introduce courses through walking tours.  Battery City is being mapped as a vehicle to introduce students to American History and our American Studies program.

It's about the experience.  It's about engaging with something that is real and being able to make connections with personal interests and passions.  It's also about finding inspiration in the world around us.  

As always your thoughts and comments are appreciated.  Additionally, what are other educators doing to get kids out of the building?

*Image courtesy Ben Kelly