I can see the benefits of blogging, of course, but as noted in other posts, I just prefer to have interactions with either creating or responding to posts. That being said, today I find myself with a need to talk out loud to any/every/no one. We're nearing the end of the inaugural year of the face 2 face portion of our charter school. I'm in charge of the direction of this branch (we also have a virtual school--I'm actually inbetween working out and showering up to do some in-home testing with a virtual family--we cross all borders here). Oh, and you'll see that I'm also a bad blogger since I like to follow thought-paths for a bit, then jump back. Be prepared to follow me on this stream of conciousness. I'm thinking that if you try to skim this, it'll be SO dis-jointed. But do what you like. So -- let's jump back now. At the end of this first year, I'm in a very reflective mood. I'm DELIGHTED with the distance we've (students and I) have been able to put between us and the more traditional schools of the school district. However, I wonder if we really have done only 2 things: 1) We've created a real community -- I prefer to call us a family, because that's what it feels like. The students and I are on the same page as for respect for one another and safety of ourselves both virtually and in the real world. Gosh, I want to be able to draw a picture here that would better illustrate my feelings of who we are. Imagine a bunch of baby chicks, with one adolescent chick surrounded by a bunch of protective full-grown hens. Baby chicks: students. Adolescent chick: me. Hens: parents. The hens come in to help out a LOT in the education of their babies, but basically they're just there to protect us from the outside elements and to be sure that there are plenty of babies to add later. hmm--this turns out to have been a digression. So -- Jump! It's a really comfortable family we have here and it's EXACTLY what every teacher dreams of in a class. Sure there are squabbles, but we do LOVE one another. (agape love) but 42% of the school is moving on. And we'll be bringing more on. So while we're looking SO forward to next year, we're very much afraid of the dynamics change. I've been "looping" with students in the traditional schools for many years, so I know that while the butterflies are there, usually we're up and running smoothly in a month of the new year. But the butterflies of nervous change are affecting us all. Ok-- Jump! 2) the second thing I KNOW we've accomplished is to move our children to a place where EVERY SINGLE CHILD is learning new info in EVERY SINGLE CLASS. My kids have learned SO much about not only working/managing behavior in groups, dealing with time/materials management issues, and developing REAL critical thinking in EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of the schooling experience, they have also picked up REAL learning. We used the state standards as jump-off points to learning; not simply as goals to REACH. My academic strugglers have had the modified assignments to feel genuine growth and success too, but to NOT learn and grow is simply not an options for the kids. They are not only prodded by me, but even one another. A competitive environ (while rarely available here) is ONLY encouraged for them to be competitive against themselves and time. But in the few occasions it does happen, most times, even that is thrown out the door as we stop to take extra time to evaluate/improve each others' "final" products. The kids see that THIS is where the real learning and the real quality product occurs--when you make something, turn it in, then realize what should have been done better--then DO IT. Their learning NEVER ends on any topic. They are seeing there are SO many more avenues to explore; we just have to, in the interest of time, move on. All I have to say is WOW to their efforts, every single day. These are 5th-8th graders I'm looking at!!! So, why am I having trouble sleeping? Why do I not sincerely feel the excitement over the growth we've made? I think that we, as we currently exist, are NOT where my final goal is. Not by a LONG shot. We still have Math, Science, SS classes we go to. Language Arts class, you ask? Jeeze, that was an easy one to disassemble, based on the following facts: 1) We read/write/speak in EVERY single aspect of our school lives 2) Special workshops and teachable moments, as well as good role modeling, can deal with specific and individual grammar needs--these seem to be more respectful of each child's needs. 3) 90% of reading the in adult life is expository. So why spend like 90% of our time on literature elements? (i know, I'm making some ppl mad now! sorry--my school! Start ur own!! ;-) lol) ok--JUMP! So we always talk about "when you get into the real world..." Dang it. I hate that! Why doesn't school reflect the real world? Seriously. That's a real question. Can someone give me a logical answer for that? I want to eliminate classes. Even in many charter schools or PBLearning schools, there are still the demarkations between subjects. *sigh* My self-imposed assignment for this summer is to eliminate these and just work with projects. Of course, I'll still use the state standards to guide us, but there has GOT to be more than simply subjects to life, right? I'm officially extending an invite for you to let me know if you want to participate in these discussions. I've surrounded myself with a few people already who think with innovation and with child-centered ideas for the future. If you want to participate, I'll need to know you're 100% serious--this is not a "hmmm, let's look in here to see what's going on." I'm a big-ideas girl (NOT the detail oriented type) and need others who will stimulate my critical thinking for possible ideas as well as pitfalls. Then I'm going to just go implement this next year with "adjustment meetings" each month. I'm 100% serious and it will be done if there's a way we can put it to a map this summer. Who's game? I'm looking at the week of July 9 (my 35th birthday) and I'm certain we can invite you in either in person or virtually. We'll be meeting in central Kansas at an educational service center. hmm. or should we meet in the space this will be implemented? Or is a blank canvas best? I'm considering bringing in some students who "get it" and who would LOVE to be on the ground floor of this type of planning. This may not quiet my unrest, but we'll see.

Views: 26

Comment by Ginger Lewman on May 12, 2007 at 9:29am
Dang it--this thing used to have paragraphs.
Comment by Kevin on May 12, 2007 at 9:55am
After a long dialogue with your students yesterday, I was so amazed. I have never had so dynamic a discourse about the need for education change as I did with your learners. They can not only clearly articulate the short-comings of the current system with regard to their real needs in a changing world but their solutions were the stuff of doctoral thesis'. The quality of their thinking and the authenticity and passion of their points of view, made this the clearest look I've had this year into what learners must have to be prepared for a very different world.
I believe that they should be in the middle of any curriculum design work that is done and that they are experts of their own needs. They get that they need to have appreciation of core curricular areas and they want to blend 21st century approaches to that content. I had my mind stretched and expectations surpassed by quantum leaps yesterday and if this is the product of the environment you've been tending then I think TPLC is as exciting a place as I've been in education. I say let's partner with those fresh, insightful minds to create a curriculum that is seamless and without borders or boundaries.
Comment by Ginger Lewman on May 12, 2007 at 2:34pm
Skip,
After having read your comments on so many other posts, as well as mine, you are MOST CERTAINLY welcome to attend virtually. As arrangements are becoming more solid (after May 28), we'll be in touch!
Comment by Ginger Lewman on May 12, 2007 at 2:40pm
Kevin,

Thank you for the kind words about my students. While I'd like to take credit for the thinking/conversation that went on yesterday (and I'm no stranger to taking credit), I'm afraid these kids are simply plants who are looking for just the right soil. I just happen to have the real estate they like and also I've been able to get out of their way on the road to learning. There's still so much work to do and many more roads to travel.

Folks, be looking at the "Driving Questions" podcast at the iTunes store, or Kevin's personal page here to sit in on this amazing visit with real children. I think the title will have something to do with kids or education "in jeopardy."

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