“What does a transformed learning space look like? How can I show my teachers what student-owned learning entails? Where can I send them?” These are questions I hear from nearly every school CEO I visit who is seriously trying to evolve the system away from the traditional assembly line model of teacher/subject/routine-centric education.
Here is a montage from the explosive first week of school at Ortiz Middle School in Santa Fe, N.M. If you have followed this blog, you know that Ortiz serves a poor, largely Hispanic, bi-lingual, community. Julie Wilson and I spent a few days with the 6th grade team as they courageously set their sails towards a lofty set of North Star goals. They decided to re-set the entire learning conversation from the very first day of school. Rather than jumping into content units, they spent the first few days empowering their students to help define, in very public ways, their collective ethos. According to teacher Debra Parke:
Students moved from station to station brainstorming on butcher paper covered walls about…
- Their Passions
- Their Goals in life
- What having a sense of Inquiry means
- How they can exercise good Citizenship
- What Fun looks like in 6th grade
- How they want their Environment to look and feel
- What Relationships look like on the 6th grade team
- What it means to make a Commitment
- What Respect Means to Them
After completing all stations, students returned to their first station to see all that was added to their original brainstorm. They were then asked to summarize it into a poster.
Here is what the students did, said, and displayed. The words may be similar to those we would see in another school. What is remarkable is what a radical departure this represents from the traditional approach to opening days of school for THESE kids. They OWN what were formally a set of blank, white walls! They covered an entire hallway with THEIR goals for the year! It shows just how quickly a group of teachers, used to doing things one way, the same way, can imagine how to align school to conditions of peak learning, not a routine…and then just do it.
Julie and I will be revisiting and observing Ortiz early in October to see how this creative cooperation with the students is penetrating further into the school year. Follow the progress of Ortiz via the 6th grade cohort blog, “Transforming284MinutesofEducation”.