Saturday, August 29, 2015

A different kind of school: The first three days.

Identifying our personal core values in advisory.
Wow. Three days in, and I feel like a puzzle piece trying to fit together with all the other puzzle pieces (while all of us are moving around on the table), but it was an amazing week.

First, it was amazing to see the kids RUN off the bus on the first day of school, one girl screaming and almost jumping into her teacher's arms.

And it's been such a privilege to start getting to know the students. Often, they just drop into my office, other times we just stand in the hallway and discuss college trips, work, possible internships, family issues, project ideas, or bad habits.

I've also been working with one of the advisories every morning before their real advisor arrives, and then just sitting in on other groups later in the day, and it's fascinating to see the goals, hopes, dreams, and interests of these young men and women.  In one group, they were discussing what they each would be interested in working on for their Trimester I projects. The lively discussion ranged from from genetics and gene switches to helping disabled children and building "tiny houses." I can’t wait to see what they do this year. This is how real learning happens. It starts with students' interests and passions. This is why I wanted to join the Depot.

I gave a little talk on "Purpose" on Day Two during "Pick-me-up" in the morning. It was so cool to see students listening intently and connecting with my story and message as I told about my childhood challenges and how finding a purpose helped me pull out of a downward spiral. It was so cool to see how many wrote about their passions and about helping others, but there were a couple of students who seemed to react negatively to the talk--there were two blank pages for the purpose brainstorming activity at the end. There is so much need here. So much pain and turmoil inside and at home in so many of these students. But I continue to be amazed and delighted to see the real care and concern the staff have for every one of these kids. That’s why this place works.

On Friday, our Town Hall discussion was awesome. Several students spoke out about how we should handle students going outside during the day. It's so powerful to make everyone a real part of decisions that affect us all.

In advisory that day, we went through some of the suggested discussion questions from Richard Light's piece on “How To Live Wisely”--questions like, "Would you rather be really good at one thing or pretty good at lots of things?" All of the students participated actively. They disagreed. They discussed. And then they identified their personal core values from a list of 150. It was powerful to see them choosing things like honor, adventure, laughter, loyalty, self-worth and inner peace.

And in the midst of all of this was a barrage of issues and procedures and phone calls and emails and appointments and meetings and OMG-how-am-I-ever-going-to-get-a-handle-on-all-of-this? But then I bring the focus back where it belongs amidst the barrage: The young people in this place. Teenagers never cease to amaze and fascinate me with their depth and promise and energy, and these students are no exception. It promises to be very challenging and tremendously rewarding to be a part of this evolving puzzle of people we call "the Depot," and I'm excited about the coming year.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A new adventure

We had barely gotten the kayaks off the trailer before our incoming students had scattered to the four winds on the lake.

What a great time getting to know these awesome and creative students!

I am so privileged to be a part of such this unique learning environment we call "The Depot."

I can't wait to get to know these students, and their more veteran peers, this year, helping them to find their passion and purpose and overcome the obstacles in their lives. I'm so glad they have this Big Picture school to flourish in--a place that's more than outside the box--a place where "there is no box."

And I am looking forward to working with the great team of advisors (teachers) and staff I have here. Pulling everything together for this outing was a bit complicated. The trailer, kayaks, and vehicles were all in different places, with different owners, and the ball hitch was the wrong size and the electrical connector was too short and the students were all nervous, but this team's dedication was amazing. I may be called the "Director" here, but I'm just part of an awesome team.

And by the end of our 4 hours together the students had cleaned up two watermelons, chatted up a storm, thoroughly explored the lake, tried to catch fish (barehanded, with the help of granola crumbs), collected garnet sand grains, made new friendships, strengthened old ones, and launched what I think is going to be an awesome year.

It promises to be an adventure for me as much as for them: an adventure in learning about ourselves, each other, and the world, learning new skills, confronting old and new challenges. I'm under no illusions that it will be easy, but I'm looking forward to it. And I'll be relying heavily on my team, plus my mentors, Brad Martin, now of East Bay Met, and the admin. at E. O. Smith. And that's what it's all about--life's an adventure, and we're all in it together.