Saturday, October 31, 2015

Three things I'm psyched about this week at the Depot

Three things I'm psyched about this week at the Depot.

1) It was awesome to see our seniors working on their senior projects for a solid three hours on Wednesday. I see it as an example of the importance of clarity, explicit instruction, and focused support. I gave them step-by-step instructions, an outline template, and a sample research paper (McDonalds vs. KFC as a model for making decisions). And they were on fire. They even came back for two more sessions, getting a ton done in this short, focussed  time. I'm a big fan of autonomy, but it doesn't mean a lack of structure--it's autonomy within a carefully structured framework. Lack of clarity equals lack of progress, and the opposite is just as true: clarity equals progress. (And focused, dedicated time probably helps, too.)

2) Along those same lines, I'm super psyched about the progress we're making on assessing and tracking our six competencies at the Depot. We now have a full, four-level rubric for all six competencies, and have started using it during the students' 1st Trimester Exhibitions. We'll track progress through the year by measuring competencies as demonstrated during their Exhibitions every trimester. I'm not big on grades, but I do think measurement is essential so that students can see their progress and we can see what's working.

3) On Friday, we capped off the week with another opportunity to practice restorative discipline. I was off campus when I got the call about the incident, which invoked a knee-jerk desire to punish the students involved. But as I drove back, I remembered my vision of restorative justice at the Depot, and after talking with staff, we came up with some exciting possible solutions. Of course the students will need to apologize to the offended parties and maybe do some work to make up for any damages, but why not have them all try it again--do the same activity the right way, without the undesirable behaviours. This would help them learn how to behave and also help restore the damaged relationships. In other words, we say to them, "Let's try that again and do it right." And why not have them score themselves on the rubric?

Whether we're working on research skills or social skills, continuous improvement is within our grasp when we are intentional and scientific about it. And this fires me up. Science fires me up because it works. "Hacking" education fires me up, because it's possible. Working towards a better fit between people and education fires me up, because it would be so powerful.

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