Saturday, January 30, 2016

A beautiful day at a different kind of school

A beautiful day in the life of the Depot. A picture of digging deep to build a real support structure and real community.

The student kitchen crew ran like clockwork. They must have set a new personal speed record serving up their popular Texas-sized French toast.

After breakfast, we gathered in the Communtiy Room for "Pick-me-Up," a daily whole-school lesson. Not everyone was engaged in Part 3 of my lesson on "Community/Human Ecology," but most were busy offering up examples of win-win, win-lose, and lose-lose situations in human relationships--answering the questions on the slides, like:
Which is better?
A) You gain, your competitor loses
B) You both lose
C) You both gain
It was interesting to see them apply this to how they played the "prisoner's dilemma" game two weeks ago and whether they played with a win-win or lose-lose strategy. It stirred up some emotions.

And I'm pretty happy with the little poem/rap we started it all off with:
that branch of biology
that’s about the dependency
of one living entity
on just about every
living thing,
either productively
or destructively,
in animosity
or harmony.
We're digging deep here--asking questions that get to the heart of what it means to be human and live in a community, and I'm psyched to continue this lesson by exploring "The Chimpanzee and our family tree"--a lesson in human origins and what it means for human relationships.

After Pick-Me-Up, a student was in my office for one-on-one support and quiet study, part of our new Tier 2 support system at the Depot. He was focused, productive, wrote some amazing things, and completed an assignment that he'd been stuck on for months.

At 10:00, I headed down to the kitchen to supervise two kitchen crew members as they cooked a pot of home made ramen for their classmates, complete with fresh ginger and green onions. It was so cool when one of them came up to my office afterwards to offer me a cup. It was worth cheating on my grain-free diet.

Later, it was just as powerful to sit with our two psychology and counselling interns and talk about their work with our students. Many of our students struggle with the effects of very difficult histories and home lives, and the compassion and professionalism of these two people is awesome. It reminded me of Geoffrey Canada's approach of doing "whatever it takes" to make sure kids succeed.

After lunch we have "Book Teams." In my group, we're reading Ender's Game (love that book--Ender is so hard core). We share our thoughts after every chapter of silent reading.

Then comes the read aloud. For that, we're reading Arthurian legend--very challenging to read, with awkward, old-fashioned words and sentence structures. I told the group that we are going to approach this like CrossFit. It's tough stuff, so we'll scale the "workouts" until they can handle them--they can read aloud a sentence or a page, depending on how difficult it is for them, but they all have to read something as we pass the book around.

Next, we transitioned into our weekly "Friday Fitness" block. Students can choose from a variety of activities, including yoga, a hike on a local trail, ping-pong, and Dance Dance Revolution (those last two are new offerings for the winter). It was so beautiful to see these young people having such a good time and getting active. There were smiles on faces that haven't seen a whole lot of smiles lately.

Shannon, one of our advisors, wrapped up the day with her weekly "Kick-Me-Out" presentation. Students gave each other "shout-outs" and then reflected on what they were doing in the pictures of the week's activities that flashed across the screen and anonymous quotes of their classmates, like "My internship is the best thing that's ever happened to me." We ended by watching this cool video of one human making another very happy (definitely worth a few minutes if you haven't seen it).

Maybe this smoothly-running and awesome day was just a fluke, but I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful it's the fruit of our increased structure and support. And I'm hopeful that as we continue to build strong support structures, we can increase the productivity and harmony of this little community.

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