Saturday, October 22, 2011

Science Leadership Academy Adventure with @TeachPaperless and @ChrisLehmann

Yesterday my cohort group was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Philadelphia to the Science Leadership Academy to visit the school and speak with it's principal Chris Lehmann. It was amazing. I have several things to say about it, but I will save that for a more articulated post. However, I thought it might be interesting to share my notes and observations on the day.

Assignment for the Day: Select several questions you have about the school or the environment that creates/created the school and then record your observations and look-fors related to your questions.

Core Values: inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, reflection

  • What if high school wasn't preparation for the real world what if it was the real world?
  • It's not about the courses it's about the process learned, learning how to adapt and interact with your environment.
  • Wednesday breakdown at 1:00 so two hoirs for the following. Freshmen go to the Franklin Institute to take classes with scientists.  Sophomores and Juniors have ILP individualized learning plans where they are interns in the city. Seniors have year long projects. Teachers have PD.
  • Twice a week students go to their advisor meetings, they have the same advisor for all four years. -purpose seems to be to write an involved college recommendation letter and so that the student has a specific point of contact for the whole time.
  • Try to make it very hard for this to be a place where students want to be. It shoud be the best eight hours of their day because you don't know what they are going back to or sometimes you do know and you want to make them want to be here. Why will SLA be a better place because you came here - is one of the questions they ask students when they apply for their interview. 150 out of 1000 applicants are accepted. In the interview they present a project from their 7th or 8th grade. They ask how why SLA would be better - they are looking for enriching students not the kids with DAF answers.
  • What is the best way to get your thoughts across? Don't make the project around the tool. Focus lessons on understanding by design and project based learning.
  • School is not something that should be done TO students.
  • 94% matriculation rate, 80% four year college rate would have higher if there was scholarship for the kids to go to college.
  • *****is it worth it to go to Syracuse in a premed track and get out with 70$ thousand in debt and then more? Or go to temple which will pay for your education? AYFS??? What is the ultimate success rate if you settle, what are you teaching kids through this whole experience? That in the end they don't have to try their hardest?
  • Ultimate goal for these students is college though which is good.
  • Essential questions for each year: Freshmen - Who am I? Because of the transition to being in an environment of All the Smart Ones, the midlife crisis.
  • Some kids plug into the system, some kids don't, the ones here do, we don't let them drop out, we care about them and they know that. Very community based. Tutoring program of seniors tutoring freshmen and sophomores to build back into the community.

  • How is college as an ultimate goal represented in the classroom and by the teachers?
    • I did not observe anything related to this in the classroom directly.

  • What liberties do the students have and how do the students show their respect for them?
    • Students instantly get quiet regardless of who is speaking to them. Sat in an 11th grade history class tht was led by a 12th grade teacher aide instead of the substitute. This student was respected as the teacher. Class making a presentation using the best way they saw fit as a group many groups used Prezi in the last period. the substitute left the senior in charge of the class as though he was a teacher or an adult.
    • A graduated student came back and told us about how one of the major differences he sees is that he wants to come back that he feels like a person not a number. Students seem to desire very hands on learning.
    • We have so much freedom that there is no reason to act like a jerk.

  • What is different about the teachers here than at other schools?
    • They seem to have the freedom to care.
    • I was only able to actually observe one teacher because the other teachers were not there during our exploration period. However, maybe that was better, or the point - it's not about the teachers here, its about the students and the school community as a whole, no one specific person is the key to success.
    • He wasn't my teacher he was my friend 
    • The teachers have a completely different quote understanding of what educational terms are. For example one teacher told us that this day was a little more direct instruction than he would have hoped for us to see, except the thing that we saw was nothing related to direct instruction.

  • How is tech language used in the schools?
    • Just text her and ask where she is.
    • Did he put it on the moodle?
    • Many groups used a Prezi but there are lots of ways to do this.
    • One group used a google drawing. Here is my phone number it's 321-300-Jeff it's my Google Voice. Call me or text me if you have any questions.

Classroom Observations
History class - create a timeline using whatever presentation format you feel best.
All students are on their laptops no transition necessary very easy no time wasted. No one needed to tell or teach them how to get online and do the work. Ahead is another Prezi type program.

Student said that the technology I'd integrated in October of their ninth grade year and the fact as ninth graders that they are still using paper and still writing really makes them want to integrate into the technology quickly, the technology is built on over time and the classes are extremely interdisciplinary

National archives, ebscohost, SLA students and tech knowledgebase for resources

There's no teacher in the room and the students are just doing their work.

9th grade engineering classroom
Interacting first and if hadn't wouldn't have formed the friendships that they have now. They don't really talk now that they have the technology unless they have to talk to each other. They are an extension of ourselves.

Presentation by Principal Chris Lehman

The students are extrememly outgoing and motivated very confident.
We have unbelirbabley impowered kids thewprst part is that we have unbelievably impowered kids. It is our best ideas that so deceives of our destruction. Then you have 500 kids that feel like it is their job to challenge everything. So I asked the teachers to bring me two weeks worth of their work, it was a huge amount bound all up together. It was only two weeks , sometimes their well be weeks where the students do not think that your ideas and work match up the importance of the ideas. Y u are asking a lot of the students. Be gentle and kind when you set incrediblyhighexpectwtions for kids, be gentle and kind when they stumble trying to reach those incredibly high expectations

First rule, don't break the children.

With luck you will be in schools that understand the difference between coligality and collaboration.

Something you should ask when you go look for jobs, is what is the vision of your school and how do you help facilitate the teachers get there. How do you ramp up to that?

Why are you yelling? The best tools for inquiry is humor.

Every lesson based on how students will interact with those five core values. We use the same language. We all use understanding by design. Sometimes the best tool is the tolls we all decide to use together.

One teacher asked the students to reverse engineer the unit. All the teachers use the same rubric for major projects.
The ninth grade is about teaching process so that by the eleventh grade they can just go, and theycna go do amazing things. Our biggest complaint from students who come back to visit from college is that they feel they are taking a step back.

9th grade - week before school starts of half days low pressure Summer Institute the students have a one one one with an upperclassman who goes on their explorations with them and helps them understand the core values.

Advisors the students seem to create a family that maybe a lot of them do not have at home. At graduation they call up by advisory group not alphabetically.

Guided inquiry to open inquiry. A blank page is a terrifying thing.

Ninth grade is designed to help the students get all of the processes together before they can be released to go figure things out all by themselves. By seniors the project is to go do something interesting. Most schools don't have a theory of action where by their senior year students can do things independently they can stand up and say this is who I am and this is what I can do.

How did you prepare your first group of teachers to be in this environment?

The kids we need and the kids who need us. They have you all wrong downtown, you didn't build a schoolf or the the smart kids, you buit a school for the weird kids. Well every kid is a weird kid if you let them be a weird kid.

If you assign a project and then you get back thirty of the same things then you gave a recipe, if that is what you want then that is what you should assign them. How do you apt each students to ask good questions?

There is one question that you never know the answer to, that question is what do you think?

What do you teach? English, wrong. I teach kids, students should never be the implied subject of their education.

My goal that in a few years where we have a deep enough alumni base, every student can Have an email in their ninth grade inbox where someone says they graduated in 2006 and I'll be here on the other end of this email for the next four years.

This is their home, and that doesn't change when they leave.

Steve- different schools made and tailored to different types of students.

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