Bravely Listening to a Whisper
It’s always the brave ones. The hearts full of courage and strength. Those that stand up for others and themselves. The ones who risk it all, take the leap, and trust even when it’s hard. These are the stories that get to me. They inspire me. Move me. Make my heart ache to follow and rise to the challenge.
At the start of 2016, I began to acknowledge a whispering in my heart that had been growing for sometime. But acknowledging it was crazy. I wanted to start a school. “Crazy!” I told myself. And yet, acknowledging it gave it power and it began to hum louder in my heart. In March 2016, I reached out to a school I had been researching in another state to see if I could schedule a tour and learn more. And that snowballed into several school tours, many books read, securing a business name and more discussion about turning this hum from my heart into a reality. In April 2017, I announced my idea with support from my incredible board of directors (which includes my even more supportive husband) and launched The Innovation School.
All from a whisper. A subtle whisper that needed acknowledgement to grow. I could have missed it. Every day I’m grateful that I listened. And leapt.
This leap felt incredibly scary. When I announced the school, I put everything out on social media, sent out press releases and email blasts to my contacts and then went to take a shower and almost threw up. I am blessed that I don’t often feel anxious or nervous, but this was next level nervousness. But I often share this from Game of Thrones with our students: “Bran thought about it. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?' 'That is the only time a man can be brave,' his father told him.” And when I think back to that feeling of nervousness and fear, I look at the arc that bravery gave my life and I am incredibly grateful to have had the courage to listen to that whisper.
My life is immeasurably different than it was since the beginning of 2016. I have glittery, sparkly silver threads in my hair… many more than were there when I started. I am markedly more present, less reactive and more responsive and mindful. I am more intentional with my words and actions. I have learned and practiced being vulnerable. I am also better at having hard conversations and making space for others. I am more patient and kind. I set better boundaries with others to help them and me feel safe. I have become more attuned to others and this has helped me become a better wife, mother, daughter, colleague, leader and friend. I have become more collaborative and more decisive. I have had to learn, unlearn, and relearn many times over. This all has helped me become, well, more “me”. The “me” within that was ready to step up and shine.
What a gift to have gained all this growth in my life. And yet it’s nothing compared to the gifts of people and community I have been blessed with from listening and acting upon that whisper.
Sometimes I’m in awe of the people that this has brought into my life. People with innovative spirits and trusting hearts. Children who have bloomed and blossomed into wonderful, courageous young people, becoming their beautiful selves with every day that passes. (Some of those children are my own and I revel in their company as they become warm, kind, thoughtful, confident and articulate men.) Dedicated colleagues who work hard, love themselves and children well, and have become my friends and confidants - strong women who teach me how to do this thing called life and who help inspire me into becoming myself even more. And the families that are connected to our school - they are deeply connected to my heart. I have been honored to be trusted with parents most precious gifts and have been changed along the way by my relationships with them all. Many parents have become my friends, my mentors and advisors, and I’m humbled by their support and trust.
And now, once again, it’s time to trust. To be brave. At the end of this school year, I will be moving out of state and will be handing over leadership of our school community. And it’s scary. But I don’t feel like throwing up. This time I’m not alone sending an idea out into the world. I’m surrounded by a community of people committed to success. I feel a sense of hope because I’ve learned to trust that fear is an opportunity to show courage and strength. And there is a deep well of strength and love in this thing I created. The whisper has taken a new shape and has a life of its own now. I am praying for the person that hears this whisper and bravely and courageously leaps into this place of transformation and beauty that we all lovingly refer to as TIS. All the wonderful people in our community are ready to love them well and help them continue their journey into becoming their true selves. I hope they become still and listen for the whisper, and I hope they are brave enough to leap into the comforting embrace of this shining little community.
Applause for courageous action
Today I attended a meeting at Bismarck State College to learn more about their concept to create a digital hive as an extension of the ND Polytechnic Institute that they are creating. I attended this meeting with two of our middle schoolers. I often chuckle at the amazement of the public when they meet our students. People often say, “They’re so well spoken!” or “They are so articulate!” I usually smile and agree with them. But I am not surprised or amazed because I know these kids. They seem remarkable to those on the outside, but our entire school shines with students like this... children that exude confidence, curiosity, and charm. Communication is an integral part of our daily life at The Innovation School. And so is polytechnic, hands on, kinesthetic, applicable learning. We learn every day by doing.
Last week I went on our annual field trip to The Nutcracker by Northern Plains Dance. I sat in the lower level of the Belle Mehus and listened as Hollis talked to the 800+ students in attendance about how to show when you like something at the ballet. We learned that we can keep our mouths quiet and clap when we like something. And sometimes we can clap even louder when we really like something. (800+ second graders really get into clapping at the ballet... it’s entertaining to sit through!)
At the meeting today, when BSC president Doug Jensen spoke about their new polytechnic program with layered credentials, certificates, and pathways, when he said that the new hiring point for companies won’t be a degree but SKILLS, and when he shared that we need to prepare for a knowledge-based economy I wanted to applaud, louder than 800 second graders. This. This is what we as a community need to hear, get behind, and start supporting. We should have been doing this yesterday; we are already behind. (Here at TIS we are in our 5th year = not-so-humble brag.)
And yet. I still fight skepticism. I still talk with potential parents that struggle with the concept of a nontraditional (cutting edge) learning environment. How do we get more parents to commit to sending their children to our school? How do we get more business and industry support? It is frustrating to know that something is right (and see it working day in and day out) but to still feel like you’re fighting against forward movement. I know I’m not alone, but sometimes it feels lonely.
If you know of a business or organization that would like to support our school, we are looking for supporters. We are a nonprofit and looking to increase our financial assistance for future students. If you know of a family that might be interested in our type of education, I would love to schedule a tour with them and discuss how their child could participate in this type of integrated and immersive learning.
All young people have confidence, curiosity and charm within. They just need to be given an opportunity in an environment where they can shine. They will be our leaders, our movers and shakers... they are our next generation of human capital. They can shine while we applaud their efforts and eventually they may applaud our own courage to boldly choose to embrace the sweeping changes that innovation and technology are bringing to our world. Imagine 800 second graders clapping for your effort and bravery and take that step to support and join us!
The governor said last night during his press conference that disruption is an opportunity for innovation. I could not agree more. This is the time for schools to reevaluate their values and decide what's important to them.
I have said for a year or more that I believe the one thing that will change education in the future and make a shift to a more flexible system would happen when more and more parents start working from home. In my mind, the more this happened, the more families would appreciate having their kids home with them, with flexibility to go on vacations, set their own schedules, and share their work by teaching and showing their children what they do each day.
Senate Bill 2186 was passed into law during the 2017 session. Very few waivers have been applied for using this new law. But now, during this uncertain time, imagine writing an emergency waiver for instructional time for all high school seniors in your school. In order to get their remaining instructional hours, they would instead create a project around the question, "What can I do to make a difference during a crisis?, do the project, and then reflect on it. This is unprecedented times. Let's do something unprecedented! Instead of figuring out how to make these kids perform worksheets at home through online learning and fretting over how we will grade them.
Imagine all the high school seniors in the state, working together to help their community, and not stressing out about how they will graduate. Some could start cleaning services. Some could work full time instead of part time and gain valuable mentoring from leaders during a crisis. Some could help older generations learn to work from home and troubleshoot technical issues. Some could spearhead neighborhood check-ins with sick or elderly. Some could take in healthcare providers' children, spending time reading, writing, and doing basic math with them. No doubt our young people are being affected by this. They could be defined by the "lack of" that is going on... lack of control, lack of certainty, lack of answers, lack of traditional educational structure. Or the class of 2020 could have an opportunity to stop memorizing test materials (that research has shown they are likely to forget) and take part in a truly inquiry-based, community impacting, life changing opportunity that could define their generation. I am hoping North Dakota and its educational leaders will at least give them the option.
Let's get away from focusing on instructional hours and time. It is time to empower our students and give them opportunities to make changes, not connect them to their devices for hours a day jumping through hoops. I continue to go back to the mantra that led me to starting my school... What do you value? I hope the governor gives schools an opportunity to reevaluate their values and a chance to change how they show it.
I often stress to our students during times of conflict, unease, or anxiety that the only thing we can control is ourselves. This means our next thought, our next action, and our reaction to what's happening around us. Even though everything feels out of control in our world today, let us not cling to the semblance of control by holding on too tightly to our traditional ways.
#TISValues #Projects #Passion #Peers #Play
Each year we begin our school year with an Identity Week. We create opportunities for students to get to know one another and dig into their own strengths and passions. We celebrate the end of this time with our Uniqueness Fair. Each student creates a project all about themselves and then we share it with family and friends in a science fair type setting. There are lots of different types of projects. A few from last week were a photo booth with props, different LEGO builds, a giant mixed media poster, and iMovies.
Our staff also creates projects about themselves to help give students some ideas as well as share who we are with each other. Having done this twice before, I wanted to create something completely different and unique. I decided to perform a spoken word poem about myself. I thought this would be a great kickoff to my blog for this school year. Best wishes to those teachers out there pursuing an awesome school year for you and your students!
In 1982, I was born to Ed and Peggy
Named after my mother
but everybody calls me Maggie
I'm an Irish twin
and my little sister Jen
was always and remains my best friend
My other BFF I married
And still laugh everyday 14 years later
Throughout my school life I strove for A's
Pleasing others without regard for my own self worth
Passing the tests, acing the reports
No true fire for learning
Just collecting my praise and rewards
Motherhood changed all that.
New babies equal new lessons
No grades, just diapers and baby giggles
No GPA, just a lifetime impression on two little people
I wanted to get it right
Writing my own, new story
I embraced a frosty path less traveled by
I like to joke that I'm a nerd through and through,
but that's less of a joke and more the truth
I love Thor, Cap, really the whole MCU
Harry, Hermione, and Hedwig too
Aragorn, Frodo, Gandalf and Gimli
They entertain and inspire
Stories of love, courage, quests and bravery
Propel me along in my own journey
These things challenge the status quo
As I dismantle long held beliefs and traditions
And forge a new path of learning
Constantly at war with my old thoughts and patterns
Winning these small self-fought battles prepares me
As I fight the thoughts and patterns of a society
Steeped in tradition
And looking at me funny
My baby girl looks down with love
As I create a place for other girls to shine
My mom's battle with the big C
Both scary and amazing
She feels strong, each day a gift
Science is the music that helps her dance
Through hard times, I choose grace and gratitude
Reflection is not for the faint of heart
And yet we grow when we look back
We are stronger where we were broken
Choosing the path less traveled
Is a remarkable choice indeed
Something is wrong.
One of the most frequent questions I receive about our school relates to the the fear of the unknown... what will happen to our students when they leave our building? How will we know they are progressing and will "fit in" and "measure up"?
I can't have a good answer for this, since all I know is the here and now. All I can share is the true growth happening each day in the personal, academic, social, and emotional areas of our students' lives. How do we quantify this? Most of it, we can't. We can't measure watching a student work to become better at managing impulsiveness, or talk through things with their friends, or work harder than they ever have before on a meaningful project, or to finally become more critical in their problem solving abilities.
And while I can understand both the logic and emotion behind these fears, these questions start to write a story in our minds that hasn't happened yet... we are making decisions based on the fear of the unknown and the "what if".
Enter this tweet from Ted Dintersmith from earlier this year:
@dintersmith: A S at last night's amazing community forum in Molokai. "I've spent four years getting good grades, prepping for standardized tests, and developing a great college resume. I have no idea who I am, what my values are, or who I want to become. Something is wrong."
Doesn't that make you stop and pause? I felt so much anger and sadness when I read that comment. And yet, the majority of the people in charge of educating that young student continue to lead and make changes based on fear... fear of not measuring enough, fear of not fairly evaluating everyone in the same box at the same time and in the same way... essentially the fear of the unknown.
Well guess what? No one knows. The standardized tests simply line students up within a standard box, and yet, if we challenge the status quo and dig into research like "The End of Average", what do these tests even mean? At a higher level, we can comb through tons of big data without actually getting to know the students within the numbers, without having a frank and meaningful discussion with the teachers who know each student in a deeper way. Or, more than likely, have a frank discussion with a teacher who wishes he/she knew their students in a deeper way, but due to too many students, too many special projects, too many meetings and committees, they don't have this type of relationship with their students. I know they feel angry and saddened by this... I've spoken to them. Ask a teacher who truly knows his/her students and I will show you a teacher who doesn't see much value in standardized tests.
How can we help students learn their values, learn about who they are and who they want to become? We MUST begin leading and teaching through love and faith instead of fear. We MUST start valuing something different than grades, test scores, perfect behavior, and quiet classrooms.
The student at Ted's meeting made a very poignant and accurate statement about something being wrong. The mental health crisis in our communities is often brought to light in the news and social media. Many discussions are held about how we can influence people in a healthier way and help them find the services and help they need. My thought? Imagine if the COMPULSORY system they are required to attend for 10+ years of their life treated them like humans with unique differences instead of sheep made to fit into a rigid box. The lost feeling of that student could become a thing of the past.
On a deeper note, the student in Molakai who made that statement is a MODEL student. He/She has spent four years of high school working on getting good grades, studying for standardized tests, and running themselves ragged in order to build up their college resume. This was a child, that if his/her parents were presented with an option like The Innovation School, they would say, "My child is fine in the public system. They get good grades, they are consistently top of their class, and they're active in sports and other activities." Please, if that is your child, coming from someone who WAS that student, I'm pleading with you to consider reevaluating what is important to you. Your values about education will shape your child. Your willingness to rebel against the social norm of "average" and "academic success" can make a lasting impact on who your child becomes. I waited until I was in my early thirties before feeling self-worth WITHOUT a grade or praise.
I meet people all the time who have students like this child Ted Dintersmith tweeted about. Most think their child is fine and they never even consider the damage this could be doing. If you're thinking "Well, my child really IS fine. They really excel in a traditional environment!" challenge yourself to give it another thought. Sign them up for a day to shadow a student at our school! See how enriching and empowering a more modern way of learning can be.
Think about the words of that straight-A, 4.0, captain of the _____ team, 25+ ACT score student that stood up and spoke at a community meeting, imploring his/her community to help them find their values, learn who they are, and who they hope to become. The Innovation School and others like it are the places where mental health of students and teachers is a priority and helping everyone involved reach deeper and more meaningful growth as humans. Imagine if our public systems were willing and open to learning a different model and collaborating with places like The Innovation School. Could that be the answer to that child's plea for help?
As you weigh your thoughts after reading mine, ask yourself if your current education values align with what kind of person you want your child to be upon high school graduation. Does that student's comment make you stop and think harder and question some of our social norms that we deem so important within society, especially as it relates to school? If so, reach out, and start valuing something different... sign your child up today for a day to shadow another student at our school! Email me today!
Bob Cratchit (Kermit) with Tiny Tim (Robin the Frog) in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Photograph:Disney/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar
This holiday season, I asked my kids to watch the classic "The Muppet Christmas Carol" with me. This movie came out when I was 10, which is how old my oldest son is right now. It's my mom's favorite holiday movie and I wanted to re-watch it with my kids. After watching it, I went into my office and found my copy of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. My boys and I had just finished reading one of my favorites from my childhood, called "The Westing Game" and I asked the boys what they thought of reading "A Christmas Carol" next. The idea was met with resistance. (I still read to my children each night before bed. Sometimes we spend hours reading chapter after chapter on the weekend or holiday breaks. It's one of my favorite traditions that we've created in our home. Read here and here about benefits of reading to your children.)
"It's only 85 pages long! Five 'chapters' called staves!"
Still resistance. With some bargaining (we have to start this series next) I prevailed and we began reading the story Charles Dickens published in 1843 that has spiraled into one of the most well-known and beloved Christmas stories of all time.
While reading the first stave, I was struck with the beauty and depth of this 175 year old writing. We all know the story.
Jacob Marley's ghost comes to Ebenezer Scrooge. After much disbelief, Marley tells Scrooge about the chains he forged in life that he is dragging around with him after death. He tells Scrooge that Scrooge's own chains were that long and heavy long ago and Scrooge has continued to forge them even longer and heavier through the years.
"Jacob," he said, imploringly. "Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob!"
And the response Marley gives is what gave me pause:
"I have none to give," the Ghost replied. "It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more, is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house -- mark me! -- in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!"
How fitting in thinking and discussing the needed change for education. How far do we walk outside our own homes, our own internal and external struggles, our comfort zone? Do we rove beyond the narrow limits of our own beliefs and fears? Must we travel the path of "traditional", "normal", "status quo" and in doing so, what kind of chains are we forging?
Marley also tells Scrooge what is required by humankind:
"It is required of every man," the Ghost returned, "that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"
Educators and parents have chosen to walk abroad among young people, helping to shape and guide them on a daily basis. How far do we travel for these children? How wide do we go? By embracing and valuing something different than traditional markers of "teaching" or "learning" , we can avoid forging chains we may someday regret having to carry. These chains can be made up of fear, anxiety, inadequacy, diffidence, apathy, dogma, and self-righteousness.
Perhaps you've been curious about what a different type of education could look like. Will it be messy and chaotic? How will children learn? How will you have evidence of learning? Will it challenge your long-held beliefs? Should it? Bah! Humbug!
BUT... if you are curious, I think the question then becomes: How far and wide are you willing to travel in this life for the young people you love? (Inquire here for more info.)
When Marley tells Scrooge that he will have a "chance and hope of escaping" his fate, Scrooge is afraid and hesitant when he learns that in order to do so, he must be visited by three spirits. Growth and change are frightfully hard enough without the added dread of haunting.
"I -- I think I'd rather not," said Scrooge.
Scrooge is scared but in the end, he is redeemed. He breaks his chains and his earthly spirit travels far and wide during the remainder of his life by honoring Christmas in his heart and trying to keep it all the year. He vows to live in the Past, the Present, and the Future and we are told that Scrooge is better than his word... that he did it all and infinitely more.
How will you respond? How can you create a chance and hope of escaping traditional education and embrace a modern way of educating our young people? Let your spirit rove beyond the narrow limits of where you are right now with your children or classroom... growth and blessings are on the outer limits of your comfort zone!
I leave you with these words from Old Marley:
"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried the phantom, "not to know, that ages of incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!"
May you not lament, "Such was I! or even "Bah! Humbug!". May your life be long but too short to see the end of your usefulness as you work kindly in your little sphere. Best wishes this holiday season! Only 6 more sleeps til Christmas!
Value something different. #TISValues #Projects #Passions #Peers #Play
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Maybe It's Time...
After seeing the new movie, "A Star Is Born", my husband has been constantly playing and replaying the soundtrack... in his truck, in our house, everywhere. This isn't a surprise if you know him. (Lady Gaga's acoustic version of "Edge of Glory" is one of his favorite songs.) The song that keeps getting stuck in my head is "Maybe It's Time" by Bradley Cooper. I keep feeling it tug at my heart and relate itself so well to the current state of education. "Maybe it's time to let the old ways die."
This song has such a sweet melody, but it holds a strong message.
Maybe it's time to let the old ways die
It takes a lot to change your plans
Hella drain to change your mind
Maybe it's time to let the old ways die
Why is change so difficult? Why does it seem so hard to embrace the idea of something new?
Because it means we have to grow. Growth is challenging.
Over the past few months, I have met with quite a few different educators from around the state. They have reached out to me to come tour our school and discuss our philosophy. Each discussion included talk about growth and how our own minds have shifted and grown with the idea of doing school differently.
Participating on the Innovative Education Task Force with our governor, Doug Burgum, I have been to quite a few schools and heard their local administration talk about their journey towards change. It never fails... someone shares that they "didn't really get it at first" but perhaps they took a study trip or spoke to a colleague who was able to assuage their fears.
When we have been steeped in traditional education our entire lives, it can be hard to see outside the box. Educators that live inside the box can see students that are struggling to fit in. Being willing to let go of the box (or smash it completely, which is more our style at The Innovation School) requires a willingness to embrace personal growth and discomfort. It truly does take a lot to change your plans. It really is a huge drain to change your mind. But even though this personal growth is uncomfortable sometimes, our children need us to be strong and brave and bold. And they need it now. 120 years ago our education system was innovative, cutting edge, and preparing students for that time and place. In 100 years from now, I truly believe we will be shocked at what school looked like in 2018. Why doesn't it fit with the modern world we live in? Why is there such resistance to systemic change in most of our traditional schools? (But not all... if you haven't heard of Dr. Cory Steiner, check him out... he's boldly leading a new path at Northern Cass Public School District.)
Maybe it's time to let the old ways die? At The Innovation School, it's not a "maybe". The old ways are dead. Our teachers are alive, creative, and energized. Our students are excited about school and growing socially, emotionally, and academically. We are challenging the traditional system, the traditional fixed-mindset, and bringing flexibility and freedom to our students and teachers by incorporating our values... projects, passions, peers, and play. #TISValues THIS is the new cutting edge education that fits into our modern world.
Are you interested in learning more about our school for your child? (We take transfers throughout the school year.) Are you an educator looking to learn more about our philosophy and process? Please reach out for more information. We know that change is hard. But let's get out of the early 20th century and bring our kids into the present. Join the movement of shifting the paradigm of education!
Have you ever heard someone say (or possibly thought yourself), "Why do we need to change school? It worked fine for me!"
I have uttered these words. Five years ago yesterday, my oldest son started kindergarten and my youngest started preschool. My Facebook memories reminded me. When it popped up in my feed, all I could think about was how much I've changed and grown since that day. (Okay, I also thought about how much they've changed and grown... so little and cute!)
Maybe you're getting ready to send one of your babies to school. Maybe you've heard about our school and wondered why anyone would pay money to send their child to a school where they "do school differently". Maybe you understand that school doesn't work for every child, but you're hoping it will work for yours (or maybe it already does). Or maybe you haven't ever thought much about it. I know I hadn't when these pictures were taken. My mindset was fixed in a traditional school setting, which I would argue was because of the traditional school setting I grew up in.
Five years ago, I was wondering why Bismarck Public Schools was grading my child based on "standards". What was wrong with the old way of doing things... As, Bs, Cs, etc? And four short years later, I started a school because the school district wasn't changing fast enough for its students. In fact one group I now follow on Facebook is called "Teachers Going Gradeless"! I am the director of the only school of it's kind in the state of North Dakota, I sit on the Governor Burgum's task force for Innovative Education, and I often speak publicly about innovation, change, and education reform. That is a pretty massive personal change in mindset. What happened between that first day of kindergarten and today? How was I able to undergo such a big mindset shift?
In my next few blog posts I would like to explore the idea of changing mindsets and share my story. My biggest hurdle with The Innovation School is helping people understand how necessary change is within education. If you are interested in learning more, please stay tuned. And if you haven't already, please read Carol Dweck's book, "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success". A wonderful LoS teacher within BPS recommended it to me (thanks Kim!) and it was one within a handful of life-changing books for me. If you are part of a public school trying to make changes within your local system, join the conversation! Without an unlearning and relearning about what educating students means, our communities will have a hard time getting on board with change. Look over and share the mindsets picture below, or contact me for the PDF.
If you or someone you know have already shifted out of the traditional, fixed mindset and are looking for an alternative to traditional school, please reach out. We have financial aid available for this school year for incoming students!
A lot has happened in the 193 days since I last made time to write a blog post. I have thought so many times about different topics I should be blogging about and amazing events of which we've been a part. But the reality is... starting a school takes a lot of time and work and updating my blog has been a low priority. Until recently. Lately I have been pushing our teachers to focus and help their classes reflect upon their learning and their journey. Sometimes you have to hear yourself say it multiple times before it starts to sink in!
I could share a lot about what we're doing, but hopefully you're following our Facebook page and getting a glimpse into the lives of our students. Thoughtful insight from our parents is now updated on our website here. So instead of recapping or summarizing, I'd like to share how I'm feeling right now. And I'm vowing, publicly and online, to work to maintain a better blogging presence of reflection on our journey of learning.
I enjoy quotes and find weekly ones for our staff to focus on. When writing this piece, I stumbled upon this: "To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity." - Douglas Adams
In our open-design type classroom environment, I am able to observe each of our classrooms easily throughout the day. This means I hear what each class is working on, struggling with, laughing about, and sharing with one another. The Finnish education system calls this "small data"... it's the simple but important data that is the heart of developing education around students and teachers. Each day, amid the hubbub of the exciting and student-driven lessons I observe, I am humbled, astounded, and utterly grateful for the three women who valiantly teach our students each day. Sometimes just listening to them, working so hard to help shape and guide other people's children, brings tears to my eyes. It's moving to me that people are willing to give so freely of themselves to serve and help advance the next generation of humans. And our teachers do so with such sincerity and integrity... working hard to form a true connection with our students, with each other, and with our mission. I don't tell them enough or as deeply and as beautifully as they deserve.
When I found the quote from Douglas Adams, I had to turn around from my desk and spy his book on my bookshelf behind me. If you're a fan, you might appreciate the t-shirt I wore to the DisruptWell event saying "Don't Panic!". Since I am a fan and I know that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42, I started thinking about that number, which led me to another quote... one that touches on the beauty of our staff and inspires me on a daily basis.
"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." - Jackie Robinson
At The Innovation School we value something different. We value our relationships with each other and with our students. We value and live out our mission. We value the support we have had from our community throughout the past 9 months. If you're interested in learning more about our school, please contact me for more information. We'd love for you to feel the connection to integrity and sincerity our staff and school are living out each day.
Hi there! You may be reading this because the mother of your child has asked you to. She may be interested in sending your child to our school, the new independent K-5 school in Bismarck/Mandan. You? You're not convinced.
In preparation for writing this latest blog post, I tried to do some research into this dilemma. My first search was interesting... if you Google "how to convince your husband", the first thing that pops up is "to get a dog", followed by "to have another baby", then "to get a 2nd dog", "to get a cat" and lastly "to move". Not helpful to me, but maybe makes you feel better... she's not talking about new pets or moving!
Then I thought... maybe I should start with a little about who I am and what this school is all about. My name is Maggie and I'm a recovering straight-A student. Have you ever read Calvin and Hobbes? I was Susie.
My inspiration for starting this school? I have two sons who sometimes resemble Calvin. It has turned my world upside-down (for the better) and over the past 3 years I have learned so much about myself, about education, and about learning in general. After much deliberation, research, and hard work, I convinced my husband and sons to trust me as I take on the challenge of starting a new school for our community. And now you are being asked to trust me too. I understand the resistance. Let me break a few things down before I invite you to come see our school.
First, I'd like you to think about the simple idea that learning is natural. Learning new things is what separates us from the animals. It is why we enjoy cool, refreshing homes in the heat of summer. It is why we hop in our vehicles and drive to work instead of trudging there on foot. It is why you can come home from work and play Mobile Strike from the comfort of the bathroom... er, I mean living room (sorry honey!) instead of reading by candlelight. The many things we take for granted are products of someone's natural ability to learn new things. And yet, each of these examples could go one step further... someone learned something, and then took steps to DO something with that knowledge and MAKE something.
I love to make things. (You should see me geek out about our new 3D printer!) I had a dad that enjoyed using his hands, fixing things around the house, and passed this along to me. My sister and I were always included when he was working on something. He taught me how to measure, to use tools (including power tools), and to tackle problems. This last one is important. By allowing me in on his process, he helped me look at problems in a different light, which is the first step towards problem solving and critical thinking. (He also treated me as a competent human being, which was helpful in building my confidence and self-esteem.)
Number 1: The Innovation School is a school for applying knowledge and making things.
Second, I'd like you to think about the people you know who hated something in school, but now find themselves enjoying it. I have some friends that hated gym class but now run marathons. I know others that talk about despising history class but now love documentaries. And how about the people who couldn't stand reading in school but thoroughly enjoy it now? (My husband reads a book a week but to this day talks about how much he didn't like English class - no offense Mrs. Larson... he loves you!)
These are simple examples about how traditional school prioritizes content over student engagement and learning. It's getting better, but not fast enough for our children.
Number 2: The Innovation School is a school where students can learn deeply by drawing on their personal interests and strengths to encourage engagement.
Now, I'd like you to think about your definition of investment. According to The Business Dictionary, an investment is money committed or property acquired for future income. It also goes on to state that "Expenditure on education and health is recognized as an investment in human capital." And I get it. This is the hardest part. Investment in human capital. This is when we start to say things like, "I survived school... they'll get through it.", "I'm sure it's not that big of a difference.", "Seriously... 9 grand a year?!?!?", "How can you honestly tell me it'll be worth it?"
If these are things you've said or thought when you're discussing our school as an option for your child, please know that I understand. I wish it could be different. I am not taking a salary to help keep costs down. (Actually, I found out this is illegal in ND, so I am taking the minimum salary and donating it back to the school.) We are not subsidized by a church, nor do we have years behind us where we finally own our building, etc. And we live in a state where charter schools are illegal and so we have no federal or state funding to help us provide this unique experience to local students. But consider this... if your child attends school in Bismarck, the state is spending almost $10,500 on his/her education per year. (I am not attempting to compare apples to apples as our local public schools must serve everyone and we are unequipped to serve some students with special needs, for example.) But with this knowledge, do you feel your child is receiving the full investment of the state funds being spent? Is this the real reason you are being asked to read this blog post... to consider what more your child may need from his/her school that they aren't getting?
Number 3: The Innovation School is an investment in your child to help them learn who they are, what they are good at, all while learning in context and applying knowledge and building upon it.
And briefly, Number 4: We want to try to be creative in helping you figure out a way to make this work for your family.
Dads... you are important. So very important to your child's well being and success. Research continues to show how much you mean to your child. At The Innovation School, we hope you will consider coming to hear a little more about us and ask us your questions. We are holding a Dad's Night on Wednesday, August 2nd at 7pm at our location. We will be having a barbecue with BYOB. I know you may not be convinced yet to trust me, but please come meet me and some of the special men we have on board as we begin this new chapter in education for our community. We hope to see you there!
Click here for your free ticket (so we know how many to plan for!)
Maggie Barth - Director and Founder of The Innovation School