Saturday, October 31, 2015

Kate Carroll's Halloween Weekend Reflection


  • Highlights included witnessing students making the, often emotionally, challenging decision to leave behind a social issue they were deeply invested in in order to create this weekend’s action teams.
  • As a participant with the Educational Reform groups, we reviewed the blog posts of each action team member. I was struck by how much overlap existed across their seemingly disparate studies of Act 77, Act 46, and Career Education/Declining of young people in VT population.

  • Bill’s structural organization, especially in regards to food, was a definite highlight; not only were we well fed, but the hosting sight of Common Ground provided a setting that made feeding and sleeping 26 people not only easy, but relaxing and productive.
  • Another basic but essential highlight: Tim’s orchestration of the room itself to serve our movement from a larger group (tables were set up in long communal rows for initial large group and dinner) into our smaller action teams (tables were spread out around the room, and when acoustics were challenging, Bill brought one group into a smaller space so they hear each other better).  Although these movements might echo what teachers do in terms of setting up activities for their classroom, they differed because students were involved in the actual re-arrangement (best illustrated when setting up the ‘triangle’ to practice up the ideal light setting for interviews) and leaving the ‘actual’ room itself (e.g. going outside).

Not sure if this is an Ah-Ha or more a confirmation, but this weekend highlighted the importance of any retreat/conference’s function, namely that we move forward  in our work together.  For example, in trying to seek common ground across the various topics on Friday night, a teacher initiated the exploratory process of ‘digital maps' via two ways.  
During this process, a student, Eva, suggested that students participate in  a form of ‘human mapping’ through actual one on one conversation.  I thought the exercise was valuable, but even more importantly, indicated a student’s own understanding of her role, namely as a co-participant.

My sense of "Bread-Loafness" of WtS? and "new ground in portfolio-based, student-initiated learning."
As MA graduate and current M.Litt student, my BL course and conversations have always directly influenced my teacher practice.
Here is one specific, recent example: despite VT-BLTN What’s the Story’s kinship with Act 77’ mandate for students to personalize their own learning, I have one administrator who is doubtful whether or not this course will provide a model for all students. This week, I told him about how last year’s traditional i-search essay had been morphed; this year, students’ posted pieces of the essay into weekly blog posts whereby multiple interested mentors provided feedback and guidance. When I told him that I thought this course design could support a variety of students in our school who are conducting research, he, for the first time, indicated a recognition of the initiative’s merits. . .
The i-search essay coupled with the digital blog record, and the weekend’s development of a collaborative blog for each action team, provides an essential visible record of learning itself and the portfolio’s creation.

Finally: anything else you'd like to convey about this, our first of three overnights, that might help us make things work even better next time?
Build in more frequent breaks for physical movement
Have students put phones on airplane mode at beginning of each work session.

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