I loved the sense of community that was built during the WtS retreats. A friend asked me yesterday if I was going to camp. Upon reflection these retreats did become that - a place to reconnect with each other and participate in a project that highlights the best ways students can learn.
It has been a gift to spend time with students and teachers who care passionately about education. During what has been a difficult year at my school, these periodic meetings reminded me about the possibilities inherent in teaching and learning.
I am still amazed by our meeting in October (Halloween!) when students presented their passions to the cohort. I remember thinking how fortunate our world is to have these particular people beginning to use their voices and talents. Later in that evening I was equally impressed when students did the hard work of selecting a unifying theme for their newly developed groups. It took a certain grace to let go of their individual passions and to find commonality for the next phase of this project.
The most challenging part of WtS for me was trying to communicate and motivate members of our DCF group. I struggled knowing how much to encourage or hassle our students; I felt a little at a loss because these were more independent learners than what I am used to as a middle school teacher.
Additionally, I had the harebrained idea of doing a WtS inspired project with my own students and with a literacy class at my school. I think this split my attention and made me feel somewhat isolated. I wonder how the year would have gone if I had brought some of my own students and simply done the course as is.
Next year promises to be challenging for both professional and personal reasons. Because of this I don't feel I can be part of the team next year. I would like to keep the door open for coming back another year and at that time work specifically on engaging middle school learners and teachers in this work.
A continuing question I have is how to increase the diversity of the cohort. In the very short time remaining this school year I don't know how it could be addressed this year; is there a possibility there could be a recruitment push to Burlington High School and Winooski High School over the summer and first weeks of school?