Value in Serving

The 9th graders have had the opportunity to help prepare and serve the hot lunch now for three weeks. This has been our first attempt to introduce some service learning as part of their experience. I recall that the students were a bit hesitant to volunteer for the first hot lunch Friday, but this week, they volunteered quite quickly and eagerly. Each time following their service, they return to their classroom room with giddy excitement for having the opportunity to interact with all the students. I think that the younger students enjoy being served by their older peers and it has helped draw together the k-9 community a bit more. There is, indeed, some value in encouraging the students to serve.

Students need S-P-A-C-E to learn

I was recently introduced to Challenge Success, which is an organization that works with schools to help create balance and academic fulfillment for students. One of their cornerstones is based on the notion that students need SPACE to learn. SPACE is an acronym for five practices that can help change a student’s experience of school:

S – Students’ use of time

P – Project-based learning

A – Alternative and authentic assessments

C – Climate of care

E – Educate parents, students and faculty

It is worth viewing the recommended SPACE policies and ideas that can positively influence a student’s experience of high school.

Interestingly, we have been advocating for these same principles (minus the fancy acronym!) and planning for many of the recommendations for our new high school. It is rewarding to see how our efforts are aligning with recommendations from the research base for school success.

Of particular interest is focus “C” on developing a caring community for students in which they feel safe and appropriately challenged to learn. This is so central to our plans for Monroe Christian High School, as it is in a Christian community-based learning environment that discipleship and student development can occur. Our high school students need community and a caring advising system in which teachers will get to know their students in order to help them succeed academically  We don’t believe that a fully online, virtual high school will lead to the type of academic and personal growth that we desire for our high school graduates. We remain committed to the deliberate blending of on-campus learning experiences and positive relationships with the best that online learning options may offer for high school studies.

Resource:

Barseghian, T. – Why kids need schools to change

Teens hate Twitter, don’t like talking on the phone, and think email is passé

These were among the findings of a recent Business Week report “The secret lives of teenagers online.” Their research observed that:

  • While few teens (13-17 years old) own tablet computers such as an iPad, teens remain very connected through cell phones and other, smaller gadgets such as an iPod Touch.
  • More than 95% of teens own a cell phone and their data usage has increased over 250% since 2010.
  • 68% of teens prefer to text each other as a means of communication. (They don’t really enjoy using their phones for talking.)
  • Teens like to spend time checking social media sites during the day. Top teen activities on Facebook include looking at people’s profiles and commenting on them.
  • Teens don’t read the news online.

In addition, the authors were surprised to note that “teens are way sneakier using the Internet and gadgets than their parents imagine.”  In fact, a good percentage of teenagers “take serious measures to cover their tracks online, and [their] parents have no idea.”

I found this report quite interesting, as it provided a snapshot of Internet use that focuses on teenagers. It is clear that teenagers are incredibly connected. How can we use this knowledge to foster a positive culture of learning that leverages technology and access to the Internet? Are there implications for encouraging positive digital citizenship? Do we need to pay  special attention to policy development with regards to device usage on campus? These are just a few questions that I found myself asking as we consider ways to engage teenagers and their devices in high school. Hmm … I wonder how other successful schools are addressing issues such as these.

A important lesson from last June

Summer is coming to an end and I realize that I haven’t provided an update on the new high school during the past few months. I want to share a bit about a meeting that I held with last year’s group of 7th graders during the final days of classes in June.

Since this class will serve as the inaugural freshmen class for the new high school, I wanted to meet with them and begin to honor their voice in the planning process. I spent a bit of time sharing some key aspects that we had been considering for the new high school and then answered their questions. I also wanted to learn what interested them as we continued our planning.

The significant insight that I took away from my hour with the students was acknowledging their interest over student life activities. They weren’t overly concerned about the range of courses that they will take or the type of instructional format for their classes (although they were excited about using either a personal laptop or tablet!). No, they wanted some reassurance that high school would include opportunities for clubs, sports and activities outside of regular class time.

For me, this meeting will serve as a reminder to keep the student experience central in all our considerations.

The Vancouver Symposium on Christian Education – Day 2

This was a good first day for the ‘official’ symposium. By the time I was back at the condo, I was both tired and rejuvenated from the interactions of the day. Each session was worth my attention and focus. I think this was why I felt so exhausted by the time I left the discussion center! Rather than address each session directly today, my biggest take-away was the realization we are actually talking about my daughter’s graduating class when we talk about the class of 2025 and whether or not they will be ready and equipped to face their future. This personal perspective hit home for me. I want to help prepare this next generation for academic success and to equip for service in God’s world as ‘salt and light’ (Matt 5:13-16). We are working together here for children like my own.

A reminder for an e-school day

A winter storm arrived last weekend, and it promises to keep schools closed for the better part of this week. I was reminded of my post last April on how a hybrid approach to teaching in the classroom could keep the students learning, even during the days that schools “have” to be closed. Offering an opportunity for a synchronous discussion on a topic, or even a video chat, and then following through on some collaborative work online could keep students engaged, even after they have played in the snow.

More discussion and resources on developing financial literacy at high school

I have been surprised at the number of resources I finding on the topic of financial literacy. I came across this post from a teacher who actually teaches financial literacy courses in the high school. His list of resources need to be bookmarked as valuable references. For example:

FinLitTV 

TeenDollars.org

The Stock Market Game

The budget challenge simulation

Awesome Island” game focusing on decision making, credit, debit, money management, insurance, investing, etc. Everfi offers similar simulations.

The idea of an entrepreneurship class is another new one that I hadn’t thought of before, but it certainly is intriguing and could be a real-life application of coursework, too!

The call for financial literacy instruction

An interesting news item: The Education Secretary has started encouraging the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to consider recommending that financial literacy instruction be integrated into the K-12 curriculum. Rather than only a high school elective, Secretary Duncan has even suggested that this be a core subject that students may experience in the lower grades.

President Obama convened the council to help people understand financial matters and make responsible financial decisions. This was made evident during the “Great Recession” as far too many people appear to lack the essential financial planning skills to handle their money wisely and invest responsibly for their future.

In addition to the more traditional topics of budgeting, personal finances, credit and loans, Secretary Duncan noted that a financial literacy curriculum could include topics such as the stock market, investing,  and retirement planning.

As Corbin (2011) notes, overall teacher preparedness for instruction in this area may be an issue. This highlights the need to instructioanlly support all teachers with the curricular and instructional demands that they face in the classroom.

Reference:

Corbin, K. (2011, Nov. 8). Education secretary appeals for financial literacy, planning instruction in schools. Accessed November 9, 2011 through onwallstreet.com.

Financial literacy instruction remains important

I discussed the “case for financial literacy instruction” a few months back. Today, I came across some additional resources that may be helpful regarding this important recommendation. Adams (2011) noted that the possibility of accumulating student debt in college during these difficult times is pushing students to learn more about financial literacy. There are currently four states that mandate a financial literacy graduation requirement, and 19 additional states have integrated financial education into their high school curriculum. There is no such requirement in the state of Washington, but this is important enough an issue for student development and stewardship that I have been watching for financial literacy electives when reviewing possible online providers. I am also learning that there are numerous free resources available to help supplement a class curriculum on this topic, including Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy , National Endowment for Financial Education , National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the US Mint.

Reference:

Adams, C. J. (2011, Oct. 28) High schools, colleges push financial literacy. Accessed Nov. 2, 2011 through Education Week.

http://www.orangekids.com/teacher/additional-resources-literacy.aspx

The culminating project

A current WA high school graduation requirement is some form of a culminating project.  Theoretically, this project should be student initiated and serve as an important capstone achievement to document student learning while at high school.

Gardner (2011) tells of her school’s implementation of the “senior project.” She describes the project as a relevant, rigorous, and authentic assessment. It serves to strengthen connections with the local community and has become a “student-driven rite of passage” to celebrate one’s high school experience.  While completed in a student’s senior year, it is, actually, a demonstration of skills and knowledge acquired throughout high school, if not throughout all the K-12 years.

The process  includes:

  1. Students begin the project by selecting a topic of their choice. They are asked to describe the topic and explain how this will expand their learning in a letter that must be submitted and then approved in committee.
  2. The student then addresses the “4 P’s”: paper, project, portfolio, and presentation throughout the year.
  3. Paper – The students write a thesis-driven research paper on their topic. It includes has a specified length, a required number of references, appropriate visuals, and must include a report on an interview with an expert associated on the topic. Once the paper is approved, students can proceed to the next ‘P’.
  4. Project – Students then spend some time gathering data or conducting a field experience with a mentor in the field/community. A minimum number of hours is prescribed as part of the process. Students need to set-up these opportunities themselves.
  5. Portfolio – Students must document their project time with evidence in a digital portfolio. This will likely include video artifacts, journal entries, podcasts, images, etc.
  6. Presentation – Once the project and portfolio have been successfully completed, students share their project in a formal presentation before a panel of teachers, advisors, mentors and community members.

Gardner mentions a number of benefits in addition to the authentic learning experience that asks students to solve problems, read and write critically, and analyze the validity of information on the Internet. For example, students develop courtesy skills that are required in networking, foster a respect for academic integrity, learn to adhere to strict deadlines, dress professionally, and keep commitments. The feeling of empowerment after completing a significant project cannot be underestimated  either.

Reference:

Gardner, N. (2011, Oct. 26) Senior projects: A cure for senioritis. Education Week Teacher. Accessed Oct. 27, 2011 through Education Week.