A version of this post was originally published at the Cooperative Catalyst
On Thursday a video of student Jeff Bliss, a sophomore at Duncanville High School in Texas, went viral in hours. In the video below we are privy to Bliss passionately speaking his truth. He knows that learning is more than packets to fill out, more than passively fulfilling simple and mindless tasks.
You want kids to come into your class, you want them to get excited for this? You gotta come in here, you gotta make them excited. You want a kid to change and start doing better? You gotta touch his frickin' heart. Can't expect a kid to change if all you do is just tell him," he says, as the teacher repeatedly tells him to leave the class.
While his message was pointed toward his experience in this classroom, it was born from a feeling that is boiling up in classroom after classroom across the country. It is why students are standing up and walking out of schools, protesting because they know there are better ways to learn together. They know they learn best when they are able to learn with teachers that teach to their hearts and not just to the test.
Students are not alone in this feeling, teachers and community leaders are also standing up and walking out. It is important to remember that we should not watch this video as an attack on teachers, but instead an opportunity to talk about what we want in our schools.
What struck me most about the video is that Jeff Bliss felt he needed to voice his ideas in a way that would get him kicked out of class. Why is this the only way for him to voice his visions about learning and education? Why did it take a 90 second video for us to realized that students "get it"? Why do we wait for students to burst or break before we listen?
Many of us are not waiting for students to reach a breaking point, we are proactively engaging them by providing positive venues and space for them to express their ideas, stories and...
In a lot of other school settings, the speech therapist does one thing, the occupational therapist does another thing, the resource room teacher does another thing, and the teacher's doing a 4th thing, and the left hand never really knows what the right hand is doing. Here at Mission Hill everything is integrated.
As a teacher, especially as a young teacher, the instinct is - close the door and hope everyone thinks that everything's going reall well. And the reality is that you need support and you need help. With open doors, we're always saying those things to each other.
Anyone who works with children - in fact, anyone who works with human beings - will recognize the gift and burden that comes with helping another person weather the storm of growing up and finding a place in the world. For the students at Mission Hill and Marlboro Elementary there’s a community of adults standing by, ready to provide shelter from the storm.
This is a guest post by Matthew Knoester, a National Board Certified Teacher and former teacher at the Mission Hill School, and currently Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Evansville. Matthew recently wrote a book about the Mission Hill School, entitled Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School (Teachers College Press, 2012) and edited a book called International Struggles for Critical Democratic Education (Peter Lang, 2012).
Mission Hill School founder Deborah Meier has authored a column, or “blog debate,” on the website of Education Week since 2007. She began by debating Diane Ravitch, where they discussed a wide range of educational issues and where Ravitch surprised readers by agreeing with much of what Meier wrote. Since Ravitch left the sight to focus on her own excellent blog, Meier has interacted with an impressive list of educational thinkers, including Pedro A. Noguera, Alfie Kohn, Eric Hanushek, and, most recently, Elliot Witney, one of the first principals of a KIPP charter school.
One of the central issues discussed by Witney and Meier was the idea of “No excuses,” a common refrain among school leaders who claim to allow little room for students to make mistakes, academically or behaviorally. Meier argued that that is the wrong approach: “The term ‘no excuses’ bothers me the same way a whole host of other slogans harden our hearts and brains to the fact that there are ‘excuses.’ At its heart, our legal system rests on the demand that defendants have a right to present their ‘excuses’—to be heard.”
Meier noted that adults in fact “hear” and respond to students’ excuses, but differently, due to pre-conceived notions, as well as accepted forms of acting and communicating in schools. She continued, “I have experienced the sad fact that some folks learn to expect their right to be heard out—with their ‘excuses’—and some not. On the whole, it's partly because of their skill at making excuses and partly...
This is a guest post by Laura Thomas, Director of the Antioch Center for School Renewal, the service division of Antioch University New England’s Education Department. Laura is currently involved in research around the experiences of students and educators in rural environments, particularly in the areas of social justice, problem based learning, and technology integration. The author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, (Corwin Press, 2012), she blogs at The Critical Skills Classroom and can be found on Twitter @CriticalSkills1
About two minutes into Chapter 7 of A Year at Mission Hill, we see a young student leaving his classroom, obviously frustrated and angry. An adult follows behind, aware and watchful and prepared to guide him through the emotional storm he’s obviously weathering. In the frames that precede and follow this moment, we get to see the ways that the Mission Hill community supports kids when they are at their growing edges - when they are frustrated, disengaged, unhappy and challenging. Francie Marbury, principal of Marlboro Elementary School in Marlboro, Vermont knows about the ubiquitous nature of that moment. “That student, very angry, running down the hall – that was familiar,” she notes. “And it’s so refreshing that the first thing mentioned in response isn't zero tolerance, planning rooms, or suspension.”
For the adults at MES, a K-8 school of nearly 90 students in Southeastern Vermont, supporting kids in their most challenging moments is a cornerstone of the educational experience. “We've modeled our approach on the 3 tiered system used in PBIS but not in a lock step way.” In both schools, every adult in the building can expect to play a role. Mission Hill secretary Jonie Davies comments that kids may come to her to “regroup, take a break…even just for a hug.” At MES, “the other intervention that is so based on community and relationship is just a visit to the secretary - often at the student's request.” So, even though we don't...
New spoken word video out by Suli Breaks. The faces of the young people listening and watching Suli as he speaks to their own truth is deeply powerful. Young people need to hear that they are not alone in their want for meaningful education. Neither are teachers struggling to be real mentors for youth, or parents trying to give their kids the support they need.
Watch the video and leave a comment on our Facebook page.
"A community of adults and children involved and empowered in their own education."-- the narrator speaking to the community feeling at Mission Hill
"I've become a better person - as a human being - for being here, not just a better teacher."-- quote from Mission Hill teacher James McGovern
In schools like Mission Hill, the work of turning school into an extended family is integral to the school experience: no matter where a child goes, they can rely on adults caring for them as whole people. . . .Teachers, like their students, need a learning community too--where we can collaborate, take risks, make mistakes, learn from others, be nurtured, fail and triumph.
As a community educator who spent a school year at Mission Hill, the following words pop into my head when thinking about Mission Hill: embrace, positive, family, discover, community of caring, nature, arts, democracy.
This concept of community that is explored in Chapter 6 of A Year at Mission Hill is an indispensable notion if we want to cultivate in students a strong sense of self and an understanding of how that self...
Sneak peeks and previews are some of my favorite things. This one shares more about the Oregon Innovation Tour. If you want to go or think you might but aren't sure - I hope it gets you to push the button and make it happen. If you can't attend, but would like to - this will give you a good dose until the twitter feed (Hashtag #ItourOR) starts buzzing with updates.
The tour is set to begin on Wednesday, May 1st at 3:00pm with a visit to the GANAS program in Eugene, Oregon. We will get to hear from Roscoe Carson, the retired teacher who helped create this program and has passed it on to a next generation of leaders. We will take a few moments to talk about how to have a tour experience - how to generate observations and questions as a group - and then we will get to simply be in GANAS and watch University of Oregon MEChA students mentor and work with middle school students. GANAS is a program rooted in growing bi-cultural leadership - a way of supporting students academically by focusing on the the strength of their identity and culture as Latino students.
After a film presentation, there will be a panel of GANAS students, alumni, staff, and parents. Participants will get to learn about what makes this program work and what everyone is learning about. Then, the GANAS community will offer homemade enchiladas and a family style meal with everyone sticking around for a shared dinner. The evening will close with 90 minutes of further orientation to the Oregon Tour, participants learning about each other's work, and making meaning of the time with GANAS. Folks who aren't local will be taken to the Valley River Inn for a relaxing evening and sleep.
Thursday morning will begin with a continental breakfast and some good coffee. Then, at 9:30am the visit to the Coop Family Center on the campus of the University of Oregon will begin. Here participants will be introduced to this early-childhood center by Pedagogical Coordinator Ben Minnis. After this preview,...