Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Personalized Learning Plans: Trunks & Branches for Learning

We "hit the ground running" this school year with our 7th, 8th, and 9th graders building Personalized Learning Plans. Below you will find a guest post composed by our Act 77 Coordinator, Allie O'Hara. Allie has been working closely with Teacher-Student Advisories this year doing learning and interest inventories, career planning, and portfolio building.

No two students are alike. It’s impossible to assume that each course, lesson, and activity can engage all students. How can it? If we as a community are hoping that students will morph into their own unique self and create a destiny that is truly theirs, how can we assume that one path in education is the right way?

That is why Vermont created Act 77, a legislation that recognizes each student as an individual, and gives students access to a diverse range of educational experiences so that all students can graduate and prepare for life after high school. Basically, there is no longer a “traditional” path to graduation. Not only will students have access school-based course offerings, they can now take online classes, earn credit for employment and internships, and take college courses (for free!).

Students in grades 7-9 are creating Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs) to showcase their growth, strengths, abilities, and goals here at Hazen Union School. Each student’s PLP will be displayed through an online portfolio that will be updated and modified throughout their time at Hazen Union. By having one location to store and share information compiled by the student, we as educators, community and family members can assist the students in achieving their goals, and praising their work.

7th, 8th, and 9th grade students have been working diligently to begin their PLP website. From creating short term and long term goals, writing biographies, identifying their positive relationships, and customizing their website to showcase their personality, each student has created a foundation to a successful and meaningful high school career. Looking forward, students will display evidence relating to proficiencies and educational standards, compile information about potential colleges and careers, and continue to modify and track their educational and personal goals.
Why is this exciting? From my experience working with high school and college students, I have seen students meander through each year, taking classes that they “should” be taking without seeking any relevance for their own future, only to arrive at college or to a job to realize they have yet to find their passion and what makes them tick. They then jump from major to major or job to job attempting to find what they need to be fulfilled. By starting this exploration process at the very beginning of high school, students will have the time and resources to pursue their ultimate goal and be prepared and excited for life after receiving their diploma.

Parents, we need your help! Please talk to your kids about their PLPs, what they think they want to be when they’re older, and what they need to do to get there. What classes or jobs should they get to help them prepare? What skills do they need to learn to be able to achieve their goals? How can their family, school, and community support them to become the best that they can be? Use Parent/Teacher conferences as an opportunity to meet with your student’s TSA advisor, who is assisting the PLP process.

We are in the middle of an exciting educational reformation, and as a community we have an opportunity to help the next generation be prepared and excited for their future.