Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Middle Level June Term Reflection & Thank You

My career in education began as a summer camp counselor at Merrowvista in Center Tuftonboro, New Hampshire. As a camper, counselor, and coordinator, I was able to experience the true joy of learning, community, and self-discovery. The engaging, supportive, and caring environment provided the opportunity for young people to take risks, to be challenged in new ways, and to develop deep connections with the physical and social world that surrounds them.

Over the last three weeks I have had the opportunity to watch our Middle Level students engage with their school in a new, engaging, and innovative manner through our J-term. While sitting in our auditorium today, I witnessed a group of students in our Coffee House seminar practice and prepare songs for their final performance tomorrow. As a student strummed on the ukulele and his group passionately sung the lyrics to Cant Help Falling in Love, I was instantly brought back to the campfire performances of my old summer camp. The spark that set me and many others on a career in education, has engulfed our Middle Level over the last three weeks in a blazing fire where students are being challenged in learning new things about themselves and the world around them.

That being said, with any change and new endeavor, we have had challenges in making this puzzle of J-term work. In pushing our students to be more independent in their work and learning, we have recognized our need to provide a variety of support and flexibility to meet our learners where they are at and push them to the next level. Throughout this journey we have reflected on how to improve our attempts at project-based learning, and how to scaffold independent learning throughout the school year.

On the eve of our last day of J-term, and our exposition of learning, I'd like to thank all of the stakeholders.

Thank you parents for trusting us not just over the last three weeks, but for your child's entire time at Hazen. Education at Hazen, across Vermont, and throughout the country is changing. The pedagogy and means to how education has been delivered to our students is in the process of rapid transformation. As we move to a model of more personalization, with balance of focus on proficiency and flexibility, we need your continued support, feedback and collaboration. As a relatively new parent, I have a deep obligation and perspective to thank you for entrusting in us what you care most about in the world.

Thank you to our community partners. This morning, many of you gathered in our cafeteria to hear our appreciation for your willingness to work with our amazing students. Thank you for opening the doors to your shops, your farms, your businesses, and your organizations. We look forward to continuing in expanding our collaboration with you and many more partners within our community.

Thank you to our students! Everyday you inspire each of your teachers. Everyday you show us new ways to look at the world. Everyday you teach us. Thank you for your willingness to take ownership of your learning, to take risks, and to take care for each other. We believe in each of you, and we are on the edge of our seats to see what you do next!

And lastly, thank you to our teachers. This work is not easy. But this work is important, and each of you demonstrate that belief in how you approach each lesson, each relationship, each day. You were asked in January to take a big leap of faith into the world of personalization and project-based learning. You did this with grace, intentionality, and the interest of our students at heart. Thank you for your passion, your dedication, and your willingness to model risk-taking for our community of learners.

I hope that you can join us tomorrow night at our J-term Exposition.  Students will be sharing a variety of examples of diving deep into their learning.  The Expo will be followed by a celebration of our 8th Grade students as they transition into the high school.