I recently attended the Virtual School Symposium hosted by iNACOL (the International Association for K-12 Online Learning). It was a good conference, and I came away with a new sense of the direction online learning will be taking as we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
One session I attended really had some things to think about. It was conducted by folks from Transition High School in Milwaukee. The session was about disruptive learning, and this school is truly following the disruptive learning philosophy. Created as a place for students who have previously been incarcerated or have otherwise been in “trouble”, this high school has had to develop true education reform.
There are many great things going on at Transition High School. At first glance, an educator might say “okay, great, but how does that apply to my school?”
To answer that question, I’m going to talk about the school’s “restoration of consciousness” theme. The programs that surround this theme include a three-strand approach.
First, there is the “cypher” portion, which educates the students in that school about some of the stereotypes and cultural issues that may affect their own perception of their roles in society.
Next, is the “experiential” portion, which gives students an opportunity to experience things like camping, rock-climbing, and skiing – things they have never experienced before. These experiences serve to show students what truly living is all about, and in the process, they learn more about themselves and their own capacity to problem-solve and face challenges.
Last, there is a “community” component, where students do community service work and develop community partnerships that further enhance their understanding of what their role in society might be.
Yes, these programs have been developed for students who otherwise normally fall through the cracks. Nationwide statistics say that an extremely high number of these students will be dropouts. Transition High School students graduate 64% of the time, and many of them choose to pursue higher education.
However, I believe this type of program has a place in “traditional” school settings, as well. As a high school teacher, I see students in my classroom who have, over the years, had their sense of awareness removed from them. They have forgotten why they want to learn, why they need to learn, how to set goals and what it really takes to achieve those goals. In an earlier post on this blog (Teaching Truth #11: Is it our fault?), I speculated that high school students:
“… leave their strengths behind and since they aren’t any good at those things we are forcing them to do, they lose interest and become mediocre at success.”
It’s time we restore consciousness – not just to our students, but to ourselves.
We can do this by focusing more on the student as a whole, rather than limiting our impact to our 45 to 90 minutes with them each day. Developing a school-wide program, tailored to meet the needs of the students in your community, can be the first step toward a global restoration of consciousness.