Our Week At A glance
How are we becoming empowered this week?
Struggles and Triumphs
Each week I try to be as observant as possible as to where our Middle School team has struggled the most AND where they have triumphed the most. This not only gives us a point to touch on as we wrap up our weeks, but something to be mindful of when we begin the next one. Ideally, we’ll lessen our struggles. We’ll repeat our actions that led to moments of triumph. We should continually strive to be better than we were before. This has been our definition of mastery for some time now.
We spent this past week, our second of Session #2, really focusing on our current Quest. The Middle School teammates have been divided into groups with the objective of creating a documentary film about the Broadmoor neighborhood. And our second week of working with our Quest groups has not been an easy one. I’m sure that we’ve all experienced the struggles that the teammates have been facing: failing to compromise with others, a lack of leadership, the clashing of egos. These are all hurdles that will be faced as they continue to age and I am just thankful that we get to experience them now, in a safe place where we can work towards conflict-resolution. Next week will be crucial though. The teams can not be issued a film camera until a complete and detailed storyboard for their film is presented. Failing to unify as a team will delay them more than can be afforded.
And now for the team’s moments of triumph! I’ve had more teammates this week showcase generosity than you could imagine. What makes someone want to freely part with something that means a great deal to them? Your food, snacks, or drinks hold a certain amount of value. Your personal belonging - school supplies, toys, sporting equipment - also have value. Your time, especially because we’re all very busy, is extremely valuable. And with that being said, I’ve watched the team freely part with their granola bars, lend out their soccer ball, and set aside time to offer peer edits to another’s Writer’s Workshop paper. This selflessness has been nothing short of amazing. It’s so admirable to see how generous each and every teammate can be. These acts of generosity are not going unnoticed as we are giving shout-outs and awarding Micro Bucks to our teammates who deserve praise and recognition.
So here lies our game plan for the upcoming week. We will be mindful of where we may have stumbled. We’ll celebrate what we did well. Come Monday morning, we’ll introduce our theme for the week - Unity. And we’ll continue to showcase generosity. Let’s continue to strive to be better than we were before.
The First Exhibition!
The end of Session #1. The completion of our first Quest. The week of our Exhibition. Simply put, this past week wasn’t anything to take lightly. And with the team being aware of this, it was really intriguing to see which teammates were going to pull it all together in the best fashion. Our three objectives for Session #1 were to create: a governing system and contract to abide by, a lip-dubbed music video, and a Player Profile - a creative visual which showed a little bit about ourselves, what our goals are for this year at NOLA Micro Schools, our areas of strengths, and areas in which we would like to grow. As one would expect, some teammates devoted more time and effort into one project over the others. As a result, their voice may not have left much of an imprint on a particular objective. While hyper-focusing on what we enjoy may always offer more fun, we’ll learn that we can’t neglect certain aspects of our objectives. Balance in preparation is key.
It was fitting that - during our week with the theme of Preparation - Hurricane Harvey made landfall forcing closure on Tuesday. This led to great conversations about preparedness and numerous analogies between prepping for a storm and prepping for a Quest or Exhibition. Should we always prepare for the worst; in which case we’ll never be caught off guard. Or can over-preparation be a waste of time, money, and effort?
Wednesday was spent rebounding from a stormy Tuesday. There was a great deal of work to be done, but what was the best way to go about it? We tried to organize the filming of our lip-dub music video, but couldn’t quite come together to make it work. During the remaining days, our daily huddles focused on establishing clear and concise governing guidelines. Ones in which we could all agree on, something that felt fair to all involved. Teammates reached out to each other to get and give advice on their Player Profiles. P.E. began on Thursday with a visit from Coach Josh. We also attempted to film our lip-dub music video again, remembering that it has to be done perfectly in one continuous shot. No stopping, no editing. We tried once...twice...three times. Finally, the team successfully nailed it! From start to finish!
Friday’s exhibition brought it all together for the team, it made it a reality. Getting to see each of them shine when family, friends, and guests were walking through the studio that they’ve created meant a lot. There were teammates who had put forth great effort in preparing for this event and it showed. There were also teammate who, at the beginning of the exhibition, were still working on their Player Profile. Hopefully this will be a valuable lesson learned for those who may not have put forth their best effort during Session #1. What a great opportunity to mature from and rebound from!
We would like offer our sincerest thanks to all of the families, friends, and guests who joined us in making the exhibition to our first quest a really enjoyable and successful one. We hope to see everyone at our future exhibitions as we continue to grow and explore the world around us.
We're Picking Up Steam
Our second week of school has found many of the Middle School teammates settling into what I hope will begin and continue to feel like their own space. By now we know expectations, daily objectives, and how to navigate what is being asked of us. The freedom that we have is new, different, and thrilling. It's also a lot of responsibility. As I would have predicted, our team has responded well towards most situations that may have tested them over the week. Witnessing what these young people are capable of - on a daily basis - is ever-impressing.
Monday was quite exciting due to the solar eclipse. Not only were we able to witness it ourselves from our front doorstep, but we also experienced it with other cities across America via a live stream on our television throughout the day. We followed it from Oregon to South Carolina. Also, we would like to give a shout-out to the parents who celebrated this event with us at school.
We completed our first mini Writer's Workshop, and in only three days! This was no light task as the team spent Tuesday brainstorming and writing their first-drafts, Wednesday relying on peers to critique and edit, and Thursday implementing the necessary changes for their final drafts. We huddled and discussed current issues in our country and how we would like to see them addressed. Ideas spanned from homelessness and racism to unsafe drinking water and the unacceptably high murder rate. The team was free to write about any of the topics discussed. We've got some world-changers in this studio!
Math continues to be a hit. Never has it been more evident that teammates are motivated in different ways and learn in different manners. A teammate who excels in calculating area and volume might be challenged by profit earnings. However, there are teammates who compliment each other really well in cases such as this and we'll continue to encourage them to rely on one another.
Our first meeting as the Restorative Justice Council took place this week and went rather well. The natural challenges of how to decide the best restorative practice when moving forward from conflicts, issues, and appeals were evident though. Our objective here is not to punish. We are not going against our teammates. We do not do things to them. We restore peace. We make amends. We move forward in support and unity. I'm optimistic that, with repetition, each and every teammate will learn how to best conduct restorative practices.
And now we have reached the week of our first Quest's Exhibition! On Friday, September 1st, all teammates, families, and friends are invited to join us at NOLA Micro Schools from 3:30pm – 5:00pm. We will celebrate the signing of our Middle School Studio Contract as well as debuting our Player Profiles and our Lip Dub music video. All Exhibitions are open to the public and we can’t emphasize how much your support means to us!
Happy New Year!
So here we are. A new year with new possibilities. Cliches such as “fresh start” and “blank canvas” comes to mind but honestly, there is actual energy in the air and it’s tangible. NOLA Micro Schools is back where it began, back in the building where it all started. Those original teammates are still with us. Then, the addition of last year’s teammates. And now, more fresh faces. What excites me the most however, is that there are countless new elements for each and every teammate. No one has been in this space before - in this capacity - creating an originally unique governing contract and navigating the present particular interactions. Guides and families included.
Upon reflecting on our first week, there was one main objective which we hoped to accomplish. That was to introduce the teammates to each other through creative, educational, and exciting ways. I can’t speak for them but the team seemed to be riding a wave of high energy which grew with each day. Numerous moments stood out exhibiting the level of engagement that we were experiencing.
Here’s an invitation to stay tuned to our NOLA Micro Schools Middle School blog. The goal is to use this outlet to not only keep families and friends updated and in touch with what we are doing, but to also highlight our accomplishments throughout each week. Our team is capable of some amazing things and the world deserves to see that. This blog is simply the beginning point of celebrating our teammates, just like this past week was the beginning point of celebrating our school year.
Poetry, History, And All That Jazz
As the clock continues ticking, our Middle School teammates continue to impress. Faced with challenges, science tells us that one of three things should happen - fight, flight, or freeze. With that, this week’s character-building exercises and discussions will center around anxiety and the handling of such. It’s not lost on me that a lot is being asked of our teammates; discovering the line between their comfort zone, challenge zone, and panic zone can be exhausting for them. But if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
Last week brought us quite a few highlights worth mentioning. We succeeded in establishing a location for our Spoken Word Poetry exhibition! Mammoth Espresso will host the NOLA Micro Schools Middle School team on Friday, May 12th at 1:00 PM and is located at 821 Baronne St. in New Orleans. Reaching out to establish new partnerships within our community is a core detail to our mission here at NOLA Micro Schools. We appreciate the support from Mammoth Espresso and hope that, in return, we can show the value in a partnership with NOLA Micro Schools.
Last Thursday attempted to hold us down, but we wouldn’t be denied. Our team had an incredible day at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The usual criticism with the weather at Jazz Fest is that it’s either 100 degrees with the potential for an intense sunburn or that there are torrential rains and the Fair Grounds are a disgusting mud pit. Well we experienced all of the above within the matter of a few hours. All credit goes to the teammates, they took the muddy feet and wet clothes in stride and made the best of the day. Each of us covered the entire Fair Grounds in a Jazz Fest scavenger hunt and the sun rewarded us with an incredibly beautiful afternoon.
Looking towards the future, our teammates have exciting things on the horizon. An exhibition on the history of Louisiana is quickly becoming rousing and something that we’re looking forward to. I want to see how the teammates explore our storied history and what it means to them. Our introduction to internships, interviews, and resumes has also been going well. I’m amazed that we exist in an atmosphere where our team can get valuable early exposure to the real world Diving further into this may be what I’m most anticipating for our next school year. Finally, now that our new studio location is established for next year, I’m looking forward to the challenges that the teammates will face when making it their own. Currently, we’re planning to take a mini field trip to the IDIYA space in order to survey and plan out our blank canvas of a studio.
Again, all are invited by our Middle School team as we look forward to seeing everyone at Mammoth Espresso this Friday, the 12th. We also hope that you’ll hang with us as we continue to enjoy our remaining few weeks of school!
On Towards Our Big Rock Goals
Ahh, what a busy time it’s been! During moments of reflection, it seems that we are gifted the time necessary to accomplish so many entertaining challenges. When looking ahead, however, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time! It’s quite the precious commodity as we rapidly approach Summer and still want to do so much.
A recent highlight for the Middle School team was the overnight camping trip that we took with LOOP Nola. To think of how brave the teammates were (some of whom had never gone camping before) is nothing short of inspiring. Everyone did such an amazing job regardless of how they were challenged over the two days. We went hiking, set up tents, learned how to start a campfire, roasted hotdogs and marshmallows, and endured a chilly night. We can’t thank LOOP Nola enough for all that they continually do for us. I would also like to personally thank the parents who volunteered to join us. Your continued support makes these activities possible.
Looking forward, we are excited about what lies on the horizon. The Middle School team will follow up on what our Elementary Studio recently participated in - the exhibition for our S.T.E.M. Quest. The culmination of researching, designing, and engineering model bridges will result in a competition to discover which bridge can support the most weight. The exhibition will take place on Friday, April 7th, at 3:45. Please mark your calendars!
Our teammates have also taken a step forward towards establishing their internship or apprenticeship. There have been quite a few discussions about taking initiative and being assertive when reaching out to possible community partners. We have also taken a readiness assessment to check our preparedness, as well as an assessment of personality and character strengths to give us insight on where our interests may lie. This experience is one of the things that I am most excited for.
Along with our Quest and internships, we have teammates constantly making progress in Khan Academy, Reader’s Corner, Writer’s Workshop, and Civilization. The team has projected their efforts over the remainder of our school year and created a map to our Big Rock Goal (what we would like to have accomplished before our last day of school, May 26th). The teammates have a great momentum currently with obtaining their badges, and I certain that the final two months will bring even more to our collection!
Press And Hold To Reset
When thinking of what it entails to reset or restart, why are the initial feelings that of pessimism? Thoughts of “What happened before?” or “How did we get to this point?” are conjured up. And images of real-world examples include beginning again after natural disasters or tragic times. So the idea of restarting from scratch in February in an academic setting, is utterly ludicrous. Fortunately, I’m in a setting where I can take ludicrous risks and feel no fear of failure. The obvious answer for my confidence is the unwavering support from those around me. The better answer is this - while I can initiate the resetting of our studio’s systems and procedures, it’s the teammates who will decide where we go from here. I do not doubt their ability to come together and brainstorm things that are worth trying; this is the source of my confidence. Implementing new strategies and evaluating each as we go forward are what I eagerly anticipate. Imagine the insight from each of the teammates!
So here we go; we’re off to the races for the second time. Though it may feel familiar, there are some key differences in the Middle School studio. Firstly, we've revamped our freedom levels point system and our freedom levels. Our system is now set up by earning points through specific goal setting, tracking, and achievement. At the request of our teammates, our points tracker was made more detailed. Every core skill, as well as our online platforms, have a specific space that allows for individual goal setting. There are two main ways in which we detail how we want to set and achieve our goals. Their first option is to approach goal-setting as “I’d like to increase by ___#__.” This may be an increasing percentage leading towards goal completion or perhaps acquiring a certain number of experience or level points. In either case, we are tracking progressive growth from our teammates. An alternative approach is to phrase our goals as “I am currently at ______ and would like to attain ______ by the end of the day.” This allows our teammates to realize where they are and where they want to be.
As for what Freedom levels are now available, the team has discussed numerous things that motivate us in our studio space. Ideally, motivation should be intrinsic. However, there is something to be said for giving the team the freedom to list and define what they'd like to see in their space. That is what we’d like to emphasize; it is their space. Perhaps this may have been a factor which caused turmoil with ownership in/of our studio. Could our team have felt that it was less their space, and more of the guides’ space?
Two new endeavors that we are tackling are a Civilization 101 “class” and STEM Quest. Civilization 101 is aimed at authoring a book on an ancient society which will be added to our library, not only for each other but also for our elementary school teammates to read. The Civilization project has a second component focusing on the historical formation and rise of Louisiana. How is it similar or dissimilar to the ancient civilization that we've studied? Do societies learn from the mistakes of the past? Or do the same issues plague societies regardless of what era they are in?
Our STEM Quest (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) focuses on a classic experiment - constructing a bridge with popsicle sticks with the hopes of supporting the most weight possible. While always a fun project, we've advanced the expectations in typical NOLA Micro Schools fashion. Our team has been diligently researching the physical and engineering structural design options in hopes of discovering the strengths and weaknesses of each. There’s also a local approach requiring the team to research the bridges of Louisiana. What design structures do we commonly use? What year were they built in? Which cities do they connect? What distance do they span? This Quest will culminate in each pair of teammates loading their bridge with an increasingly heavier weight until failure is reached and the bridge broken. The competition will be judged by which bridges support the most weight. I'm absolutely excited to see the results and anticipate great things. Even after the exhibition, our teammates will reflect on the entire process and will offer up their thoughts as to what the future holds with engineering bridges.
Upon our return, here’s to a welcomed fresh beginning. Our team has dedicated a great deal of time and effort to discussing what they would like NOLA Micro Schools to be, and in all fairness, it is their call to make. We look ahead to our exciting opportunities and a strong finish as we approach Summer.
Time And Time Again
The passing of time is such an oddly interesting phenomena. Regardless of what we do, the Earth will continue to rotate and revolve - two major factors in the aging process. But the concept of time in a numerical sense, is a human construct. We were the ones who created numbers; created days, minutes, months, age, years, and decades; and assigned emotions to time (especially as it runs out) such as stressed, rushed, and frantic. It was but only 11 days ago that we not only turned over a new page on the calendar, but needed a new calendar all together. The teammates are already half way through the school year. We have survived the steady climb uphill despite being faced with our fair share of obstacles. From now on, our journey to Summer will be seen in a descending fashion, a clock counting in reverse, or the falling of sand in an hourglass.
And what does this mean for our teammates? They have a clean slate. A fresh start. This new year and new semester offers them a chance to carry on with last year’s momentum. To continue with their strengths, and to grow when they’re put in their challenge zone. To step up as leaders because they are now more familiar with the workings of NOLA Micro Schools. And with the passing of time during this second semester, the team should hope to attain some of their educational badges as they strive towards graduating to the next level.
Our daily and weekly schedule now reflect the most successful patterns from the first half of the year. Each day the teammates have time allotted for Math Power Hour, D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read), and a block of time that they can dedicate to the Core Skill of their choice. Over the course of the week, each day also has an hour dedicated to a supplemental course (No Red Ink for Writing, Read Theory for Comprehension, Typing for Technology, and DuoLingo for Foreign Languages) for further reinforcement. The Visual Arts are also becoming a more constant staple this semester.
We have also introduced a new course to our curriculum - Civilization 101. The objective of this course will be to answer the question “Do issues which have haunted past civilizations continue to plague the present?”. Through numerous mini research projects, the teammate will explore civilizations and societies throughout time (How fitting!) and compare and contrast them with present New Orleans. This week saw the beginning research towards authoring a book on an ancient world civilization. The history of that society will be scrutinized along with the history of Louisiana itself. Timelines, graphs, charts, and images will all be beneficial tools to present their findings. A slide show or movie would seem to best lend itself to final presentations with the objective of answering our Civ. 101 question.
More surprises are on the horizon as well. Our next Quest will be unveiled shortly, we will continue to rely on LOOP NOLA to help us conquer that which challenges us with an upcoming field trip, and Dancing Grounds has returned this week to begin choreographing our second performance. We’ve got quite a lot to squeeze into a relatively narrow window. But that’s just it, right? It’s all relative. As time continues to tick away, our teammates don’t worry or stress. They look at what lies in front of them, set goals to best allow success, and focus on achievement. Perhaps next time you or I are “running late” or “frantically stressed”, we can borrow the approach that our teammates are implementing so well.
Rhythm and Flow
The difficulties when returning to school after a long holiday are obvious. Getting back into the groove and rediscovering momentum are things naturally difficult when you've been away for a week. With that, it was no surprise that the past Monday was slightly challenging. As the week progressed however, it offered warmth to view the teammates pick up right where they left off. Having the sense of camaraderie that they do is quite impressive and allows them to find their rhythm and flow more often than not.
Our typical morning huddles have focused on numerous character traits and virtues that we've placed a high amount of importance in. These have ranged from social intelligence, justice, and appreciation of beauty to leadership, humility, and transcendence. This week however, was our first week attempting a different approach. We aim to be mindful of how to continually strengthen our team so activities that create and test the bonds that exists between ourselves allow us to see what common grounds exist with one another. We began huddle with a beautifully simple question such as, “Would you prefer to confide in your parents or your best friend if you needed someone to speak to?” With that, we have opened the floor to not only hear which option our teammates prefer but their reasoning behind it. It's amazing how something so simple allows for commonalities to be found between our team even when they aren't expected. The questions for huddle this past week were rather simplistic; I anticipate introducing things that are little more complex and am excited to see where we go from here.
Our Get Involved! Quest has been very different from Election Quest. Still, I do see value in what was learned from the the first quest in this current one. Each teammate has selected their own roles in their groups and have been self-managing quite well. We've now identified quite a few issues that we believe are plaguing our community. With the strategy to divide and conquer, our group has set forth with really positive energy. Each teammate has had the opportunity to step up and manage the strategies which they have decided to implement going forward. One of the more awe-inspiring moments has been witnessing our teammates continually working towards the goals that they have in mind, even outside of the allotted time for our quest. I can't describe how proud I am when I get an email notification from a teammate during the evening or better yet, on the weekend. I’d like to give a huge shout out to our team members who don't separate school from personal life. This shows that they are passionate and truly care about what they are doing. Friday ended with another walk amongst our community. We believe it's vital to have our finger on the pulse quite frequently if we are going to be able to identify with those around us and later, with what aligns with our mission statement.
Thursday saw us spend an incredible morning out at City Park with our partners at LOOP NOLA. I'm uncertain as to who had more fun - the teammates or Mrs. Kim and myself. Even the prepared warm-up activities and icebreakers are always such a great time. I'd be willing to bet that if the team simply spent the day partaking in these activities, they’d consider it one of the best field trips ever taken. Ahh, those were only the beginning though. One of the more impressive things about LOOP NOLA is how they always tie-in relevant underlying themes. They do a great job of taking an important concept and threading it throughout each activity from the start to the conclusion of our day. Our teammates each successfully completed the low-level ropes course, tight-rope walking, and the rope-swinging challenge. Conflict naturally arose - as it sometimes can - but you couldn't ask for a better group of people to assist in creating a safe-space environment which allows for resolution. The beauty in conflict is the resolution.
Upon returning from the Thanksgiving holiday, a great deal was asked of our teammates. There were surprises during the entire week - Ms. Brieze Levy, our instructor from Dancing Grounds, dropped in last Friday and was met with extreme enthusiasm. She does absolutely wonderful work with our teammates and will be back again this week! Despite the hours of math, yoga class, impromptu dancing, our walk through the community, and time devoted self-governed learning, we managed to finish the week in impressive fashion. That's a lot to ask from a young team, but they constantly rise to succeed over the challenges thrown their way.
Of The Utmost Appreciation
While I assure you that academics are the main focus of this blog, please bear with me while I try something slightly different. Heading towards the Thanksgiving holiday, I’d like to take a moment to express my gratitude for a few things.
Firstly, NOLA Micro Schools has given me excitement. A reason to get and remain excited. I’ve been challenged to think outside of the box, to ask difficult questions, and to invest a lot...knowing that the returns may not be evident for some time. But it’s these stimuli that have led to quite the thrill. Elements like these are what kept me from returning to my school in Thailand, and I hadn’t even met the teammates at that time.
Secondly, I am grateful for the people that I have met. My team is one that means a great deal to me. Being surrounded by people such as these, on a daily basis, is something that I do not take for granted. Things also wouldn’t be possible without the assistance and help from the people at 4.0 Schools. And lastly, not the least of whom are the parents. Meeting and interacting with such caring people on a frequent basis is nothing short of amazing. It allows an open-dialogue to take place, as well as insight to and feedback from our teammates and families.
Finally, each and every one of our teammates consistently offer something to be thankful for. Their individual personalities provide endless entertainment; something which keeps me coming back day after day. Each are so unique, and the fact that we collectively embrace and celebrate that, not only sets a great example for their future but also keeps each moment exciting!
Our diversity includes teammates who are creative, talented, and academically-driven. Others are consistently optimistic, cheerful, energetic, and light-hearted. There are those who are leaders, those who are problem-solvers, those who are protectors. And all are dreamers, risk-takers. Again, I know that it is truly a blessing to be in a studio space that allows this cast of characters to not only assemble, but thrive.
In keeping with showing our gratitude, our Get Involved! quest is now fully underway. Our initial exploration into this quest began with a walk through our neighborhood. This quest is all about our community anyway; why not get out and live what we preach?! As the teammates work towards selecting an issue that they’d like to improve for our neighborhood, I can hardly wait to witness all of the lessons that we will learn. Sure, we’ll learn how to identify a problem, do the necessary research, hypothesize and test ideas, and put our results into action. But what about learning how to take on a leadership role? Or resolving conflict (even if it’s someone on your team)? Or rebounding after finding yourself at a dead end? Exposure to these practical skills is something that our teammates get to experience in a safe space. THAT is something to be sincerely thankful for.
With these things being said, maybe gratitude has nothing to do with happiness in the way in which we normally see it.. Perhaps being grateful means recognizing what you have, for what it is. And here, what we have is great. At the end of the day, the fact that we have the courage to do this each and every day, is reason enough to celebrate.
I'm not certain how the teammates felt, but this past week was one of the longest of the entire school year. I think back to our Election Quest and it seems like a lifetime ago. And that was only Tuesday! What about Monday?! Let us not forget everything else that took place: the actual presidential election, the team’s reconstruction of the Freedom Levels point system, brainstorming what the Micro Bucks system should look like, and preparation for our next quest.
Talks about justice are always interesting to me. This was the character trait that we covered over last week, along with the sub-virtues of leadership, fairness, and citizenship. Between our election, as well as the state’s and the nation’s, there couldn't have been a better week to discuss this topic. When we speak of justice in the social sense, fairness has to be tied into it. And fairness seemingly begs for questions of responsibility. Talks of responsibility ask whether it falls onto the leaders or the citizens themselves. Listening to the team’s perspective on how these concepts tie into each other during these extremely relevant days was nothing short of amazing. The personal highlight of my week was hearing from teammates who questioned the election process itself, spoke about equality vs. equity, and what was or wasn’t fair. We spoke of whether fairness was based on some sort of moral value. And if so, who would be the judge of what is or isn't moral? I would like to think that there is some universally-applicable law to morality, but that can't be proven (that I know of) so our discussions are likely to continue for some time. This upcoming week will see us tackle temperance and the sub-virtues of humility, prudence, self-regulation, and forgiveness.
As we look ahead to our next quest titled “Get Involved!”, we will look to tackle problems on a local scale. Our yearly theme here at NOLA Micro Schools is “Who is responsible for community?” and this quest will tackle that question head-on. It is my hope that our community will welcome us with open arms as it'll be our intention to help them address personal issues to the best of our abilities. We’ll look at spending time out and about, speaking with those who have been living in or have been involved with the community for quite some time. We'd like to identify or be informed of the problems that currently exist, with our goal being to hypothesize ways of alleviating them. I think the challenge here is going to be how wide open this quest can potentially be. There are numerous ways to find resolutions to that which is problematic and I love the idea of having our team brainstorm multiple solutions and pitching it to members of different organizations within the community. The final challenge will be to present this to community members (potentially as a business plan) in hopes of gaining momentum in a positive direction. The thought of the exhibition not necessarily as an event, but rather a completed project which has solved a community problem, is one that intrigues and excites me.
Without a doubt, this past week was our strongest as it pertains to setting our personal goals on a daily basis. The team took their time on Monday to carefully detail numerous goals for each day leading towards Friday. I'd like to give a shout out to each of the teammates for being extremely specific with this. They are providing us with exactly what we desire at NOLA Micro Schools - tangible, measurable metrics for each one of our teammates. It's exciting to see how goals are thought of each and every Monday morning. Our teammates are reporting on the number of pages or chapters that they’ll attempt to read during D.E.A.R. time or how many Mastery Challenge Levels they’d like to complete during Khan Academy or the number of assessments they’ll pass while logged-in to No Red Ink. And a big thank you goes to those who are not only achieving their goals, but are exceeding them. Those who have fallen short last week have learned quite the valuable lesson though. Firstly, we have to make sure that we don't get distracted; working towards our full potential is what I’d like each teammate to understand. This is vital in taking ownership of our own education. Though it can be a timely process, I do believe that it’s a great way to think through our 4 P's (planning, patience, practice, and perseverance). As the team figures out which methods of learning suit them best, they will begin to find their rhythm and flow. My responsibility as a Guides is to simply create an environment for deep learning with a balance of core skills, collaborative time, and fun. Secondly, we need to be cognizant of what we're capable of and to not bite off more than we can chew. There's no shame in falling short however. The beautiful thing here is that we revisit our goals every morning to reassess based on prior performances. Adapting and evolving are key here in building confidence in self-governance. I look forward to our goals remaining very specific and our team continually discovering its stride. Imagining our teammates working in such a precise fashion is something that sincerely leaves me in a state of awe. But this is no head-lost-in-the-clouds dream. I feel grounded in reality because I honestly believe that they’re fully capable of anything that I may challenge them with.
The Busiest Of Times
What a week it’s been! Our NOLA Micro Schools team has experienced everything from Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos to a visit from a Senate candidate, our Election Quest’s Presidential Debate, and a great family lunch...all within a five day span! And if that wasn’t exciting enough, one of our teammates in the Elementary Studio achieved the first learning badge of the school year! Phew!
Election Quest has now reached its climax and things couldn’t be more exciting. Thanks to a teammate, we were fortunate enough to spend a morning with the very busy Ms. Caroline Fayard. Although her campaign for the United States Senate is in full swing, she was kind enough to not only visit our studio space, but to speak with our team and answer all of the questions that our eager minds had. She deserves a huge shout out. And her presence couldn’t have come at a better time; it offered great motivation to our Election Quest teams as we hosted our very own debate complete with a question and answer session. Things came together perfectly as our Marketers ran a smooth campaign, our Debaters gave incredible speeches, the booth and ballot Designers effectively prepared everything necessary, and Security provided the safety and organization needed for this successful open forum. Tuesday should prove to be quite interesting as our team, our neighbors within the Dryades Market, and the general public out in the community make their way over to voice their opinion in our election.
Looking forward to next week, the hectic days will continue. After Tuesday’s election, we will attempt to decompress over the days following but the conclusion of this quest will certainly bring about the next. Personally, I have also been experimenting with a few new ideas and methods of tracking and showcasing progress with each of our teammates. It’s a goal of mine to establish some quantitative metrics for each teammate pertaining to their many areas of studies. Mathematics via Khan Academy has been my initial focus and now our teammates have graphs which depict their progress through each lesson. Slowly but surely, continual improvements will be made; growth and efficiency are the ever-present goals here.
As we make our way towards Thanksgiving, we’ll continue our trend of visiting character traits on a weekly basis. Last week’s trait was humanity and contained the sub-virtues of love, kindness, and social intelligence. I’m still amazed that I get to spend my time with a young team that discusses topics such as global impact, stereotyping, and equal opportunities. These conversations were undoubtedly the highlight of my week. Our upcoming focus will be shifting to the character trait of justice and its sub-virtues of leadership, fairness, and citizenship. I find justice one of the more intriguing topics to discuss. We’ll get to see which of our teammates have a sense of leniency and which are stern.
Please stay tuned for what lies on the horizon. Though there’s excitement for a new quest and new academic tracking programs, we must first make it through Tuesday. One thing I predict though - our Election Day will go much smoother than the rest of the nation’s!
Back At It
We’ve survived our return from Fall Break! It was quite a nice feeling seeing those familiar faces again and getting to share stories of our adventures over the previous week. No time was wasted however, getting back into the swing of things. We began Monday morning by creating a contract with our new Running Partner. This partnership will take us through the next three weeks. Election Quest picked up right where it left off, as did our math lessons in Khan Academy, our written stories in Writer’s Workshop, and our novels in Reader’s Corner.
As the Presidential Election creeps closer, I get a true sense of enjoyment witnessing our teammates solve the problems that have arisen. The Debaters of each group have done a nice job preparing their speeches in anticipation of our debate. The Marketers are having to balance advertising Election Day itself and their group’s candidate over the others. The voting booth Designers/Builders have come up with some impressive blueprints and plans which will soon begin manifesting themselves as reality. I even walked the Dryades Public Market on Friday with one of our heads of Security as we discussed their group’s Preparedness Plan. I’d encourage anyone who’ll be available to swing by on November 3rd to witness our debate and again on November 8th to cast your vote!
One of the more exciting aspects of this week was the unveiling of a few new academic platforms with the hopes of aiding our teammates as best we can. DuoLingo will allow for the study of foreign languages. With this, the hope is to concentrate on a deep exploration of a language, not to bounce around from week to week. No Red Ink will assist our teammates with writing skills, grammatical rules, vocabulary usage, and sentence structure. I’m excited to see how this fosters an appreciation for our independent writings with the team. Typing.com and zty.pe will help increase our fluency with keyboarding skills, undoubtedly a useful requirement in this day. Additional resources will continued to be rolled-out in the future; the goal being to stimulate each and every learning style. A great aspect of digital platforms such as these is the data that we are able to collect. Each teammate has an individual account allowing for monitoring and progress checks. We will actually be able to witness where each teammate excels and struggles, helping us create a more personalized and detailed approach to educating them.
Saying that our return to school was a whirlwind doesn’t even begin to do it justice. And this was to be expected. Having to adjust to being in the presence of so many strong personalities again requires a great deal of effort and maturity. So we naturally had moments where our patience ran thin and our resolve was tested. Conversely, we also had amazing conversations and a huge amount of positive energy. The highlight of the week happened on Friday when we gathered out in the neighborhood for a conversation about stereotyping. We’re at our best when everyone contributes their insight and this is exactly what took place. It led us to discussing perception versus reality, false accusation, and questions pertaining to race.
It’s exciting to know that young minds like these are our future.
I’ve made it an objective of mine to reflect on each passing week in hopes of obtaining an honest assessment of how we are performing as a team. This is something that I don’t take lightly. There are easier ways to go about this; I could simply take each day as it comes. Monday was great...Tuesday had drama...Wednesday, tears… But that doesn’t seem fair. Riding a roller coaster is fun, but an appreciation for the engineering marvel that it is requires one to step back and sincerely acknowledge all that is involved. Not being bothered with reflecting is also an option. If I ever feel that way though, I need to take a serious look at leaving the education profession.
So now, at the week’s completion, I’m able to say that these past five days were filled with much-needed events. Our teammates have set a course for self-management through establishing and striving towards goal achievement. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time with the character trait of Transcendence and the sub-virtues of hope, humor, and spirituality. We even looked at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Our core subjects are getting the attention that they deserve from the team. We are devoting time daily to Math Power Hour, D.E.A.R. (drop everything and read) time, Writer’s Workshop, and Election Quest. I will say this about Election Quest - we are about to be tested. Each group has a lot on the horizon and unlike a typical project which may have its deadline altered, November 8th is set in stone. This glance at how the team handles such a real-world scenario is something that I find excitement in. A deadline is a deadline. Have I any doubts that we won’t be ready on Election Day? Not even one.
Outside of academics is where we are really experiencing valuable lessons. Our team is learning what it’s like to assess and analyze progress. As an example, I’ve kept detailed records of each teammate’s completed work in math via Khan Academy. We’ve looked at what percentage we’ve been able to increase on a daily basis. So, no longer is it acceptable to set a daily goal of gaining one percent when I can see that they’ve easily completed 9% on Monday and Tuesday.
Drama has made an appearance this week and I’ll argue that it’s not a negative thing. While I’ll never wish for it, I will say that there’s something about being able to experience it in a protected atmosphere where there are Guides present. Some of our better huddles have taken place these past few days and disagreements happened. Patience ran thin. Cliques are forming, and I’m curious as to whether this’ll be a positive thing (forging strong bonds) or a negative thing (drawing divisionary lines between teammates). I’ll acknowledge that the team is saying all of the correct things. Now the challenge lies in backing them up with actions.
To conclude, I’ll end with my two favorite moments from the week. On Monday, I was graced by the presence of my mother, Gayle, in our studio. A teacher for nearly four decades, her school’s Fall Break allowed her a free day to visit NOLA Micro Schools. I’m uncertain if I’m more amazed at the fact that, after all of these years, she still hasn’t lost her passion to engage with students or that she hasn’t lost her mind yet due to said students. The unique methodology of our approach is something that she finds fascination in and since Monday, has continually expressed her appreciation for allowing her to spend the day with us. I’d like to give her a shout-out, for we were the appreciative ones. I’d also like to shout-out the teammates for welcoming her and sharing their writings, stories, and art with her. Secondly, I absolutely loved witnessing a middle school teammate help an elementary school teammate with what I’ve dubbed “The Great Raman Crisis of 2016”. With a cracked plastic container leaking water, it seemed impossible to microwave the rigid block of Raman noodles to an edible consistency. Cue teamwork. The two teammates worked together to crush up bits of the noodle block, mixed the crumbs with water, and spackled this mash into the plastic’s fissure. Once plugged, the container was able to hold water and thus, hold the majority of the Raman for microwaving. What a lunchtime success! Crisis averted!
Please spend the upcoming week enjoying the Fall Break. Make the most of it. Upon returning, I know that we’ll pick up right where we left off.
Beyond An Ordinary Experience
This past week at NOLA Micro Schools has undoubtedly been my favorite. Our team is now fully in-stride, understanding of what accomplishments we're working towards and checking-off milestones as they are achieved. It's my expectation that our forward momentum will be difficult to halt. The latest character trait which we introduced - Transcendence - is again, also my favorite. And with our teammates having Friday off from school (hooray three day weekend!), the week ended on a beautiful day spent outdoors at City Park with L.O.O.P. NOLA.
Transcendence. Going beyond the limits of ordinary experience; far better or greater than what is usual. Not the simplest of human character traits to grasp. Not by its definition, nor in practice. But the team is going to be pushed into their challenge zone, and expected to spend time with this one. Due to the sub-virtues of transcendence (appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality), we'll actually spend two weeks exploring this incredible concept. I particularly want to shout-out the teammates for Tuesday morning’s huddle on beauty and how it is perceived, interpreted, and appreciated. It was our strongest huddle yet.
The day-to-day exploration of our academic goals continues to put me in a state of awe. Our teammates' ability to transition from the critical-thinking skills necessary when responding to their journal prompt to an hour of mathematics with Khan Academy online to our Election Quest, is ever-improving. They're learning task management, self-regulation, and how to balance dedicated time. And even when the week throws the teammates a curveball, adjusting and adapting their goals is seemingly of little issue. On Wednesday, we were approached by the Dryades Public Market for help with a few projects. The two large Oak trees at the rear of the store are now ours to protect and glorify. The green space at the front facade of the market is a blank canvas awaiting our touch. Finally, the layout of the market’s aisles are in need of direction and design. What an exciting way to gain exposure to geometry, biology, carpentry, and marketing.
Outside of our studio, the learning didn’t stop. Tuesday brought us yoga. Wednesday was a journey to the Dancing Grounds dance studio on St. Claude Avenue. Our dancers are the perfect example of what potential lies in these young adults when they are empowered by the arts. As mentioned before, we ended our week in City Park with L.O.O.P. NOLA. With gorgeous weather, we completed team-building activities and gained a great deal of knowledge about canoeing and paddling. What better way to bring this to life than to get out into the lagoon? While skimming across the water on our way to view a male Mallard duck, I made the comment “it’s such a shame that all of the students in New Orleans can’t learn about Southern Louisiana like we can.” I truly meant that.
As time ticks away closer to our Fall Break, I won’t be shocked in the least if our teammates voice their displeasure in having a vacation from school. That’s correct, I said “displeasure” with vacation. As Thursday came to a close, I had four teammates tell me that they were saddened at having no school Friday. One even claimed that they were going regardless.
It’s moments like that which humble me.
A New Perspective
It isn’t often that we get to see our world from a different vantage point. It is even more rare to take the time necessary to acknowledge this and reflect upon it. It can be quite the test; a test which I hope the majority of our teammates experienced this week.
Temperance was our character trait unveiled on Monday and as one would expect, many questions were asked. Temperance is defined as moderation or restraint in one’s actions, thoughts, words, or indulgences. Though this word was new to us, the concept was not. This was something that each teammate was well aware of and could easily cite examples of (especially pertaining to online activities). Temperance is composed of forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-regulation; each discussed on the following days of the week. This offered an incredible glimpse of the viewpoints of others. What allows some of us to forgive so easily, while others hold grudges? Why are some so brash and cocky, rather than being humble? There aren’t any simple answers here, only choices that our teammates will have decide upon as they grow.
Tuesday was our introduction to yoga. In all sincerity, I believe that no one was more thrilled for this than I was. Our yoga instructor, Ms. Amy, did a wonderful job and I look forward to seeing how our team continues to take to her. On Tuesday evening, I marveled at the fact that I am a member of a school that hosts weekly yoga classes. But why is that not the norm? Recent studies have shown that school which prescribe meditation/yoga in lieu of detention/suspension are experiencing phenomenal results.
Our Presidential Election Quest continues to gain strength at an exciting pace. Groups were created with each member having a very specific role and purpose. There is the Designer/Builder responsible for a voting/electing process, the Debater for public speaking and candidate information, and the Marketer/Security who is in charge of the campaign and its promotion and safety. The beauty here is that not only are the members of each group working towards their common goal, but each teammate can conference with members of another group who share their same role. It’s become apparent that we have a future (honorable) politician or two in our presence.
By Friday, our team was deserving of a change of scenery. We spent our time after lunch at Church Alley Coffee Bar, writing and sipping tea and coffee like the young philosophers that we are. A huge thank you goes to the folks who allowed us to take a walk over and spend a few hours in their presence. I look forward to this becoming a walk once or twice a week with the teammates who earn this Freedom Level.
My highlight of the week was Wednesday night. The opportunity to hold a huddle and have a Socratic debate with the parents of our team was nothing short of amazing. With a turn out that strong, it’s no wonder that we’re destined to succeed. Secondly, being able to hear additional perspectives allows the insight necessary for us at NOLA Micro Schools to continually grow. Nothing is more vital to us as Guides. Nothing is taken more seriously.
I’m not sure if I find it ironic, humorous, absurd, or...that I may possibly be viewed by our teammates as a guide. Not in the sense of a NOLA Micro Schools Guide, but as an actual source of guidance. An adult. A figure who is older, assumed to be wiser, and is here to lead because he clearly has all of the answers. A supposition such as this wouldn’t typically be far-fetched for a young adult in Middle School to make. But we’re not typical Middle Schoolers here.
This past week has been one where our team has seemingly found our stride. The week began and ended in strong fashion due to many positives, one of which was P.E. with Coach Josh on Monday and Friday. In spite of limited outdoor space and the ever-present rainstorms, he has managed to do a great job. Our week was also bookended with discussions of Justice, filled with conversations of its subvirtues (teamwork, leadership, and fairness) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Excellent points were brought up pertaining to equity; discrimination based on gender, race, and age; and our preferred qualities in a leader.
With an opportunity to practice what we preach, our team effortlessly stepped-up to design, organize, and manage our studio space. Beginning Monday, I was beyond impressed with the teamwork demonstrated and those who assumed leadership roles to complete this task. By Wednesday, we were comfortably settled in to our newly constructed setting and it’s been taken care of every day since. Kudos to the team for living in and moving throughout the space but returning it to a clean state at the end of each day.
The big hit of this week was our Chromebooks. Each teammate established their Points Tracker program, Padlet account, and Khan Academy profile on their Chromebook and we’ve been off to the races ever since. Managing this many platforms is no easy feat, and there will be more to come. This isn’t, however, anything that we don’t believe our teammates can’t handle. Our primary focus will continue to be emphasizing goal setting. By Thursday and Friday, we were not only entering daily goals on Points Tracker specific to academic subjects, but also our goals dealing with character. Our Running Partners were heavily involved in this process. They viewed our Points Tracker, offered insight or ask questions, held us accountable and by week’s end, they had already looked ahead to next week. This will set us up for the future in the best way possible.
I look forward to all of the lovely emails that I’m likely to receive for this next item...we’ve been introduced to our Election Quest. While this will culminate in the team hosting and tabulating the (pre)results of the presidential election on November 8th, we have numerous objectives to complete between now and then. I eagerly anticipate the research that our team will need to do in order to present the facts to the general public in our community. What will this look like? Informational flyers and posters? Speeches and debates? We have also begun to look ahead to the voting process itself. How do we allow a good flow to the voting public while keeping a high standard of privacy? What can we do to prevent voter fraud? These questions will need to be address during the voting booth design and build process. Why bother with an endeavor so elaborate when a simple class vote can be taken by a show of hands? Who better than us - the youth and future - to step up and take responsibility for our community?
So what happened this week? We’ve continued to find our voice; we’ve been gaining confidence in our choices. Going forward, we’re going to be challenged continually. Up to this point when that has happened, each teammate has responded in stellar fashion. And I’m the supposed source of guidance?! Therein lies the irony. We need not be older in order to be wiser. I personally find that inspiration is easily felt in this atmosphere of justice-driven Middle School teammates, be it together as a team or the moments when each stands as a leader. I do not say that lightly. I feel no reservation in looking at them as a source of guidance. Humorous, isn’t it?
When The Unexpected Happens...
Over the previous week, I've been fortunate enough to witness unexpected changes in our team. As one would imagine, tasking the teammates with the duty of devising and implementing a system that governs our studio space and holds us accountable was no easy assignment. There were the obvious questions about consequences, the desire to be given direction, and disagreements during huddles. By mid-week the constant debates had taken their toll. I watched young, care-free, and playfully energetic children reverse to the opposing end of the spectrum. They craved order; they actually yearned for structure to be put in place in hopes of holding each other accountable for their actions.
All credit goes to our team. Each one of them had a moment where they took charge and accepted a leadership role. Whether it be voicing their opinion, standing up for something that they deemed just, or questioning any old, typical rule simply because it was used by other institutes in the past, no stone was left unturned during our conversations. As a guide, this was honestly a pivotal moment and one that I am proud had happened.
While this was a huge step forward for Middle School, new challenges still abound. Our teammates are beginning the initial access to their multiple digital academic platforms. They have been introduced to their Running Partner and have written contracts discussing what they can offer as well as what they need from each other. Finally, the teammates hosted in-depth discussions on our character trait of the week – humanity. For the record, the majority of our teammates do not believe that there are innate traits that only human beings possess in comparison to animals (this was an interesting surprise to me).
So where will be headed from here? With our NOLA Micro Schools contract signed and our guidelines in place, our teammates have now become empowered to hold each other accountable. Along with this structure, we now have our Running Partner – someone who will encourage us, offer a different perspective, and push us into our Challenge Zone. Our new shift in focus will primarily deal with our educational platforms, introducing the core skill badges, and unveiling our Presidential Election Quest. And our character trait this week is justice, rightfully so.
While I'm uncertain of what will take place as our team works towards Friday, what I am sure of is this...the atmosphere, and those I share it with, is absolutely one of the most intriguing things that I've ever been a part of.
The Choice is Yours
Diversity. What is it? I ask that in more than just the "How does Merriam-Webster define diversity?" kind of way. What are real-world examples of diversity? Are there positives and negatives that one can experience in a diverse situation? Does diversity even matter, and if so, is it worth seeking out?
With the thirteenth day of school now in our past, the teammates and I have already experienced a multitude of diverse circumstances. Each of us is a product of a dissimilar situation. Their past is not mine and mine, not theirs. Nor are our hometowns, families and friends, interests, stimuli, and our Hero's Journey. And yet we do share at least one thing in common - our time in the NOLA Micro Schools studio. This, as one could expect, can potentially lead to conflict (which all of the teammates know who takes joy in this).
With conflict however, comes challenge. With challenge, comes a moment of decision-making. Do I give up now or do I persevere? And our team had many opportunities to give up this week. Our Lip Dub quest was frightening to some. Understandably so. It takes a brave person to dance and sing in front of a camera. Even more so when your entire team is watching and running around you. Did I mention that we were also navigating through the entire space of the Dryades Public Market? It's called "public" for a reason; people were everywhere!
We also created our student contract. We had open discussions about that which sets us up best on our Hero's Journey. Different opinions and different suggestions were plentiful. Before Friday however, drafts were created, debates were had, and a final student contract was penned. Faced with another moment to decide, our teammates had to question themselves on how they truly felt. I am sincerely proud to say that each and every teammate signed the contract to pursue a future with NOLA Micro Schools.
Each day of the past week was challenging. Because our team is so diverse, so are their thought-processes. This can create conflict and may put us in our Challenge Zone (perhaps even our Panic Zone). It would have been so easy to give up, quit, or accept defeat. But we don't subscribe to fixed mindsets here. Besides, the character trait of focus this week was not cowardice, but courage. Something that our teammates not only understand, but have lived.
So is it worth seeking out diversity? Well, how much does bravery matter to you?
I invite you to stay tuned in order to witness more of this beautiful chaos unfold!
Off to the races...
Wednesday the 24th; our sixth day of school. As one would expect, the past few days have been filled with laughter and moans, smiles and tears, energy and exhaustion...and that's just been my experience! Our teammates - both new and returning - have been much more brave than I.
Honestly, I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to be part of the noble endeavor that is NOLA Micro Schools. I find that I've spent the days in constant awe. I've witnessed struggles, camaraderie, overwhelming emotions, and absolutely surprising breakthroughs. Outside of school, I've done nothing but brag to friends and family about how I sincerely believe I'm part of something that truly matters. And it must be intriguing, as they consistently inquire as to how each day has gone. As I see it, there are three reasons for this school's great sense of purpose: our teammates, our families, and our community - the adhesive holding us all together. Each piece of the puzzle is vital to what we are attempting to accomplish here, and I can't wait to see what potential the future holds.
Yesterday, I reflected on our teammates saying that they were "so unique". I was quickly corrected. Our teammates are geniuses, individuals, little balls of energy and potential. No different than any other child out in the world really. What IS unique is our approach to foster that genius, to care for each as an individual, and to ignite that energy and potential. And that is made possible by our families; your belief and faith deserves an enormous "thank you!".
So here's to all that lies ahead on our journey. We will undoubtedly have our ups and downs on this rollercoaster, but I excitedly look forward to the entire ride along side everyone! Please stay tuned to see all that our talented teammates are capable of this school year!
Worth a thousand words!