Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Where's My Lightsaber?

"Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."
―Obi-Wan Kenobi 
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
I'm not truly a fan of Star Wars, but I feel that Obi-Wan makes a great point.  I like the use of the word cling.  Educators, being human, are known for being stubborn and resisting change.  Our building worked on NEASC reports today and that required us to collect evidence from our coworkers.  During the many conversations I had surrounding parent engagement and outreach, I began thinking about point-of-view.  From one perspective, there is no effort being made to reach out to disengaged parents simply because one time an email bounced back and there was no return call from the parent.  Another perspective was that parents are actively engaged and will reach out on their own, without initial effort by the teacher.  My personal experience has been that the more a family struggles to maintain a household, the less engaged they are in their child's schooling; that does not mean the family doesn't wish to be more engaged. Is any point-of-view less valid than any other?  How do we help each other understand things from another perspective without having to give up what we know to be true?

Friday, October 7, 2011

My View Has a Backhoe

The MSBA and MHS are working together to build a new town high school.  The site is behind the existing building, and right outside my classrooms.  We have a never ending view of the deforestation, digging, and blasting.  Due to the nature of my students, I was concerned that the construction would be a continuous distraction.  They were unhappy to see all the trees go down, but have since dismissed all the commotion as par for the course. 

Having the opportunity to sit with the architects and administration to design the physical setup of our new program area was one of the most exciting opportunities I've had here at MHS.  After years of running alternative education programs in less-than rooms and areas, I was thrilled to have the chance to communicate where the walls needed to be, how the time-out space should be structured, and what appliances went where. 

It is easy to underestimate the importance of physical space in the classroom. My program can only have at most 10 students, but we have double the space of most 25 pupil classes.  Due to the volatile nature of my students, having space to spread out is a necessary safety component.  Restraints are not common, in fact, in my two years at MHS they have not been necessary, but allowing a student to de-escalate away from her peers helps to keep things safe.