Well, folks, this time I had to hit the road without Marsha, but I was not alone. Twenty-nine (yes that is 29!) educators and community members from Pangburn and Lonoke joined me as the good times rolled again, this time in northwest Arkansas.
The Office of Innovation for Education puts together Learning Journeys for schools that are wanting to see what innovation looks like in “real schools” So, I did a shout out to Holt Middle School here in Fayetteville and to Pea Ridge School district to see if they would share their transformation stories. Once they were on board, I knew that Lonoke Schools and Pangburn were willing to make the 3-hour trip to see what kids were up to– so a journey was born! Yippee!
Let me just tell you about Holt. Holt Middle is pushing the boundaries of transforming learning every day. They have 20% of the week devoted to student personalized learning time. Teachers and students use the Husky Hub, an online tool for student profiles built by teachers at Holt for students, teachers, and parents to make learning more personal for their students and to help them manage the process. The entire school is divided into packs, named after Iditarod, Denali etc., which promote a feeling of belonging and unity in the school. The packs use Learning Spaces, Learner Qualities, and the Learning Pit to help their learners talk and learn about their own learning. Teachers and students use Student Seminars and Students teaching students via Flip Grid to learn and share learning. Teachers are moving toward standards-based grading as students, teachers and parents learn more about their own learning.
Culture ALERT! This school builds a sense of community in the Husky Den as a result of collaboration—GO HOLT!
Transparency is important and the administration, led by Lead Husky, Matt Morningstar, is learning how to personalize for faculty and staff as well as students. Marsha and I have watched this group of educators think and change in their practice over the past two years, and we know that great things are evolving here at Holt.
Heartwarming Moment. The young student at Holt who gave us the talk about the Husky Hub was really nervous but did a great job! He stretched himself in order to present this talk to 20 adults. His dad came to watch him give the talk. It was a proud moment all around!
As we think about parent participation and how to get parents involved, this genuine school/parent interaction is a great example of how to truly involve parents in witnessing their children’s learning–in the moment and just in time. The school provided an avenue for this Dad to see his son to shine as a learner (think AR Speaking and Listening Standards in ACTION!). Parents can’t miss this, and the culture of the school reflects this deep caring and respect for students and their families.
Pea Ridge just blew us away. The Nest in K-2 is a multi-grade and fluid grouping of students you won’t find in many places in Arkansas. It is a wonderful place to see the capabilities of our youngest students as teachers flex and personalize learning for each child.
Oh, The Places You’ll GO! The STEM work in the intermediate and middle schools allows every student to practice future-ready skills. At the other end of the K-12 spectrum, the PRMBA program for high school students provides hands-on experience with career and technical. This program exemplifies what can happen when an entire district has a career and community focus.
Pea Ridge could hold seminars, write a book on hosting groups, and providing hospitality for learning journeys–they are that expert! When I sent Rick Neal, Superintendent, a wish list for the visit, he said, “No problem,” and his team met every wish on our list. We visited all four schools in the district and observed classrooms in action, and talked to teachers and students along the way.
Personal Connection. Here I am, 65 years old, still loading the bus in search of learning! Rick and I go way back. He was a senior at Lincoln when I started teaching there. We were colleagues when he was in his coaching career, and we were mentored by many of the same people–Frank Holman and Ken Ramey to name a couple. I was proud to see Rick in charge of this district, providing leadership and networking for other leaders and kids in Arkansas.
Relationships in education are what keep the profession afloat. All over the state, Marsha and I come across people we have taught, people we have taught with, and people we are currently connecting with.
Pea Ridge is looking forward to the new high school which will open in 2020. Our Learning Journey group were “amazed” with how engaged, socially adept, and independent the students were as learners.
Another Heartwarming Moment. I sat down with three kindergarteners and shared that my dog had come home that morning after being gone for a week. Then the three kindergarteners told me all about their dogs and pets. I am so blessed to have these conversations with kids.