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First Day of School: Anastasis Academy #standagain

Today was one for the books.  We did it! We opened a school with a radical new vision for what a school should look like in light of learning.  It was a truly great day! Of course there were some bumps (that is to be expected with ANY first day of school) but I have to say, when you surround yourself with incredible people it is hard to go wrong.  When I say that we built a dream team it is not an exaggeration.  These are true teachers, masters at what they do because each of them is a linchpin.  They don’t wait around for someone to tell them what to do, they exude greatness and encourage the same in their students. We started our day the way we will start every day at Anastasis Academy, with a community mile walk.  We call this a community walk because families are invited to do it with us.  Every family joined us today.  I know that won’t be the case every day but it was an incredible start to the year to see a whole community walk together. After the walk, the community gathered for a blessing for the year from our Board Members.  These are people who have poured into us and mentored us in so many ways.  We couldn’t be where we are without our board and the people it represents. Today there were discussions about community, what it means to properly manage freedom and how to be a friend.  The children are incredibly perceptive and these discussions led to some pretty profound insights from the students.  One fourth grader noted “Freedom requires a lot of responsibility.”  Students seemed to grasp that freedom doesn’t mean that we get to do whatever we want when we want to.  It requires something of us.  There were discussions about what this freedom looks like within our school community, what this freedom looks like in learning and what this freedom looks like in our technology use with the iPads. The iPads are still a novelty for many of the students.  They wanted to do EVERYTHING on the iPads all at once because they could.  “Let’s play a game, listen to music, and have a video going all at once!!”  I suspect that the novelty will wear off as students come to realize that the iPad isn’t just a once-in-a-while privileged but something that they can learn with all the time.  One of my favorite moments of the day was when some eighth grade boys came up from lunch having an argument about which was bigger: a liter or a gallon.  Their first instinct wasn’t to use their iPads and Google the answer, but to ask an adult.  They are still in the mindset that adults hold all of the knowledge of the world.   It was a great time for us to shrug our shoulders and remind them that they had the whole world at their fingertips and could discover the answer themselves. We had some fun whole-school activities built into the day.  Before school each teacher wrote 10 things about themselves.  Each item was printed out on a separate piece of paper.  These were spread out on the floor and students were to choose an item and match it to the teacher they thought it belonged to.  Each teacher stood in a different corner and the students set off trying to match talents, passions and fears to the correct teacher.  After they had correctly placed all of the items, each teacher took a moment to go through their stack, introducing themselves to the students.  The kids asked great follow-up questions and were excited that many of their own passions, interests and fears were reflected in those leading them in learning this year.  It was so much fun to see students faces light up when teachers said things like “I love Star Wars” or “I love to play basketball”.  They begged for proof when we shared secret talents “touching our tongue to our nose”.  They shared a special bond when they found out that even adults have fears. (Mine is taxidermy-true story.) Because we are in a brand new building, we had to come up with a way of helping kids find things like bathrooms, drinking fountains, classrooms, playgrounds, lunchroom, etc.  I thought a scavenger hunt would be a fun way to do this.  Since I am a HUGE geek, I decided to do this techy style with QR codes.  Each team (classroom) got 10 QR codes that led them to clues with each student in charge of one clue.  Students downloaded the free Scan app and scanned the QR codes to receive a clue.  As a team, they worked together to solve the clue to find different areas in the building.  When they solved the clue they took a picture of the answer using the camera app.  At the end of the hunt, students added up their points.  All ages had fun with the hunt! I deemed the day a success when, at the end of the day, I overheard siblings use their iPad to FaceTime with their dad.  He asked how the first day was and both answered, “great! We had fun!”.  The first grader went on to enthusiastically tell her dad about the scavenger hunt that she went on and the pictures that she took.  The seventh grader added some additional details about how the QR codes worked.  Both talked about relationships with teachers and students.  To have that on the first day of a new school is telling.  We have a great team. Passwords may have been missing, permissions needed to be configured but all in all it was a fantastic success!  I can’t wait to see what the year brings. Onward.

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Dance Lessons for Zombies: Redesigning the Report Card

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 05-03-2013

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5

|Kelly Tenkely|

One of the byproducts of starting your own model of education: the old systems constantly fall short.  They start to feel forced, frustrating and tired.  The hard part is that SOMETHING is needed, but what others have in place isn’t it.

So you start dreaming.  You try to leave assumptions of what it “should” be like behind.  You work to imagine something new and different.  Something that fills the need in the right way.

It seems like every corner we turn we have to reinvent.  Anastasis needs a way to organize and keep track of student information…easy!  We will hunt down a student information system, there are a million to choose from!  [This is the part where we hit a brick wall.]  There may be a million student information systems to choose from, but none of them fits our needs.  None is flexible enough to use the way we need to use it.  They make assumptions based on a system that we aren’t a part of.  So, we come up with our own solution.  We mash-up tools that were never designed to do what we do with them.  We make them bend to our will.  Eventually, I’ll just create my own solution (The Learning Genome Project), and it will do just what we need it to because it was designed apart from the assumptions.

The most recent challenge: redesign the report card.  This may seem like a simple task.  It has been anything but simple!  This has been going an ongoing challenge for us.  We redesigned the learning experience from the ground up.  We don’t give grades, at least not in the traditional sense.  So then, how do you help parents come to understand everything that happens in the 8 hours that their children are with us every day?  How do you show them the richness of learning, the uniqueness of their child, without reducing it to a score in a handful of “essential” areas?  How do you change a culture who seeks validation that their child is “smart” based on a piece of paper that comes home four times a year?  How do you help them really understand the difference in philosophy if the reporting looks the same?

This is a challenge because what makes us learners is so wonderfully complex.  It isn’t only about math, reading, writing, science, social studies and art.  At Anastasis, we are in the business of helping students “Stand Again” (the Greek translation of Anastasis), to become fully alive in who they are as unique individuals contributing to the fabric of the world.  Our reporting has to reflect this.  Obviously, your typical report card isn’t going to cut it.  We’ve looked high and low for a ready-made solution.  It doesn’t seem to exist.

On Wednesday mornings, we have a late-start for our students.  This gives the staff great time to come together and tackle these daunting tasks.  We talk often about all of the incredible things that we see in our learners every day.  We wonder over the phenomena of parents just wanting to know what their grade would be…you know, if they had one.  What they are really asking is: “is my child going to be okay?  Are they going to do well in life?”  The grade they are seeking doesn’t really answer those questions. As teachers we know that if a child is in an emotionally hard place, or doesn’t have the attitudes and habits of learning built up, they won’t perform to the fullest in math/reading/writing/science/social studies.  It isn’t about them just knowing their math facts, they also have to have the spirit of risk-taking, the discernment to know which operation to apply to a problem, the perseverance to stick with a problem they don’t immediately know the answer to, etc.  We want SO much more for children than for them to recite math facts by memory.  We want them to be fully ALIVE as learners.  We dreamed, we made list after list of what we want graduating students to look like.  We drew pictures. We laughed (a lot). We got frustrated that it wasn’t simpler.

Over the last week, I’ve taken those notes, scribbles, drawings and lists and drew up a report card.  It looks very little like any report card you’ve probably seen.  It isn’t perfect. I suspect it will go through some evolution.  Our main objective is to help communicate that we are teaching amazing, unique beings.  In the center you will see my crude version of the Vitruvian Man. I love the blend of disciplines that daVinci revealed.  There is a sort of perfection in the overlap…it looks a lot like life.  We stuck with the Greek theme, and used ethos, pathos, mythos and logos to help us describe different parts of a child.  In true Anastasis fashion, we made up our own Greek-inspired word, Pneumos, to show the creative force…the “life-breathed” spiritual aspect of a child.  Below is our re-imagined report card.  I’m still working on the second page that includes definitions of each word listed in our circle.  In addition, we use standards-based-grading and a variety of rubrics.  Our standards-based-grades are a little different (surprise!), our goal is forward progress through learning, standards gives us a framework for this to happen.  We don’t stick within grade levels.  Sometimes second grade students are ready for fifth grade standards.  We say, “have at it!”


We are really working toward changing a culture.  I like to think of it as dance lessons for zombies.  As a culture we seemed to be immersed in systems.  We take them for granted and let them dictate our every move.  Systems can be good, they can bring order and rationality.  But they can also stifle and keep us from really living.  They can make us look a whole lot like zombies.  We are working to make learning look more like life.  We are working toward helping learners “stand again” in who they were created to be. To dance.

Comments (5)

I am really looking forward to taking a peek at that format, but the Issu link seems to be broken :-(

It should show up embedded right in the post (desktop version is working anyway!)

Tried it on my desktop and got to it – thanks :-)

I absolutely love your futuristic report card, even if it will evolve. I have created a standards-based report card for use with my fourth graders, and really appreciate the feedback I am able to provide. However, it hasn’t had the best parent feedback- even with definitions of the scoring system and student-specific comments included, some parents just want a traditional report card with a single letter grade. Helping parents realize the big ideas of your third-to-last paragraph is a powerful step in changing current assessment methods. Thanks for this!

We have found the same with the standards based reports that we currently use. There is SO much more information and it is richer, and more accurate to where a child is in their learning. And yet- it is still just a portion of the story. We are really working to communicate to parents that teaching the whole child is SO much more than just did they turn their homework in. To only report the latter is to do a disservice to the child.

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