My week back on campus is quickly coming to an end. It is hard to believe that I have only been in Mt. Pleasant since this past Sunday, and in a few days head back out to California. And perhaps even harder to believe that I have officially started this journey towards a new way of thinking.
Speaking of a new way of thinking, today was an enlightening day. In my group I served as the moderator for an interesting exercise - talking about the role of governance and emergency management, through the eyes of philosophers of old. Our group shared insight through the lens of Ben Franklin, Francis Bacon, Immanual Kant, Zeno, Confucius, and Descartes. We talked about the type of governance these individuals would endorse, what role the state should play in education, whether public education is too big to fail, and a curve ball, their reaction to the current state of education in Michigan. What you see through this exercise is the difficulty it is to see the world around you in a restrictive lens. They could only base their responses based on what they knew at that time. It shows what it really means to bring the world into perspective.
A question I posed on twitter was, who are the philosophers of our time? Feel free to answer here or on twitter.
We also spent some time reflecting on tribal leadership, power and influence, and the five (5) components of social change. These are all based on perception, really, and how you interact and react to those perceptions. Where one individual may see a certain type of power, another may view it completely differently. What is important here in understanding the many types of power and influence, and the ways they impact social change.
This week has stretched some of my beliefs, and opened up my eyes to other beliefs. I know this new journey is going to challenge the way I think and the way I see the world around me. I am thrilled to be on this journey, to learn and grow with my cohort of scholars, and see how we are able to shape the world around us.
Day 3 is officially in the books! A recurring theme this week has been to start the morning with a brain tease and today was no different, except we did not actually go over our responses. Perhaps this was a good thing, as this one challenged me the most out of any so far this week. I did tweet it out earlier; feel free to give it a try!
There were a few key focus areas for today's class: systems thinking and looking at idealism verses realism. With systems thinking, we watched "The Water of Ayole," which is a story from Togo in West Africa. The focus was on, you guessed it, water. A quick background ... at one time, women would carry up to 80 pounds of water from the river back to their village, which was 10-12 miles a day. And this water was not healthy. In fact, 1,000 or so children died annually, some due to Guiana worm. The state eventually got involved and installed water pumps, but did not train villagers on how to use them nor repair them. So when they broke, there was no one to repair them. The systems piece comes when there was a review of the 'why' here and changes made.
It was a moving video. I encourage folks to watch it, as my very brief summary does not do it justice, other than to tease it to encourage you to watch it. My main take-a-way from it was that technology alone does not solve the problem. There is much more that is involved, primarily buy-in from stakeholders and an ownership of the system and/or process. Otherwise, it will fail, as you will see in the video.
We also spent some time this morning talking about idealism and realism. It was fun to work with Brad and Travis on crafting our school based on a idealist educational philosophy. Our school ended us being an independent study, growth based school, where scholars would come and go as they please to learn what they wanted to learn. Why? Because every aspect of life has been achieved by perfection, meaning everything we create is perfection and every obstacle is overcome by perfection. This school hones those skills to be perfect, with teachers serving as mentors, guides, and facilitators. It would be the ideal for a self-directed learner, though it may not work for those who need a structure to follow. Or who need to know the expected outcomes.
I actually thought I was more of a realist as we started the day, but do believe I am more of an idealist. Not that I am perfect, but that I do not need structure to grow. I grow because I can and because I am driven to do so. I do believe that we are in control of our future and we need to take ownership for the now and the then.
Day 2 is officially in the books ... and it was a long one at that! Similar to yesterday, we started our morning with an IQ Test, this time it was "10 Brainteasers To Test Your Mental Sharpness" which was a blog post in Forbes on September 8, 2016. I must say, I was able to answer correctly several more than on Monday morning. My favorite today:
Which is correct to say, "The yolk of the egg is white" or "The yolk of the egg are white?"
Did you answer is correctly? I'll admit that I did not ... yolks are yellow, not white! This was a great way to open the mind for the day. We spent the morning reviewing what is sure to be the go-to manual for the next several years, the "Publican Manual of the American Psychological Association." Who knew there were so many rules to writing. I did, actually, but there are a number of rule books out there, including APA, MLA, Chicago and a few others. In my academic career, I have used each and will need to clear my mind to ensure my writing follows APA. What I like most about APA is the understanding that writing should be clear, concise and to the point. I used to use a lot of fluff in my writing, to meet page length requirements, and thanks to Twitter, and of course the APA manual, have been able to be more direct in my writing.
Another major feature of the morning was on the role of theory in research. Theory becomes the tool in research, and there are many theories out there. I am excited to learn about a handful and narrow down to two to use to answer my question. What is my question you may be asking? I am asking myself the same thing! I am interested in a few things ... potentially the effects of different charter authorizing structures and its impact on academic outcomes of scholars, or perhaps virtual schools and what strategies support scholar achievement. A quote from a video we watched does put this work into perspective ... "Have fun with your paper" which was shared by Michael Strange from Denmark. I shall try!
We also watched an impactful video clip on "Leadership and the New Science," based on the work of Dr. Wheatley. Basically this is on chaos theory, and that order can appear out of chaos. I shared a few tweets on some of the key parts of the film, and am trying to get the clip to watch again, and share with my leadership team. It truly was moving. And helps to put some things into perspective. In the back of my head, too, I was thinking about one of my favorite SciFi shows, Babylon 5, which was centered around order and chaos as a running theme throughout the series. In the end of the show, it was not one or the other, but both, which are needed for balance and growth. Seems true in real life too - this need to have a mixture of chaos and order.
Day 1 is officially in the books! It was a rough start, with limited coffee, as we engaged in an I.Q. Test. This particular test asked participants to decipher hidden meanings in various word sets. (I say rough start, now, as the coffee had not yet kicked in and this test stretched the mind!) My favorite set, and one I still laugh about, is:
N N N N N N
A A A A A A A
C C C C C C C
Did you answer is correctly? It's 7-Up cans! I bet I could have guessed correctly had I finished my coffee first. This was a great exercise, though, to see that there are many ways to look at the world around us. As a doctoral scholar, and a scholar in general, it will be (is) important to look at all the angles of a topic, article, test, etc. There will be many meanings to be found. Part of the day touched on the dissertation. While I am nervous, I am equally excited to think through a question that is burning on my mind that I would like to answer. Of course, what makes me nervous is not simply answering that question, but backing it up with 100-150 sources of peer-reviewed information, and testing the answer to my question. Right now I am looking at charter school accountability, or perhaps something centered around online learning. Both are related to my own professional path, and are questions that not only do I have, but others in the community have.
Something that will challenge my throughout this process, and beyond, is critical reading. There is a process to follow here and I am not used to this process. I jump right in to the reading, as opposed to previewing, then skimming, then summarizing, etc. Of course I am open to learning a new way of learning, and of reading, I am simply aware of my fears and potential limitations.
An ah-ha moment, thanks to Travis, was from 'The Zen of Archery.' As a cohort (thanks Dr. Klocko) we watched a short film and talked briefly about that film. Just like this zen, the process of going through the doctoral program will be just that - a process. It is important to gather information and learn from that information along the way, to grow and to support that burning question we are striving to answer. The film highlights a respect for process, which is something I will be mindful of as I go about this journey. It is a journey, and there will be bumps along the way, but what is important is to stay on the path, respect the process, and be open to help along the way.
Today was orientation for CMU's Ed.D. program! Over the past two weeks I have been mentally preparing for this moment, a return to CMU to finish my educational journey. Of course this step would not have been possible without the support of my peers at San Diego State, where I recently finished my M.Ed. program, along with the support of my Compass team, and most importantly, my family. The journey continues with a new group of peers in cohort 22.
As I flew back to Michigan from LA, I started reading some of the materials for our first course, EDL 899, which is the Doctoral Seminar. Luckily I had two flights back to Michigan (luckily so I could grab a coffee during my layover in Salt Lake City), which allowed me to read and pace my reading for the upcoming week. I spent time on my first flight looking over the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association." While not one to tab pages, it was suggested by our professor and so I did use three different colors of tabs to check back on. Blue was used for some of the high points, such as the changes that were made to this edition, especially with the changes in the use of technology to conduct research. Two important parts for me, as someone who struggles to Tweet in 140 characters or less, and also adds in fluff to my writing, I was reminded that "the optimal length of a manuscript is the number of pages needed to effectively communicate the primary ideas of the study, review, or theoretical analysis" (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010). I was also reminded to "say only what needs to be said." I used yellow tabs to remind me of the location of the various checklists within the publication, and pink for those sections which will help with citations and referencing citations in my future writing.
There is more reading in store for this week. In addition to number articles, including one I am excited to read ("Credentials Versus Performance: Review of the Teacher Performance Pay Research" by Michael Podgursky and Matthew Springer), I will be reading "Education and Social Change: Contours in the History of American Schooling" by John Rury. If this program is anything like San Diego State's, these materials, and the discussion with my cohort, will help expand my thinking greatly and will challenge me in ways I could never have imagined. I know I will be able to grow if I am open-minded to change and growth, and if I am, Compass Charter Schools and the organizations I support will benefit.
Today was a great day, especially getting to know my new cohort. A special thanks to Dr. Dani from the Leadership Institute and her staff from Leadership Safari. We spent time getting to know each other in unique ways, which I know will help us come together and allow us to support one another along this journey. The doctoral path is a long path, a challenging path, and it's important to know we are here to support one another. I also took a photo in the room where one of our activities took place, which is a quote from Jesse Jackson: "Never Look Down on Anybody Unless You're Helping Them Up." I think that speaks well for this journey we are starting. We are here to support one another, learn from one another, and grow together.
This will be challenging. It will take balance, determination, support, struggle, celebration, and reflection to be successful. I cannot wait to see what the future holds, what my future holds, thanks to this new chapter.
Hello CCS Family!
I sincerely hope you have all been enjoying your summer break. This week all of the Compass Charter Schools (CCS) staff members are participating in our Annual in-person CCS All-Staff Retreat to prepare for the upcoming school year. The back-to-school season is here and I am truly looking forward to what lies ahead for our returning and new scholars. This month, I thought it would be best to share some advice on how to prepare for the new school year. Here are a few ways that scholars and their families can prepare for success:
Prepare Your Learning Area
CCS is an independent study program that allows scholars to learn outside of a traditional classroom. In preparation for the new school year, I recommend that scholars choose a designated learning area and organize their school supplies. While scholars may not necessarily work from their designated learning area each day, it’s serves as a reliable, familiar place to use and complete school work.
To prepare the learning space, I recommend that scholars choose a quiet, clean area with a table or desk to work on. It’s also helpful if the chosen learning area has room for a bookshelf or file cabinet to hold books, notebooks, folders, and other school supplies. Lastly, it can be helpful to hang a bulletin board in the learning space where scholars can display their schedule, completed class projects and other academic achievements.
Create a Schedule
Scholars in an independent study program have the flexibility to create a custom learning schedule. I suggest that scholars and their families work together to create their own schedule before school starts. Creating a learning schedule allows scholars to plan ahead and reserve an ample amount of time for learning and class assignments.
CCS allows scholars to learn at different times of the day and during different days of the week. Is your family taking a vacation during the upcoming school year? Or does your scholar have a busy schedule because of personal commitments? It’s important to answer these questions before the new school year begins. Planning and creating a learning schedule is a great way to help scholars prepare for a successful school year.
Organize Your Materials
Before school begins, it’s important for scholars to organize their learning materials. I believe that organizing school supplies ahead of time can help scholars feel more prepared for the new school year. I encourage all of CCS’ scholars to prepare and organize their folders, notebooks, pens, pencils, and other materials before the first day of school. (I myself am starting a new educational program and have organized my home office space with binders and notebooks for each of my classes, which start next week.) Families in our Options program, or homeschooling, should work with their Education Facilitator to select the right curriculum before the first day of school. Scholars in our Online program should prepare their school laptops and make sure all of the necessary software programs are installed. Scholars and their families should contact the CCS IT Department with any questions regarding their school computers. Organizing and preparing school supplies gives scholars quick and easy access to the materials they need for a seamless transition into the new school year.
Review Your Classes & Curriculum
CCS scholars are encouraged to review their selected classes and curriculum choices for the upcoming school year. Options families have the ability to choose the curriculum that best suits their scholar. I encourage each Options family to review their curriculum choice and ask their Educational Facilitator any questions they may have about curriculum and our approved vendors. And if you have any recommendations on potential vendors that we should research, please do share that with us!
After much preparation, I am truly looking forward to the launch of CCS’ new partnership with StrongMind, a robust online curriculum provider for middle and high school scholars in our Online program. StrongMind will come with a variety of new, wonderful features that will allow scholars and their families to enjoy a smoother learning experience. Later this month, these scholars will learn how to use StrongMind and be able to select their classes for the upcoming school year. We have a number of course introduction videos on our YouTube channel that I encourage you to view. We also have a number of tutorials available on our new Parent Scholar Portal and Learning Management System. We will continue to share more information on our new systems as we get closer to our first day of classes, which are Tuesday, September 5. Be on the lookout for information on our virtual Welcome Back Nights, where we will ensure our scholars are prepared for a successful year!
Overall, there are several ways for scholars and families to prepare for the upcoming school year. The upcoming year will bring many exciting changes that will allow CCS to continue to develop innovative, creative, and self-directed learners. The back-to-school season is a special time and I am truly looking forward to the year that lies ahead! Welcome back!
J.J. Lewis - a blog sharing the journey throughout SDSU's MA.EL. program.