Wednesday, April 20, 2011

CASA Project wraps up

Monday was our last meeting for the CASA Project for the school district. We started out with several groups reading books and forming book clubs. We met three times and gave suggestions for ways the district can close the achievement gap based on the books we read. The fourth meeting was centered around an action plan, and specific ways to change what is happening in the district to better serve at-risk students.

I have learned a lot, and enjoyed sitting in those rooms with so many interesting, passionate, dedicated and intelligent people. My hope is that the work we did will make a difference in the lives of educators, administrators, and especially the children and youth who are struggling to achieve success.

I came away with a lot of insight and also some questions. I really believe we have to help students now who are having a hard time feeling a part of the school structure, and are not successful in school. But I also wonder if it's time to revisit who sets the standard for achievement and how it is measured.
Who decides what achievement is? Is the definition, which clearly is high test scores and good grades on a report card, still working for our children?

As a Montessori mom, and one who used the materials to homeschool, I have a different view of success and achievement. I really don't think a test score or report card is a true measure of a child's knowledge.
One of our suggestions for closing the achievement gap was to allow schools to make their own decisions about their needs. Districts want to make the most of the dollars they have, and I get that, but our children need a different approach from the cookie cutter mentality.

What works well for one school, such as an extended day, may not work at all for another school across town where the demographics are completely different. A recurring suggestion was student voice. It was one that came out early, and so the fourth meeting included students from a nearby high school. One of them sat in on my group the last night of the project.

I suggested that giving students a voice needs to happen early. It is already happening in Montessori schools, but the climate of the traditional classroom needs to change to be more of a collaboration between the teacher and the student, so the students feel empowered and responsible for their own education.

Another recommendation was to genuinely care about and accept each child. Everyone in a school must have a real interest in each child's background, culture, needs and abilities.
It's what I would hope for every child who walks into a school building. Unfortunately, I don't think it happens often enough.

There are so many things that can be done to right this wrong--students who are failing and dropping out. If I had to sum it up into a few words I'd say this: Always come from a position of love. When we come from a position of love into any situation the transformation that occurs is amazing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Island Hop

So on Friday we took off for Vashon Island to see the bicycle in the tree.
We've been wanting to see this for a while. We've been reading a book by Berkeley Breathed, "Red Ranger Came Calling," for a few years. You can read about it and other Berkeley Breathed books here. 
I've blogged about this before, and our excursion to Seattle to see the play based on the book put on by Book-It Theatre. (Lots of fun!!)
You can read more about Book-It Repertory Theatre here.
Since reading the book and seeing the play this Christmas we've talked about exploring Vashon to find the bicycle. Last week Chuck was off, I had a little bit of time, and Lilly was here for a few extra days. It was the perfect time to go.
The weather was awesome! We've had a lot of rain, but Friday was beautiful.
If you ever get to Vashon and want to see the bicycle, go to the left as you exit the ferry and keep going until you come to a stop sign. Stop at the little store on the left side of the road for directions.
We pulled into the parking lot of an old broken down building and the bicycle was in the forest behind that building.
Here's a little tour in pictures:
Almost ready to dock on Vashon Island.

A tiny creek, or wet area, you must pass over to get to the tree with the bike.
There it is. Real. And old.

Lunch break.

We went to see the lighthouse on Maury Island.
It was closed until May. We did enjoy the beach.
Sean loves it. He'd rather be on the beach than anywhere, I think.
He found some friends.
Lilly found some ladybugs.
I found this really cool log to photograph.
This container ship passed by and created big waves.
The kids played in the surf and got completely soaked and filthy.
Lilly opted out of that kind of fun.
We had a great day. We left the car below and went up on deck
to enjoy some scenery.
The ferry ride was short and a bit breezy.