A few thoughts from Day 1

Tuesday was our first day at the Workshop. The weather didn’t exactly cooperate but we got off to a great start. This is largely due to our students, who brought a great attitude and energy to their first day with us.

It is way too early to pretend to have any real handle on how this will all shake out, but it was both fun and fascinating to listen to (and participate in) our initial conversations. We largely focused on some basic but important questions, such as:

  • Who are we as a community, and what interests and talents do we bring to the table?
  • What makes school work? What makes it not work?
  • What makes a good teacher?
  • What makes a good student?

A few highlights from our discussion:

  • We are amazingly diverse. Among our 30 students, we speak about 30 languages. We have an incredible amount to learn from each other.
  • We like technology, sports, cooking, and the arts. When discussing what we enjoy doing, few people mentioned reading. That doesn’t mean our students don’t like to read, of course, but it was not the first thing on most of their minds.
  • We are smart. Which means our students are ready to dive in to challenging work, but also that they have little patience for what they see as busy work, or for people condescending to them. So not surprisingly…
  • We have a bit of a rebellious streak. When discussing what was good about school, a few students put “cutting class” on the list.

A big part of what we will be doing in these first weeks is creating and shaping our culture. So it’s no surprise that we’re all trying to figure out what our norms, values, and expectations are. What happens, for example, when a student flips open their phone during a discussion to text someone? In a typical school this is simple: no cell phones is the rule. Maybe we will arrive at that same conclusion. But I can’t get through any meeting without at least one well-educated, adult professional doing the exact same thing. So what is the reason for the rule? How would it serve our values as a community?

The answer to that question is a work in progress. I don’t know quite how it will turn out. I do know that it will be based on what we decide as a community. And that our diverse, smart, and occasionally rebellious students are more than up to the task.