Friday, June 24, 2005

Alexia's Point

Alexia made a great point. What about foster kids and kids who have no opportunities? Along similar lines, I had been thinking about the cost of the school (as a starting point). I'd love for the school to be free. But that is unrealistic. So I thought about making tuition be a percentage of parent's income. That could work. I'd also like to offer bartering options. So parents who landscape could mow our lawns, farms can donate food, doctors could donate clinic hours or other benefits, etc. You get the point. So that could help some kids. But what if kids don't have guardians like that?? Good question. Well if tuition is a percentage of parent's income and they don't have parents, then it could be free or really low. But how would they get there and be supported through it all? We could have a certain number of slots for these kids and even offer housing. They would still have to be pretty motivated kids to go through the process of applying and wanting something different.

What about the kids who don't know there is anything different or who cannot even see that far ahead of themselves? We could have a program internally for foster kids, kind of like a school-based foster home. But what about kids with issues? Can we do anything for them or would it be disruptive? It is hard to pair genius kids with struggling ones in one class, but we shouldn't let their issues leave them behind. There is sometimes only so much we can do, but I don't want a school for smart kids. I want a school for motivated kids who need someone to believe in them and place to carry that out. What about the 6th grader who can't tell time? Do we have a track for struggling students? Can we afford one-on-one time in a private school setting with no government funding? Is any of this financially stable? Can kids with behavior issues possibly succeed in a do-it-yourself environment with many freedoms? I just don't know.

The bottom line is that I want this school to be accessible. Now kids who don't know they want something different, that's another question. Do we help kids see that they could be something better in a different environment? Should we take on major issues or some at least? How can we at least build bridges between the school and kids with issues in the community? Would that be beneficial to either side??

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Complete Recent Thought Process of the Genesis School (really long)

Original thought: middle school/high school mainly boarding. But then you have to deal with all the boarding crap that comes from that. Rich parents without any connection to their children and kids without enough supervision.

Maybe this is too intense for middle/high school. Maybe it should be a college. But, no. There are lots of creative options in colleges…the whole point is that there are few creative middle/high schools with individual foci.

So if it is not boarding then it needs to be near a city or metropolitan area with enough people to go to the school. We could open it up to anyone and have slots for boarding students or place boarding students with teacher families since the teachers would mostly live on the property anyway.

Side note: financially teachers would probably want to own their own houses…but what about resale? Financially if teacher’s owned their own houses then they would have an investment, but if people had to be teachers to live in those houses then it would be hard to resell them. But if the school owned the houses the teachers would not have investment or equity. Idea: what if when we buy the land in the first place we put in a development to raise the money for the building of the school where the teachers could live and anyone else. Then the teachers could be encouraged to live there (maybe the school could pay the downpayment if the teachers would agree to live in the housing development near the school) and could also be able to resell their house. And maybe the school could own a couple residences for those who did not want to own their own house. Interesting, but then how would students live with teachers? Would all the houses be big enough to have boarders in? Or should the school just own the houses and sell them to the teachers? Or the school could own a couple houses to rent, teachers could live in the development, or teachers could buy land from the school and build their own house, which the school could have first rights to buy later or it could be sold to someone else outside, like some of the houses in the development. Of course all the houses in the development would be sustainable, passive and active solar, energy efficient, really cool houses too…no cookie cutter houses please. So the housing development would almost be like a co-housing development if you were involved with the school…and maybe their could be a connection with the rest of the residents and the community of the school. Hmm…that would actually lead to a few too many meetings…residential and school community decisions…yikes.

Off the side note: let’s put the school where there are lots of people and put the boarding students in houses with teachers/staff for now.

OKAY…think circles. Think community. Maybe M-Th people could rotate to do community meals for all boarders and any other staff who wanted to with the help of the fulltime kitchen staff. And maybe Sunday night could be a big community meal for all staff and all boarders and any other students who wanted to come. Maybe with some talk and discussion afterwards. Friday and Sat something could be provided for the boarders, but not be teachers so they get a break. Family time maybe. Ben reminded me this morning that people need time for their own families too. True. I get so into the community stuff that I somehow forget that I like to be alone a lot of the time. Right….

I came up with a more detailed time schedule. You see, the daily schedule and housing arrangements speak to me more about what the vision of the school is more than writing a vision statement, although I should start that too. I need to start a list of words I want to describe the school.

Insane. Yeah maybe, but, hey, I’m just building ideas here!

Anyway, Daily Schedule: from 8-12:00 M-Th would be core classes: math, literature & writing, history, and science. 12-2:00 would be siesta, a time for Frisbee, napping, studying, eating, meeting informally, etc. 2-4:00 would be Personal Focus time, during which one day per week students would be working, one-three days per week be taking a specialized course or doing independent projects. 4-6:00 would be time for sports or just the end of the day. After 6:00 sometime would be community meals. NOW, Fridays would be different. Fridays would be work/community service…however you work it, four hours of each. This would be a prep, meet with students, organize fun things, etc. day for teachers. Saturdays would be time for special trips, conferences, etc. Sundays people could go to whatever church and then maybe have a meditation time in the afternoon followed by a big community meal (maybe day students would be required to attend 6 per session or something). With talk/discussion after.

I am trying not to make this too intense. Really, honest! Oh and breakfast would be 7-8 with (optional) prayer time at 7:30.

More about personal focus time: Students can do three different things or one main thing. They have three slots per week to fill with a combination of organized focus classes, independent study, or group projects. Personal foci can be on anything! Hopefully we will have a diverse faculty with enough interests/knowledge to accommodate most things the students throw at us. For example students can write a play, make a film, conduct an experiment, research migration of birds around the school, create and install a sculpture, intern with a local business or firm, research genealogy, make a book, build a solar car, train for a race, put on a show/play, build a web site, or write about a famous philosopher. These are big to small projects (depending on what else they are doing). They can last one semester or more. Independent/group projects should be created by students and their mentor and have some system of accountability. The organized personal focus classes will be run by teachers. I might teach a class on recycled art. I might also do a class on local ecology and team up with a naturalist from a nearby preserve to help examine the ecosystem surrounding the school. I would also advise my students and help any students who needed my knowledge.

I also want the school to be really flexible. If students want to take college classes or really need to do community service on Monday morning we can work with them to make up the other work and adjust their schedule.

Genesis Pedagogy Structure

Foundation of the School:

Pillars of the School:
Social Justice
International Connections

We are, we are...the faculty of the Genesis School

I call this the Statement of Being, which is like a belief statement for the faculty community and of course will trickle down into the mission statement eventually. It is meant to be humorous and I want it to stay that way, but we will see what is practical in the end.

We are evangelical, but not necessarily conservative.
We are artists, philosophers, construction workers, historians, social workers, nurses, engineers, painters, teachers, husbands, wives, children, parents, cooks, teachers, musicians, scientists, discoverers, lovers, writers, thespians, hairdressers, small business owners, counselors, youth workers, homemakers, doctors, and children of God.
We are appalled by most televangelists.
We love the Daily Show's Godstuff and the Wittenburg Door.
We drink, dance, smoke cigars, and wear pants all with discernment, responsibility, and respect for others who do not.
We care for the earth and its resources as God instructed us to: sustainably and wisely.
We try our best to dialogue instead of debate, placing relationships above our opinions.
We attempt with vigor to share most things in common, quickly forgive one another, be vulnerable, pray for one another, seek feedback for personal growth, respect personal boundaries, laugh & play together, reach out to our community, ask questions instead of (make an "ass" out of "u" and "me") assume, inspire one another, and be each other'’s shoulder to cry on. In other words, we live in community.
We believe in the fundamental right of all human beings to life, liberty, food, shelter, education, medical attention, and opportunities.
We believe that God always has a plan even if it is not our preference.
We do not believe that Americans are God's chosen people.
We believe God has called us to make a difference in the lives of people, especially students.
We believe that women can do just about anything men can do, especially math and science (and Barbie dolls are a form of psychological oppression that brainwash girls to think otherwise...well, maybe not)
We believe Jesus spoke a message and command of peace.
We like to barter (and sometimes pretend there is no such thing as money).
We live simply but not without creativity.
We believe that the Bible is the word of God and everything in it is true (although sometimes confusing).
We love to play games, laugh, hang out, watch movies, and talk.
We believe all women should try to learn to drive standard.
We believe that laughter and mountain air can be the best medicine.
We are fueled by motivation from the Holy Spirit and the conviction to serve others.
We like long walks on the beach...oops, I mean hiking, biking, skateboarding, backpacking, boating, rock climbing, running, and swimming.
We value beauty in every way, shape, and form.
We are certain that 4" x 6" cards are the next international revolution.

Advertising Scheme for the Genesis School

I envision full page ads in magazines using these sets of words and definitions. Like Refridgerator Magnet Poetry or something.

The time or circumstances of something’s coming into being
The formation of something
The first book of the Bible, in which the story of the creation of the world is told
An institution for educating
Origin: Old English, via Latin from Greek skhole: leisure, philosophy, a place where lectures are given
To give intellectual, moral or social instruction to someone
Origin: late Middle English, from Latin educere: lead out
To gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught

The development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
Origin: 1970’s, blend of permanent and agriculture
Verb, past tense
Instilled (a quality) in someone or something
Soaked in liquid to extract the flavor or healing properties
Of conforming to what is generally or traditionally thought of as true or right; established and approved
A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals
Origin: late Middle English, from Old French comunete: reinforced by its source

Of or according to the teaching of the Gospel or the Christian Religion
Of or denoting a tradition within Protestant Christianity emphasizing the authority of the Bible, a personal relationship with God, and the doctrine of salvation by faith in the Atonement
So•cial Jus•tice
The belief in an equitable, compassionate world where difference is understood and valued, and where human dignity, the Earth, our ancestors and future generations are respected.
Equitable access to resources and the benefits derived from them; a system that recognizes inalienable rights and adheres to what is fair, honest, and moral.
Strong and barely controllable emotion
A state or outburst of such emotion
An intense desire or enthusiasm for something

Going to Athol after Wisconsin

So I am now in Whitewater, Wisconsin (the end of week 2) doing a biology research experience internship here for the summer. I have 8 weeks left.

I decided to go to Athol with the Bridges to the Future program in the Fall. It is a small rural school about 40 minutes from Amherst. I am looking forward to it and also slowly realizing how crazy next year is really going to be.

Today I have been brainstorming Genesis School plans. Thanks to Ian for being so enthusiastic about it and thus encouraging me to get back to it. And thanks to Ben for mentioning it to him because I didn't think of it. I will now post some of that stuff.