You might be familiar with one of the images but not familiar with the other. The first one is an image of our school, self-described as a Google Starbucks School for Soccer Players, and the one on the right is about understanding the physical, social, and emotional networks inherent in building a successful learning environment for every individual (teacher and learner) in the school. For starters, one image gives you a sense of the openness and inclusiveness engineered for collaboration and creativity, and the other is circles. Each circle is a story. I believe as the Director of Language and Literacy at my school, it is my responsibility to push for new understandings of literacy, to help each student in my class achieve his potential in creating his own literacy in both reading comprehension and writing development; finally, it is my responsibility to marry the two pictures in a way for students to understand their own citizenship and voice.
Since its inception, YSC Academy has been getting featured in the news. Our school is pulling from the Philadelphia-based area top soccer talent, and students who come to YSC Academy are expected to try on what it is like to be professional in something other than soccer. The key understanding from the news articles is that the institution exists for the long-term future. Why would a school want to invest gazillions of dollars in something that cannot be measured for at least ten years? The answer is that we believe in the power of story.
More than facts, stories resonate, and we know the students who come to YSC Academy each have a story to tell. Our success as a learning environment will not be in the number of Ivy League Schools or Division I soccer institutions our graduates attend, nor in the number of goals or assists they accrue over a career. There is a danger in gathering or relying on too much data and there is a danger in collecting too little data, but our approach and mission toward success will need to weave the two stories. Our definition of Success will be thus:
Of course, the obvious is each student’s story contains an affinity for soccer. Fostered over many years, our soccer-scholars, as I like to call them, will begin to grow accustomed to and confident in their own process of learning. But what is learning? And what are they learning?
For me, learning is everywhere, and especially as one of the driving forces at YSC Academy for building in deep self-reflection for the students, the students will come to know their own creative and curious powers through public speaking and writing with purpose. Students want meaningful work; for example, in the 9th grade the students learn through project-based learning how to building a library, how to annotate a library, and finally they build a little free library. The 10th graders build Blogs from wordpress.com; the 11th graders take their blogs from last year and begin to aim them toward moving targets of their interests and passions, and the 12th graders build a portfolio of their work to share with the students.
Student Voice is an essential practice and mindset of learning and teaching. Schools across all subjects and naturally made hierarchical levels should make conscious decisions to incorporate time and space for teaching students the complexities of living in a democratic society. In order for our emerging young-adults to be productive citizens in their communities, they need to learn the intricacies of tolerance, relationships, respectful and effective feedback and questioning of authority, and public speaking.
To be continued…