RIASEC

To begin the quarter, we started off with our professional development meeting focusing on the #worldofwork. During this session, we met at the Sweetwater Treatment Facility and learned about alternative professions that our students could gain skills for starting today that relate to blue energy. During our time there, we heard from the Innovation Station’s Michael Bruder as well as several other notable speakers who explained more about the percentage of job growth in this area that they foresee in the near future. This PD connected to what we are doing in our Mindlabs classes with the RIASEC themes and also gave some great ideas for creative and collaborative projects that will help connect your STEM, STEAM and VAPA lessons to the RIASEC themes of – realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising and conventional.

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RIASEC

Similar to when we visited the San Diego Electrical Training Center, we had learned about ways to connect our classroom lessons to skills that are required for careers that do not necessarily require a four-year college degree. These skills and curricular connections can help students adjust their mindset so that they seek out careers that build on their existing interests and strengths. By giving our learners time to explore additional opportunities, we are also enabling them to recognize qualities within themselves that they may not necessarily have noticed without our support or guided lessons.

Applying these themes is something that can be done whenever you give group assignments and challenges. You may have various tasks that require your students to apply characteristics that help them successfully demonstrate their ability to be realistic, artistic, social, enterprising and/or conventional. By providing these opportunities and pointing out times throughout the day when these themes can be applied, we are helping our students be more aware of developing these skills.

Getting our students to start thinking about how they are demonstrating these skills can be done by first conversing with them about each different theme and helping them recognize the characteristics they have within themselves that may demonstrate these themes.

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Misconceptions

Often times, learners have misconceptions about various professions. This was addressed and elaborated on when the speakers shared some conversations with their students about gender stereotypes in various career paths. We can clear these misconceptions up starting right away in kindergarten. By getting students to discuss different careers, having them draw pictures of people who may hold those careers and by having guest speakers come in or participate in FaceTime video conferences, we can help our learners see that their career choices are limitless as long as they make a goal and stay focused on achieving that goal.

Sample Lessons

During our time at the Sweetwater Treatment Facility, each grade level participated in lessons that reflected the RIASEC themes.

Realistic (click the link for the video)

  • Objective: Build a circuit that can be used to adjust the sound level of a device
  • Skills Gained: Students are using the problem-solving skills they have learned to follow multiple step instructions from a technical manual that will eventually help them accomplish the task
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “realistic” theme because it gives the learners an opportunity to accomplish a task that is relevant to their science and informational reading as well as their use of technology outside of the classroom. It also requires to learner to use real life skills and applicable pre-existing knowledge.

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Investigative

  • Objective: Engineer a wind farm that will minimize the use of fossil fuels in your community
  • Skills Gained: Students analyze the factors impacting their surrounding area to construct a wind farm, they must understand the basics of the wind patterns in their area and strategize to make sure that they use the correct size blades and design their windmills so they face the correct direction
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “investigative” theme because it requires students to try several different designs and models before committing to one final product. The students need to research and apply thier knowledge in science in order to complete this challenge successfully.

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Artistic

  • Objective: Design an energy efficient school that uses sustainable energy
  • Skills Gained: Students being to research and consider alternative energy solutions that they may not have considered before. As they research, they are learning how to apply their knowledge in a new way by designing a school or structure that relies upon green and/or blue energy
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “artistic” theme because it requires learners to use their knowledge to design a prototype or product that will help reach their objective. The students can use photographs, movies, paintings and drawings to successfully apply their art skills to complete this challenge.

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Social

  • Objective: Plan a community event to promote your school’s robotics team
  • Skills Gained: Students must understand what logistics go into planning an event and they must consider potential problems like space, numbers of attendees, strategies for promoting the event, etc.
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “social” theme because it requires learners to organize and plan an event that could potentially be held at their school. These students needs to connect experts in different areas in order to plan a successful event.

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Enterprising

  • Objective: Write a sales ad for solar energy
  • Skills Gained: Students learn about how to market their product and develop entrepreneurial skills by considering who their target audience is and by recognizing their interests and marketing towards each person as an individual by considering their particular needs
  • RIASEC Connection. This activity is an example of the “enterprising” theme because it requires learners to take a product and market it to a target audience. These students need to be energetic and ambitious in order to create a successful advertisement.

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Conventional 

  • Objective: Complete an “I Have Who Has” round to learn technical definitions and respond to specific scenarios.
  • Skills Gained: Students learn about the basics of a planned topic by reviewing technical terms and answering each other’s questions
  • RIASEC Connection: This activity is an example of the “conventional” theme because it requires each learner to both speak and listen to their fellow team members in order to complete the objective while maintaining order and organization of the activity. These students need to show their organization skills and extreme focus in order to make the activity work.

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I encourage you to check out these lessons and to reflect on how you are already applying these themes in your classroom!

Importance of Time to Reflect

Reflection time is probably the most omitted part of our lessons due to time constraints and the desire to fit in as much as possible to our academic day. However, time to reflect can pose as a great way to better understand what your students are taking away from the day’s lessons. I am not saying that we should throw everything else out and just have students reflect, but I am saying that this can be used as a way to better understand what misconceptions still exist and help you form your small groups for the next time you meet or bring up the topics discussed. This can be done in the form of a closing circle, an exit ticket, or even a small group collaborative conversation.

“Reflection is a crucial part of the work that we do, and without looking back, it is almost impossible to move forward.”

George Couros

The Principal of Change


 

Addressing the RIASEC themes is not simply one more thing, instead, it is a way to get our learners to converse about the skills they are developing that could help them grow and learn about potential future careers. The lessons provided (as seen above) can be used to enhance your science, math and reading curriculum while helping students explore their strengths and better understanding the World of Work. Please share your thoughts on applying the RIASEC themes to you class!

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Teaching Emotions

Ms. Stephanie Dominguez  shared an article with me centered on teaching emotions. This article has inspired a lot of the information in this blog post:

One of the things that we have really been focusing on this year has been building relationships and meeting the needs of each individual by recognizing their strengths, interests and values. When we apply these personal touches to our everyday lessons, we are making sure that we are showing an understanding of what our students enjoy and really making our lessons more personal. When we see our students as people in our lives who are feeling emotions that they may be experiencing for the first time, we can have a huge positive impact. We can support students as they learn how to react to their emotions and feelings. I am not saying that we drop everything and focus only on relationships, but I am saying that as we build relationships with our learners, we can help them be better prepared for the daily challenges that our class and schoolwork demands.

Why Should we Teach Emotions

It is important that we keep in mind, no matter what grade level we are teaching, that there are often times when students are experiencing emotions for the first time. Whether we are in a kindergarten class or an eighth grade class, new emotions can sneak up on us and can cause us to feel a variety of things. When we start to feel this and we do not know how to explain or react, we often panic and make bad decisions. These decisions can be seen as classroom disruptions or defiance and often, unfortunately, are reacted to instead of prevented.

How powerful would it be if we took the initiative to be preventative by holding conversations with our students about how they are feeling and how to appropriately react to those feelings? Naming the feelings and strategizing ways to express those feelings can be a powerful start because things are less intimidating if we know what to expect and how to react. When we are talking about emotions, it is much better to be preventative and prepare students for situations when they arise than to be reactive and try to resolve a problem while it is happening.

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How to Teach Emotions

Like most things in education, our learners are more receptive if we make the lessons relatable to them! Using situations, books, conversations and trust circle prompts, we can bring up potential emotions that may be felt and have an open dialogue about how to react when these emotions are felt.

The article, Teaching Emotions, suggests using books, teaching about ways to respond when different emotions are felt, praising what was done well using specific examples and practicing new strategies for reacting to emotions. All of these strategies are things that can be applied to our daily interactions and conversations. I am not suggesting or requiring this to be “one more thing,” instead, these are ways to teach about emotions in our classroom.

Timing is also crucial when we are talking about emotions. It is much harder to get through to someone who is not prepared to truly hear what we are saying.

“Do not try and practice when your child is in the middle of a ‘meltdown.’ Use quiet, calm times to teach and practice the new strategies. For example, if your child is having a ‘meltdown’ because she does not want to wait for a cookie until after dinner, she will not be in the mood to practice expressing her frustration with words, rather than a tantrum.”

Teaching Your Child to Identify and Express Emotions

-The Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning

Instead of teaching about appropriate ways to react while a learner is angry or worried or annoyed, we can be more preventative and teach about emotions and reactions through literature and everyday observations of interactions between others. This Pinterest Link has some great resources for literature that can be used for dual purpose lessons where both social emotional concepts and literature standards are learned. Several years ago, our Positive Behavior Committee also put together a list of books that by SEL topics: SEL Book List.

Yet another resource that we have access to was provided to us by our counseling department. The Zones of Regulation poster below is often used to help learners identify where they are emotionally. This is especially helpful when the learner is feeling very strong emotions and unable to explain them verbally.

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Full Article from Vanderbilt University

Teaching Emotions – Vanderbilt University

Teaching Emotions Spanish Version – (MC)


Overall, when we take the time to help learners understand how to react when they are feeling strong emotions, we are helping them form appropriate social emotional habits that can have a very powerful positive impact on their lives.

Motivational Strategies

Keeping students not only engaged but empowered can be a huge challenge when we are faced with so many other obstacles throughout the school day. Yet, so many of our teachers on campus are doing just that – empowering students, meaning that their learners are applying their strengths and interests and they feel that their voice and choice is being recognized in their learning.

As I have been able to reflect over my years at Feaster and observe so many great teachers doing their jobs so well, I have noticed patterns and similarities in each classroom where the students are empowered. To sum it up, these teachers know how to motivate their learners and they know how to keep them wanting to learn more. The list below is not meant to be a complete list of everything that empowers students; instead, it is a starting point based on what I have seen work with our population and our students at Feaster.

Build Relationships

One the greatest ways to truly make sure your students want to learn is to build relationships with them. Get to know your students through trust circles, conversations during snack, and by learning about their personal interests. Think about what your students most appreciate and work together to make sure that you respect that.

I recall having a conversation with my class about what was most important to them. Unsurprisingly, they shared that it was really bothersome to them if I kept them late from lunch because I went over time in a lesson. I understood this and we agreed that lunch time would not be taken away unless it was a whole class issue where we had to discuss a major concern. I am not saying that I promised to never keep them behind for a minute during lunch, what I am saying is that I understood something that was important to them and we came to an agreement that lunch would only be taken if there was broken trust or a behavior issue we had to address immediately.

Encourage your students to also build relationships with their buddy up partners from other classes! This can really help a large school feel like a tight-knit community!

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Set Goals and Reflect on Progress

Do your students know what their learning goals are? Do you they have social goals? Are they able to communicate these goals and share how they are progressing towards these goals?

How powerful would it be if all of our students could communicate academic and social goals and share the strategies they are using to reach those goals? If our students are not sure where they are going, how are they supposed to get there?

These questions are meant to get you to think about what is happening in your classroom from the student’s perspective. We can set goals for:

  • tech programs – like reaching a certain lexile level on Achieve3000
  • reading books
  • problem solving
  • math quizzes
  • doing acts of kindness
  • improving on one component of a writing rubric
  • ask your students – get them involved in their own goals setting

The second part of this one is getting everyone to reflect on their progress! How are they growing and progressing towards these goals? What will happen when the goal is reached? Consider having these conversations with your students.

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Accountability

With goal setting comes accountability. If you are giving an assignment, what is its purpose? How will it progress students towards their goals? Are the students able to communicate how they will be held accountable for their assignment?

Some ways that I have seen teachers hold their students accountable is by:

  • Exit tickets
  • Grading
  • Giving specific feedback
  • Having students share their learning with another student
  • Sharing learning in front of class (only if student is comfortable)
  • Posting a picture to Class Dojo Portfolio for parents to see

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Growth Mindset

Remind students that their brains are still growing and they can have control over their own learning. Hold conversations at the end of the day that reflect on learning. Have students share one new thing they learned each day during a class closing ceremony. You can also have students message this to their families at home via Class Dojo or another parent communication system you have set up. Keep students motivated by reminding them that their brains are still growing and they are in control of that.

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Positive Interactions

Taking time to build positive interactions throughout the day can be so beneficial because it sends the message to your students that you truly care. Positive interactions can happen in the classroom, but the ones that I have seen with the biggest impact have happened outside of the classroom:

  • Play with your students during recess
  • On Wednesdays, invite your students to run 2.1 miles around campus with you and the track team
  • Show up to your student’s games
  • Take an interest in learning about what they like
  • Ask them about what they enjoyed during the weekend
  • When you ask how they are, get more in-depth and ask them why they are feeling that way

These positive interactions will help students feel connected to you, which, in turn, will help keep them more motivated.

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Ask Questions

Get to know your students better by building relationships and asking questions. This can help motivate students because it is giving them some power in their learning and showing that you truly want to get to know who they are a person, not just a student.

Ask your students what motivates them! This reminds me of the Five Love Languages Languages for Children book:

  • Words of Affirmation: saying kind things
  • Gift Giving: rewarding with small treats or tokens of appreciation
  • Physical touch: high fives and class handshakes
  • Quality Time: eat with students during snack or lunch
  • Acts of Service: help them clean their desk or give them special classroom jobs

Getting to know what makes your students feel special is a key motivator because it lets you know what they appreciate and what makes them mentally prepared to learn and face challenges.

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Include Learners in Deciding Consequences

When you need to have consequences, talk to the students early on (meaning well before the consequence needs to be given) about what they think is fair. Come up with different situations that may occur and talk to them about they feel would be fair and effective in each situation.

This will help the students stay motivated because they will understand that you are coming from a place where you have their best interest at heart. You want them to be successful learners and you have included them in the process so they know what to expect that does not happen.

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Reflect

I remember hearing from one teacher who said that she had another student tally the number of positive and negative comments she made throughout the day. If students are constantly being talked down to, they will not be motivated to learn. The biggest motivator that we have in our teacher toolbox comes from the relationships we have built. I am not saying that your students have to be your best friend; instead, what I am saying is that students are more likely to want to learn if they feel supported in accomplishing their academic and social goals.

Take time to reflect on how your students are feeling in your class and hold those reflective conversations with them. Have empathy for their struggles and share your thoughts and feelings too.

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I understand that this post may have left you with more questions to consider. That was the intent because these are conversations that should be held during your trust circles so that you can converse with students about what decisions are being made and, when possible, you can include them in the conversation as well!

Parent Teacher Conferences

Relationships have long been a focus for us here at Feaster Charter. We have done work to get all learners including students, parents, and teachers involved in what we are doing here on campus. We are providing so many positive opportunities to our students and when we are able to share those experiences with our families, it ensures that the learning is even more powerful because it can be extended and applied to conversations that are happening at home with parents. How powerful would it be if our students could have conversations at home about what they learned at school? In order to do this, it is our responsibility to build and foster relationships with our community so that they feel welcomed on our campus and so that they learn new ways to support their learners.

Purpose

The overall purpose of parent teacher conferences:

  •  foster a relationships with the families
  • open our doors and communicate about the progress that students are making
  • make goals that can be achieved through hard work both at school and at home

When we communicate each of the above topics during the conference and make sure that the students are part of the conversation, we are working together as a team. The students start to realize that there is follow through at home based on what is happening at school and on campus. Academic conversations start to be part of the everyday routine and parents feel more involved in their child’s education.

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What to Share

Beyond reflecting on grades and character strengths, it is important to get all learners included in the conference. Share what you know and appreciate about the student during the conference, which lets parents know that you know their child. Hear from your student as well, give students the opportunity to reflect on their own learning. One way to do this is through student led conferences which allow students to take ownership over the meeting. Below are some resources for you to use as you to consider student led conferences.

Student Led Conferences – Resources:

A Guide to Student Led Conferences 

A Guide to Student Led Conferences 

Student Led Conferences Resources – Edutopia 

Student Led Conferences – Edutopia

Tips for Student Led Conferences 

Have an Agenda, but be Flexible – From 2017 post

There are definitely topics that must be discussed during conferences: academic growth, areas of struggle, character strengths, etc. These are, of course, all important topics to be covered; however, they should not be the only things that are discussed. As you hear from the parents and the students, their comments can help you understand more about what they need to feel supported and successful.

There are times when the scheduled time slot is simply not enough to get everything covered. If this is the situation, a  follow-up can be coordinated with the family. When this happens, explaining that you understand there is more to discuss and will follow up with them shortly regarding their individual questions, makes sure that their concerns are still addressed and action is being taken. I would also suggest asking how best to contact them – email, note home, Class Dojo, phone call, etc.

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Resources for Families

We have so many resources for our families, but a lot of our families do not know that they are available. Conferences can be a great time to share some of the ways that parents can check their students’ grades, assign extra work at home, and stay in communication with Feaster.

  • PIQE Classes
  • Library Hours
  • ILE at home (see more below)
  • Khan Academy/TenMarks
  • Bechmark
  • Achieve3000
  • Class Dojo
  • Feaster Social Media pages
  • Free WiFi locations in the community

Counseling Department

Free resources for families can be found in the counseling department – if you feel that you have a family that could benefit from these, you can leave them out in a neutral area in your room along with other generic resources or you can refer them to Ms. Figueroa or Mr. Nickeson in the counseling department. You may not want to push these resources on them so as to not offend or make assumptions, but at least providing them and communicating that there are a lot of resources available from our counseling department may be helpful. They have resources for:

  • Tutoring options for students free and some of charge
  • Food Banks in the San Diego area
  • Legal and Immigration Services information
  • Family Resource Center information
  • LGBTQ Youth Center in Chula Vista Pamphlet
  • San Diego Youth Services Emergency Shelter
  • Domestic Violence Services and Shelter
  • Information for applying for Healthy Families

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Resources for Conferences – PDFs and Link

Below are resources that can be shared with families based on student and family needs. These can be given in a packet or they can be conversed about throughout the conference.

ILE at Home Instructions (Spanish)  anywhereaccess_Spanish_ILL_0518 (1)

ILE at Home Instructions (English): anywhereaccess_English_ILL_0518 (1)

Free WiFi Hotspots

Social Media for Schools Infographic

Reading Infographic:

Follow Through

In your folder for each individual student, keep notes or reminders that will help you follow through on the promises made during the conference. Make sure that you reflect on what was said by both the parent and the student so that you can best support the learner and help them progress towards the goals you have created together. Open communication through email, Class Dojo, phone calls, anything will help make sure that the goals you create and set during conferences are being worked towards both at home and at school.

 


Conference times can be exciting and/or hectic, but if we always keep in mind that this is our time to hear from parents and students and communicate what is happening in our classrooms, we can be sure that they are effective and purposeful. Keeping communication and focus on being transparent about our academic procedures can make our conferences go smoothly and help develop positive relationships within our school community.

Mission & Core Values

Our mission and core values both work to remind us of our current and future goals. When we have an effective mission and clear core values, both work to support all learners and help guide us towards making effective decisions that largely impact both Feaster and our community.

When we first wrote our mission statement, we reflected on what we are doing now and will continue doing. While our core values list who we are, our mission statement works to describe our the promise we are making to every learner and community member that is part of Feaster Charter. Together, as a school team, we reflected on what was important and what made us unique as a school. From that list, we composed a draft of our mission statement then we heard feedback from our staff, students, and families. The mission statement was discussed and input was received and changes were made. The reason I say this is because it is important to recognize that this was a group effort – all stakeholders were part of making this mission statement and it has become a promise showcasing what opportunities we will provide to our students.

Mission Statement

Mission Statement 

At Feaster Charter School, students are at the center of all decision making. We prepare our students to become 21st century learners in a multicultural society by infusing Visual & Performing Arts as well as Science, Technology, Social Studies, Engineering & Mathematics into our daily curriculum and literacy instruction. This integration challenges our students to communicate and think critically, creatively and collaboratively. By introducing the Arts and Sciences we are fostering leadership and reasoning skills, as well as increasing self-esteem at a young age to make a life changing impact. The students who leave Feaster Charter School will be lifelong learners who are on their way to being college and career ready.

Learner-Centered

When we say that students are “at the center of all decision making,” we mean that every decision that is made by our admin, staff, board, and community should ultimately have a positive impact on our students. We do this by making sure that our teachers, admin, and board members all have the best wishes for our students and they all work to make decisions that will bring positive learning experiences to our students.

21st Century Learners

When we give opportunities for students to explore and create, we are helping them be 21st century learners. This is done in all academies – STEM, STEAM, and VAPA. This means that we are going beyond just lecturing and modeling and, instead, we are giving opportunities for students to apply their learning in ways that help them show and develop their voice and choice.

For example, after teaching a math standard, teachers can allow students the opportunity to apply their learning by having them create a project that demonstrates what they learned – creating a tutorial video for another class, composing a graphic chart with step by step instructions, making a comic that walks students through the process, etc – whatever project is chosen to demonstrate learning, it is important to have the students choose what their final product will look like. This can be done by providing a rubric showing expectations, but not giving specific limits on how to demonstrate learning.

Communicate and Think Critically, Creatively and Collaboratively

When we work to bring out the strengths, interests and values of our students through everyday problem solving activities and give time to work in different teams, we are enforcing the skills needed for our students to effectively communicate, think critically, creatively, and collaboratively. This means that students have time throughout the day to work within different groups. During this group time, students are able to communicate about their learning while working through complex problems that would be too challenging to do independently.

For example, when students are reading, they can work in book club groups to reflect on their reading (communication), respond to each others questions (working collaboratively), share their thoughts/notes/inferences (showing creativity), and work to understand the deeper meaning of the text (think critically). Another way to provide an opportunity for students to be creative during book clubs is to allow them the chance to make connections to the world/author/events in the book. The website, Reading Rockets, has some great strategies to support your readers and help them communicate and think critically, creatively and collaboratively.

Life Long Learners

When we work to give opportunities to go beyond the curriculum and really make a difference, we are helping to develop life long learners because we are making sure that we are showing students that learning happens in and out of the classroom. Learning is not limited to the school environment and the more we take learning out of the classrooms and apply it to our student’s lives by making connections beyond the classroom, the more we are supporting our students in becoming life long learners.

For example, our work with Sanford Harmony  and our whole school buddy up lessons are helping students develop relationships while learning. This helps develop life long learners because it shows that learning can happen across all ages as well as both in and out of the classroom. These partnerships work to encourage students to own their learning and provide support to each other to work towards learning goals. These goals may include furthering their education and communicating about what they want for their present and their future.

Core Values

Core Values

  • We have a Growth Mindset
  • We keep all staff and every student in mind
  • We commit and follow through

Growth Mindset

We have a growth mindset when we work to reflect on the academic education we are providing and recognize that we can always grow and improve through hard work and dedication. We show that we have a growth mindset when we let go of existing practices when they are no longer effective for our students and work to provide opportunities that are going to have a better impact on our learners.

Keep Staff and Student in Mind

We keep all staff and students in mind when we communicate and work to be transparent in our decision making process. When we can include as many people as possible and explain the reasons for our decisions while working to problem solve as a team, we are keeping everyone in mind. When we go back to our mission statement and make sure that the decisions made are in line with our promise to the community, we are also keeping all staff and students in mind. This is important because when we keep all staff and students in mind, we are ensuring that our decisions are made as a team and they will positively impact our school while continuing to support our mission statement.

Commit and Follow Through

We commit and follow through when we work cohesively with all learners to make a plan that will positively impact Feaster and then we bring everyone in to take part in making it happen. During the follow through, it is important for everyone to have clearly defined tasks and roles. Communication throughout the process is also crucial. The entire community, when necessary, should also be part of the reflection process. I am not saying that every single decision needs to follow this process, but when we work to make a change, we should make sure that we have the commitment of all learners and a clear plan explaining what will happen next and how we are going to reflect on the process and overall outcome.


It is our mission statement and core values that drive Feaster and make it a successful learning environment. Both the mission statement and core values work together to give us a guide to decision making and planning for our school. With our community, students, teachers, admin, staff, and board members, we can all work together to make sure that our actions and decisions are in line with our core values and overall mission. The work and progress that is being made to make sure that we are following through on the promises defined in our mission statement is happening because of everyone who keeps our students in mind when changes and decisions are made. The work and committment of everyone is greatly appreciated and we look forward to seeing how this positively impacts our students.

What Happens When You Give 45 Minutes?

In 2011,  admin and the board reflected on how the extended day was being utilized to empower students. For those of you who do not know, Feaster Charter has an extra 45 minutes built into our school day which our teachers and staff are compensated for. This extended day is part of our charter and our promise to the community. Very often, in many classrooms, this extended day was becoming a catch-up time to make up for what was not done in the day. I am embarrassed to say that I was part of this, very often, those 45 minutes in my class were focused on test prep or intensive small group interventions. While these are still important – I am not saying they are not important and should be omitted, both have their time and purpose – test prep and catch up time does very little to actually empower students and help them discover new interests and passions. Over the past six years when electives have been incorporated into our daily schedules, I have been amazed by what comes out when teachers and students are given forty-five minutes to share their interests. I will admit, at first, I had concerns that we were veering too far from the curriculum in many classrooms, including my own elective which focused on vlogging and blogging about topics of student interest. However, I am amazed by what has come out of these electives and I am beyond proud of some of the teachers who are really bringing in their own passions and getting students to explore new opportunities.

Keeping Students Inspired

At the end of last year, I was talking with one student who was having a particularly hard day. She was telling me about how frustrated she was that she was not learning things that actually mattered to her. Right away, I realized that she was very emotional and needed to be reminded of the opportunities that she could make for herself because of the programs being offered at Feaster.

We sat together outside and I pulled out my phone and showed her all of the elective classes that she had to choose from. We looked through all of the available electives that quarter. I asked her what she felt was important to learn. She shared that she wanted to learn about making a budget, investing and figuring out how much money she would need to live comfortably. These were the things that mattered to her – finances. Right away, we found a middle school elective course that would teach her these exact skills.

Upon pointing out the opportunities that she was being provided and showing her how her voice and choice were being applied to her academics and everyday education, her attitude changed. While she was still unsure about the immediate and long-term purpose of learning certain standards, recognizing that her academic needs and her academic wishes were being heard and applied made a difference in how she saw her schooling here at Feaster.

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Vertical Connections

Numerous teachers have come together and applied their own interests and strengths to bring great opportunities to our learners. It is especially powerful when teachers from multiple grade levels and specialty areas come together to empower our students. Mrs. Boolen in 7th grade, Mrs. Diaz in Mindlabs science, Ms. Haggard in TK, Mr. Fraser in 8th grade, and Mr. Wylie in 6th grade have all come together in one way or another to help support Feaster Farm – our on site hydroponic Greenhouse! Mrs. Boolin’s Digital Media elective students are working to design a Feaster Farm logo, Mrs. Diaz has supported with teaching the science behind the program, Ms. Haggard’s TK students studied worms and bred them and are now giving them to Feaster Farm, Mr. Fraser’s elective students are at the forefront of the program and running the greenhouse and Mr. Wylie shared his expertise with tilapia farming and donated the tilapia that are now housed in the hydroponic greenhouse! These are just five connections that I have heard about, but I am sure in one way or another, we have all had an integral part in making this opportunity possible for our students.

The vertical and cross-curricular connections that are happening because we gave staff and students forty-five minutes to explore their interests are working to empower our students because it is teaching them to go beyond the state curriculum, apply their learning from their entire time in school, and do something that they have ownership in! Not only are we giving our students the opportunity to apply voice and choice when they choose what electives they will participate in, but we are giving them the opportunity to learn about things that matter to them. We are also helping our students learn about new potential opportunities and careers when we create and plan purposeful elective courses.

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School Culture

Several of the electives on campus work to make learning and school a more positive experience for all learners. These electives create a product, plan events, and even help build relationships with all grade levels.

Mrs. Medina’s elective does an amazing job of building relationships across all grade levels! Through her Service Learning elective, students explore ways to give back to our community and build relationships to connect with other students regardless of grade level. This can help form bonds across campus while teaching students the importance of philanthropic work.

Mrs. Trujillo’s ASB class is in charge of coordinating our school spirit days and they work to bring about programs that will truly have a positive impact on our school. At the foundational level, Mrs. Trujillo’s students are learning about government and building relationships while working together to publicize school events. Through this, they are subtly learning the art of government, marketing, counseling, negotiation, and many more important life skills!

Each elective that is taught on campus and each teacher in kinder and first who are working to provide their students with time to explore, communicate, and try out new things, is working to empower our learners!

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Student Discourse

Electives are easily my favorite time to go around and take pictures and hear about student learning. One of my favorite videos is from a VAPA class where the student is explaining how he made a painting in honor of Lady Gaga because he respected her talent; it is not that he respected Lady Gaga that amazed me, it was how in-depth he went to explain his artwork, the terms he used to describe his work and how enthusiastic he was about his final product.

As I go around, I hear students talking about their learning and sharing their projects and I am always amazed by how much knowledge they need to have to actually converse about what they are doing. In all grade levels, I hear their academic vocabulary and how they use their character strengths to participate and take part in their elective class. While this happens throughout the day, it is so refreshing to see and hear students show sincere interest in something that is still connected to their academic learning.

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A Sincere Thank You

It is clear how much thought and effort our teachers have put into the additional 45 minute extended school day that we have here at Feaster. I am incredibly proud that this is something that we are able to offer to our students. It is not only a great way to get to know more about our learners, but it is a true opportunity to allow them to express their voice and choice. I look forward to reflecting on how this time is used and seeing how these programs and opportunities have flourished.

For Further Reading:

3 Myths About Empowering Students Today by George Couros 

Want to Boost Your Bottom Line? Encourage Your Employees to Work on Side Projects by Adam Robinson

You Get to Have your Own Genius Hour by John Spencer

Applying Strengths and Showing Empathy

This past week, we had our first committee meeting! These committees are an opportunity to draw upon our skills and bring them to our profession.  Can you imagine how empowered every learner on campus would be if we all worked together to take advantage of this opportunity? As educators, we have the chance to make such a positive impact on the future of our students. I was reflecting over this past week and thinking about everything that we can do when we work together and when we come from a place of empathy. How powerful would it be if each teacher could apply their outside strengths to something within the school? How powerful would it be if we were able to demonstrate empathy throughout the day?

At Feaster Charter, learners have a unique opportunity to have voice and choice in what we teach and what impact we will have on our school. This opportunity comes in the form of electives and committees. Electives allow teachers to bring their interests in STEM and/or VAPA to create a class that showcases their personal strengths. For example, teachers with an interest in fitness can teach a VAPA class that incorporates fitness and dance – this is especially helpful if the teacher has a strength in something like “woo”. Our teacher chosen committees allow teachers to show their strengths and interests by supporting the whole school. These committees bring teachers together from all grade levels which is a great opportunity to connect and apply our strengths in a group setting. In addition, each committee has the opportunity to bring about a product or a project that positively impacts the entire school.

Committees:

Every teacher on campus has the option of which committee they will join. Together, with our committees, we can have a positive impact on Feaster and our community.

  • Dual Immersion – have input on how this program is developing and growing at Feaster
  • AVID – review and gather strategies that help our students develop academic and social skills
  • Parent Involvement – bring our community into the forefront and organize events that will interest our families
  • Social Committee – bring our staff together to celebrate upcoming events and show support when needed
  • Yearbook – work with all teachers to gather pictures and celebrate the events that take place over the school year
  • Building Relationships – help develop school wide practices that will positively impact all learners
  • Student Motivation – plan events that will celebrate the success of all learners and help make learning a positive experience for all of our students

Electives:

Every year, our teachers have the opportunity to choose a VAPA, STEM, or STEAM elective to teach.

  • VAPA
    • Our VAPA electives offer our teachers the chance to apply their interests and help our students learn about interests they may not have been aware of. Teachers have chosen electives like readers theater, developing foreign language skills, TED talks, digital media, and the study of ancient civilizations.
  • STEM
    • Our STEM electives offer our teachers the chance to apply their interest in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Teachers have chosen electives like blogging, origami, the study of planets, gardening, movie editing, and financial analysis.

 

How we Create Opportunities to Show our Strengths

By knowing what our skill sets are and by making sure that we have the opportunity to develop these skill sets, we can stay empowered as educators. When we see our elective time and our work within our committees as more than “one more thing” and really understand the purpose behind them, we are empowered and prepared to bring about new opportunities. The reason we have electives and committees is to bring forward the strengths of all learners on campus and to help truly develop Feaster beyond the state focused curriculum. Beyond our classroom walls, we have the opportunity at Feaster to apply our strengths and interests to our everyday work lives! Through working with our committees and bringing our outside interests to our electives, we can actually develop the skills we need to be great at our hobbies and help our students learn more about character development and character strengths. Not only is this a way to stay empowered as educators, it is also a way to help our school develop specialty programs.

I’m not saying that the state standards and curriculum are unimportant; what I am saying is that at Feaster, we have a unique opportunity to apply our strengths to our electives and committees. We are integrating the core curriculum while applying our strenghts and interests to  daily character lessons.

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Happening because of a personal interest within staff members at Feaster who wanted a way to help others recognize their strengths

Showing Empathy

When we make decisions from a place of empathy, we show that we are caring and understanding our students. When we take a moment and realize the cause behind actions and choices and occurrences, we are acting with empathy and care.

This week, I was walking to a classroom and saw a student who has been chronically tardy all year. Instead of getting upset and telling him to hurry to class, I chose to try to understand his home situation. I asked, “I know you are late and rushing to class, but what caused you to be late?” When I did this, he told me that his mom had to go to the hospital because she was having contractions. This changed the entire trajectory of our conversation. He opened up about his personal life and I recognized the validity of his tardiness. If this question had not been asked, I would have missed out on a chance to connect with this student.

When we look for opportunites to better understand the situations our students are in, we are showing empathy. When we jump to conclusions about what is going on, or worse yet, don’t even bother to ask, we are doing damage to the potential relationship that can be built.

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Happened because we put ourselves in our student’s shoes and showed empathy during a heat wave

 



“We prepare our students to become 21st century learners in a multicultural society by infusing Visual & Performing Arts as well as Science, Technology, Social Studies, Engineering & Mathematics into our daily curriculum and literacy instruction. This integration challenges our students to communicate and think critically, creatively and collaboratively. “

-Feaster Mission Statement

 

We have the opportunity to show our strengths every single day! How are your strengths being applied to help our students truly communicate and think critically, creatively and collaboratively? What opportunity will you find this week to show empathy towards another person?