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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Time and our relationship with it

So this morning in a quiet moment, I reflected on an email sent by a former student. The student had attended an alternative, sustainable live-in high school. They grew their own food, caught rain water, used grey water for dish washing, structures were constructed from recycled tires, etc. About two years ago, I told him about sustain-slo and that he should participate in it. He was a freshmen then.

The email that I was thinking about came last month. I had updated him on the status of sustain, asking if he wanted to help. The first line of his email went something like, "I am so stoked that sustain is happening . . ." In that moment, I reflected on us two years ago. Sustain, in its form, at that time, had much work to be done. For me, I simply wanted it to start. In hindsight, sustain had a form lacking lines of clarity around what it might look like. Too many questions were unanswerable. Too much vagueness, except for a simple desire for it to happen for the students and for me (yes, I will label that selfish).

Reflecting on what has happened over that time, I realize how unready I was for sustain to begin last year. I recognize the commitment that faculty have made to add clarity to the project. I am grateful that answers to questions don't simply sound like an answer with a question intonation. I am thoughtful about the vagueness we must talk through so that the first two weeks and the last two weeks have a richness and a fullness and a rigor that I desire from sustain for myself and the students and the other faculty members. In these last few quarters, I have taken small risks in the classroom to test out ideas that might work for sustain. Prior to that, I wasn't willing to "give up" my lecture time for fear of the student not learning the material.

In reflection, I am thankful about the time given to me to try something new with my students. I don't know how I would feel if I tried out new teaching/learning modalities with sustain students without receiving feedback first. My fear would be that I caused a calamity or learning failure. That makes me feel incompetent.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday's design time

It was a glorious time together on Friday. We started by remembering why each of us was there (on a holiday) together. I don't remember everyone's reason, but mine was because this, the SUSTAIN community, is my life. I am not sure if I could continue without working with these people (Remember I tend towards the dramatic). I expect that I am giving you all too much credit, and I think if it wasn't SUSTAIN, there would be other engaging work, but this is truly life-giving for me.

I did take notes at the end and I am not sure where to record these, so here they are:

1) The first week or two might look different than week 2 through 9. During the first week we want to
- spend sometime on capacity building for team success
- have structured face-to-face time so faculty can set the culture in their courses
- have students encounter the projects
- discuss sustainability (we thought of this afterwards)
2) in weeks 2 through 9, we want to start each week with a "checkin" at the beginning of the week and a "check-out" at the end of the week. We have this scheduled for 1 hour blocks, but this could be flexible.
3) We want to have some time set aside for faculty to meet as a group or in triads to plan the weeks ahead. This should occur both inside and outside our blocks of time (M-R 4-6, F 1-4)
4) We haven't developed it yet, but we want to have a general framework for class time. We want to make sure we have a feedback system so we can be flexible
5) we recognize the need to engage community members and students in this whole design process, but haven't discussed how to do that
6) We are committed to the "student prep model" that Linda and Pete are using this quarter in physics and we are committed to supporting that. (it looks something like: Students prepare (watch video or do learning modules or read)-----> students work on something independently -----> students come to class for help and coaching -------> assessment)
7) we don't want to dramatically increase faculty time in class. If we each are to be in class 4 hours with one or two office hours, we want to attempt to honor that.
8) We will try to incorporate portfolios into our work
9) we need to schedule at least two more (3 hour) group meetings before Winter quarter begins.