Rootedness

Rootedness

"The state of quality of having roots, especially of being firmly established, settled, or entrenched; having a sense of place."

Disconnection seems to be such a relatable concept. We see this in families-busyness, separation, silence. We see this in consumption-agriculture, textiles, media. We see this in ourselves-mind and body. We see this in communities-race, economics, religion, politics. As the sense of disconnection grows, it seems to leave children in a vulnerable space. Not too far under the surface, we feel it. They feel it-the longing to belong, to be known, to be rooted.

As I traveled there was a notable difference in school communities seeking to help students be rooted in their identities, their bodies and their communities. This rootedness gave freedom to open dialogue, risk taking, failing, and belonging. There was a felt sense of ownership in their work, their classrooms, their neighborhoods, and their cities. This rootedness was releasing hope, was producing joy, and was bringing freedom.

Good Progress

Good Progress

It's no secret most of our world defines success in terms of measurable outcomes. Sales, production, consumption, inputs, outputs-each measure tells a story, but each measure also fails to tell the whole story. Each measure informs, but oftentimes doesn't account for unquantifiable variables. These missing metrics may be the key elements that, if cultivated properly, could lead to truly good progress.

Nationally we have adopted a system of education that mirrors the marketplace. Our collective narrative is that certain inputs will lead to certain outputs which can be measured by repeated testing. Input, retain, regurgitate is the current pathway to success. The level at which a student is able to parrot information is the level at which we define their progress. The impact of this system is leading to a deterioration of creativity, an increase in stress, and collapse of true education. These processes fail to recognize the humanity of each child as complex and unique. They have enslaved teachers to act as puppeteers-degrading their own passions, perspective, and leadership. As we lean into crafting a new vision of what elementary education can be, we recognize we must redefine success in order to set students and teachers free! 

So how then do we define and pursue "Good Progress"? This was one of the questions I asked every teacher and school administrator I engaged on my tour of schools. 

Active, Transparent, Engaged

Active, Transparent, Engaged

Oftentimes as a child, my friends and I would play pretend school for hours on end. We had great fun creating and re-creating the world of schooling. Without fail the biggest dilemma of our play was determining who got to be the teacher. It was the most desired role. I don't believe this is because we possessed a deep love of teaching. It seems to me, even as I child, I understood the hidden narrative often found in the structure of the classroom. The one that told me-the teacher is the most important person; the teacher holds the power-the power to talk, to give power, to decide how time is spent. That same narrative had convinced my friend group the role of student was lesser. So we struggled-as most communities do-to find who would hold the power, who would get to play the desired role of teacher. 

As I engage students, I see the same desire in them. Not a desire to play teacher, necessarily, but a desire to have a meaningful part, to be more than a cog in the machine, to hold more value than a test score, to do more with their day that receive instruction. I hear them wanting to be seen by adults as competent, to be empowered to lead, to be trusted to make decisions, to be invited to share information, to be freed to design and create, to be encouraged to use the explosive amounts of energy they possess well. They want to have an active role in their learning. At Odyssey Young Leaders Academy, we want to invite them to leave behind places of stillness and silence and enter into an exciting, engaged world of learning.

 One of the schools that has powerfully shaped what this will look like at OYLA is Long-view Micro-school in Austin. (I highly encourage you to follow them on Instagram. So fun to see how they spend their days!) They very intentionally designed their space and learning practices to invite children to use their energy well, rather than "get their energy out". 

Plot Change

Plot Change

It has become quite common for some of the first questions about Odyssey Young Leaders Academy to be ones of curriculum. How will kids learn reading, writing, mathematics without textbooks and tests and grades? How will we know if our child is "on track"? Will they be behind? All very understandable questions.

It seems the fear and frenzy cultivated in the narrative of education has gained significant control over schooling. Control leading to cramming curriculum, believing that more is better, and assenting that grades and testing determine life outcomes. The resulting stress has polluted parenting, childhood, and education in truly detrimental ways.

And we believe it is time for a plot change.

The Sacred Season of Childhood

The Sacred Season of Childhood

"Sacred memory, preserved from childhood, is perhaps the best education. If a man stores up many such memories to take into life, then he is saved for his whole life."-Fyodor Dostoyevsky

My journeys have taken me to many different cities right as summer turned to fall. Again and again I was struck by the swiftness and transformation that came as one season ended and the next began.  There is something sacred each season holds that the next leaves behind. Sometimes we find lingering hints of seasons past and elements of the next seasons that were shaped by the preceding one. As my good friend Dr. Scott Martin reminds the OLA community, "We hold memory, but all we have is now-the sacred now." 

It seems childhood is a season in which we grieve the loss of infancy and anticipate the onset of adolescence to a degree that leaves us struggling to embrace the "sacred now" of being a child. The factors that influence this struggle are varied, but as I traveled I came across many places fighting to savor the sacred season of childhood in ways I hope to weave into the fabric of Odyssey Young Leaders Academy.

Reflections from the Road

Reflections from the Road

In preparation to launch Odyssey Young Leaders Academy, I hit the road to visit several amazing schools across the U.S. I have been from the East Coast to the West Coast to get a close-up view of best practices, new strategies, time-honored traditions, and experienced experts.  I have gone to Waldorf, Montessori, and Expeditionary Learning schools; public, private, and charter schools; large schools, micro-schools, and many somewhere in-between. I have spent time in schools doing project-based learning, maker-centered learning and others following progressive education models. All along the way I have been inspired to blend the beauty, goodness, creativity and depth I have seen into what will be Odyssey Young Leaders Academy.

I'd like to frame a series of reflections to provide more of the road map for where the OYLA community is headed. Here's what is coming down the OYLA blog pipeline...

Off we go!

We are so excited to welcome you to the journey of Odyssey Young Leaders Academy.  We want to include you in what we are reading, where we are visiting, and who we are learning from. We can't wait to know you more, to meet your children, and to launch on a journey together that is sure to bring hope to our kids and our community!