Challenging the Common Narrative

The world is full of narratives, especially those of middle schoolers. If you pay attention, you can see a master narrative running throughout, made evident by the systems, structures, and social norms in place. In looking at these pieces and parts, simply asking why can lead you to the master narrative at play.

Take the grading system for example. Why give grades? Because young people can’t be trusted to measure and reflect on their own progress. Why do parent-teacher conferences without the student present? Because young people are not capable of sharing and reflecting on their own learning. Why change the rules, provide the extension, make multiple allowances? Because young people are fragile and can’t handle missing deadlines or making mistakes.

So much of what we do at The Village School is construct a counter-narrative- a narrative entrenched in our beliefs about children and adolescents. In our community, young people are trustworthy, capable, strong and resilient. They want to learn, they want to improve, and they want to do excellent and purposeful work. In turn, our systems, processes, and language at TVS reflect these beliefs.

This year, I’ve seen the power of this counter-narrative in Adventure Studio. Within the walls of our school building, our middle schoolers are trusted with more freedom and responsibility than most young people their age. It goes without saying, they respond to this trust and respect by actually being trustworthy and responsible. Why? Because they are capable and they want to be trusted. In an environment such as ours, they can shed the narrow constraints of the outside world and step into a far more productive narrative about who they are and what they have to offer.

But like all things that challenge the status quo, this is not always easy- particularly when engaging with the real world.

On a recent trip to the bookstore, one of our middle schoolers was looking for a “definitive biography” of at least 400 pages to fulfill her Civilization requirement this session. After finding a book that she felt was in her challenge zone, the employee at the checkout counter engaged her in a long line of questions laced with skepticism:

“How old are you? Did you look at the young adult section? Why do you have to read 400 pages? Are you sure you can handle this?” and my personal favorite, “Is your teacher just trying to inflict some cruel and unusual punishment on you?”

I watched as she navigated this line of questioning that was so different from the types of questions she encounters in the studio. And, on the way back to campus, she shared some of her own questions that had formed as a result of the interaction.

“Why did my age matter? I read adult-level books. I know what is appropriate for me. I know my mom would agree. Why did they think I didn’t want to read a long book? I love long books. Why did they assume I wouldn’t choose to read a book like this unless someone was making me?”

She was baffled, understandably so. The bookstore employee’s behavior fit with the master narrative but not our narrative at TVS

Similarly, our Middle Schoolers faced this challenge when attempting to secure apprenticeships. It was not easy. Many potential employers who showed interest in hosting an apprenticeship at first, became less decisive and certain about having a young person spend time learning and helping their organization. It seemed the master narrative loomed large, threatening their success in landing their first apprenticeships.

But, after several weeks of hard work, persuasive and impressive emails and pitches, dead ends and promising new opportunities, our founding middle schoolers secured their apprenticeships, showing the real world just how capable they really are.

One Adventure Learner apprentices in Spark Studio

Again and again, our learners at TVS will be given opportunities to challenge the status quo. They’ll no doubt face struggle and skepticism. But, along the way, they’ll be part of a movement that actually changes the common narrative, one that offers a more complete and accurate reflection of what young people are capable of.

The Circle of Control

As a learner-driven community, we talk a lot about what we can control and what we can’t.

By the time a learner reaches Adventure Studio, they understand that they are in the driver’s seat of their education, meaning they have a lot more control over their learning than the average young person their age. Understanding badge requirements, doing excellent work, meeting deadlines, having the right attitude, being a good friend, resolving conflicts- they understand that succeeding in these areas is within their control.

Guides do help by asking, “What tools do these young people need to be successful?” The answers determine the launches, stories, experiences and challenges for the year- planned out by session, weeks, and sometime days- leaving room for the spontaneous needs of a learning, growing, changing, group of learners. The learning design is within the guide’s circle of control- as is their personal attitude, effort, actions, and words, all of which is intentionally modeled each day. The guide’s job is to inspire, equip and connect young people to the tools available to them so that they are empowered to take control over their learning.

Within this learning design, there are two very important tools that help a learner really understand what they have control over: Experience and reflection. This is the super-power duo of all tools available to our learners at The Village School. This is where the deepest learning happens and how the most growth occurs.

This session provided many experiences for our Adventure learners to reflect on what is within their circle of control.

From failing to earn a badge to a hosting a semi-chaotic Field Day, their reflections helped them connect their actions to the outcomes, providing vital experiences and life lessons that will be applied the next time they submit badge work or plan a Field Day.

Of course, of equal importance is learning what is outside their circle of control. Experience teaches them this too. They learn that people’s actions, other people’s words, the weather, external circumstances, world events (such as a global pandemic), and so on- are out of their control.

From not getting replies to emails about potential apprenticeships to the internet going out on the day you need to submit your work, they learned that things happen- life doesn’t always go as planned no matter how much we prepare or put all of our “ducks in a row”. In these situations, all you can control is how you respond.

Distinguishing between the two is critical, for it shows our learners where to focus their energy.

As we near the end of the school year, our guides also spend focused time reflecting on the experiences of the year, of the outcomes we see from the environment and opportunities we’ve provided. Without a doubt, one of the greatest outcomes for our Middle School learners is their ability to focus their energy on the things that matter. As far as life skills go, they are 1,000 steps ahead of many adults!

Indeed, Adventure learners are savvy travelers now on this journey of self-directed learning- and their adventures have only just begun!

The Apprenticeship Hunt

Find a calling. Change the world.

Our founding Middle School learners are trying to do just that this session by finding and securing their first 40-hour apprenticeships.

First step: Who am I? What are my strengths? What are my interests/passions? What am I doing when I find myself in flow?

Through discussion, peer feedback, and self-reflection, Adventure learners identified their individual top character traits of insight, leadership, and creativity and narrowed down their many interests to history, event planning, radiology, alternative medicine, and education- among many other things.

Next step: Identify three possible apprenticeships: one “safe”, one “reach”, and one “dream” apprenticeship. Do your research.

Research

Subsequent steps: Draft a compelling email to secure a five minute phone call for each potential apprenticeship. Write, get feedback, revise and practice your phone pitches. Complete the same process for your in-person pitches. Make the pitch. Work out the details. Land the apprenticeship(s).

Sounds easy, right?

Well, sure- except doing something, anything, the first time is never easy. Things will certainly not go exactly as planned.

But this is real world learning at its best- learning that involves a worthy challenge, a strong why, and an outcome that feels fairly high-stakes. Inevitably, mistakes will be made, their skills and confidence will be tested, and our young learners will face disappointment.

Truthfully, we are COUNTING on these experiences. It wouldn’t be REAL world learning without them.

Of course, it always helps to hear the stories of others, complete with their own struggles and successes to better equip, inspire and connect our learners to the challenges they face. We were thrilled to welcome Acton Founder, Jeff Sandefer, to campus this week and hear his own personal story to entrepreneurship and founding of Acton Academy.

Learners enjoyed a special visit and Hero Talk from Acton Founder, Jeff Sandefer

Where will they land next session? What new experiences will they be having in their first apprenticeships?

This is still unknown. What we do know, is that they will have grown through the very act of doing, falling, and getting back up again.

Find a calling. Change the world.

Our Adventure learners are doing just that.

Playing the Infinite Game

Most of us have only ever experienced school in finite terms, with learning measured in seat time, grades and tests over a predictable timeline. It’s finite because there is a clear beginning, middle and end, from the first day of school in the fall to the last day of school in early summer. With a child’s formal entry into conventional schooling starting in kindergarten and culminating at high school graduation, 13 years later. Each year, a child gets new grades, takes new tests, and moves up to a new grade level. It’s easy to deliver, easy to measure, and easy to control. 

This timeline, and all of the traditions and rites of passage along the way, have provided a common rhythm by which most families and students have come to count on. For many people, the comfort of this familiar routine, can be alluring enough to ignore the essential opportunities our children are missing while living inside these rhythms and traditions. Instead, we play the game. We don’t even stop to consider if winning this particular game actually means anything. It’s amazing what we’ll trade for certainty. 

We play a different game at The Village School. It’s the long game, a game that some might even describe as the “infinite game”, since the type of people our children become and the unique contributions they will make to the world around them, will hopefully far outlive even their own footprints on this earth. 

Our community exists because we believe children deserve outcomes of personal agency, independence, resilience, creativity, curiosity, and integrity as a result of their education and we’re willing to play the long, messy, hard game to see it happen. 

Zooming in, we are a buzzing micro-school, where children get to work at their own pace and do really cool hand-on projects, earning badges along the way to demonstrate mastery of certain skills and subjects. Zooming out, we are part of a growing collective of people that believe a flourishing child is the greatest hope for a flourishing world. 

But, even when embracing an entirely new belief system of how young people learn and find success in the world, old habits are hard to break. Even when we consciously commit to the long game, we lose our infinite mindset and start looking for that predictable beginning, middle and end of our child’s school year. Without grades, tests, and report cards, we latch on to what’s easiest to measure and control- their progress on Khan, the number of research papers they’ve completed, their mastery of the reading and/or spelling drawers all contained within the confines of their badge plan. We start the year zoomed out, with a clear-eyed vision of why we’re here and what our hopes are for our children. Then, come spring, I find so many of us zoomed in on the badges our children have yet to finish, the skills they’ve yet to master. Somehow, our hopes for our children have been dimmed by our fears.

What if they don’t finish? 

How will they feel if they “fall behind”?

Will they always be behind? 

Will they feel bad about themselves if they don’t complete their goals for the year? 

Will they be okay? 

Self-paced and project-based learning seems cool when my boys are doing the work, but it feels incredibly uncomfortable when they’re not. It seems ideal when I think about the fact that they have nothing holding them back; they could fly ahead, mastering Algebra 1 long before their same aged peers and less ideal when they are working on math a grade level “below” these same peers. It is exciting when I see them shouldering the responsibility for their learning, submitting their session-long projects by the time it’s due and disappointing when I don’t. 

But, when I zoom out enough, I realize that it’s not about how fast or slow they go, or how many badges they earn, or how comfortable I am- it’s that they recognize their own sense of agency in the process. An unchecked box on their badge plan is just a signpost telling them where to go next. 

Admittedly, I think we need to get better about the narrative surrounding badge plans- so in the studios our learners see them simply as trail markers, not a measure of their worth. And so as parents, we see them as the tool they are meant to be- a tool, while imperfect, that’s far better than empty letter grades, that help our children develop those “long game” outcomes of independence, perseverance, self-awareness, and resilience.

The good news- it does get easier each year. I’m still learning- still constantly trying to shake old habits, especially at this time of the year. But I can see the fruits of this journey so clearly. A child who’s “behind”, hunkers down and completes their Level 4 and 5 badges in one school year. A child who has yet to show an interest in reading, comes in one day excited to master the colored reading drawers and surround themselves with books from the studio library. Within a month or two, they are reading independently. A child who is emotionally distraught that they have not completed their goals as planned, recognizes that they just need to read the signposts more clearly, and then does so, one day a time until they reach their goals. 

Will they be okay? 

They will be better than okay- as long as we’re willing to play the long, messy, hard game to see it happen. As long as we’re willing to trade the certainty of the “finite game” for something better. 

Can You Help Me?

We talk a lot about independence at The Village School. Every step in a learner’s journey in our community is meant to build independence and autonomy. By Middle School, our learners flex these muscles daily, exemplifying what it means to be a self-directed learner.

Interestingly, one of the most important things they discover, is that one of the most important parts of being a self-directed, independent learner is knowing when and how to ask for help.

“I’m not feeling confident in math right now and I’d like help.”

“I’m falling behind and feeling anxious about it. Can you help me set my goals?”

“I revised and edited my final book review. I’d like one more set of eyes on it. Can you review it with me?”

Our Quests are collaborative in nature and are designed to be completed in teams. Failing to ask for help will make it nearly impossible to complete the challenges. Everyone needs to contribute. Each person needs to be comfortable giving and receiving help.

During this session’s Rocket Quest, our Adventure learners have had to lean on each other to succeed in completing each week’s design challenge. While each week has presented a new challenge- from designing and launching a rocket to creating a battery and lighting system for a space station, the one constant component has been one simple but critical question: Can you help me?

Adventure learners work together to make their own homemade battery out of a lemon

The ability to identify and articulate a need and reach out is a critical part of being a self-directed learner. Asking for help is a strength and an important life skill. After some practice, we realize how much more we can accomplish when we work together.

As we select certain “heroes” and role models to discuss in the studios and in society at large, I’m increasingly suspicious of the stories that leave out or downplay the relationships in that person’s life. I wish more of these stories amplified those moments in which the person said, “I need help”, and showed us what happened next- that magical interplay of human relationships, of giving and receiving, of that person reaching their full potential and accomplishing their dreams because of, not in spite of, their ability to ask for help.

The Power of Language: Listening to Learn

Guest Post by TVS Parent, Elizabeth Dean, EdD

You can tell so much about a child’s view of the world just by listening to them play. And as the mother of a 5 and 7 year old, there is a lot of playing happening in our house. 

The first time my oldest daughter, then 4, proudly announced: “Mom, go away so we can play!” is still seared in my mind. The oh-so-familiar parental feelings of confliction: overwhelming joy and piercing sadness all at once. She basically told me to not let the door hit me on my way out, thrilled (as was I) about the newfound independence. Since that day, one of my favorite pastimes has been eavesdropping on my daughters’ playtime. It’s where I learn what is going on in their heads, what they are learning from me, from their teachers at school, and one another. I have learned so much about both of them when I’m secretly standing outside their doors, listening to their language of play. 

Many times during my spying sessions I spend equal amounts of time smiling and cringing. The edgy tone one of them will use when annoyed with each other, or one of my go-to sassy  catch phrases. “Seriously!?” one of them will say, mimicking my inflection and tone to perfection.  How do they do that? I think to myself. 

As an educator, I am well aware of the power of our language. Ron Ritchhart, a principal researcher at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, writes extensively about the power of language in our schools. He so well articulates the way our language shapes and influences the cultures we create in our classrooms. One of my favorite questions he asks is: If we asked your students, what does your teacher always say, how would they respond? Would it be a response like: “Shh. Be quiet.” or “Where is your pencil.” or “Put your phone away.” Or, would it be something like, “What makes you say that?” or, “Let’s be curious together!” Whatever the response, the answer would give insight into the kind of culture that exists in your classroom. Research also shows how the simple use of pronouns communicate leadership, and the simple shift from closed to open questions can elicit better responses from students as well as reveal the power dynamics that exist  (Pennebaker, 2011; Stanier, 2016). 

When I think about all I have learned about language in classrooms and schools, my mind often returns to thinking about the culture of my family. How would my own children and husband respond to the same questions? The possible answers make me uncomfortable – it’s probably somewhere in between, “Hurry up,” and “Stop yelling.” or “Yes, you must wear a hat.” or “No snacks before dinner.” and “If you do what I want you to do, I’ll give you a treat, just please do the thing and do it now!?!” 

As my oldest daughter began first grade, and her second year at the large public school a few miles down the road from our house, the cringe-worthy moments that occured during my spying sessions began to occur more when I overheard the language of school during playtime.

One of those pit-in-my-stomach moments occured while they were playing music class. My six year old sang her music teacher’s song that signaled the beginning of music class. To  the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat she sang:

“Hello, hello, hello, hello, sit down on the floor,

Zip lips, hands in lap, and then you’ll get a four.”

I read between the lines: Hurry up, sit down, be quiet, don’t move, and you’ll get an A for compliance. The message my six year old was getting from her music teacher – her music teacher- was that the way to “success” in music class was to sit down and be quiet – not to mention that success was tied to getting a 4, or an A. The symbolism and irony nearly took my breath away. I was furious. This was music class. Shouldn’t music class be full of movement and dare I say it, children making noise? I tried to convince myself that I was overreacting. I told myself to stop thinking so much. I tried to justify the message – the language in my mind.  

And I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t “un” see it – just like when I realized my own students’ questions about how long the paper had to be or when it was due were actually questions related to compliance not questions that reflected curiosity, engagement, and a love of learning. 

Does this music teacher’s song reflect the world we want for our students – for our own children? I am not judging this teacher – I have BEEN this teacher. It’s not her  fault – the language in the song is the language of our school system. And we live in the systems we create. 

Fast forward a few years. My daughters still play school, and I’m still spying, but things sound different. We go to a new school a few extra miles down the road, where the language is vastly different than the language of our old school. There are heroes, not students. There are guides, not teachers. There are studios, not classrooms. There are Core Skills, not subjects. There are Journey Trackers, not report cards. There are Exhibitions of Learning, not tests. There are Badge Ceremonies, not grades.

During my spying sessions now I hear my daughters refer to each other as heroes. I hear them discuss what core skills they would like to learn about during the day, and I hear them recreate “Town Hall” meetings where anyone can make suggestions on how to make their school a better place. They have “Character Call-outs” where they name and notice things other heroes did for one another: I saw one hero help another hero when she was stuck on a math problem, and I call that helpfulness. 

These sessions take my breath away – and now the cringe-worthy moments are all on me and my own language deficiencies. Language matters – we live in the world our language creates. Is our language helping to cement the system that already exists – or, is our language transforming and shaping the world we want to create for our children and their children? 

The good news? If you were to have a spying session on our family, the language of school is finding its way into the language of our home. We now have our own family Town Hall meetings, where any member of the family can bring suggestions for how to make our family better, and we often have Character Call-outs during breakfast or dinner. Both routines suggested and carried out by our kids. We are attempting to be more intentional so that our language reflects the family that we want to create – and our experience at our new school has shown us that this starts with listening to our own heroes. 

The Power of Questions

Questions are one of the most powerful learning tools we have here at The Village School.

Unfortunately not all learners have access to great questions, and instead are inundated with explanations, rules, and commands.

Of course there is a place for explanations, rules, and commands; but if that’s all that’s encountered at school—or if that’s the majority—then a learner’s development will be slowed.

At The Village School we’ve developed a long list of research-informed questions that we ask learners regularly to help them learn, self-reflect, build self-belief, and think deeply about their goals and challenges. We deliver these questions during weekly “check ins” with our learners with the goal of helping learners keep track of their learning progress and to think deeply about their goals and the challenges they’ll face in achieving them. We don’t judge learners’ answers, and instead challenge them to think deeply about themselves—their identity, interests, goals, and plans. When we perceive they may be getting in their own way (for example, self-doubt, stinking thinking, victim mentality, or misinformation), we use questions to invite them to run small experiments and learn for themselves the merit of their perspectives.

Below are some questions that we ask to empower our learners:

  • How are you? How do you feel?
  • When were you most yourself recently?
  • What are your expectations of yourself today and this week? How can you pursue your goals and interests and have fun?
  • What are your boundaries today and this week? 
  • How are you doing at getting into flow? What’s helping you? How can you improve?
  • Did you meet your learning goals last week? If so, how did you accomplish them? Do you feel proud of yourself? What challenges did you encounter? If not, what challenges did you encounter that didn’t allow you to accomplish your goals? Moving forward, what can you do to overcome those challenges?
  • Are you behind, on track, or ahead with your learning goals for the year? What makes you say that? If you’re behind, what does that make you think? Do you know what you would need to do to get back on track?
  • How do you feel about your workload today and this week? Do you feel like you’re in your Challenge Zone, Comfort Zone, or Panic Zone, and why?
  • What learning strategies are you using and finding most successful? How will you manage your tasks for the day? For the week? Would you change any strategies or your schedule for this week? For what reasons?
  • If you have been learning virtually (from home), what are the biggest opportunities and challenges you face?
  • How are you getting along with others? Are you expressing your feelings?
  • Are you having any conflicts with others? If so, how do you feel, and what is a healthy way to function with others in that situation? What are your boundaries? How will you learn to live together?
  • What do you enjoy most from your day, and why?
  • If you could learn anything in the world, what would it be, and why?

There is no such thing as too many questions at The Village School.

Skill-building in Adventure Studio

From the very beginning of a learner’s time at The Village School, he or she is in an environment that is focused on skill-building- not meeting academic standards. We describe this as the difference between learning to learn and learning to know– the latter, the primary focus of traditional education. (Don’t get me wrong, our young people learn about a lot of really amazing and interesting things, it’s just that accumulating knowledge of facts and figures is not our focus).

It might start like this: In Spark Studio, learning to learn might be as simple as staying focused for 10 minutes on a task. In Discovery Studio this looks like learning how to set SMART goals consistently, how to navigate the systems in a learner-driven community, and how to take responsibility for their choices. In Adventure Studio, our learners rely on these skills to thrive in the face of challenging work, high standards, and real-world projects.

By Middle School (Adventure Studio), our learners are well-versed in the three main obstacles they face in accomplishing their goals: Distraction, Resistance, and Victim-hood. Most importantly, they can identify which one they struggle with the most.

“Resistance- or as I call it, procrastination is always my biggest obstacle,” said one Adventure learner recently.

“I would say distraction is mine. I will often stop and help others. I like doing this but sometimes it distracts me from my own work,” said another learner.

Being self-aware is a start. Building even one good habit that works to counter these tendencies, or at least keep them in balance, is a step in the right direction. Having an arsenal of “learning to learn” skills AND a Heroic mindset is the ultimate toolbox that will allow our learners to “punch procrastination in the face”, as one of our learners humorously declared.

But, building this toolbox is hard work and our young people are still adding these tools. Some sessions they might stop at awareness. Another session they may develop one new positive habit- like planning out their week on Sunday, submitting their work before it is due, or blocking out “do not disturb” times to minimize distractions.

Other sessions, for one reason or another, these self-identified obstacles loom large and our learners struggle. They struggle with finding focus, creating quality work, and/or meeting deadlines. They struggle with facing the consequences of their choices, with linking the chain reaction of events, of identifying how one thing led to another. They struggle with embracing that hero’s mindset.

But, they are building skills here too.

Just like in the real world. Sometimes we manage to “punch procrastination in the face” and sometimes we don’t.

Socratic Guide or Life Coach?

How would you describe the role of a Guide?

This question was posed to heroes in discovery studio recently. The hand of one of our founding heroes shot up. “A guide is a learning designer and life coach for kids”, he said confidently. Many heads nodded in agreement.

While it can be hard to explain the role of a Guide, this hero was able to pinpoint the two key “jobs” of a TVS Guide. Inspired by the Montessori approach, a guide’s role in a learner-driven environment is to set up the learning environment, to ensure all learners have the tools and materials they need to successfully direct their own learning, and to design engaging and meaningful learning experiences- ones that hopefully inspire them to explore even more outside of the school day.

But, there is also a second job. This is the job as “coach”- to listen, affirm, hold up the mirror, and guide learners to a deeper understanding of the obstacles they face and the potential solutions available to them.

Like a real coach or trainer, heroes have a standing appointment with their Guide each week. Here are some of the questions Guides and Heroes have discussed in their meetings this session.

How is your Passion Project going?

What excellent work would you like to present at Exhibition?

Let’s look at your Weekly tracker. Do you think you are on track to reach your goals by the end of the session? What are you stuck on?

What are you feeling really good about?

Which goal/badge feels like a “dragon”/puts you in your panic zone?

How can we break this big goal into smaller pieces? What else might help?

These guide “check-ins”, while seemingly small, provide the support young learners need on their journey of self-directed learning. As they grow in independence, they start to see the solutions available to them and gain confidence in their ability to act, create, and learn through their own practice of self-affirmation and experience.

Even now, in the second session of a new school year, these young learners are rightfully celebrating their hard work, naming their areas of challenge, and identifying strategies and actions they could take to accomplish their goals. Below are just a few of the “aha” moments that have occurred during Guide-hero meetings so far this year.

“I was stuck in my research. I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I could ask a fellow traveler next time if they had any ideas.” -TVS Hero, age 7

“Math is my dragon. I have not been doing 30 minutes a day or watching the videos. I should do this first- then see if someone who is really good at math can help me. One of the Middle Schoolers said she would tutor me.” -TVS Hero, age 10

“I need to do a better job in my writing. I think I just need to slow down. I’ll ask my squad leader to hold me accountable to this. I know they can help me.” -TVS Hero, age 9

“I have been avoiding Lexia. I need to set aside an hour to get into flow and get started.” -TVS Hero, age 11

“I don’t know what to read next. I’ll ask my fellow travelers for recommendations and pick my next badge book by the end of Session 2.” -TVS Hero, age 9

“I love reading so much that I sometimes forget to work on other things. I will do the other things first during morning work and set a timer. Then I can use the remaining time to read!” -TVS Hero, age 7

Guide meetings are constant reminders of how capable young people are. Whether viewed as a Socratic guides or Life Coaches, it is certain that our Guides are learning too and feel lucky they get to do so alongside this next generation of world changers.

Creating a Culture of Excellence

This week in Discovery Studio was action-packed. The studio was buzzing with new energy, having returned from Fall Break, and heroes were happy to see each other and get back into the flow as self-directed learners. This energy also stemmed from kicking off new routines, new learning adventures in writing and quest, and implementing new systems into the studio.

While our focus last session was on learning how to identify and set challenging goals, this session our focus is on building a culture of excellence. Whether it be in communication or writing, in Socratic discussions, or excellence in teamwork and leadership, Discovery heroes will be active participants in creating a culture of excellence at The Village School this year, and beyond.

I have no doubt that they are up for the challenge.

Where did I see excellence this week?

-In writing workshop, when heroes put pencil to paper and did their very best in writing their first draft of personal memoirs and then sharing these stories with another learner in the studio at the end of the week.

-In quest, when, during a full day in the wilderness, heroes joyfully worked together on navigating new surroundings, and put their all in the day’s orienteering and camouflaging challenges.

-In self-governance, when one hero bravely brought the first case to the studio Judicial Committee after a studio-mate broke the studio contract and decided together on a fair and logical consequence- all the while supporting the hero who had made the misstep.

– In character, when, during a closing activity, heroes were asked to send their “wishes for the world” up into a pretend giant ball that we would toss into the sky, imagining that it would carry our friendly wishes to the world.

“I wish that all kids are safe.”

“I wish that all kids like themselves.”

“I wish that all kids dream big.”

And with these three truly excellent wishes, Session 2 is off to a great start.