The REAL Challenge Begins Now!

IgotuWhat happens when 100 adults and 500 teenagers “lower the waterline” and let others really know them?  What is the affect of bullies telling their victims they are sorry in front of a large crowd of their peers?  How do students react when they find out that many of their school peers have experienced some horrible emotional situations?  What is it like for students when their teachers, school administrators, school board members, and other community members share true stories about their lives and shed a tear or two?  What is the affect of six hours of laughing, dancing, listening, crying, hugging, and caring for people in ways you have never done before?  CULTURE CHANGE!  The building of empathy and understanding. The realization that we are all so much more alike than different.  The awareness of what we say, do with and to others has a major effect that can be both life affirming or devastating.  BUT, it will only happen if we care enough to carry through with it….and it all begins with YOU!

I have said before, many times, that our students don’t care what we know until they know we care.  We have tried very hard to build school community and trust here the past several years in an effort to improve school performance.  I think we may have really turned a corner this past week.  We shut down the bell system, slowed down the prescribed learning and perhaps learned the most important lesson of all; We all matter!  I hope what we have seen the past several days is a new normal.  That we can all continue to have each others’ back and be real with one another.  I know that initially this past week’s activities have made an impact.  You can see it and feel it in the hallways and classrooms.  Our new challenge is to keep this new “attitude” alive!  I know it is up to me and I am the change!  I hope you will join me and commit the same pledge.

Yes! We Are Going To Be Able To Do That!

Wall construction in STEM Lab

Wall construction in STEM Lab

Imagine a space in a school building where students spend time working with research specialists from throughout the region in a state of the art research laboratory.  A student may work along side a research professional from Lilly Labs researching pharmaceutical health solutions, collaborate with a chemist from Cargill to create tasty new corn products, communicate with a bio-medical research team in Israel about a current local experiment involving the study of cancer cells at PHS, or study the latest in robotics and their applications at local industries such as North American Lighting or Simonton Windows.

The goal of the inclusion of this lab in the new Paris High School is to create “real life” learning experiences where students are linked to the rest of the world through research projects.  The STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) room will be larger than the size of four regular classrooms and will be zoned to have biological, chemistry, and physics centers where regular classes can go to conduct research and participate in various projects related to course curriculum.  The room can also serve as a center for advance projects done by upperclassmen under the mentorship of classroom teachers and outside experts.  

The students will be able to present findings in media rich environment in the room’s “think tank” area which will be equipped with monitors, speakers, and computer that will connect them with the world as both an audience and an academic resource.  Over all our goal will be to have students conduct high-level research, communicate with local, community, and worldwide audiences via web-based videoconferencing, and partner with a number of universities and corporations to learn practical applications of current science and technical studies.  The room will allow students from vocational and academic courses to co-mingle as they prepare for further academic study or entry into the workforce after leaving high school.  The funding for this venture is available because local philanthropists care about the education of the youth of this community and we could not create a space like this without their help.  If you would like to know how you can become involved in this venture, please contact us at PHS (217) 466-1175.

Architect's rendering at night

Architect’s rendering at night

The Road Forward

photo (10)Sometimes I get an idea in my head that will not go away.  Not all of these ideas are good ones but they make me feel like Richard Dreyfuss’ character in the Close Encounters of the Third Kind, (most of you will have to Google it), where he had to keep trying to shape things into Devil’s Tower. The following idea is one that continues to take shape in my mind and I am not sure where it is going (and like the linked clip, folks are probably looking at me kind of funny).  Using some funds from our vending machines, I bought a college pennant for every member of our staff.  The pennant represents either where the staff member went to school themselves or where their children attended college.  People are usually proud of their alma mater and are proud to talk about it.  I bought pennants with the idea that they would be talking points for teachers and students alike as the discuss education, both in the future tense and in the past tense.  A few weeks after the pennants showed up I got the idea about each faculty member telling their story in a short video.  This idea crystallized during a meeting I attended about community mentoring in schools.  We were discussing how hard it was to get people to come in during the school day and I mentioned the video idea to the group.  How adults could share their stories via video with the local students and they could connect using social media.  The idea morphed as I talked about it.  It came to me as I was speaking, that since the goal was to get students to contemplate their future, why not have students also make videos about their plans for the future and the action steps they need to do to get there.  The adult videos will be grouped into a genre called the “Road Followed” and the students’ work will be grouped together in a collection called “The Road Forward”.  Not sure if I know where this is going yet?  Or if I even am sure I want to pursue it?  But, in order to get others to think about the possibilities, I made a sample video about my “Road Followed”  The challenge was to try to make it informative yet short.  It may seem self serving, (and maybe it is) but I want to know if my idea has any merit….so, here is the video.  Any thoughts, ideas, or criticisms would be appreciated in the comments section!  If the video does not work, follow this link: http://youtu.be/zxyDf7U2wkg