What I Learned in my First Week of Running a School
For the first time in my life, I’ve dropped every other project and concentrated 100% on one thing:
BIG is, well, big. Sorry if you’ve emailed me lately.
We’ve been picked up by the second largest school district in Iowa, and we’ll be offering a competency-based education option to +16k students.
Exclamation point. Pause. EXCLAMATIONPOINT!
I don’t have much time to write, but here’s a list if highlights from running a CBE school for a week:
- Competency-based education is really attractive to a certain group of parents and students; those that know their kid needs a real CV to compete coming out of the gate.
- No one has any idea what a project is.
- If you start a project without an external audience in mind, it’s probably going to be sucky.
- If you start a project with a genuinely interesting question, it’s probably going to be legit. (How different are the proteins in blue, green, & brown eyes? vs. the much crappier: How does DNA make proteins?)
- Middle school students can’t drive.
- There’s an astonishingly small number of students who gravitate towards (and are properly served by) book-first learning. BIG is operating at 10% of students really flourishing this way. <implications implied implicitly>
- Blurred Lines is a fun tune, but wildly inappropriate.
- Ripping off Piet Mondrian for your logo makes you look like a fop, and minimizes time in Illustrator.
- Writing competencies should be individualized to the student and needs to map back to at least 3 curriculum standards, or you’re just never going to stay at a good pace (just below Grueling/Meager Rations.)
- No one talks about grades at BIG. It just doesn’t come up.
- Keep a Google Doc for every student that has all of the crazy good ideas that pop up. You won’t remember everything, and the kids won’t either.
- The context upon which you can hang content has a surprisingly wide latitude for most students.
- Symposium time is necessary. (When 5-10 students get together to share progress, failures, successes, and ideas with each other)
- We really need a mascot and colors. Currently we’re The Fighting Whalephants.