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Meeting Adam Fletcher and Seattle Visit

October 14, 2009

We have an incredible opportunity to meet with and learn from Adam Fletcher next month! Adam is a nationally recognized researcher on Meaningful Student Involvement (student voice) and understands the systems changes that are essential in our schools today. I have just returned with Helen Beattie (a sabbatical board member and educational consultant for Harwood, among other high schools throughout Vermont) from visiting Adam in Seattle, WA. Adam spent many hours with us and personally attended our visits to schools where this work was being practiced. I return excited and more committed to the work

Claire, a recent high school graduate from Black Hill H.S. who is now attending Evergreen College, was cadid about her experiences with student voice in her comprehensive high school.

Claire, a recent high school graduate from Black Hill H.S. who is now attending Evergreen College, was cadid about her experiences with student voice in her comprehensive high school. From left to right: Jean, Claire, Greg Williamson, Helen, and Adam Fletcher

that youth and adults must be engaged in together at Harwood. I believe that Harwood is ready for this work!

Based on Adam’s availability while here in Vermont next month, I propose that the advisory board meet on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009 from 8:30-12:00. I am currently looking into an off campus meeting place. I will send out another email once that venue is confirmed. It has come to my attention that the 1824 House is no longer in business so I will investigate this week alternative venues for us to convene.

The purpose of this meeting will be for us to all be on the same page in terms of what it means when we speak about Meaningful Student Involvement and genuinely valuing student voice in the day to day operations of Harwood Union High School. To use Adam’s words, “Simply calling something meaningful doesn’t make it so.” We have to focus on building stronger (more intentional) relationships between students and adults in our school. We need to engage our students in ethnography so that they understand the story and context needed for relevancy. If we truly engage our students as “partners in learning” we will bear witness to a real cultural shift in our school. A cultural shift where school isn’t something done to students, but where learning is collaborative, engaging, exciting, and a place where students want to be!

I’ve attached to this email a pdf of Adam’s Guide to Meaningful Student Involvement. It is the same guide I included in a folder I distributed to each of you about a month ago. Please take time to read or browse through this guide as it will better prepare you for meeting and working with Adam on Nov. 11th.

In addition, I am continuing to read and experience theory and practice around Student Voice. This work connects well with Harwood’s ongoing Service-Learning and Problem Based Learning intiatives. Ellen Berrings, Helen Beattie, and I will be visiting a MET school in Rhode Island later this month. I would like to discuss with you on the 11th other opportunities to travel with me to experience this work in schools near and far. As for now… I am considering another extend visit to Nova High School in Seattle, as Helen and I were truly blown away with the level of discourse we had with random students we stopped and chatted with for hours in the hallway of this school. Yesterday, I had a long conversation with Paul MacGowan (a local videographer who has worked on various projects at Harwood, notably Speak Out for Understanding) about traveling to Nova High School to shadow students and teachers. Ideally, we are looking to make this happen the first week of November. In shadowing both students and teachers we hope to show theory into practice and help the advisory board better understand the “process” oriented work of meaningful student involvement. This is a school that focuses on the process AND outcome. I was particularly impressed with this high school where most students are meeting or exceeding the state standards and not only teaching to the test. It is my hope that I might be able to bring our principal along for this 3 to 4 day structured visit!

In closing, I want each of you to be aware of the work that is currently being seeded at Harwood at this time. Duane Pierson (our principal), Ellen Berrings, and Marcus Grace are currently working with a group students and call themselves (YATST- Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together). They are working with Helen Beattie and myself. This past summer, the group of students and adults met at Lyndon State College for three days to establish the necessary foundation for this work. Since then they have met as a group each week for about an hour. It is my hope that we can invite a couple of freshman or sophomores from YATST to join this advisory board and their first induction will be this meeting on Nov. 11th. Duane, Ellen, Marcus and students will be spending a full day with Adam Fletcher on Tuesday, Nov. 10th at Vermont College in Montpelier. Having the opportunity to meet with and work with Adam on Wednesday will support us in bringing this work home to Harwood. Ellen and Duane, please check in with each other and invite 2 more students from YATST to join this advisory board.

Finally, I can’t tell you all enough how grateful I am to share this opportunity with you! I believe that through healthy and engaging discussion/dialogue we will together make Harwood a better place for our students.

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