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FACULTY TEAM PRESENTS AT NATIONAL CONFERENCE

focused on progressive education, equity and access
Every other year, progressive educators from traditional public, public charter, and independent schools along with participants from colleges, universities and educational non-profits gather for the Progressive Education Network National Conference. This year’s conference, which took place on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis was organized around the theme “Educating for Democracy: Navigating the Current and Channeling the Future of Progressive Education.”
 
The conference was framed by a powerful opening panel of Minneapolis educational advocates and keynote addresses from Drs. Paul Gorski and Bettina Love.. All spoke powerfully to the need for progressive educators to interrogate continually how our progressive practice manifests in our classrooms and schools and the absolute need for this work to be aligned with our ongoing equity, anti-racist and social-justice efforts.
 
LREI was well represented by its delegation of 10 participants all of whom were also selected to offer workshops based on the work and learning that is central to LREI’s mission. Here is a list of the workshop titles, which speak powerfully to the rich learning experience that is at the heart of the LREI experience (more detailed descriptions of each workshop can be found below):
  • Teaching A People’s History through Imaginative Inquiry: Centering Stories of Struggle, Igniting Possibilities of Change
    Lower School teachers Elaine Chu and Jessie Kirk

  • Working in the Field: How to Structure Independent Student Activism
    Middle School Humanities teachers Sarah Barlow and Sara-Momii Roberts

  • Sailing the Ship of State: Closing the Civics Gap in a Progressive Setting
    High School History teachers Ann Carrol and Tom Murphy

  • Anxiety and Frustration in the Progressive Classroom: Struggle and Growth in Students and Teachers
    High School Math teacher Pat Higgiston

  • Mathematics Cafe as a Progressive Form of Assessment in Math Classes
    High School Math teacher Sergei Mikhelson

  • Charting a Course: Designing a PreK-12th Grade Progressive and Equity Focused Service Learning Program
    Director of Equity & Community Sandra (Chap) Chapman and Director of Learning & Innovation Mark Silberberg

  • Progressive Leadership: Building School and Cross-Sector Partnerships that Educate for Democracy
    Director of Learning & Innovation Mark Silberberg and colleagues from the Progressive Education Network New York (PENNY)  
The regular reflection on and redesign of the LREI curriculum is a fundamental characteristic of our progressive practice. It ensures that the curriculum is responsive to the leads of learners. Sharing this work on a larger stage with colleagues provides an opportunity to broaden LREI’s sphere of influence, to gain valuable feedback on our ongoing work, and to learn from our colleagues across the nation who are engaged with us  in this important work.
 
WORKSHOP DESCRIPTIONS:
 
Teaching A People’s History through Imaginative Inquiry: Centering Stories of Struggle, Igniting Possibilities of Change
Lower School teachers Elaine Chu and Jessie Kirk

Developed in the United Kingdom, Imaginative Inquiry (II) is a pedagogy based on the idea that children's imagination is our greatest resource in the classroom, placing it center stage as a powerful tool for learning. Within a community of inquiry, teachers and students create exciting and meaningful contexts for learning, using the conventions of theatre such as point of view, tension, and narrative, to explore curricular objectives. Students are not merely passive observers of the stories of our world, but are collectively invited to take action in the realm of possibility that Imaginative Inquiry provides. 

In this workshop, the Institute for Imaginative Inquiry will take participants on an experiential, on-your-feet adventure exploring the innovative pedagogy of Imaginative Inquiry (II). In II, students grapple with the essential questions of the curriculum through exciting imaginary contexts that invite them to use their skills, knowledge, emotions, morals, and instincts to make decisions, understand their impact on others, and learn about the world. By asking students to step into and take action in the stories of our world, instead of being passive observers, II becomes a tool to practice social change.

Working in the Field: How to Structure Independent Student Activism
Middle School humanities teachers Sarah Barlow and Sara-Momii Roberts

Educating for democracy requires student voice and student action. Independent schools are uniquely positioned with the flexibility to engage students in real world work as integral components of the classroom experience. Eighth graders at LREI enter humanities class each year anticipating the Social Justice Project. For five months students embark on this project to better understand and take action on a current social justice issue of their choice. Eighth graders come to experience the rewards and challenges of active citizenship and the need for all individuals to choose to participate. The culmination of the project is an annual Eighth Grade Social Justice Teach-In when eighth graders plan and run a day-long event for the rest of the middle school and the larger LREI community. Thus begins what we hope is a lifelong commitment to social justice. 

This workshop will describe the logistics and implementation of the Eighth Grade Social Justice Project, and especially fieldwork, the heart of the project where students leave school during the day to work alongside community organizations and conduct interviews with experts in the field. Workshop participants will leave knowing what to do to set up similar actions in their school and will explore pitfalls and new ideas with the group.



Sailing the Ship of State: Closing the Civics Gap in a Progressive Setting
High School history teachers Ann Carrol and Tom Murphy

As educators, we are all navigating the rough and sometimes dangerous waters of the current political climate. Given the advent of “fake news”, the rise of policies that further endanger marginalized communities, and the disappearance of civil discourse, there is an urgent need for teachers and administrators to assess the role of the school as a place for citizenship education. It is true that teaching the nuts and bolts of the system as it is - with its inherent flaws, complexities, and limitations - can often seem at odds with progressive pedagogy.  However, developing students’ understanding of the system is an essential precursor to changing the system. With all this in mind, following the 2016 Election, the Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School brought all hands on deck as we began redesigning curriculum and course content to meet the needs of this “civics knowledge gap”. Teachers and administrators sought out creative, meaningful, and engaging ways to teach students the ropes, and enable and motivate them to thoughtfully and constructively chart their own course to political efficacy and action. 

This workshop will provide participants with practical resources that can be used both for one-time lessons, as well as for more comprehensive curricular restructuring. Furthermore, we will share ways in which space can be left in the school day for students to act as advocates, discoursants, and educators to each other and their respective school communities.

Anxiety and Frustration in the Progressive Classroom: Struggle and Growth in Students and Teachers
High School math teacher Pat Higgiston

We’ll explore a framework for the skillful awareness of practice centered on the recognition of student and teacher emotional responses in the progressive classroom. As competition and self-fulfilling rigor give way to collaboration and meaningful work, we push students into their growing edges. They take risks and make mistakes as we share control over the class’ discourse. This provokes anxiety, which requires tools to protect and sustain the generative potential of our practice.

We’ll apply a social/emotional lens to the teacher’s presence in the classroom and what that presence communicates as we ask, “What happens when we consider both the whole child AND the whole teacher in our practice?” The hard work of creating an equitable classroom begins with honest reflection around our experiences and assumptions. This is particularly true of privileged teachers who may accept intellectually and promote an anti-oppressive position, but because of lifelong conditioning continue to have emotional responses that contradict their ideals. An ally-teacher first must listen, both to students who are often silenced, and to an internal dialog that they would rather not hear.

Participants will share responses to challenging student emotions, reflect on what drives their responses, and identify where/when an emotional response can create or limit learning opportunities. We’ll use structured dyads to open a space for participants to talk about their experiences, while giving them an opportunity to practice the kind of active listening tools that they can use to navigate anxiety and frustration wherever they arise in their practice.
 
Mathematics Cafe as a Progressive Form of Assessment in Math Classes
High School math teacher Sergei Mikhelson
 
Mathematics Cafe is a pedagogical approach  that makes learning inclusive and collaborative. Mathematics Cafe engages students in a collaborative meaningful problem solving experience. It is a progressive format where children are allowed to make mistakes, identify and correct them while growing as scholars and mathematical thinkers. It may be used as a fun activity, or as an assessment, which alleviates stress. 
 
Mathematics Cafe is a format where the setting resembles a regular cafe, except that the items on the menu are math problems. The motto of the Cafe is:“In our Mathematics Cafe your brain takes delight in intellectual cuisine the same way your stomach enjoys culinary masterpieces at a regular restaurant.”
When making reservations students may decide to come on their own, or in parties of 2, 3, or 4, depending on the overall size of the class or group for which the Cafe is run. It creates opportunities for collaboration. Students are allowed to submit solutions to the problems as many times as they want within the time frame of the Cafe. With each submission, they are only told how much progress they have made, without indicating particular mistakes. Such an approach helps to develop critical thinking, perseverance in solving problems and leads to increased mastery of the material. The problems in the menu are of different levels, types, and topics so that each student can find an entry point for inquiry.from the list. Thus, Cafe serves the purpose of inclusive learning, where students of different abilities, learning styles and those with various math challenges may find success. 
 


Charting a Course: Designing a PreK-12th Grade Progressive and Equity Focused Service Learning Program
Director of Equity & Community Sandra (Chap) Chapman and Director of Learning & Innovation Mark Silberberg

This workshop will share learnings from ongoing work at the Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School (LREI) to rejuvenate our historic commitment to progressive practice and public purpose by aligning our service learning and equity focused work PK-12. This work calls for the intentional design of experiences that are: 1) grounded in relationships, 2) relevant to those engaging in the work,  3) connected to our evolving curriculum, 4) designed at an achievable scale, and 5) ongoing & seen in the context of a 14-year learning continuum. Our goal is the continual refinement of a mission-aligned framework that guides teachers and teams in designing projects that are relevant and appropriate to the developmental needs of our students. At the same time, the emerging framework is helping to ensure that individual projects fit into a progressive, purpose-driven, equitable, and developmentally grounded arc for service learning experiences across the whole institution. A guiding question for this work is, “How might we design for a series of experiences that meet students where they are and prepares them for where they are going?” We’ll share success, challenges and the current iteration of our framework for service learning and equity education that is emerging from this collaborative inquiry.

We'll ask participants to engage in several active learning experiences so they can examine relevant work from their schools in terms of the framework. We’ll also use our time together to hear about similar efforts underway in participant schools to align service learning work to core values.

 

 
 
Progressive Leadership: Building School and Cross-Sector Partnerships that Educate for Democracy
Director of Learning & Innovation Mark Silberberg and colleagues from the Progressive Education Network New York (PENNY)
 
 
How do the leaders of progressive schools support, protect, and celebrate progressive philosophy and teaching?  Join leaders from public, charter, independent, and teacher education schools who are members of the cross-sector PENNY collaborative.  We feel a sense of urgency in both teaching children about social justice and democracy and engaging in the practice of education as an act of social justice.  With current systematic changes in both independent and public sectors we are particularly attuned to the need for joining together to uphold our values and practice.  As school leaders, we must find a balance between daily support and decision making, larger questions about the culture and inclusivity of our schools, and even broader discussions about our schools in the context of politics, districts, communities, activism and more.  The workshop will begin with statements from the organizers and then include everyone in small group discussions.

Participants will
  • Learn about practices of school leaders from various sectors that are working to lead and build schools centered around democratic progressive education, even as we all may define that differently within the context of our communities and schools.
  • Reflect on their own practice as school leaders and how their educational philosophy shapes their work and future goals for their communities.
  • See how local collaboration between progressive schools can help provide support and new ideas, as well as a way to address larger issues in the educational sphere
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