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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Summit Student Speaks

A bit ago, I posted an entry about The Re-Purposing of Summit K-12. In comments on this blog, there has recently been discussion of the attitudes of parents in alternative education. This turns the discussion from the children affected to how their parents are perceived. In an effort to bring that focus around to what we really should be discussing, I thought it was time to share a student's perspective.

My son, Jacob (also known as Ciarán), is a survivor of crippling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and major depression. He is a graduate of View Ridge's Spectrum program and has attended Eckstein (Honors), Blaine, and Hamilton. After three years in and out of schools, hospitals, and institutions, he washed up at Summit K-12 in eighth grade, as part of the Internalizing Disorders Program (IDP), at the recommendation of someone in Special Education.

He talked about some of his experiences in a piece that aired on KUOW this morning, Summit: A Refuge From Teasing. He also testified at the most recent board meeting (Ciarán is at 40:30).

I think that those cover some of the myriad reasons why there is a definite place for alternative education in general in the Seattle School District and Summit K-12 in particular.

The problem with One Size Fits All education is that all children are not the same.

8 comments:

north seattle mom said...

I heard Jacob speak and I was very impressed by him and the Summit community supporting him. His testimony convinced me that Summit does deserve a home and does great work.

seattle citizen said...

I heard your son's testimony at the board meeting, and was gratified to hear his passionate and articulate description of how Summit served him.

There used to be an Alternative School Coalition, that worked hard to encompass many alt voices, including of course the voices of students. The work of the coalition led to the Board Policy C5400, and then to the Alt Committee, which met for a year (with educators, parents, and students in the committee) to form the checklist which the CAO has before her.

It would be my recommendation to revitalize the Alt Coalition, or start a new coalition of community members interested in diverse, ELL, SpEd, and other "non-traditional" methodoligies, so as to have a voice before the district. As the district moves forward

A recent attempt was made by some in the alt community to establish some form of solidarity; I don't know the results of that attempt.

All in favor of a new coalition say "aye."

seattle citizen said...

oops...didn't finish my thought; when on to another (it's late and I smell dinner almost ready...)

"...so as to have a voice before the district. As the district moves forward..."

...with plans to reconfigure delivery services of curriculum, instruction, assessment. Of note would an apparent interest in "common curriculum," which is already appearing in developmental classes (for those "behind" in a given subject) and there is discussion of carrying such practices into "regular" classrooms: Not exactly direct instruction, but shared texts, expectations of classes across the district being "on the same page" at the same time...

This sort of thing has its advantages, particularly where students are struggling over time and in different schools: a common approach can lend consistency to remedial efforts and strategies. But there needs to be a voice for including opportunity for diverse, inquiry-based, expeditionary, exploratory lessons. The alts are well-grounded in these methodologies; how can they help organize and coalesce the various threads in here about ALl sorts of "non-traditional" methods?

seattle citizen said...

Here's a link to the recent alternative group I referenced, and their list-serve site on yahoo:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/seattle-alted/

Sahila said...

I just dont understand the mindset here in Seattle - the home of internet innovation, out of the box thinkers, square pegs rebelling against round holes, 'nerds' in all shapes and sizes, entrepreneurs... how do you think all that happened? Via traditional, limited, cookie-cutter models of thinking and doing?

With all of that, you would think the State (read SPS) would be most interested in nurturing more of the same, especially as the US is now technologically behind many parts of the world, Asia has shown its capacity to first copy and then outstrip US/western innovation and development, and high-dollar value jobs are being lost to outscourcing overseas...

Instead, rather than foster all kinds of learning (one of AS#1's lunchroom banners reads "A place to learn for every kind of mind"), and accepting innovative, research-driven pedagogy, there's this move to standardise and supersize... which runs totally against the findings of the research and what's accepted as educational best practice...

What I'm wanting in a school for my unique, individual (for what its worth intellectually and socially totally 'normal', indeed possibly APP-capable) son is a broad and vertical curriculum, with an independent education plan, in a broad-range mixed age, diverse (ethnically, culturally, physically/emotionally-abled) classroom (just like real life is), with as much self-directed experiential 'real world' learning as possible, with access to art, music, the outdoors, philosophy, spirituality, chess etc, etc...

I want him to know his teachers as friends and learning partners, I want him to be a respected, integral, equal member of the community without power hierarchies operating, where he contributes to the whole at whatever level he is capable...

Traditional schools dont give him the scope to grow into all of his potential.... he has to shave off parts of himself to fit into the system...

And life is not about fitting into the system... systems are infinitely malleable things that ought to change as the needs of the people they serve change... not people having to change to serve the system... the industrial revolution ended at least a century ago... the traditional education system that was born then no longer serves our 21st Century paradigm...

And all this is what alternative schools are about...

Contrary to belief - having this child-centred education for every child is possible and wouldnt cost much more than traditional 'system-driven' industrialised model... what it costs more in implementation would be recouped in savings at the other end, in less need for social services, less jails, less medical care, less dysfunctional individuals, families and communities...

Such arse-over-kite conservative thinking in a part of the country where innovation and thinking outside the box were necessary survival skills.... maybe we've all gotten too comfortable and too complacent.... or maybe we're all too scared to dare to change the system.... what harm are we inflicting on our children, our greatest and really, only, resource?

The word verification - sessemi - as in Open Sesame perhaps? Open Pandora's box, perhaps? Open the door to all this world could be, do you think? Open the door to all our kids could be, if we gave them the chance, do you think? Gave all our kids the chance, not just some, do you think?

beansa said...

Thank you so much for posting this. The recent sniping in the comments here has left me wondering if we all just need a break from the internet for a while.

Jacob's words really hit home for me, as I also struggled with PTSD and depression throughout high school. I think it's wonderful that he's found a home at Summit and it further reinforces the need for alternative schools.

My daughter is only 6, but I've already witnessed the stress and emotional strain she went through in Kindergarten last year when her teacher decided she was a "behavior problem" who needed to be punished into compliance. We switched her to AS1 this year, and the difference is astounding.

Hopefully these programs will continue to be available for ALL the kids who just aren't well served in traditional schools.

Robert said...

Agreed on summit!

One additional thought, I would add APP to all the Alt programs that have made SPS if not Seattle a better place.

zb said...

I also heard Jacob speak on the radio and was impressed with him. I hope that he will continue to be his own powerful advocate for his needs whatever happens in this particular battle.

His story of the bullying was heartbreaking and reminded me once again how important it is that we not give pat and handy answers.