I’m struggling. I’m unsure, and I’m worried. Simultaneously, I am excited, I’m hopeful and optimistic about the future of one part of my action plan. With these mixtures of emotions, what follows is me trying to work through a DT process to further my understanding of next steps, and turn those into How Might We statements…
Back in the first academic term, I wrote a post about a new journey that I was embarking on with my school. The journey was called “Day 9”. Read the original post HERE. Since then, we’ve successfully launched 3 Day 9 events, one in October, November and February, and we have one more coming up in April – April 24th. Over the course of the year, our learning has been surprising, challenging and on a steep curve. I’m excited and optimistic about the future of Day 9s because our school has stayed true to the founding principles of Day 9: they are to be Meaningful for faculty and students alike; Authentic to the lives of faculty and students, and situated in authentic contexts, and finally, that they are to Promote Inquiry/Open-mindedness/introduce faculty and students to new perspectives. I feel that through our wide variety of options, experiences and workshops, we have succeeded in this, and will continue to do so.
I’m unsure and I’m struggling because we also had principles that each Day 9 must be organized. For the most part they have been, but not without the hard work, and above-and-beyondness of some of our faculty and staff that have had to take on more to ensure that these days ran on time and were adequately supported. How long can we rely on those ‘early adopters’, those with ‘creative confidence’ to make such a complex and large venture a success? How might we make Day 9 more sustainable?
We set out so that Day 9 would provide Choice for how the faculty, staff and students engage on the day. This has just not been sustainable, and for a couple of reasons. The first and foremost is that it is a difficult task to ensure that there are enough experiences available for adequate choice – balancing student numbers and student interests is difficult. Another reason is the need for adequate number of chaperones to ensure safety on our excursions and during workshops. Also, another reason this has been difficult is because it is hard to balance the interest of faculty and students together. For example, not all of us are into Virtual Reality, Drone Flying, Chocolate Making, etc… How might we organize Day 9 more intentionally into the calendar year to ensure it is meeting its mark for student needs and faculty needs?
Finally, we stated that Day 9s would be integrated into the lives of faculty, staff and students that it is not something that is simply layered upon their existing lived experience. This is where the majority of our tension resides. For example, we have been having some incredible field trips being scheduled for Day 9, and faculty have been using this deepen and extend their field trips. For example, instead of travelling to Stratford to see a play and take part in a workshop, for April’s Day 9, we have invited the company to our school to set up, hold the play, and then do break-out workshops in small groups based on student interest. This is an incredible opportunity for our Grade 9 students and faculty, and many agree. However, our Grade 9 students then have no choice because it is tied to their curriculum and assessments. But we have a small group of Teacher-Advisor groups heading out for a bonding excursion, and it involves some of these students. So here we have two programmatic events in conflict with one another. So, I’ve left it in the hands of students. Choice has returned, but for a limited few. How might we balance programmatic needs, and ensure, when in conflict, that students are making good choices?
As I wrote back in the first term: “Day 9s are something that has never been tried before, and for which there are few tested models. In this way, we as a whole school are collaborating, cooperating and entering this space together as learners. It won’t be perfect, and the first Day 9 will not be locked in as a way we do things. This will be an iterative process. In this way, as a whole-school we are a learning organization.”
I’m excited to say that this part has also held true. In April, we will have over 5 events created by our students who are pursuing their passions, over 10 created by our teachers to deepen and extend curriculum, and some events that received rave reviews and are returning. This tells me that our school is more and more willing to take up the Day 9 venture. How might we make this innovation a routine in the lives of our faculty and students?
Thanks for reading this far. Through this long process of thinking and writing, I now know that my feelings articulated above are exactly the feelings connected to embracing ambiguity. They are, quite possibly, the feelings of my faculty and students early and on, and even now in the process of integrating Day 9s in to their lived experience. So now, better equipped with an understanding of the operational, logistical and emotional side of change, I can’t wait to get started on planning for next year. Oh wait, I have one more Day 9 to go on April 24th!