Breaking In

The walls of schools are thick.

The education system is a world unto itself. It has its own rules, its own culture. Most people who are in that world have spent their entire life in education since they were six years old. It is relatively rare to find an educator who has ever worked outside of the realm of education.

For an outsider like me to be given permission to come into a classroom and teach is highly unusual – particularly since I didn’t really know what I was doing.

But Deb made the difference in getting it to work. She was a recently retired and trusted community member from Dayton, involved with our experiment from the beginning. She saw that there was an opportunity to swap out a six-week module of their Careers class with an agile sprint. Deb pitched the idea to the career teacher and she agreed.

This class was required for all 11th graders. It consisted of two back-to-back periods, held in the first two periods in the morning, involving half of the students in that grade level. In the spring term, the other half of the 11th graders would take the class. I was to model a new learning approach in the fall and then their teacher would try to replicate it in the spring term.

They slotted me in as the middle curriculum module. I had only a few weeks to prepare before the launch.

To be honest, I was terrified. When you enter a classroom, you have to follow a whole new landscape of academic accountability – curriculums, learning targets, and grading rubrics – none of which I deeply understood or had previous experience with.

And then I had to figure out what I would teach and how the students would learn. On top of that, I knew that after six weeks we had to deliver something that was truly amazing.

Finally, there was the thought of standing in front of two classes of thirty students each day and keeping them engaged and focused. I was in way over my head.

But the fact that I was invited inside their walls was a powerful testament to the power of trusted relationships – this would likely never have happened in a larger district. I needed to take advantage of this opportunity and walk courageously into the experience.

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