In the final week of the Teaching Practicum experience at Journeys School, I like to walk through the levels to observe the various products of graduate student efforts. Through the weeks of planning and conversation, I anticipate what I will see. When I step into the middle school, I will watch highly engaged students, working side by side with motivated teachers exploring design of assistive devices with Legos, a part an IB MYP community service unit focused on technology. I will jump up to the high school. There, students will be discussing their conceptual changes regarding Wyoming energy development or how to best present their sustainability audit to Journeys School parents. In PreK, always my favorite, students will spin and dance to create shadows on the stage back drop while acting out a drama of dragons, princesses, and even batman. Sneaking back up to the Elementary classroom, I will pause to enjoy the art, poetry and prose of a character study. Then, around the corner, I may run into Thomas Jefferson making a random reappearance to share the importance of the constitution, or I may even confront sea monsters created from buckets of water and mixed media.
Earlier in the practicum I introduced graduate students to the four pillars of Journeys School: Academic Excellence, Extraordinary Relationships, Place-Based Education, and Global Citizenship, as well as the mission of integrating ecology, culture and community to ensure academic excellence and personal success for Pre-K through 12th grade students in a college preparatory, independent school setting, graduate students paused, processing its significance in reflection upon our visits to a variety of local schools and our discussions about the current status of education in America. Throughout this practicum, I have continually observed graduate students contributing directly to the implementation of this very real vision, a vision that sets Journeys School apart.
To culminate the Teaching Practicum, graduate students will share their personal “Ideal School” projects over a celebratory meal. The purpose of the project is to synthesize learning within the multi-faceted experience at Journeys School and to apply our responses to our guiding questions: Why school? Why education? How do these questions inform our personal educational philosophies? How do these questions inform the mission and vision of innovative schools? How are mission and vision implemented in schools?
Over the seven weeks, graduate students explored innovative schools around the country, interviewed local educational leaders, engaged current literature on educational reform and taught under the mentorship of Journeys Faculty. Graduate students will connect all that they had learned to articulate a comprehensive vision of what their ideals schools would be. Not only will they describe discrete components such as assessment, instruction and curriculum, graduate students will share personal statements of purpose. I trust that graduate students will express the impact that the Journeys faculty, students, culture and environment had on their personal beliefs on education. Graduate students may describe an optimal physical environment modeled from Journeys, share philosophies inspired by Reggio Emilia and place-based education, or speak of developing character of the student body similar to what they observed at Journeys. I know I will be proud of their engagement and sincerity to envision school on a personal level, but I will also be reaffirmed in my belief in the efforts that each Journeys faculty member puts in on a daily basis. The teachers serving Journeys School carry the vision of what education can be. They work tirelessly to make each learning experience for students meaningful in hope to achieve that vision.
At the end of this week, I will pack up my temporary office to bring it all back to the Kelly Campus. When I walk down Coyote Canyon, I will be proud to be a part of the effort to improve education, proud to be a part of the vision that graduate students, Journeys faculty, students, and parents strive to realize.