What drives these relationships?
When you’re huddling with your team in the morning, what are some values that guide your work? You’ve talked about the importance of teacher-student relationships. What drives those relationships at the middle school?
Generally, there are two things we are doing every morning together as educators: We share with each other the amazing things that our students are doing. And we ask: are our students successful in the expeditions? If there is a student who we decide needs extra support, we develop a plan on how to offer that support and how we will do it. As far as what drives the teacher-student relationships? Honestly, I tell you, a big part of it is that Angela, Adam, and myself are intentionally making that a core part of our teaching philosophy. Developing those relationships comes first. And if you can develop that relationship then it absolutely helps your student with whatever we are doing in the learning expeditions.
What builds a strong relationship? I think a big part of that is, and I say this all the time, bringing a lot of personality and energy into the room. If I can get a sense of personality and energy through this screen, I’m going to connect with that person. Bringing ourselves wholeheartedly as teachers is a huge part of this equation. We show we are invested. Students don’t have to wait long to get a response from a teacher, and if a teacher can’t respond right away they let the student know. Teachers let students know they are available. So like, if you need to chat, here’s my Calendly. Sign up for an office hour and come and see me. They engage in student discussions on the Discord chat. We have a middle school channel that is all about sharing pictures of our pets and we love it.
When it comes to assessing student work and providing that academic coaching at the middle school level, we let the kids bring what they want to bring to us at the beginning of an expedition. So whatever they create, we say: Awesome, you created that! I’m not going to tell you you failed. But I’m going to say what specifically you were great at. This is specifically what you did great on. Now let’s see if we can tap into this a little bit more. Or I’m curious: what would happen if we did this to your project? Do you think this would look cool?
We are trying to pose questions to kids to try and get them to think critically about their final projects, or what they’re doing throughout expeditions, and how they can take it to the next level? I always say that: how can we take this to the next level and mold it into something that shows our thinking skills a little bit better? You know, we’re seeing a lot of changes in education. Who would have thought you could build relationships through a screen, right? What we’re doing at the middle school level is awesome to see.
What traits define student culture?
So my last question is for parents of middle school students, or maybe proactive middle school students who are looking into Sora themselves: what are the traits or attributes that really define the students who make up the culture in the middle school?
If I think about what a successful middle school student looks like at Sora, it’s somebody who’s open-minded. It’s somebody who is curious. It’s somebody who seeks answers or wants to know more. It’s somebody who’s flexible in their learning, and appreciates feedback, but also wants to be a part of a community and engage with their peers and with the experts. Our students bring an intrinsic motivation with them. And together, these things create a successful learning experience for middle schoolers.
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