Today is my first day back from winter break. I had 17 days off, and it was amazing. I had a few firsts. I took a 72 hour hiatus from email. Surprisingly, my account login still worked after a three day break. I say the time off was amazing because I was able to truly step back. I’ve had summer breaks before, but the first day of summer break is marked by coaching summer school and curriculum development. This winter marks the third anniversary of Kornerstone School. Even though the school has only been opened with students since this past August, the planning team began work in the winter of 2009. Since then, I never really unplugged. It was always one milestone to the next. The time off allowed me to look at the successes and failures of the past 3+ years. It also allowed me to do something I’ve been craving since school began- design time.
I intentionally stayed away from writing. I get consumed with writing; whereas, with design, it’s completely interruptable. I do much of my design out of journal or on various forms of Google Docs. Speaking of interruptable, my students just jumped off the bus (8:48am), and the excitement in school just crescendoed…will resume post at end of day.
End of 1st day back…
The student excitement today was incredible. Not quite like the first day of the school year, but I forget so quickly how much energy 13 – 16 year olds bring. We’re hitting the students with two days of orientation and community building before they dive back into project-based learning. I was excited as well.
Jumping back into the theme of this post. Time off allowed me to create several lessons I’m excited to facilitate. My portfolio is nearly ready to go live. I put about eight hours into the site and finally decided to purchase a subscription from Nick Roach’s Elegant Themes. After just 16 hours as a subscriber, I can tell you it’s flat out worth the $40 per year. The themes are incredible. I’m twerking the Chameleon theme. I envision each graduating student having their own website/portfolio. I think it’s worth the $8 per month to host. I’d gladly give up Netflix before giving up my hosting.
Something else happened. I started to dream again. Not while asleep, but while awake. The same what if’s that spawned Kornerstone School started seeping through my mentals. Much of this sparked was thrown down by my friend & colleague Tom Krause (@krauseunc). He’s proceeding with a program design in his district and he’s got a team of eager educators wanting to create, innovate, and implement. It was really good to talk with Tom extensively. Our children, both 2-years old, bowled. Later, we chatted up learning spaces, dynamic Rhizomatic redesign existing within a large high school. Tom’s doing great things.
The other area I put time into was the Wisconsin Digital Learning Day (#WIDigitalLearning). #DLDay is February 1 (Digital Learning Day). DPI’s Kurt Kieffer has been very proactive in organizing #WIDigitalLearning . With so many talented educators in the state collaborating, I was a bit hesitant to publish content without first involving my students. I’m sitting down with a planning team this week to discuss what February 1 will look like. I’d love to do a workshop model where we create content and publish it in the same day, but that would require taking an entire day away from the regularly scheduled program. Here’s the big thing about time off. It allowed me to go slow and methodical. Since I didn’t have three dozen menial tasks compiling, I was able to work for chunks of time and allow work to process, the work seemed to settle in more. I’ve written extensively about having priorities straight, and I believe the two week break naturally aligned my priorities. My family was in front of me each and every day, I had to go out of my way to pickup my laptop; it’s usually the inverse.
I am now the world’s biggest advocate for a, dare I say, year round schedule (European model). I will gladly start up August 1 and take off ten days in October, two weeks in December, and ten days in March. I am better teacher for it.