Over the course of this year there were certainly prickly moments, challenges to overcome, but also opportunities for both staff and students learn and bloom. The goal of this reflection is to share what I viewed as one of the greatest “thorns” and “roses” that YouthBuild experienced in continuing to build what will hopefully be a sustainable focus on sustainability with the support of EFS this year.
Thorn: Changing students/student involvement at various levels.
Structurally our school has a unique set up. Our students switch between academic programming and workforce development programming every 6 weeks or so. Students select their workforce preference, and after one session of foundational academic classes, students also select which cohort of classes they want for the balance of the year. Our EFS team had our GreenBuild workforce instructor, the two “Maker Cohort” academic teachers, and our language support teacher whose caseload were largely in GreenBuild and Makers. We struggled because there were many students who were in the Maker academic cohort but not GreenBuild, and some GreenBuild students who weren’t Makers. I think the overlap was most meaningful for students in both groups. It impacted the amount of student voice incorporated as often students were finishing projects or ideas initiated by a different group of students.
Rose: Collaborative planning time WITH students!
One of our biggest takeaways from this process is the value of collaborative planning and the inclusion of student voice in that space. While the focus wasn’t always directly on a PAR project, the conversations about our lives, what matter most to our students, or how they think we could improve our program at YouthBuild were incredibly rich. We also don’t have much time to plan together at our school so having time to intentionally plan and focus on this project was essential to its success at any level. One of our student participants has expressed an interest in going into teaching and I think much of that was shaped by the time we spent here on Saturday.