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Case study: teaching in a flex model at Summit Public Schools

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- When I talk to people about our school model, they're always impressed with how we allocate time. And how we allocate student time around focusing on exactly what they need and not wasting their time with that they don't. And focusing teacher time on coaching kids and setting goals, coaching kids on drawing out their skills rather on the mundane tasks of grading papers or preparing simple tests. - So at Summit Public Schools, we really start to see these different roles for teachers come to life in a few distinct ways that we wanna highlight. - [Man in pink] The first one is this notion of personalized leaning time or what Summit calls PLT. It's an essence students owning their own learning. - [Man in violet] Next, the teachers job is really different during their project time, that here their focus is all on non-cognitive skills and teaching students those mindsets that they want them to develop. - [Man in pink] The third area that we wanna focus on is what Summit does with team teaching. - [Man in violet] Finally, it's really interesting to think about how they use their Fridays. Where the teacher's job is almost entirely mentoring and goal setting with students. - So we're gonna start by looking at how Summit uses this personalized learning time for an hour each day. Take a look. - [Man in violet] I find it fascinating to watch how independently all these students are working and when we're there you can just feel that they are hungry for their knowledge during this time and they're working on many different things at the same time. - [Man in pink] You probably notice that there's a shift also in the teacher's role. They're not in the front of the room lecturing or guiding every single thing, instead they're now facilitating and you can see them actually doing just that. - We were surprised at how quickly and easily our students took to personalize learning time. We saw that when we put them in the driver's seat and we put the tools in front of them that they dove right into it and we believe it's because they had choice and they had time to explore. They also had their relationships with their teachers and a safe space in order to fill in a very useful way. - So we have community groups where they read everyday. Then those community groups, we discussed like what personalized learning time is and what it looks like and what it sounds like with each group and then we sometimes revisit as needed. Instead of us, us teachers saying like personalized learning time is silent. Personalized learning time is blank, a long list. It was like let's come up with it so like they created it, instead of us telling them what to do. It was all about student choice. They think that just gets their buy in it and they want to learn and they realize, oh this is what's gonna make me successful. - So this is one of those cases where culture is everything. They've built this school from their first day to make this PLT time sacred and have the kids really have that uninterrupted, quiet, focus, and allows the teachers to do some very different things. So the teachers you do see on the floor, they're main job during PLT time is actually to do assessments. So when a student is ready, when they've learned enough that they know that they can take an assessment, they just put their name on a board or raise their hand and let their teacher know. The teacher unlocks the assessment, let's the student take it and then the student has immediate results. It's really interesting to just watch this happen in action. - [Teacher] Ryan. - To Brian's point about culture, you can see that some of this worked really hard in the first few weeks to instill in students this idea of being self-directed learners and the big idea for teachers here is that you're no longer being that explainer of every concept but you're only intervening once a student is exhausted every other route in front of them. - Sometimes, I have trouble finding something or I like doing something. With the teacher they'll help you or something like that. But I think it's kind of a challenge for me so that I could be a self-directed learner. - So if PLT at Summit is all about the individual time for students then the other part of their days in project based time. This is where students are collaborating with other students and teachers are still not being the explainers, they're just now facilitating students through this projects to get at those deeper learning skills. - Summit has decided to block schedule of their project time so they can use teachers in different ways and one thing that's emerging is they're starting to play with team teaching. It's really interesting to hear the teachers talk about how much they enjoy this and how much they're actually learning from each other. - Brian and I both have had a lot of experience teaching but neither one of us have co-taught on a regular basis. I had like push and support from a special aid teacher but I didn't have like Brian. I didn't have someone in my class full time who like we can sit down and co-plan together. Even if we, is on a professional level like co-teaching with someone else has really helped and has really just started this like very trusting relationship with each other. Where we can, like I can show my lesson plans and I could care less. I hope he had a lot of feedback to give me. It's the same thing for him and we've learned form each other because we've both had a lot of different experiences and he's really pushed me to think older and I've pushed him to think younger because I've taught younger grade levels and he's taught high school. It's great because we can like, if you forget something we can bounce of each other and remind each other like, oh yeah, hey this is what we're supposed to do next or let's add more to that or I don't think they're understanding this. We trust each other so much that we're not like offended or we don't feel bad, we just feel like we're able to grow and it's just we're really like trusting, comfortable situation. - If every teacher doesn't have to do the entire job of teaching by themselves, we can imagine the shift happen from generalist to specialist. It also, just think for a moment about being a teacher in a setting where you have a colleague to play off of and the camaraderie to work together. We've had teachers telling us about how much they're learning from each other because in the old system, the doors are closed. We see teaching as the second most private act. We're opening the doors, we're letting people interact and be together and frankly, improve their craft. - Lastly, on Friday's at Summit, what they do is basically it's an expanded PLT day. The entire time is devoted to personalized learning time for students but what that means for teachers is that they're operating as mentors. Literally pulling students in to 10 minute meetings at a time, where they're reviewing their progress and how they've learned over the whole week, holding them accountable and then setting learning goals for the next week, which really is that engine that drives self-directed learning. - We also have one on one check-ins with kids every Friday. So I spend my entire Friday, doing a 10 minute checking with about 30 different kids. I think that really helps too because it helps them set some goals towards those areas and every week we reflect and get feedback and if they've improved and if not, what strategies they can try to get better at.