The students described it as a conundrum.
Their principal, Dr. Kelly Hedrick, thought it was perfect.
“I can’t think of a better way for teachers to embrace student agency than me modeling for them what it means to turn it over to the kids,” Hedrick said. “They’re leading it. It’s going to be fabulous. It’s going to be the best opening we’ve every had.”
Inspired by lessons learned at a summer student leadership summit, almost a dozen Old Donation School (ODS) students took the lead on preparing the opening session of a professional learning day held divisionwide Aug. 29.
“When we were at the Middle School Leadership Summit (MSLS) we had a mini meeting about it and we just got pretty excited from that,” said Brennan Cherry, ODS SCA President. “We had another meeting during lunch at MSLS, and we liked it so much that we started planning other meetings.”
“We didn’t have any teachers to tell us, ‘Let’s meet here.’ It was all us doing it ourselves,” added Ruby Ann Swafford, a member of the SCA Executive Council.
They met at the Central Library. They met at their school. They prepared a PowerPoint presentation. They created instructional handouts. They selected a warm-up icebreaker. They developed a small group activity. They wrote an original skit, “Closet Conundrum,” to enhance instruction.
Their goal: To teach teachers the 4D decision-making process in order to fulfill an even larger goal.
“We knew this information was really valuable so we set a SMART goal to reach all 1,200 students in our school and to teach them about how awesome the 4D process really is. We knew that the best place to start would be with you guys,” explained Swafford in her welcoming remarks to Old Donation School teachers.
Before sharing the four stages of the 4D process – Defining, Deciding, Doing and Done – teachers were asked to participate in an icebreaker called “Psh, Boujala, Kapow!”
Any confusion about the icebreaker’s name or instructions quickly gave way to laughter…and then more laughter, some clapping and even a little dancing.
The teachers were having so much fun they may not have noticed subtle details students planned in advance. They wore shirts the color of the groups they led, which also matched the color of teachers’ nametags that students hand wrote. Additionally, “We grouped teachers with those that they might not normally work with,” explained one student.
Natalia de los Rios, ODS SCA Vice President, introduced “Defining,” the first stage of 4D.
“A lot of you teachers already do this step, but sometimes it’s good to really go through and hit each bullet point,” she said. “First you have to focus. You have to see what the issue is and how you can solve it.”
“Lastly, you have brainstorming,” de los Rios said to conclude the first stage. “It’s also really important to be positive in this stage so that all the group members will participate and will keep participating and sharing their ideas.”
The students, acting as items in a cluttered closet, shared their ideas about how to not get left behind when the family inhabiting the house moves.
“The junk in the closet decided to hold a meeting to decide what to do about the conundrum,” said Ava Mae Swafford, acting in the dual role of skit narrator and soccer ball.
“Guys, guys, we’ve got to get out of here,” exclaimed Ruby Ann as T-shirt.
“You’re absolutely right, T-shirt,” replied de los Rios as a pair of eyeglasses. “We have to devise a group plan to move on out of this closet. Any eye-deas?”
The audience laughed at the clever pun, which was followed by others.
“Don’t sweat it, sweatshirt.”
“I just hat to intervene.”
“My ideas would just stink up this place,” said socks, played Swara Chokshi.
After the closet conundrum was solved using the 4D process, with all items hitching a ride on the moving truck to get to the new home, teachers took a turn using the decision making process.
Students asked teachers, working in their same icebreaker groups, to use 4D to decide on a spirit day for the upcoming school year.
The brainstorming began. Hobby Day, Decades Day, Superhero Day, Team Day, Twin Day, Career Day, Tropical Island Day, College Day, Recycle Day, Einstein Day, Sports Day and International Day were among dozens of ideas written on whiteboards across the groups.
“Can I ask a question because you are the experts on this?” asked one teacher of student leaders de los Rios and Ciara Walters. “How long do you discuss the ideas?”
Walters noted inclusion in critical. “You want all ideas to be heard. You don’t want to limit discussion. But, you may need to help speed it along at times,” she said.
Teachers in the group led by Sarah Tyree-Herrmann narrowed the list to two ideas, Hobby Day and Team Day, with one teacher seeming to hold on to Team Day to see how one might resolve a stalemate.
“What if someone wants to stick with their idea?” asked a teacher. Tyree-Herrmann explained the importance of consensus and the need, at times, for group members to give up their ideas for “the good of the group.”
Tyree-Herrmann demonstrated confidence while leading her small group discussion, but the seventh-grader admitted to being nervous. “I haven’t met a lot of the teachers because I was new in sixth grade, so it was a little nerve-wracking just talking in front of all the teachers and explaining everything.”
Despite her nerves, she enjoyed leading the professional learning session. “It was nice to be able to show them what we think instead of them just assuming what we think. We think 4D can help us make group projects easier and better.”
Not only did they demonstrate the process for their teachers, but students also provided them with prepared notes about the decision-making process as well as ideas on how they can use it across disciplines in their respective classrooms. Additionally, should teachers need 4D support in the future, students provided them with a bell schedule of when the self-described “4D Experts” are available.
No one’s work was done when the student session was over. Hedrick asked teachers to discuss among themselves how they could incorporate 4D into their classrooms while Caitlin Dean, ODS teacher and SCA adviser, met with students in her classroom to reflect on their work.
Not surprising, the students took the lead.
“I was actually thinking, to see how persuasive our presentation was, at the end of each month we could ask all the teachers how much they’ve used 4D. We could do a Google form,” offered Revanth Reunkunta.
“I think it was really good that we have times available,” Ruby Ann said. “It seemed like they were really interested having us, who are experts, helping. They’ve just gotten the information and heard the skit and maybe some took notes; it still would help to have experts there engaging and helping with their class. I think it was really important that we had that piece in there.”
“I think we did a good job explaining the Done stage to them,” added de los Rios. “I was talking to one of my old visual arts teachers and she said that we usually evaluate our project but we don’t really evaluate our group work. So she was already reflecting on what they’ve been doing and thinking about the future.”
“That’s just what you wanted, right? You guys nailed it,” said Dean. “You did an amazing job. I’m so beyond proud and you should be, too.”
See more photos from the student-led professional learning session the gallery below.
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