We learn best in the context of being known well. Real relationships between adults and young people are crucial to their academic development and the development of personal qualities of integrity, empathy, and a true sense of purpose in their lives. To this end, each Advisor works with a core group of 20 students for 2-4 years, and maintains regular contact with their families. We strive to cap class sizes for all instructional staff at 20. Additionally, the school gathers a few times a month as a family for student-led assemblies focused on social and community issues that students are facing.
We learn best when we are pursuing our own passions and interests. We design and teach curriculum that is related to students’ experience and that helps them understand the world they are living in. Whether that means investigating the different environmental impacts local freeways have on surrounding neighborhoods, or analyzing literature to make sense of human motivation, we work to connect curriculum to students’ lives and experiences.
We learn most deeply when we connect “mind” work and “hand” work. High schools in this country have traditionally separated mind learning and hand learning, yet we know that in order to learn things deeply, we need to study and try them out. Our students take this powerful opportunity when they study health and the causes of premature birth while interning at Highland Hospital, or when they study government while interning with a member of City Council.
We work harder when our work has real meaning and value to others. Two days a week, students are doing real world work that supports their internship site. At the end of each quarter, our students demonstrate their learning through formal public exhibitions. They answer questions and receive feedback from a panel of peers, teachers, parents, mentors, and community members.
We learn best from empowered teachers and leaders. Students know when adults are being real and when they are being fake. For educators to be inspiring leaders for young people, they need both some autonomy over curriculum so they can teach from their passions and from their heart, as well as from core standards and learning objectives that push students in all areas of their work. And if students believe that their schools, as institutions, are serving their best interests, then their teachers must believe that as well. To this end, we strive to involve as many staff as possible in decisions regarding schedule, calendar, staffing, space, discipline, budget, and other key policies. We know that this is essential to maintaining an all-star team of powerful educators.