Every school year there were a couple of school nights that I absolutely dreaded, Back-to-School Night and Parent/ Teacher Conferences. On these nights, I liked getting to know my student’s families and I didn’t really mind being at school late. What I dreaded was being inadvertently asked to defend myself as an educator. Somehow, every year, I would find myself preparing little speeches beforehand as responses to the skeptical questions I would receive all night long. For example: Why aren’t students reading more classics? How are you preparing my kids for SAT vocabulary success? Why don’t we diagram sentences anymore? Now, these are good questions, but in a 5 to 10 minute conference window I would feel cornered and unable to have a real conversation about learning with students and their families.
So maybe it’s time to stop interrogating our educators, even if it is unintentional, and look for different ways to premiere student learning. A better solution is coming together as a community to celebrate student success in an Exhibition of Learning, and that is just what we, at Compass, did on September 1, 2017 during Downtown Fort Collins 1st Friday Art Walk.
An Exhibition of Learning refers to “projects, presentation, or products through which students ‘exhibit’ what they have learned, usually as a way of demonstrating whether and to what degree they have achieved expected learning standards or learning objective”. As Sam and I met the 12 student volunteers we’ve been working with all summer, the Exhibition space at Mesh was already buzzing with activity. The Poudre River Library, expert Drone drivers, Makerspace professionals, and parent volunteers were all preparing the space for our guests. Fortunately, Sam and I were able to have a quiet moment with our students amidst the excitement. This group huddle, in my mind, was the culmination of all of our work together. The relationship building, the inside jokes, the creative and hard work we all did collaboratively was felt in this moment. In particular, I told the students that the idea of having more students like them is a dream of so many people in that room tonight. I wanted them to be proud of their work, but also to feel like a contributor towards something bigger.
The evening progressed smoothly, and in contrast to Back-to-School Night or Parent/ Teacher Conferences, Sam and I decided to have a no “preface” rule. Let the student’s work speak for itself. And it did! We had three full viewings of our student’s Climate Change Films, we had a full Makerspace table, we had parents creating blackout poetry using our student’s poems as examples, we had middle-school boys ushering people in off the street to come view their films. The whole experience was electrifying. Of course, we were still all really tired towards the end, but as Jan often says, “hard work has never been so much fun!” I look forward to many more Exhibitions of Learning at Compass Community Collaborative School.
Kayla Crowe-Stover - CCC Teacher-Advisor