Season 2, Episode 11: Amy Fast
Chris McNutt 0:09
Hello, and welcome to Things Fall Apart here at the Human Restoration Project. Thanks for joining me on this podcast. I'm Chris. A special thank you first off to our patrons that make this work possible, two of which are Erin Flanagan and Mike Laughlin, thank you for your support. You can also support us for as little as $1 a month via our Patreon page, which you can find on our website - where we host a variety of materials, including a ton of resources, such as projects, PD for staff, students, etc. as well as some research that we've compiled and our thoughts you can find all of that at HumanRestorationProject.org.
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Today, we're joined by Dr. Amy Fast. Amy is a high school teacher turned assistant principal and advocate for progressive education, instructional coach, and author of It's the Mission, Not the Mandates: Defining the Purpose of Public Education. You can find Amy on Twitter at @fastcrayon, constantly posting solid advice and thoughts. This is Amy's second podcast. You can find a transcription of our previous discussion on our website at HumanRestorationProject.org. In the previous podcast, Michael focused primarily on defining mission statements or visions, and implementing them into schools, essentially, practice what you preach and ensure what you preach is what's best for kids. And this combined with having a historical context for what you're doing, are sort of the fundamentals of your book.
For this podcast, I want to focus more on logistics for progressive educators, and administrators specifically, and what steps we can take. So when we usually talk about integrating progressive change, a lot of it becomes this philosophical discussion, how we feel students should be doing, what we think might should happen, but our goal is to showcase actual systemic change in this podcast. Scheduling, grading, the hiring process, discipline policy, stuff like that.We're going to try to break down a few of those and see what happens from there.
The biggest one is to jump into in my opinion is scheduling. I referenced this quote all the time, but I love it, which is the Joe Biden quote, "Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget. And I'll tell you what you value" -- which is the same as every single time we go into a school is, they always preach all of these crazy visions, and all these things they want kids to do, nut then you look at what they're actually doing day to day and it's the same exact thing that everyone else does. They might be doing cool things in their classrooms, but there's no denying that having a crazy, wonky schedule that matches your really cool vision is going to take that to a step further. So yeah, how can we claim to have a cross curricular "real world classroom" when we're explicitly siloed with that schedule? And can you see like any way of changing that? I don't know what you do this? What are your thoughts?
Amy Fast 3:57
I think there's a there's a spectrum, how we could make this happen. And on one end of the spectrum, is your traditional, seven period, siloed content area classes. And then on the other end of the spectrum is the project based learning - have you seen Most Likely to Succeed? So you know, we're all teachers collaborating together to make their content umbrella under a larger, more universal goal. And so social studies and science and math and language arts are all working together to get the students to an even more noble angle beyond the content. And I'd say that our school is probably somewhere in between on that, and I am in charge of the master schedule.
I said that's an alliance, because the budget, there are certainly some constraints, obviously that a budget places as well as licensure - personnel kind of issues. There's some creative scheduling that can be done. But there's also requirements by the state who can teach what and so it's hard to not kind of have that tape get in the way as well. But I talked a little bit in my book about the idea of Finland getting getting rid of subjects - and one of my big philosophical pushes is that if academics aren't the biggest precursor to success, then why is content proficiency what we measure in schools? Maybe the content is the lens through which we learn these other things. And so our school is tricky, schedule wise, because we were a giant, comprehensive high school, we're 2200 kids and, you know 100 teachers to 200. I'm still to figure out how to make a schedule that is cohesive for each and every student, not just so that their teachers are working together to make it solid, but also so that the student is in classes of interest is extremely tricky.
What I would say is, we have 17 career pathways, which is pretty cool. It's a pretty neat experience. And those pathway classes are tasked with hitting that end goal that I speak of this beyond the content. So if I'm in culinary arts, or if I'm in early childhood development, or if I'm inspiring emergency services, of course, I'm learning the trade. And I can get a pathway endorsement out of it and a good job after high school. But more importantly, I'm learning those foundational skills of how to collaborate and how to be a leader and how to communicate effectively. And that's actually what a pathway teacher measures, and many even grade on. And that's been something we've been working with them on for a few years. And I'd be lying if I said, we've arrived with that. But that's certainly been our business - it's been our push. I don't think we're as solid in terms of our core content areas, collaborating our math and science does really well with having certain STEM units, and our social studies and language arts does a lot of collaboration as well. But in terms of having more cohesion than that....I talked about that end of the spectrum being you know, the Most Likely to Succeed thing. We're not we're not there yet. Have you heard of the mastery transcript at all?
Chris McNutt 7:19
I mean, I'm familiar with mastery.
Amy Fast 7:21
Yeah. So it's actually different from I know that proficiency grading is all the rage right now. But that's kind of if you're saying that content, knowledge and skill isn't that correlated to success than proficiency -and doesn't make a lot of sense either. But the Mastery Transcript is actually this idea that was I believe, started to be put out by proposed by private high schools, but it's to change what the high school transcript looks like, and what colleges look like when they look at high school transcripts. So instead of how many credits to do, and what grades did you earn of these, these core content classes, it looks like a rubric. And on that rubric is analytical and creative thinking and complex communication, both oral and written, leadership and teamwork has there was like, digital and quantitative literacy and global perspective. And then flexibility, adaptability, risk taking initiative, ethical decision making. So all these components.
Then that's actually what students have to master by the end of high school. And what you see as a college is how many of those things the students have mastered. Then the subjects are the vehicle through which students master those skills. So it's kind of like a little bit flipped on its head proficiency grading, and that you're not being graded on the proficiency of the subject you're in, but through the lens of whatever social studies class you're taking, how are you doing so far toward mastering this global perspective standard on the rubric? I think that's super aligned with the research I've done. And I think think of definitely not easy. But when you change that, it becomes much more easy to align content and collaborate and make those learning experiences more relevant to students lives.
That's my big push in my work is change the end game and you change the game. And so we get kind of caught up in like, "what do I do right now with my master schedule?, which tasks do I do?", and it's really important that I need to help our students now we're in school. But for me, the easiest way to revamp my master schedule would be to have the end game change, you know, actual high school transcripts change. And that would then be the impetus for doing some real meaningful work.
Chris McNutt 9:38
I see. Is the mastery transcript in line with - I don't know, if you're familiar with the New Hampshire competency based movement - which is similar to a 21st Century Skills rubric?
Amy Fast 9:54
I'm vaguely familiar with that. But talk more about that.
Chris McNutt 9:59
Our school actually attempted to use it. And we found some flaws, which I'm kind of curious about. It was basically a one to five scale. For each of those things. You were - communicator, creative thinker, all these different things. But we ran into two major issues. One is if you "Master" or receive a high score, let's say on creativity, freshman year, and then it's your junior year, and you do a different project.... and if you were "less creative" on that one, does that mean you're less right? You are no longer sufficient?
And the second part is the subjectivity of all of it. So I want to talk about this later. But the thing is whenever you bring in on numeric scale, no matter what you're measuring, whether that be content or skill, depending on who's assessing it, a kid might be really creative, or they might not be creative at all, the art world or music world no matter wherever you are....
Amy Fast 11:02
And then there's a whole idea of if schools are judged on how many students they get to master these criteria, and how many of them do we just like, check that box? Because we want our scores to be high as a school, you know? So there's the whole bureaucratic lens through I mean, and that's where that's where the ideal always, you know, gains these flaws, for sure.
Chris McNutt 11:24
Yeah. So like, we tried to challenge ourselves in a way that would have that happen. And quite frankly, we couldn't figure it out. The only thing I could figure out that would be fair to students would be self assessment.
Amy Fast 11:37
That's the next step.
Chris McNutt 11:39
The thing is, though, is that when all of a sudden almost every single student says if they want to do well, academically as in like, they want to look at on a transcript, will give themselves a high grade, I wouldn't do that. Right?
Amy Fast 11:52
Right. So then when you pull the string, and then you just keep finding more and more things. So you pull that string far enough in you're like "social promotion?" Should we be grouping students by age or as a freshman in math to this? It just it becomes this giant education policy string, which is what was so fun and maddening about writing my book! Yeah, I think if whoever can figure out grading in a way that's both motivational and works for college admittance is going to make millions of dollars because I don't claim to have any answers. But what I have is teachers who are piloting things in that arena, which is really fun. And I actually had a teacher of mine who teaches an independent project class, which is a lot like the Most Likely to Succeed project based learning notion. I met with a student of his and they stayed after school for like, three hours, brainstorming what could grading look like that both motivated students and fit this kind of traditional framework that we need, in order to communicate with parents and colleges and different stakeholders regarding how you're doing a school? And they came up with a quasi-growth model, proficiency based rubric where the student teacher would meet every so often, whether it be two or every two or three weeks, and they would go over the how the student was doing toward the goals.
They said the growth that they needed to make how the student was doing proficiency wise, and that would be, touchpoint or a dipstick for those couple weeks, and then again, and then again. And then to have that kind of traditional averaging of assignments - it isn't the computer that a lot of people criticize and that hasn't worked with homework and assignment grades that we enter into the system - but it would be more around the soft skills we're talking about, and definitely student ownership in terms of their self assessment.
I think that there would be certainly those more gray kind of qualities like creativity, certainly. But then there's also be actual product based quality is like, did you did you produce something that is reflective of XY&Z and so I think we it would behoove us to get educators and students in a room to say "A students, what motivates you to be educators have we have we get an accurate reflection, happy capture and actor selection of this?" And then what? Because I even though when you say the the the model that you guys tried had a lot of flaws, I would also argue that the model that most schools use also has a lot of flaws. I mean....
Chris McNutt 14:34
I want to push you a bit further because our end game goal was we'll just get rid of grades. Now. I will say I'm curious, I have a feeling that you can correct me if I'm wrong, the counter argument would be..."Well, there are still some kind of stipulations that had to be in place for like communicating with parents, but also, colleges right?" Now, what's interesting is that we've had multiple self directed learning centers on the podcast, and although they are way smaller, we're talking like 20 students per school, right? They would argue, and they advertise that the way that they get their students into colleges and their college acceptance rates are quite high, is that class rank, and GPA, if you get rid of those categories, actually almost helps you in a way, because if you were a student that were to get low grades now, it's not like a accounts like a zero out of 15. It's just that the category isn't there.
Amy Fast 15:33
That makes sense. Well, it's interesting that because, recently, and I don't have any research base to back this up, except for the second part of what I'm going to say, but that high school GPA is strongly correlated with college success, however, high school and college GPA are not at all correlated with success in the workforce or in life. So that's weird, you know what I mean? Then you have to say, "Well, what are we doing in K through whatever - post high school that does correlate to what's going to help students be successful?" I mean, we probably both know students who have 3.5 GPA, who are playing school well, but are not taking initiative and are not being leaders and they're just jumping through the hoops. And we also probably know, some 1.5 students who are geniuses. We would want them to work on a project for us any day of the week, because of what when they invest in something of interest to them.
Or I have so many students that say to me, like, "Well, I just don't think this is relevant Ms. Fast - I don't, what's the point?" And that is the reason they're not investing that because they're not capable. But that's the sole reason. So I think that's the whole crux of this whole debate is how do we make it relevant and there is worth to measuring how students are doing. We owe it to students to be able to know where they're at and push them forward, based on where they're at. And both formative and summatively we need to be able to say to their parents, and to them, this is where you fall on the spectrum - this is the feedback we're giving, is it meaningful?
Chris McNutt 17:17
I mean, the way I would look at it, and this is just my opinion would be - if you give a student, let's say, a research paper back, and there's a "B" at the top of the paper, and then it's completely marked up with like, good feedback. Almost every student that I know is going to see that "B" maybe take a small look at the paper maybe once over - and then it's like "how'd you do it on your paper?" "I got a "B" - but you will very rarely find a student who finds a thing that you wrote and say something like, "next time, I'm going to make sure that I correct that, because I learned so much from your feedback"
Amy Fast 17:54
Okay, so here's the research on feedback, I don't literally know the source, but I have quoted a few times. Giving just a grade is obviously not helpful in terms of students in proving what they do. And it's kind of not very motivating as well. Giving a grade plus feedback in terms of like oral or written communication is the second best way to a motivate kids and then also be have them improve upon whatever skills you're assessing, but the actual best way to have a student improve their skills and be motivated is feedback was no great attached. Actually none. [Note: Amy is likely referring to Ruth Butler's research here.]
So that's why there's so many people pushing towards getting rid of grades, I imagine it's because they actually do harm in terms of when we're trying to motivate students toward an end goal. And so yeah, and that's the whole point of your questioning. If I had answer those questions, I'd be a rich woman. But I think it's worth playing with.
Chris McNutt 19:06
I mean, it comes down to, is there a way that you can communicate progress without tracking progress? Which that's a catch 22 situation? In a perfect world, there would be enough time to sit down with of finding a way that you could test students without giving out a score, where it would literally be like, "how do you improve from this, which exact is against standardization? in general?"
Amy Fast 19:34
Pulling the string even further.
Chris McNutt 19:39
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I do want to hearken back to something because you keep referring to Most Likely to Succeed, what are your thoughts, going back to scheduling on the front of house schedule versus the back of house schedule? What I mean by that is, when we visited High Tech High, their schedule on the front end, so the side that everyone sees, is actually fairly traditional. It's just four periods. But what they do day to day, on the back end, the thing is that people don't know about... am I saying that right? I think I'm doing that backwards. But what they do day to day is actually quite different. Are there ways that administrators can get around just by saying - "Yes, our students have this class at this time, and it's actually this?"
Amy Fast 20:43
Without shooting myself in the foot, I think there's a lot of that happens, you play the game, you make sure you're dotting your i's and crossing your T's. But in reality, so much of it comes back to teacher collaboration and autonomy, which are two seemingly polarizing ideals. But both are working hand in tandem, and are so crucial to student success, because what I find is that our teachers need to be pretty passionate about what they teach in order for them to be doing a good job. And they need to be working with teachers outside their content area, or even other teachers within their content area to really do the work that like High Tech High does in terms of making sure that a student's day isn't so siloed, and that there's real purpose behind the learning.
I think it also comes back to the philosophical conversation we had last time and I tend to lean that way. So feel free to pull me back down, if I get too big picture, but if everyone in the school understands the vision that you have for students and for the school, well, then I'm always surprised by the exciting and the creativity and the initiative the teachers take to make that vision come to life for students. Even in a comprehensive high school as large as ours, we have our welding teacher working alongside our culinary arts teacher, work alongside our business teacher to create, like this giant mobile barbecue that could raise money. So those things happen on their own, even though like you said, on the front end, what you see is six periods and so, we do make that happen, it's just that teachers need A) to know that's the vision and B) to know they have permission to make that happen. And then when we're looking at individual students schedules, feeling free to get creative as well.
Chris McNutt 22:46
How do you then train the teachers to do that? I look at our school and I don't mean to throw anyone under the bus, but any school I've ever worked at, you typically have definitely a minority group of teachers that are the ones that do all these crazy things. And then 60%, that are just kind of living in that bubble, because there isn't explicitly necessarily anything in the schedule that says, you know, "go do this."
Amy Fast 23:15
Well, at the expense of sounding like we just jump on board every fad that there is we don't have, we had our teachers do passion projects, and we had those kind of criteria that we gradually release to them and helped through professional development. And that's where a lot of these ideas came to fruition. But we also are lucky to have an embedded staff development model, which means that every week our teachers have (on a block schedule) - every other day, we have four periods, eight periods total for students, and teachers teach six of them and then their prep period is 90 minutes long. And of that 90 minutes, the last part of it is a duty that they have to have. And then one of their duties is professional development.
My role, along with my other curriculum assistant principal, is every Wednesday leading that professional development, we have small groups of teachers, so 10 to 12 ish teachers per group, and we lead it all day long during their prep time. And they come for 45 minutes. So we have exponentially more professional development opportunities, and a lot of schools that don't have a similar model. So if teachers are seeing us every other week, then we really get to do some in depth, small group, PD that is really differentiated for or personalized for that teachers particular content area, their readiness to take on that kind of challenge or risk. And then also intentionally group them by their prep period with people who would make sense to collaborate in that way. That's kind of handy on our end.
Chris McNutt 24:48
I mean, I wish I had 90 minutes of that. I think the the more time you have just a break, in general is kind of nice. I do enjoy working with kids, but there's no denying that it takes a lot of energy. In the same vein, do you think that there's something missing from the schedule entirely? So I mean, research wise, we know that the amount of cramming period to period for students, especially adolescence is not normal. It's not normal to work in that fashion, especially at schools where teachers are prompted to teach bell to bell like don't "waste any time." Which is a funny way of saying, "don't be a person for a second, you're wasting every moment." A lot of times teachers when they teach their class, myself included, I think this is the only time these kids actually learn. I forget the fact that they have other classes, I think of them in this like weird space time continuum, where they're just hanging out in my room...
Amy Fast 25:52
I mean, could you imagine working that way? I honestly would suck at my job ..."so Amy from 830, to nine clock, and and then from 948 to 1040, I want you to read these articles. And then from 11 o'clock to 12 o'clock, I want to work on the schedule..." like there is no way in hell that I would do my job well, and then especially if there was no means by which I could apply my own unique skill set to that task to do things different. So I think for me, the big things that are missing, in my opinion is somehow meaningfully contributing to the world. We keep telling kids "in a bit, you're going to actually matter. And you're going to be out in this real world. And then you should do something that matters with that." But why don't we actually make them excited about doing something matters now. And so I don't know exactly what that looks like. But certainly, we have so many pathway classes, which is amazing in terms of what we can offer our students. But then what could we offer our community with our early childhood development classes shows our construction classes, our welding classes? I mean, what could we even offer our school committee that can save us money, and that's where students feel like they're giving back. So that's a huge one for me is having a meaningful curriculum by which students can contribute now to their communities. Because feeling significant is such a huge part of investing.
I would not do my job if it was just for an end of the year evaluation, if it actually didn't have any bearing on other people, and improving the lives of people around me. And if my job as assistant principal is just for my end of the year evaluation, then I probably would just do as little as I could to get a good at the year evaluation and not stay the 16 hour days that I stay currently because I actually feel like it matters. I'm affecting people's lives with the work I do. And so how can we make students feel like they're not just doing this for their end of the year evaluation, hashing out their transcript, but their work matters to someone out there. I have so many kids who give up on themselves, but would never give up on a kindergartner or will never give up on that kid corner or you know. I think we need to capitalize on that.
And then I'd say also, I get excited because it's so solidly based in research, or at least what I'm reading recently. So I'm really big into Sean Akers, The Happiness Advantage of Big Potential. And he talks about the happiness class that they have at Harvard. I think it's Harvard. The most attended class on campus? And how many classes do we have for students, where they can actually learn about - be introspective and learn about like, how to get by and how to be happy with who they are and how to just be? I think that's huge. Students are clearly interested in it, and with as many students as we have, who have anxiety and depression, and I mean, it would behoove us to have classes where students can be fully contribute and be have classes where students can be more introspective about who they are. Because that's also not something they should wait to find out until they're, you know, 25, 30 years old. We have yoga and mindfulness classes at our school, and, we're already going in, so that's kind of like, key for us.
It's such an asset to our school community, and our students, and they learn such valuable tools in there in terms of how to just cope with being a teenager. Being a teenager is rough. It's not for the birds. So I think that's another class that I would say would be important. And then I would just go back to, I think I'm really fortunate to work in a school and a school district that has so many career pathway opportunities, so many hands on learning opportunities, and places for kids to just kind of lose themselves in that feeling of flow. Like, if I'm drawing or painting or taking pictures, I can lose myself in that activity pretty easily. And so I think we need more classes where where students can just do that just get excited about what they're doing and lose themselves for a minute in the creative process. And so I would say that's probably another thing I'd say, in school, and not wait till high school, you know.
Chris McNutt 30:05
I imagine just some Bizarro world where people had no idea what schooling was. And just like the notion that you have to propose, and I'm not, I'm not saying this to be critical - I mean, everybody does this - but just the idea that we should have a place so you know, kids are happy and the relax and they do work they do matters. Like this is a novel concept.
I think a lot of it, too, is just the philosophical pedagogy of the teacher in the room. For example, like cell phone policy, I teach in a progressive school, so sometimes I forget some the archaic notions of what teachers don't do. The idea, if the kid's on his phone or on her phone - for a minute, and you're going to freak out or get like really mad. They're taking a break for a minute. It's like, okay, who cares? Like, why are you so you bring authoritative?
Amy Fast 31:02
If that was my office, I would be fired. And yeah, I'm pretty dang productive. But I'm also ADHD. So I think that's a great point.
Chris McNutt 31:12
Yeah. And what worries me as well is that if you have students that are obsessive about doing very well at school, what does that mean, in terms of what they're lacking? Like, we're finding more and more that all A students are some of the most depressed students - you think it would be the other way around, you know, kids that don't do very well at school would be demotivated, which they are - but you're finding that many students who are doing very well academically are some of the most emotionally unstable?
Amy Fast 31:38
Well, and if you read the research recently on the whole valedictorian conundrum, where it's not actually our valedictorians who are the ones who are these CEOs of major industries, or inventing things that change the world or curing diseases, but it's basically the kids that got C's in high school that end up in those positions. And it is because rather than like, doing well at everything, and playing the game, they just kind of dove into what excited them and then took everything that was on a peripheral and was like, "I'll just do well enough to pass that, because I'm not actually jazzed about it, and I don't care, it doesn't matter." And so you get that personalized type of business. And the valedictorian just wants to say they've gone through school and playing school and just appeasing the people on a piece of the system. And so what do they do when they get a job? They don't actually push the envelope or become a change agent or an innovator. They're just like, "how do I play this game of this new system I'm in and that's what they're really good at." Whereas, like, the perpetually C student's like, "Well, what do I care about within the system, I'm going to dive into that, and really make change, where the things that I know I have a skill set with it that I'm passion about". And that's what leads to these giant world changing ideas.
Chris McNutt 32:55
There's a reason why you very rarely hear about child prodigies after high school. They were really good at obeying whatever they're told to do.
So this is going to be a rough transition, nut I do want to talk a little bit more about hiring. You touched on this a little bit in our last podcast. And we've kind of already spoken a little bit about the PD notion of it. What are your thoughts then on kind of the new trend, of individualized PD. So teachers seeking out PD for themselves? Or bring it in?
Amy Fast 33:32
I mean, at our school that's happening naturally. I'm a big fan of leadership is not hierarchical. So I think that's great. When you get people excited about what the vision is of the school, and people step forward and say, "Hey, why don't we do this?" And you kind of gotta let them take the reins. And so I'm jazzed about that. I think that's a great idea. But you don't want to ever want to ever do that one thing for the sake of, it's the trend, or it's the latest thing, I think it has to be authentic.
So if teachers aren't stepping forward in your school, saying, "we want to do this" - grassroots, then certainly don't come to them - it's got to be something that they feel. So, yeah, I think it's fantastic. And I, I think we need to kind of get out of their way more often, for sure. Because they're closer to the issues, they're closer to the problems, and they're closer to the solutions. So if they've got some ideas or some answers, then time to get that out of the way.
Chris McNutt 34:33
I agree with you.100%. I guess, it's just odd to me, because I'm not against this at all. In fact, I'm 100% for it - it's just weird to me that it's even a trend, you would just assume that it's something that you do people owning the solutions that they're building. And yeah, as you're a teacher, you like education. So therefore, you would look up...
Amy Fast 34:54
I certainly don't blame teachers for not stepping forward, because our profession for so long has been such a top down mandated, standardized kind of gig that I mean, it there's been this notion of like, well, who do you think you are to determine what what the school needs are? Or that you have the expertise to lead the way with this charge? It was hard for me to be a teacher in that culture, and I had administrators that really trusted me. It just speaks to the culture and our nation when it comes to empowering and trusting teachers, and letting trusting their professionalism also, that, that they're experts in their craft. So I mean, I think that's reflective of the greater culture in our society right now. That is, again, that is a thing. Like, it's like kids should be happy. Teachers should innovate in collaborative, you know, lead the way, what we need to do is structurally change.
Chris McNutt 36:01
And to add to your point, I think part of the reason why teachers may not embrace everything that's out there, it's just disillusionment with PD. I know personally, a lot of the PD that I attended, that's one size fits all "PD" is the latest trend. And while they might be something interesting, they're kind of all the same thing. I harp on this a lot with PBL. I use PBL all the time. But PBL is experiential learning - it's 100 years old - right? And it's the same thing with...there's a million - there's like CBL CBL there's two different CBL - But it's just like you added a sentence on to something else that already exists? And in my opinion to make financial gain, you can market these materials. And you can make a ton of money. I mean, educational writing is a ridiculous field.
Amy Fast 36:20
Oh, yeah, for sure. And project based learning. Like, I was taught, I think I talked on the podcast last time., I referenced the documentary a few times in this conversation, and I, I love the idea in theory, and yet, it's hard as hell. As a teacher, I'm like, "Okay, so what does this actually look like? Like, actually." And so I think you have administrators like me who are in the classroom who, I felt like I had really relevant learning experiences, but I can't say I was ever like, knee deep in project based learning. So for me to roll out something that people would be like, "Okay, all right, whatever. Like, that's great in theory", it really needs to be someone who's in the weeds with it in their classroom, saying, "Well, here's what works, what doesn't work? Let's, let's deliberate this and plan something together and figure it out."
Chris McNutt 37:42
Yeah, I mean, not to mention, you're not really taught any of this. In fact, it kind of goes against everything that you're typically taught in school. How do you know students are learning? It's like, well, they're working, like seemed like making something happen.
Amy Fast 37:55
Project based learning is kind of the opposite of the gradual release of responsibility. "I do, we do, you do." That's not really it, when we're looking at inquiry based learning. It doesn't start with the teacher, I'm going to show you the steps. And if if a teacher can just show the steps and then model it, and then the kids emulate it, is it really worth learning in depth?
Chris McNutt 38:15
And specifically PBL as just a conflation of all the different terms of a lot of teachers still think that PBL is giving a project at the end of the unit. Make a poster, whatever it is, it's not that - it's not experiential, I don't remember posters I made, it's like transforming the teacher persona to make them empowered, while simultaneously not diminishing teachers for the position that they're in.
Amy Fast 38:38
And I would say that we focus so much on these trends, like you talked about and skill sets we want teachers to have, and we neglect to focus on mindset. And I really think that project based learning is less about a teacher skill set and way more about a teacher mindset. And you will never get the outcome that you want from a teacher in a classroom, you're strictly focused on the skill set of rolling out project based learning or any any kind of new buzzword, you know, fill in the blank, but it's really project based learning is comes back to what we talked about earlier, which was really these authentic, meaningful, relevant experiences for for students that make them feel as though what they're doing matters. And in the process, they're also learning something really valuable that they can take with them later in life.
Chris McNutt 39:28
It's so important that teachers recognize why they're doing something and not just how they're doing it. Because otherwise, you get the posters. And the thing is, is that if you want an authentic end goal with what you're doing, there's a lot of different ways you can do that. I mean, some classrooms might not be well suited for PBL, maybe you're just doing like basic community service, which isn't necessarily a project but as an experience, right? Or maybe you're, you know, just talking with your class. And it's just like a discussion class, and kids are doing the Socratic Seminar or like that, them looking at themselves, right? And if you understand why you're doing these things, and you kind of look at that the higher realm is of education. And so just that day to day nonsense, you can get a lot more done because everyone's on the same page as the whole vision concept.
Amy Fast 40:21
Yeah, that's why I always come back to the notion of purpose is because I feel like that really is the foundation of all the change that will happen, and hopefully will happen in education. I know and I'm sorry, I'm, I'm such a 30,000 foot person that, like speaking about logistics is is tricky for me.
Chris McNutt 40:40
But to be honest with you, I I think that thinking in that logistic "do this, this, this, and this" is always wrong. It's impossible.
Amy Fast 40:50
I don't have to live that life every day, like every day, I have to put it into reality. But the education world is like that. You there's no two days that are the same either. You know, it's such a fun job and so extremely complex, and no two schools are the same either. So how our school tackles these big questions in the framework that in which we get to operate with the, the staff we have and the policies we have and the the classes we have, all of that is such a puzzle. And there's no two schools or two people who will be able to put that puzzle together the same way there's not going to be here's the TED talk that has the answer for education or the documentary.
But I think that's kind of what's so intriguing and fun about our work too, is every community is different. Every school is different and not being complacent about the puzzle pieces you're handed and trying to make. You know, the most beautiful picture out of it, you can is kind of what we're tasked with doing. And I think that's why we always come back to philosophy is because my logistics of my school are going to look different than the logistics in your school just by nature of the different communities that we've been handed in the different the different constraints and opportunities we've been handed.
Chris McNutt 42:19
Shameless, but relevant plug the HumanRestorationPoject offers, what we call reformative development - a comprehensive look at your school where we act as a third party. We collect feedback from your staff and students and develop a personalized PD plan just for your school. We work with your educators in a hands on experiential way, rather than just doing a bunch of top down lectures, and we give them the tools that they need to construct a curriculum for your situation. You can find more information about that on our website at HumanRestorationProject.org.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai