Tie And Jeans


I was able to launch makers at FHS because of Cat and Peter, two stupendously bright 7th graders that were bouncing off every form of engagement our middle school had to offer.

These were kids I had known and taught for years, who only broke rules in order to stay in at lunch. Makers grew out of those kids because it was clear that there study halls a week was going to be both a chore and wasted opportunity. Offering anything else was a net improvement.

Also, adafruit. And sparkfun. And a Microcenter in town that quickly abandoned videogames in favor of maker kits. With a small number of passionate kids and a willingness to use my own credit cards, it was entirely possible to run Makers as a hyper-personalized student directed workshop.

The program at FHS quickly outgrew that model, and it wasn’t viable for a moment at CI. There’s no program that can “just say yes” to every kid idea or teacher idea, that will survive 800 voices making requests. Gary shielded me from the brunt of my naiveté and I still feel like I learned that lesson the hard way. Early days of FHS Makers felt like being the personal guide and concierge for intrepid travelers. When I could provide something they only half-thought of, or could assist with a new complex skill, it felt like everything I wanted to be as a teacher. When I tried that at CI, I felt like an incompetent waiter running dishes in from the kitchen four blocks away.

Looking at next year, I want to find a way to create little pockets of that early FHS experience, supported by the tools and materials we’ll have on hand instead of just my credit card. How does that work? I can’t build years of knowledge and connection before I arrive. The last 5 years have blown apart any notion that “kids are the same everywhere.”

The goal shouldn’t be to tap into a really popular strand of culture (yeah, I taught through all sections of the Minecraft wave), but find a few pockets & project areas that can fuse groups together. Jeff Layman has been running a great cosplay elective at ISB. That seems flexible enough to reach any kids with deep ties to book/film/comic/fan culture and incorporates the printers, cutters, sewing machines and micro:bits.

Would it be better to offer several different topic electives each term, or offer the same topic to different grade levels? Oh, now I need to see a bell schedule.


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  1. Pingback: rebuilding | Tie And Jeans

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