Mathew’s Y.E.A.R. at The Compass School


Scaffolding year-end reflections

The 21st Century Classroom podcastAt The Compass School in Westminster, Vermont, students advance through grades by producing evidence of their accomplishments from the year, using the previous year’s reflection to inform the current one. We had the chance to sit down with a student just finishing 11th grade at Compass, and hear not just about his Y.E.A.R. (year-end academic reflection) but how it’s going to prepare him for the all-important graduating Roundtable.

Full transcript below.

Mathew’s Y.E.A.R. at The Compass School

Mathew: “Who am I? What is my goal? Why am I here? Why am I so amazing? These are all questions you are undoubtedly wondering about me right now, since you’re currently witnessing a miracle. That miracle, of course, is my existence.”

At The Compass School, in Westminster VT, students are truly amazing, and they’re helped along the way by a school that truly values student voice and choice, has embraced proficiency-based graduation requirements and has taken the concept of the student-led conference to new heights.

In this episode of The 21st Century Classroom, we meet the miraculous Mathew, hear his year-end academic reflection and learn how Compass is scaffolding year-end reflections to give students the chance to present a longitudinal portrait of themselves.

And now, here’s Mathew:

scaffolding year-end reflections

  • Who am I?
  • What is my goal?
  • Why am I here?
  • Why am I so amazing?

“These are all questions you are undoubtedly wondering about me right now, since you’re currently witnessing a miracle. That miracle, of course, is my existence.

My name is Mathew [redacted], but you can call me Bartholomew. I tried to think of a singular moment that I really enjoyed, but I don’t think my mind works that way. I’m someone who lives very much in the now, so remembering specific events as bad, good or great, isn’t easy for me.

I know for a fact that I’ve enjoyed my year. Not because I remember having a few good memories, but because I can remember entire aspects of school that stuck out. I’ll forever remember how much I loved lunchtime, not because of the food or the break from work, but because I love listening to the sounds and conversations of my peers.

Come to understand just how happy being around people makes me. The only time I ever feel depressed is when I’m alone; I of course like my alone time, but I find it really hard to be stressed or sad when I’m around people I know.

Another aspect of school I’ve really enjoyed is my own personal growth and involvement with the community. My whole life I’ve been left out of the fun activities and have been unable to participate in making the community better than it already is. But this year has been an entirely different story. I joined the school board as a member, and I went to Peru, which are two things I never could’ve done a few years ago.

Going to Peru was by far my greatest achievement. It was the healthiest two weeks of my life. I walked collectively more than the previous six months; I literally ate more fruit and vegetables than I have ever eaten in my life. It was my first time exploring a city, and in a foreign country as well. The sights I saw are burned into my mind’s eye, and will be unrivaled for years to come.

As for challenges, I experienced the same exact problem I had last year. For some reason, homework is a huge issue for me. I always end up getting myself behind on something. It’s not like I can’t do catch-up work, but I can never get to it. I somehow manage to always push it too far away to matter. Even when I get back on track (it’s because I’m part train), I’ve just skipped some assignments so I can keep up with the most recent work in my class. This is still a mountain I am climbing. However far behind I got, I didn’t panic, I just decided not to be stressed, and to address the problems calmly.

Panicking doesn’t solve the problem, and neither does stress. So taking time to calmly think clearly and ask useful and relevant questions gets you closer to the answer.

I’m generally a very calm person.

Come to understand just how helpless you are without confidence in yourself. I think a good example of this was the making of “Oh Mime” in film class. In the middle of production, it snowed, which messed up a lot of our plans. It was only an hour before filming time, and we didn’t know what to do. So instead of freaking out and asking a hundred questions all at once, I just sat down and did other work, while thinking about the problem in the back of my head.

I find that what helps me complete a task is starting something new; then I can procrastinate on the new task by thinking about the other and ultimately complete it.

I think better in the back of my mind.

In order to work towards my final goal in life — to be a confusing old man with a beard — my first personal goal is to grow older. As for schooling, I’d like to improve my homework problem, that’ll make things a lot easier. I also wanna go all out for my last year, taking as many opportunities as possible and doing the best I can. Some specifics: food and writing, socializing and concentration.

I was also thinking it would be fun to try and tag every piece of work I get in most or all of the realms. All in all I’m looking forward to next year.

Eleven years down and one to go.”

Mathew was kind enough to sit down and chat with the Tarrant Institute’s own Susan Hennessey about how his Y.E.A.R. essay plays into the bigger focus on reflection and evidence collection at Compass.

Susan: So this is supposed to be a written piece that kind of introduces, or sums up the year, is that what the task was?

Mathew: Yeah, it’s like: What are your fondest memories of the year, how do you think it went? Those kind of things. What were your challenges, what were your strategies for dealing with challenges, those kind of things. And also three pieces of work that you find most significant.

Susan: And so since this is 11th grade — I’m just going to clarify what I think I just heard — that’s kind of in preparation, so that in 12th grade, when you do the Roundtable and you graduate, you’re prepped to do that.

At Compass, seniors qualify for graduation by completing a “Roundtable”, a student-led conference where they gather work they feel represents their skills and achievements, and they share that work at a table that is literally round, and at which are seated their family, teachers, peers and admins.

Mathew: Yeah, I can refer back to this reflection of this year in my 12th grade one.

Susan: That sounds good. So when you had your — what is this called? Y.E.A.R?

Mathew: Yeah. I was wondering how hard they tried to make it say “year”. So “Year-End Academic Review”.

Susan: I love it! I’ve been trying to make sense of it too. So you successfully went through that and you used this to start it. Is that how it worked?

Mathew: Yeah, this is the first year they’ve been doing it and for this year they had a list of questions to go through for this. Starting with, “What words would you describe your year with?” So I have: positive, similar, punny, adventurous, different and ‘tractor settings’. I’m a very positive person. For me, personally, I find it very difficult to be negative when I’m around people, like especially people that I know? It just kind of makes me happy to be around people. And even in like, in like tiring or a lot of work situations, I’m just good at being positive?

Susan: Nice. How does tractor settings connect to that?

Mathew: Yeah. That’s the best thing I’ve got there for it. You know, there’s turtle, bunny and then cheetah? Like on a tractor settings?

Susan: *laughing* Okay.

Mathew: You know, throughout the year there’s like, you know, sometimes so slow, and then there’s times when it’s, “Okay, picking up the pace,” and then there’s times when it’s just swamped with things. So many things. Like this past week or two has been.

Susan: Can you tell me the difference between this week last year and this week this year? Because it sounds like there’ve been some changes to include 11th graders doing this.

Mathew: Yeah, in past years it’s been like 10th and 12th grades do the Roundtables — well 8th grade does too — but then the 7th grade does P.O.L.s [Presentations of Learning], which is just like a very starting thing. But this year for like, since Roundtables are bigger, this year throughout the year we’ve had a thing to add proficiencies, in four realms, to pick out work from the year that you have and then you can refer back to it: this shows how good I am with presenting, I had challenges with this, with like a few-sentence reflection thing. It’s so we can start working on [our Roundtable] this year. It’s easy to go, “Ah, well, it’s not ’til next year,” so this way it’s at the end of the year but then it also helps for next year. It’s more work, but I think it’s gonna be very worth it.  I think I’m gonna appreciate doing it next year.


scaffolding year-end reflections

The music for this episode is by Anoop Hariharan, licensed under Creative Commons license 3.0.

ETA: In the original version of this post, we mis-spelled Mathew’s name. We would like to apologize to him for this error, which has now been corrected.

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by five dogs. Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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