Tag Archives: Two Rivers Supervisory Union

Care and Feeding of the PLP

Take a moment to think about a learning experience that was meaningful to your students. How do you know that it was meaningful? How did they communicate that to you?

In the Two Rivers Supervisory Union (TRSU), middle grades students are documenting their meaningful learning experiences using PLPs. You can check out some examples here.

Developing a district wide PLP

A couple of years ago PLPs were new to TRSU middle grades teachers and students. We started by coming to a consensus on what a PLP was (and wasn’t!). We looked at examples, talked about the purpose of PLPs, and thought about how they would best serve our learners. 

The results: a list of non-negotiables.

PLPs center the learner as they capture and reflect on meaningful learning experiences. Baseline Categories (pages, slides, tags, etc.) Profile (about me, bio, learning profile, who am I…) Communication Collaboration Creativity Self-Direction Students add and categorize evidence:  Projects, works in progress, failures, etc. Photos, videos, text, audio, artwork, etc. Students reflect on their learning: Written, audio, video, visually, etc.

TRSU PLPs begin with student identity. Students add evidence of learning connected to transferable skills. All kinds of evidence. And they reflect on that learning. It’s simple, really.

Except it’s not. If it were that easy every student in Vermont would have a rockin’ PLP. 

First, there is the problem of getting started. 

How would teachers introduce PLPs to their students? And how would teachers stay on the same page? Enter the PLP slideshow, two actually. 

These slides served as conversation starters – providing enough information for students and teachers to discuss PLPs and hopefully get excited about them.

Second, and more importantly, is the problem of keeping going!

If the PLP was really going to engage students in their learning, it needed to be more than an online filing cabinet. It needed to be a kind of pet – something that needs routine care and feeding. So we set some goals. We would:

  • Reserve 30 minutes per week to feed the PLP
  • Use the language of the transferable skills ALL OF THE TIME, in ALL OF OUR CLASSES, not just during PLP time
  • Talk about the PLP in relation to student learning and class work
Routine Care & Feeding of PLPs: 30 minutes/week scheduled time for student work on PLP/Portfolios Language of transferable skills commonplace in ALL teaching “What did we do well as collaborators?  What might we work on?” “Becoming aware of ourselves as self-directed learners mean understanding our strengths and our challenges.  What were your strengths and challenges today?” Language of PLP commonplace in ALL teaching: build the habit of talking about the PLP as a document of learning “What you did today makes me think about collaboration, perhaps you should add it to your PLP” “That is an excellent example of self-direction, you might want to add it to your PLP”

A bigger toolbox: Margaret Dunne’s experience

When we first began it felt like PLPs were just one more ball that I needed to keep in the air. My main focus was unpacking what the transferable skills meant for 8-10 year olds and even for myself. Does creativity just mean art? At this point the PLP wasn’t really connected to our other work but it was a start. 

A person juggling many things leads to a jukebox leads to a toolbox

Over time It became clear that I needed to center the PLP in the work of my classroom and not view it as an add-on. I thought of the PLP as an artist’s portfolio – a collection of greatest hits. 

Through regular care and feeding the PLPs were growing, but some of the posts didn’t fit my idea of a “greatest hit.” I struggled with this, but eventually came to realize that it was not my role to be the gatekeeper of what could or could not be students’ PLPs. What was important was that students’ posts were meaningful to them. I was beginning to relinquish control and share responsibility with my students. 

Now my understanding of PLPs has grown even more and I now see PLPs as a tool that can transform my teaching to be student-centered. 

I now see a PLP as a tool that: helps center transferable skills, pushes teachers to ensure students have meaningful learning experiences, documents learning and growth, including mistakes and belly flops, strengthens relationships, develops self-awareness and reflection.

One of the major advantages of PLPs is that they center around developing transferable skills, while our report cards focus on standards and content. PLPs raise awareness of the transferable skills and make sure everyone – students, families, and teachers – know these skills are essential. 

But, it is not like they are totally separate. While students document growth in the transferable skills they do it in the context of all content areas, from PE to Math. This work challenges me as a teacher to be more student-centered and be open to all of the meaningful learning inside and outside of school. 

PLPs allow us to see a student holistically, as a whole person, and they capture the messy complicated story of learning and growth a lot more than a score on a report card. They also help students know themselves better and be known by others, which helps build our learning community. PLPs are truly a transformational tool! 

Emma Vastola’s Experience

The PLP process has been empowering for students – giving them opportunities to choose what matters to them and set personally meaningful goals. An important part of this process is self-reflection. 

To grow their skill of reflection students are provided many times throughout their day to reflect on a task through the lens of a transferable skill. The more students are asked to reflect on their own self within the context of a task, the deeper their sense of self becomes. 

As you might expect, some students are automatically more proficient reflectors, while others need tools to develop the skill. Choice boards, reflective prompts and reflective learning scales are some tools that have been developed as scaffolds for students. 

These reflection tools have helped students gain a deeper understanding of themselves. By being mindful of intentionally teaching reflection and metacognition as a literacy/communication skill, students get better at finding evidence of their work and reflecting on their progress over time. 

A student's identity collage. Start with identity: focusing on Identity helps center the student in their learning. Natural starting point to begin feeding the PLP. Student engagement and agency are fostered because students see themselves. Naturally "student-led" and "personalized."

When students focused on identity in their PLPs, they showed more agency and ownership of their learning.

By focusing on identity students are centered in their learning. They are better able to set actionable goals. These become a natural starting point for care and feeding of the PLP. The system becomes both implicitly and explicitly student-led. 

A timeline like the one pictured here helps set the stage: where the PLP is woven into the fabric of everyday life in and out of the learning environment. Routine PLP work became more prevalent over time and students began to identify work that was “PLPpropriate” and communicate this work at a Student-Led Conference. Student-Led Conferences have become an opportunity for students to share work they are proud of.

A possible timeline for implementation.

Finally, let’s hear from students!

Here is a reflective “letters to my PLP” from a 6th-grade student:

Dear PLP, Thank you for staying with me throughout the year. I once thought you were hard to deal with the constant updating. But now I love hanging out with you; you’re almost like an academic therapist. We are the best of friends, and I hope you stay with me throughout all of my years. I think you are awesome!  I hope you think I am too. You have seen me grow throughout 2021. And I have seen you evolve. I am proud of you, for you are one of my most outstanding achievements. Good-Bye PLP, but only for now. 

And here is a poem from another 6th-grade student: 

Once Upon a Time I hated you. I struggled to fulfill you. I couldn’t quite grasp what your purpose was, Or how to achieve finishing you. You swallowed my reflections tediously. Then, sometimes you would spit them back out Craving more, more fulfillment. But, at first, I couldn’t give it to you. I tried and tried, but no word was ever good enough; no sentence or paragraph could ever make your content. I worked every day to improve so that my words would be enough so that I would be enough. And, over time, they were, you swallowed them, and they stayed. You hold tightly to the work I am proud of, And the work I use as a reminder to improve. We live in tolerance of one another. The End.

To draw on a well worn cliche, PLPs are about the journey, not the destination! 

TRSU teachers have found that that journey can be transformative, but routine care and feeding of the PLP are necessary to sustain it.

Transferable Skill Deep Dive: Fostering communication

What do you see when you look at this picture? (For real, I’m not being sarcastic, what do you see?)

I’m guessing you said, “cow.” 

According to Douglas Rushkoff, author of Team Human

“When shown a picture of a cow in a pasture, most Westerners will see a picture of a cow. Most Easterners, on the other hand, will see a picture of a pasture.”

Rushkoff refers to this as “figure” and “ground.”

A shift in focus: from figure to ground

When educators talk about transferable skills, we often focus on the figure – the student.  We talk about assessment, measurement, and how students demonstrate these skills. 

What if, instead, we focused on the ground – the conditions in which students develop these skills? What if we started by talking about the ways in which educators can foster, nurture, and grow these skills? 

This shift seems especially important given current conditions: students are struggling. Now is not the time for more assessment. Now is the time to nurture and grow students’ strengths. 

That is just what some teachers in the Two Rivers Supervisory Union are doing. TRSU uses the Essential Skills & Dispositions framework as their transferable skills. Middle-level teachers there are doing a deep dive by reading more about each skill with two questions in mind: 

  1. What does it look like when kids are demonstrating this skill?
  2. What teacher moves create opportunities for students to grow in this skill?

Then they are committing to small steps to nurture that skill in their classroom.

What does it look like to foster communication? 

Let’s use communication as an example. With the questions above to guide them, the teachers read all about communication. Then they surfaced their answers on a Padlet. After discussing their responses as a group, each teacher committed to one specific next step to foster communication with their students. And finally, they brought examples of teacher moves and student work back to examine together and discuss.

First, let’s check our assumptions

I reached out to educator and equity advocate Rhiannon Kim to check our biases about our learners, and to glean some insight into what it means to foster communication. Here are some of her thoughts:

  • Wait time 
    • Be aware of your pacing to ensure that students are not trying to “keep up”
    • Encourage students to practice slowing down as well
  • Ensure modes of presentation that are accessible for Deaf and hard of hearing students, for non-speaking students, and for augmentative & alternative communication (AAC).
  • Recognize that students are not always ready to “be on.” Read more about this here.
  • Some students are more introverted than extroverted; in what ways can your classroom honor and recognize the different ways students communicate?

What we learned about teaching communication:

Communication has three main elements: expressive communication, receptive communication, and reflective communication. There is overlap, for sure, this is definitely a three-way Venn diagram situation! But let’s look at each element one by one.

Expressive communication is often what we think of when we say communication: it is the talking, writing, expressing part of the skill.

It involves many things including using appropriate body language, facial expressions, voice and tone. Communication skills show up when we engage in dialogue: asking questions, making comments, building on what others have said, and making connections. Communicating requires using appropriate vocabulary, evidence, and visuals to express our ideas. 

So how might we foster expressive communication in the classroom? 

One suggestion is to allow students to practice, play, or tinker with different modes of communication and then reflect on what worked best for them.  For example, they could try expressing the same ideas using verbal and non-verbal signals or spoken and written formats. Other communication methods to try: quotes, metaphors, flow charts, graphic organizers, sketchnotes, and non-linguistic representations

Some teachers intentionally engage students in dialogue using structures like Harkness, Socratic Seminar, or Protocols. Others are playing communication games with their learners:

Finally, many are building on the communication skills they are already practicing by having students consider their audience or using thoughtful prompts in advisory.  

Receptive communication skills are those that often get lumped together into “listening.” 

They include things like interpreting verbal and non-verbal signals, recognizing different perspectives, and drawing inferences. This is where meaning making happens, so learners have to grow their skills in listening to understand and maintaining engagement. They might also work on analyzing setting, context, and source in order to interpret messages. 

What might it look like to foster receptive communication skills in the classroom?

Educators are always modeling communication skills in the classroom, and modeling receptive communication and thinking out loud about it is a great way to foster communication in the classroom. Other ways to practice listening skills include using podcasts in the classroom or playing listening games:

Teachers are also thinking about analyzing communication skills used in picture books, class read alouds, current events, scientific articles, charts, and data with their students.

Reflective communication skills help us become better communicators and learners.

Learners demonstrate reflective communication skills when they consider how their communication choices impact others, when they monitor their communication and adapt it to better convey their message, or when they reflect on what is working well and what isn’t when they communicate. Another critical reflective communication skill: using feedback to improve.

In what ways might teachers grow the reflective communication skills of their students?

Some educators are being more intentional about how they engage the feedback cycle in order to foster communication skills. They are giving feedback for growth that is targeted, timely, and actionable and providing students with opportunities to reflect on the feedback. They are accepting and celebrating revisions. And they are soliciting feedback from students, reflecting on that feedback, and sharing their own growth with their classroom.

Other teachers are focused on building more opportunities for reflection. They are asking their students to consider: 

  • How is your work adapted for the audience, setting, and purpose?
  • What was easy?
  • Hard?
  • What next steps might you take?

And students are reflecting out loud, on their PLPs, or with their peers to further strengthen their communication skills. 

A teacher friend of mine says, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” This is wise counsel at any given time, but especially in the midst of a pandemic. What is one small shift you might make to focus on the ground and nurture your learners’ communication skills?

Lessons Learned from Vermont’s Virtual Academies

We asked three Vermont educators to share some of the most powerful lessons they’ve learned from teaching virtually during the pandemic. Sona Iyengar, Robin Bebo-Long, and Emma Vastola joined us to share. Iyengar works at Winooski Middle School, in Winooski VT. Bebo-Long and Vastola both work in the Two Rivers Supervisory Union, down in southern Vermont. And all three educators touched on equity, student engagement, mental health, and much, much more.

Below, you can find a fully captioned video recording of the event.



The power of virtual field trips

Do you remember those pre-COVID days?  All of the exciting plans, the face to face collaboration, the FIELD TRIPS?!

The teachers and students at Two Rivers Supervisory Union had *BIG* plans: a four-day, four school, in-person Sustainable Development Goal Academy.

Fifth and sixth-grade students from Cavendish Town Elementary, Chester-Andover Elementary, Ludlow Elementary, and Mount Holly Elementary would converge to learn more about the UN’s Global Goals.  They would choose one goal of interest and join a team of scholars to dig in and learn more.  And they would present their learning, and their recommendations, to local community members and organizations.  BUT… you already know what happened… social distancing put the kibosh on all of the collaborative fun and learning.

Sort of.

Once TRSU teachers got their remote learning feet under them, they realized that this project didn’t have to be canceled. They could rework it for an online environment.  And that could be done more easily because of the kindness and generosity of one open-source oriented teacher.  Let’s give it up for Mr. Kyle Chadburn!

TRSU SDG Academy Website

You see Kyle had also been doing some work with his students on the SDGs. He had developed a pretty extensive website to curate resources for his students. AND Kyle being Kyle, he made a copy for TRSU  and invited them to make it their own.  Blessings on all generous educators! And so they did. They added resources, adapted assessments, developed their own supporting materials, and tied it to the critical indicators defined by their district’s proficiencies.

There was only one thing missing: expert community members and field trips.

Enter the Zoom-trip? The field Zoom? Well, anyway, enter local community organizations and folks with a ton of expertise!  Who are also not afraid of Zoom (or fifth and sixth-graders)!

When asked, community partners overwhelmingly said yes to engaging with TRSU students. These organizations were eager to connect with our students and share their experiences. Kelly Stettner from the Black River Action Team was more than happy to answer students’ questions about local water clean up and its importance to Goal #6: Clean Water. The Vermont Institute of Natural Science VINS was delighted to talk about Goal #15: Life on Land, and to bring along a few animal ambassadors as well.


Goal #2: No Hunger was discussed by Jessie Carpenter from the Vermont Foodbank. Rutland educator Erica Wallstrom has traveled to Greenland and Antarctica as an Einstein Fellow; who better to engage students on Goal #13: Climate Action?


You can see the full list of offerings here.

Students went to at least one presentation on their own goal, but some students decided to attend more.  Rebekah Hamblett is a public health student at Villanova University and she presented on Gender Equality.  She reported that one 6th grade boy said,

“This isn’t my goal but I feel like I should know more about this.”

It was surprisingly easy to host 15 field trips in three days.

Really, it was!  Here is how it worked:

  1. Choose dates and times that will work for students and teachers.
  2. Brainstorm local organizations that do work related to the Global Goals.
  3. Send out email requests to community organizations with a specific ask: 1 or 2 presentations of 45 minutes or less explaining your work.  We definitely shared the focus of the particular Sustainable Development Goal we had in mind but encouraged them to talk more about their work than the goal.
  4. Once we had confirmed guests, teachers stepped up to chaperone.  Chaperones provided Zoom links, introduced the guest, served as a chat checker and observer, and thanked the guest at the end.
  5. Share the calendar with families and students.
  6. Enjoy the learning!

The result?!  TRSU teachers reflected this week and they felt this unit was a big win for students.  The elements they saw as most contributing to the success: student voice and choice, relevant and meaningful topics, and community engagement.  You can take a look at their exhibitions of learning here.

Meanwhile, check out how Kyle Chadburn and Andrea Gratton shared the origin of their Sustainability Academy here.

Talking with Mount Holly students

On this episode of The 21st Century Classroom:

M.:  I learned to, well, use a computer. That’s a big one. And then I also learned to help and be a kind person and try to do as well as I can.

For this episode, we’re in the Two Rivers Supervisory Union, in Southern Vermont. Ace podcaster and #vted Reads host Jeanie Phillips visited the Mount Holly School, in Mount Holly, Vermont.

We’ll hear from Aubrey, Alyssa and M., three sixth graders entering their final semester at this K-6 school. Next year, all three move up to one of the nearby middle schools. So what have these three students learned from their time at Mount Holly? Let’s find out.

About Mount Holly School:

Mount Holly, Vermont is super, super rural. Located at the Southern end of generally populous Rutland County, Mount Holly has only 1200 residents, spread across 49 square miles. And that? Is a lot of open space.

The school itself is close-knit and spirited, with a number of activities and classes that get students out of their seats and outside into the school garden, one of three outdoor classrooms, as well as the school’s very own nature trail.

Students practice mindfulness and meditation. They learn to sew and identify plants, as well as working with woodcraft and learning the traditional rigorous academic subjects. School lunches have book-themed names such as “Dragons Love Tacos”, “The Hungry Caterpillar”, “The Princess and the Pizza”, and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”.

There’s a weekly all-school meeting, student-led conferences at every grade level, and beginning in kindergarten, every student starts learning French.

It’s a small and cheerful school where everybody knows everybody else, families included.

And these are three of Mount Holly’s students:


Mount Holly students: Aubrey


Mount Holly students: Alyssa

and M.

Mount Holly students: M.

Right off the bat, we want to know: what makes school meaningful for you?

Aubrey:  What I find meaningful about school is that they give as lot of help to the kids that need it, and the kids that sometimes have problems focusing or learning. They’ll like help you a little bit more than they normally would. And it’s just kind of like hands-on learning.

Jeanie:  What are some of the opportunities you have to do hands-on learning?

Aubrey:  Well, in math class, normally we do our lesson and then afterwards she’ll give us like, a page to do? And then you’re either with someone else or you’re by yourself and you can ask for help then.

Alyssa: I find something very meaningful about school is getting to learn about the things I *want* to learn about. Like, I love the ocean. I like when I get an opportunity to learn about it. Because when they give you one subject you have to learn about? Everybody else is learning about it. One, it doesn’t seem interesting because everyone’s doing it, and two, it doesn’t like, make you think, ‘Oh I want to learn more about it’ if it’s like, something you don’t even think about once a year.

Jeanie: Yeah. Do you want to give me an example of when you got to learn more about the ocean?

Alyssa: We’re doing a project currently — not everyone’s doing it about the ocean but I’m doing the deep ocean? Which is like you have to list things like the animals that live there, where they get their food from, everything like that. And it’s a very fun project for me and I like it a lot. It’s very fun.

Jeanie:  Excellent. I’m so excited about this conversation. What do *you* find meaningful about school?

M.:  Kind of the group community develops, and on being together as people. And not having always having the choice of being by yourself? And learning real world skills? That’s far more important to me than the actual learning, because you can do that at home but it’s a lot harder to experience during the school day. It’s a lot easier for you to experience social skills as opposed to home.

Jeanie:  So, real world skills like social skills you get to practice here, in a way you wouldn’t at home?

M.:  Correct.

Jeanie:  What are the real world skills do you learn at school, M?

M.:  I learned to, well, use computers. That’s a big one. And then I also learned to help, and be a kind person, and try to do as well as I can. And that… learning is… only fun when you make it fun.

Jeanie: Excellent. So, looking ahead what do you hope to be able to do in school as you continue with your schooling?

M.: My big goal for high school and college is to — I really, I mean like technology and STEAM. All that.  One of my goals is to… well, my first goal is to get into MIT. And then my second goal is to build a computer for myself. And once I can do that then I’ll feel pretty good. But I always want to learn.

Jeanie: What do you hope to do to benefit the world with your degrees, and your expertise in STEAM and technology?

M.: I really like and am inspired by Greta Thunberg. And hydro power? I think that’s really cool, because it doesn’t harm nature like wind turbines do? And it’s also sustainable? So, I really want to protect our planet from climate change. Maybe become a worker at a national park, or help the World Wildlife Fund, somewhat. I already made a few donations.

Jeanie: Wow, those are some big aspirations! Is Greta Thunberg a role model for you?

M.:  Yeah.

Jeanie: Have you learned about her at school at all?

M.:  Ms. Coldwell and another teacher showed us like, one video about her, but I watch a lot of her speeches.


Jeanie:  In your free time?

M.:  Yeah. I don’t have any devices but my parents approve of that sort of technology.

Jeanie:  Excellent. How about you Alyssa, what do you hope to do beyond Mount Holly School?

Mount Holly students: Alyssa
Alyssa and friend.

Alyssa: I really want to be a marine biologist. I’ve always loved the ocean and I will always love the ocean. I want to be a marine biologist, but a marine biologist and expert in exploration? To like, lead dives and stuff like that. To get to like, swim with sharks and nice dolphins and things like that. I… want to be someone who like, finds the missing piece to an Egyptian thing or something. I’ve always wanted to be the one person who dives into the ocean and finds that super special thing nobody else could find.

Jeanie: Yeah. How do you hope that will contribute to our world?

Alyssa: I think in like… climate change if I’m like figuring out how it’s affecting, then people will start to actually care. Like if I show the numbers and stuff of like, how many things and people and stuff are dying, because of it? So things like climate change? If like lost pieces to when we weren’t intelligent enough to make like, computers and stuff. Like, artifacts I guess.

Jeanie:  How about you, Aubrey?

Mount Holly students: Aubrey
Aubrey, Mount Holly School.

Aubrey:  I… have always loved nature. I mean, I live in the woods so I kind of have to like nature. *laughs* And I have a love for horses. And I have a horse, and when I’m older I would love to learn more about veterinary work. Because I have a love for animals and I just am very interested in the whole veterinary field.

Jeanie:  Excellent. So, your contribution to the world would be to care for all our furry friends?

Aubrey: Yeah.

Jeanie:  That’s a great aspiration. You all are inspiring me,  with your big dreams and plans and aspirations.  Do you feel like school is equipping you with what you need to get there?

Alyssa: Yeah. I feel like we’ll get through elementary school, we’ll know some about what we want to do. We’ll get through high school, we’ll be very excited and we’ll know a lot about what we want our career to be. And me, M., and Aubrey want to go to college. We all want to go to college because, in order to be a vet you have to go to college. To be an engineer you have to go to college? You have to go to college to be a marine biologist. So, yeah, we all kind of look into things like that.

Jeanie:  Okay, tell me something you’re good at.

Alyssa:  I’m really good at like studying, because in like writing in formal papers and stuff because I do that with, like, my shark studies a lot.  At home, I’ll study, I’ll bookmark pages and stuff, and then I’ll write something on Google Docs about it. No one usually sees the Google Docs, but I have them.

Jeanie: You do it for you?

Alyssa: Yes.

Jeanie: How about you, M?

Mount Holly students: M.
M., Mount Holly School.

M.:  I know it’s kind of generic but I really like, and I’m good at building stuff. I feel like that’s really fun for me. We have tons of Legos and that’s one of the big things. I like sports, I play basketball. I don’t actually play basketball like as a team, but I play it by myself a lot. And I play hockey and soccer and baseball and football.

Jeanie: Wow! What’s the most interesting thing you’ve built with your Legos?

M.:  It’s called the Hape Snowfa battle cruiser? [EDITORIAL NOTE: no Star Wars geeks on staff, so we’re doing our best with Google.] It’s not a Lego set, but I made it. I do Star Wars Legos. And I made it after a Star Wars machine.

Jeanie:  Right, you made it from the Legos yourself without a kit?

M.: Yes.

Jeanie: Awesome.

M.:  And I mean also… I’m not good at everything, but school… I tend to be pretty good at.

Alyssa: He does a lot of clicking with our subjects.

Jeanie: That’s a good way to put it! Aubrey, what are you good at?

Aubrey:  I like to swim. I don’t know, I just always like to swim. My parents, my mom like to swim.  So, I just always like to swim, I’ve been swimming from when I was like three years old, so…

Jeanie:  Nice! So, what else besides swimming and sports and Legos and writing Google Docs for yourself about sharks do you get up to at home, outside of school?

M.:  Reading! Reading, reading, reading.

Jeanie: Oh I love that! What’s your favorite book, M?

M.:  My favorite book right now? I like the Endling Series. Have you heard of Katherine Applegate? That’s my favorite book series so far. I like the Tales from Earthsea. There’s a few more I can’t think of. I read tons and tons of books.

Jeanie:  Excellent.  How about you Alyssa, what do you get up to outside of school?

Alyssa: I’m mostly snuggle with my guinea pig. His name’s Leo. I tell him about my day. He’s albino so I like to like to look at his fur and imagine a color because it’s easy to think of what as a color.

And I also like to do like games with my little brother.

Jeanie: What’s your favorite game to play with your little brother?

Alyssa: We play a lot of Mortal Kombat.  And I like to also do journaling.  I have like four journals to different subjects.  I have my journal called ‘The Perfect Day’, which I write really good days I have. Then I have one, that’s all which is called ‘The Worst Day’, and then I have like one that write about every day. I love writing, by the way.

Jeanie: That’s awesome! What are you up to out of school Aubrey?

Aubrey: I read a lot of books. Like *a lot a lot* of books.

Jeanie:  Love it. So, I’m going to dive back in. Remember we were talking earlier about how do you know the things you’re good at? Thinking about the things that you are good both in and out of school, how do you know when you are goods at them? Go ahead, Aubrey.

Aubrey:  I’m, so, I knew that I was good at swimming when I started swim team two years ago.  I only did it for one summer and I wound up getting second place in my first meet.

Jeanie: So, doing well at the competition helps you know you are good at something?

Aubrey: Yes, it makes me feel good about myself.

Jeanie:  Yes, Alyssa. How do you know when you’re good at something?

Alyssa: So journaling, I kind of got into it because I love writing and at third grade I started to notice my formal letters and stuff was already really good.  So, I like to like, practice and I kept doing that. And my mom also thought it was best for me to write down how I feel because… reasons.

Jeanie:  Can I ask you all a follow-up question? What’s it feel like on the inside when you’re good at something?

Alyssa:  It kind of, it feels like, really good to be doing something I like, and I’m really good at it. Compared to something you’re not very good at? When you’re doing something you like and you’re good at it, it’s like, this is awesome. I *love* this, I can do this well.  And you want to do more of it.

M.:  Part of the way I think is that… when you do something and you get really good at it? In my opinion it’s kind of like the first level.  So, you’re really good at something and then there is something else where you haven’t built anything 00 any levels yet. Then you can get really good at another thing. You slowly ascend the pyramid, until you make it to professional. Like Premiere League, or MLB [Major League Baseball] or whatever. And there’s a certain amount of happiness when you get up there? But it’s certainly not like the first day the person calls you up and say you get called up to the major leagues.

And because now you already know what it’s like and it’s not exciting anymore? But, still you could still thrive and have a fantastic time because it’s your passion.

Else, I just think that you can get good at most things, but you could also not get good at most things. And there’s some things, I’m going to be more natural to do than Aubrey and Aubrey is going to be more natural to do than me, you know. Alyssa the same.  So, it’s all a spectrum kind of thought of it.  And by the way, I think I mentioned that I have really good test scores on my math and test for reading, so that’s why I think I’m good at reading.

Jeanie: I hear two things from you. I hear so many things from you, M.  One is like I know I’m good at reading because I have high test scores in reading and also I know I’m good at reading because I read all the time and I love it.

And then I hear this other thing from which is that no matter how good you get, you can always still learn some more or grow some more or get better  Is that right? I see you nodding your head Alyssa.

Alyssa:  Yes. *laughs* I forgot they can’t see me.

Jeanie: What’s it feel like for you, Aubrey, to be good at something on the inside?

Aubrey: It feels really good because sometimes when I don’t do something that makes me feel good about myself, I take it really hard. I’m like, critical.  So, just the tiniest things that make me feel good about myself brighten my day a lot.

Jeanie:  What else do you want the world to know about learners, about what it’s like to be a fifth or sixth grader to be a learner?  Go just say it.

M.”  I mean it’s tough. You, I mean you’re given challenges and especially for me, I’ve skipped two grades. It’s always good to develop those close relationships because it’s… I come, I just come and then I leave and then it’s like all the friends I’ve made, you know, I don’t get to see as much. It’s just, it’s harder and then the older you get, the more homework you have to do. And it eats into your life.

Alyssa:  That is a lie. We do not have homework [at Mount Holly].

M.:  But next year we will.

Alyssa:  Yeah, next year we will.

M.:  And we will be  not be ready for it!

Alyssa: We’re going to be the preschoolers again.

M.:  Seventh grade in the school of 12th graders and under.

Alyssa:  Because we’re in sixth grade and we go to a very small elementary school.  So, after sixth grade, we have to go to the seventh grade and a high school.

Jeanie:  Do you worry about that?

M.:  Not a lot. I don’t feel that *I’ll* get bullied. And I don’t feel that *they’ll* get bullied.  I think that one of the school I plan on going to is a very nice school. *hiccups* Oopsies.

Aubrey:  I honestly don’t think that I’m going to have any problems because…  I’m not even sure what middle school I’m going to yet.  But I mean, I’m not really that social. So I’m not that social butterfly. I mean just, I think I’m just going to be my, be by myself. I like being alone. I’m an only child so I don’t have any siblings to bug me.

Jeanie:  So, tell me the last question I have for you all is what do you want the world to know about Mount Holly School?

Aubrey: Well, I think that they should know Mount Holly School is a great school.  It’s helped me and some of my friends that have a little bit harder time of learning a lot get through those things.

Alyssa:  I think that Mount Holly is a great school and I am only aware of a teacher or two who will be retiring.  But we do sometimes have troubles finding new teachers to take places and I think that we’ll be fine. It’s a good school. They help kids when they need it. And they’re like, they’re very flexible with how kids learn. Like, if you have something you think will help you like a fidget, they will adjust to like, maybe having it around and the fifth and sixth grade’s actually doing an experiment to get hoods allowed in school.  And I think that it’s great that they let us even try this. So. Yeah.

Aubrey:  Also we have a great principal, he is so much fun.

M.:  He’s awesome.

Aubrey:  He’s awesome!

Alyssa:  He’s very flexible.  He loves hanging out with us, we like hanging out with him too.

M.:  Last thing want to say is I think student council is a great opportunity.  Me and Alyssa both do it.

Alyssa:  M. is student council vice president and I am student council president.

M.:  And I feel like that’s a great opportunity to learn some of the things and how the government works sometimes.

Alyssa:  And they give us like, the ability to change rules. We just actually hosted a Valentine’s Day after school party and it was amazing and it went so good. So, we have already done one thing this year.

Jeanie:  And you said you’re encouraged to look at rules, how you might change rules to?

Alyssa:  We actually can change rules if we are powerful enough as a council, if it’s a rule that we think really needs to be changed.  And we all vote that if at least two-thirds of us vote that, that is what we want and this is the idea. Then we take it to the principal and we start working on it.

Jeanie:  Awesome.  You guys are really motivated.  What keeps you so motivated?

Alyssa:  I kind of like that we have these abilities and we have these rights to change what we don’t like to have what we want. To change what we like, get what we want done.  We have the options of how we want everything to be and I think that is just so nice of them to be like if you don’t like it, we’ll give you the ability to change it with enough progress and stuff.

Jeanie:  Nice. M., what keeps you motivated?

M.:  Me motivated?  The way that I can always get better and if I was automatically the best, I wouldn’t be as motivated.

Aubrey:  Oh, I’m not going to lie, I’m not that motivated.

Jeanie:  All right, you do a lot of cool things Aubrey.

Aubrey:  Yes, but I just kind of do it when I feel productive.

Jeanie:  That’s my strategy too. Thank you all three of you so much for taking the time to talk to me about yourself as learners, about Mount Holly as a school.  I just so appreciate your voices and hearing you explore ideas with me. You guys are amazing, thank you very much. Do you want to say goodbye?

Students:  Goodbye speaker! I love you.

M.:  You’ve been helping us.  Might not keep that part. You don’t need to.  Bye.

The 21st Century Classroom is a production of the The Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont. This episode was produced by Jeanie Phillips, series producer is Audrey Homan. Thank you to Aubrey, Alyssa and M. for speaking with us, and to all of Mt Holly students and faculty for letting us invade with our recording equipment and headphones and generally be disruptive.

Our theme music is by Meizong and Yeeflex. And thank *you*, as always, for listening.