by Kate Sommerville, Professional Development Specialist
When asked to partake in the Youth Advisory Council, I had no idea what that entailed, but was thrilled knowing that it involved student ambassadors. Leaving the classroom was a huge transition, and people still ask me if I will miss working directly with students every day. I thought being a facilitator for our Youth Advisory Council would give me an opportunity to work with incredible learners, across multiple districts, all working towards the same WHY!
As the newest member of the Institute for Personalized Learning, I have spent the last month or so diving into the professional development offerings we provide to others. From Foundations of Personalized Learning to Institute Studies Cohort to Leadership Design Academy, all have been memorable and have helped me on this learning journey. Little did I know the four hours spent with our youth ambassadors would be so fulfilling, and help me truly understand the need for the Institute’s work!
As facilitators, we planned our summer meet up at the end of August, one of the last warm days of summer, just moments before the hustle and bustle of another school year. I was not sure how many of our ambassadors would give up this precious time to meet with us, but I was pleasantly surprised as the RSVPs came rolling in. As students started arriving you could see the apprehension in many of their faces, especially our newest members. Some found friends from last year, others sat down at a table and hoped a fellow peer would sit down and introduce themselves. Before long, we had close to 20 teenagers chatting, getting to know one another, and an amazing buzz filled the room. Shoulders went down and smiles were plentiful!
To start our morning, we asked the students to brainstorm what personalized learning meant to them individually. The room quieted down and pencils were feverishly writing. As they started to post their ideas on the coffee shop window, I was in awe of their responses, completely blown away at what they could come up with in a matter of minutes. Their ideas were eloquently written and got to the heart of our work here at the Institute.
We then mixed up the students and asked them to think about the purpose of the Youth Advisory Council. Each group was presented with one of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circles and we asked them to think about WHY the Youth Advisory Council mattered. Conversations began, and as we walked throughout the room, they were all listening intently to the ideas of others, periodically adding on to those thoughts and asking questions. Without much support from us, they were able to move beyond the Why and out to the How and What. Golden Circles were filling and we sat back amazed at the the work of these teenagers.
To celebrate our new friendships, we spent the rest of the morning at Mission Breakout in Waukesha. Teams worked together to successfully escape from two rooms. With only an hour to complete their missions, one team solved all clues with three minutes to spare. The other team escaped with one second left on the clock. In the end, these super sleuths used learner skills to accomplish their goal. We came back together excited and ready to generate ideas for their upcoming session at the Institute’s National Convening on Personalized Learning! On November 1, our ambassadors will have the opportunity to facilitate a two hour workshop for Convening participants where they will engage in dialogue and share their own insights and experiences in a personalized learning environment.
In the end, I walked away from our summer meet up realizing that these young people truly understand their purpose and have the ability to inspire others. They believe in the power of personalized learning. They believe it benefits themselves and others. They believe it is what is best for all learners. They not only understand the importance of transforming our schools from an educator driven classroom to a learner centered environment, they have the power and willingness to make it happen. To talk directly to these students, be sure to register for the Annual Convening!