When the 2016-17 school year starts, New Beginnings Family Academy (NBFA) will be Connecticut’s first progressive school, employing emotionally responsive practice. We have been working for a year to prepare for this, and along the way we’ve had a lot of questions on what it means to be a progressive school.
At the heart of the progressive model is the idea that education should be student-centric. That means students should be involved in choosing their own projects and the direction of their education, so they are invested in the content and develop a love of learning. Also integral to the model is that learning be engaging, hands-on, and roll-up-your-sleeves in nature, as well as project-based and interdisciplinary.
We are doing away with the rote memorization, teacher-in-front-of the-classroom-at-all-times setting for learning. Instead we’re teaching students in the way they want to learn. To see a great example of a progressive school, check out these videos of the Mission Hill School in Boston. Like us, Mission Hill is an urban, space-limited, high-needs school that transformed itself to a model where students love coming to school to learn.
As part of the transformation, we realized we must continue to meet the social and emotional needs of our students, who often come to us with adult-sized chronic stressors – like hunger and fear. This year we have partnered with the Bank Street College of Education in New York City to teach us emotionally responsive practice, a set of practices that interweaves relationship-building, trauma content and safety into the daily curriculum. Bank Street has spent the past year working with NBFA’s teachers on addressing their own social-emotional needs (teaching is hard and stressful!) and will be coming in once a week to coach teachers.
In anticipation of our students returning to a fully progressive model in the fall, we are spending the summer remodeling our building. We are making room for more project space and teacher collaboration, more classrooms so we can reduce class size, a space devoted to movement, and addressing a number of other needs. We invite you to visit the school, either during construction or once the school year starts, so you can see our transformation first hand.
I will also be checking in with the Extra Credit blog periodically to provide an update on our progressive transformation. We are looking forward to a great school year and finding new ways to transform education for our students!