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Guest blogger:  Kayisha Edwards, Special Educator shares her Thoughts from the Field.

Eyes affixed upon the throngs of books that align the shelves, I can’t help but wonder if the dreamy eyed student is paying attention to the lesson at hand. Is the student processing?  Taking a much needed break from the discussion?  Or perhaps just thinking about life.

In the Middle School Current News Intensive, (Intensive is a time of enrichment and support)  students were encouraged to spend time to ruminate about their dreams. After reading an article about Malala Yousafzai and two Langston Hughes poems, students were eager to connect who they aspire to be to the likes of a resilient young woman and a renowned poet.

In their writing, some students made comments about who they are as dreamers:

“What type of dream am I doing? A lucid dream because I want to be aware and have control over where I go in life.”

“Langston Hughes said something that made me think about my dream, and Malala made me think about how hard she worked to let girls know what she went through in order to rally for education. My dream is to be a beautician and never let that go.”

Other students personally connected with Langston Hughes’s poems:

“What stood out to me is when Hughes says ‘For if dreams die, Life is like a broken winged bird that cannot fly’. What I get from this is if you diminish your dreams then you will lose a big factor of your life. I say that because a big factor of a bird’s life is flying and with a broken wing it can’t do that. So with a dream, if you defer it, then you will lose a big element of your life.”

And others made a connection to Malala Yousafzai:

“Malala’s story is an inspiration to people, including me. Having a dream is not worth anything unless it’s spread to the world. Some say that your dreams have limits, but there is always a way to overcome those limits.”

“Though, it’s easy to have dreams, it’s more difficult to fulfill them. If you really want to become what you seek, you have to work very hard to achieve it. Many people, like Malala Yousafzai, worked extremely hard to do this, and I want to do this, too.”

In these quotes I see the power of giving students time to think. Time for students to sit and stare wherever their eyes become affixed: on a picture, in a book, an article or a poem – and to think about those who have dreamed in the past and whose dreams are making headlines today in an effort to foster robust thoughts and conversations about dreams of their own.

-Kayisha Edwards is a Special Educator at City Neighbors Charter School

Well, Happy New School Year!  We thought we better update the story of The Big Move at City Neighbors Charter School.  Lets start with the teacher who decided to try getting rid of all her traditional desks and chairs and create what she likes to call, “Giovanni’s Cafe” for teaching Language Arts in middle school.  If you recall back in #1 of this series we introduced the ideas of Ms. Sajida Davis:

First, Ms. Davis talked about her teaching.  She would need space for the classroom library, small meeting spaces, and a spot for her desk (could it be near a window?). Next she imagined a big whiteboard – a whole wall – from floor to ceiling so groups of students could be coming up with ideas together at the same time. She mentioned quiet spaces (and we looked out in the hallway and decided it was great and she would feel comfortable sending kids out there too). And when we began to talk about her tables and chairs that were being moved up here she said, “What I really wish is that I didn’t have to have tables and chairs.” Cool! What would you have? “You know, I want my classroom to be like a big coffee shop, with couches and comfy chairs, coffee tables, and some kind of stage area.”

 After a long summer of first relocating the library, then insulating the attic, then searching for and finding used furniture from hotel liquidators in the area, we spent $900 to create an entirely new classroom.  Here are some of the pictures from her space on the first day of school (some with students!):

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And now the most important question must be posed.  Will the physical environment impact the practice of the teacher?  How about the work of the students?  What does this new space create that works?  How about what doesn’t work?  These questions and more will be considered as we continue to check in with Ms. Davis this year in her new space.

Well, we made it.  Today is day 3 of a new school year.  More pictures and thoughts on the physical environment coming soon.

Just a few more pictures of the new space in use with our students:

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Today we made great strides in The Big Move. We shuffled furniture between floors and between our three schools. We filled a dumpster with broken and old items, and we touched up paint and began in the basement with some deep cleaning.

Amazing! Suddenly, there is a feeling of space – new space – the very same rooms that felt small – feel bigger. Is it the flooring? The paint? The fact that everything is piled in the middle of the room and in boxes? This summer we are renewing our spaces – and we can already feel something has changed. After 11 school years of teaching and learning and growing – it feels good to be starting anew.

Now, you may remember that Ms. Davis has a vision for a classroom without desks and chairs – so today there was a furniture stampede on her behalf.  Thanks to our CNHS helpers: Ace, Rayshaun, and Shaheim for all the help!  I think they got a little bit exhausted today in the heat – and that prompted a trip to Mastellones on Harford Road where I made each of them try some apricot nectar (they liked it!) and bought them some lunch.  Here are a few pictures of where we stand here at the end of week two in “The Big Move.”

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