Baxter Academy: Year 2 Day 2

This Day 2 was different from last year’s Day 2 – of course. There was no furniture to build, at least not yet. We have more students now. Only 9th & 10th graders were in the building today, but there are still more of them, which is great. Today was about orientation, and reorientation. As with any project, any design challenge, reflecting and improving are important steps. We’ve done that. There are changes to what we plan to do with kids this year. Some rearranging of the schedule, a bit more time with our advisory groups, nothing huge. Our philosophy is still the same: we want our kids to be able to stand up and say what they know and believe. We want them to be fearless, and to learn from mistakes.

Today’s schedule was organized around our advisory groups. We teamed together a 9th grade group with a 10th grade group. Those groups then rotated through a series of presentations about our school: Open Campus, Flex Friday, Baxpectations & Standards Based Grading, Baxtitution, Student Government, and Student Judiciary Board, Mentoring & Advisory, and a slide show of the teachers. All of these presentations were designed by teams of 10th graders, student senators, who had minimal guidance from a faculty member. Was I nervous about what they would say? Sure, I was. Did they do an amazing job? Of course they did. That’s what impressed me the most. Not only did twelve 10th graders agree to put in extra time to create a presentation about a specific topic special about our school, they delivered that information six times and answered countless questions. And the 10th graders in the audience asked great questions, too. It was really a good morning, led by kids. Could it have been better? Sure. That’s the reflection and iteration part. Next year it will be slightly different, slightly tuned, and more effective. But I doubt we will change the overall purpose or how it is student-led. Those six topics were selected by students who spent the last day of school last June brainstorming and designing today’s orientation model.

After lunch, we got outside (another gorgeous Maine day), walked to the Old Port with our 9th grade partners (my advisory group really wanted to get to know them better), learned about next week’s “Baxter Foundations” schedule (more about that next week), and had our own design challenge for “Baxter Swag.” When you work in a school that revolves around problem solving, it’s good to get in as many design challenges as you can.

When I asked my students to sum up their first two days (10th graders do not have school tomorrow), many of them said how great it was to be back in school. Even with the changes (new students, new faculty, new building spaces, moved classrooms). One student said, “All summer, people asked me about Baxter. They know it’s a charter school and they want to know about it. The best way I could sum it up is to tell them that I am excited to come to school every day. I’m so glad to be here.” Ditto that.

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