AltSchool Hub

Post-Election Resources for Parents and Teachers

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Nov 9, 2016 4:17:53 PM

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Like many schools around the nation, our students have been learning about voting and the political process over the past few months. Our teaching community has been focused on creating open and supportive environments for students to bring their questions and wonderings to light, as they explored the often divisive 2016 presidential election. Going into November, we knew that half of the country was going to be unhappy with the outcome. That’s why we believe students should have the appropriate framing and closure to the election cycle to support their understanding and continued role in shaping our country’s future.

Today, our educator team strived to arm students with age-appropriate knowledge and, when needed, coping strategies. As educators, and as parents, we wanted to share some of those tools and resources we’ve found to be helpful in our classrooms.

  • Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides a wealth of resources to support the Election 2016 conversation and beyond.
  • Huffington Post’s What Do We Tell the Children? highlights three concrete ways to support our students: tell them we will protect them, we will honor the outcome, and we will guide and support them in becoming responsible members of our democratic society.
  • The Zinn Education Project offers middle and high school centered lessons on illuminating the complexity within our country’s history.
  • Teaching for Change provides teachers and parents with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write and change the world. The site includes recommendations for early childhood anti-bias education, including articles as well as book lists for children and adults.

We are hopeful that these resources help bring children and adults closer together both as a community and a country.

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Topics: Learning in the Community, Parents, Community

A Parent's Perspective: Why My Daughter Loves School

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Dec 23, 2015 10:02:52 AM

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We had a chance to chat with Sara, whose daughter is a 2nd grader
in the lower school program at AltSchool Brooklyn Heights. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your story!

What has your experience been like at AltSchool?
My daughter loves school. She’s happy, inquisitive, and can’t wait to go to school in the morning. She used to be exhausted at the end of the day. And I’m a teacher, it’s hard not to feel exhausted after school! There isn’t a time that I’ve visited AltSchool where everyone isn’t happy to be there. I love the energy and enthusiasm of the teachers, and I can see that in my daughter.

The social-emotional support has helped her as well. Before we would spend so much time on homework, because she didn’t want anything to be wrong. She didn’t want to write because she didn’t want something to be spelled wrong or her handwriting to be imperfect. Now she feels the support of her teachers and she doesn’t worry about mistakes. She even walks around with a journal and pencil and wants to write down everything! She feels comfortable accepting failures, yet she knows there are high expectations of her.

What were you looking for in a school?
I was looking for an individualized education. Before AltSchool, my daughter tested into the Gifted and Talented program in New York City. We were fortunate that she was placed in one of the best schools in the city with high student performance. I had hoped she would have an individualized education, but that wasn’t our experience. It just wasn’t the right fit; my daughter wasn’t happy.

Although she had high test scores that placed her into the Gifted and Talented program, she wasn’t thriving academically in school. I kept on asking myself: as a bright and intelligent girl, why isn’t my daughter flourishing? She wasn’t seen for what her potential is.

I don’t want school to taint her love for learning. I want her to have a school experience that allows her to explore herself and her own interests.

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How has she grown academically?

I’ve seen a huge amount of growth. She woke up to a whole new way of thinking, applying her knowledge, and sharing information. I’ve seen her critical thinking skills develop as well as the way she solves problems.

Through the project-based learning, she’s learned a lot about the process of asking questions, finding information, and seeing it through. At the high school level, where I teach, it’s hard for students to make the connection between content areas. At AltSchool, looking for connections is the scaffolding of her education.

How would you describe AltSchool’s use of technology in the classroom?
Because of the technology at AltSchool, she’s getting feedback immediately from teachers. She can learn how to correct a mistake quickly, and assessments don’t feel as permanent.

And yes, I want my daughter to do well in school now, but I want her to do well in life. There are things that traditional schools and I can’t provide in order to prepare her for work situations. I’m currently taking a course on Google Docs. I don’t know anything about it, but my 7 year old can explain it to me now!

How would you describe the teachers?

I want to hug her teachers every day! They are energetic and consistent. Every kid gets the same amount of individual attention and love. They are creative and inspired by the kids, and in turn they show their students an enthusiasm for learning. I’m so proud to be a parent at this school!

What’s one word you would use to describe AltSchool?

There are many words! Family. Home. Inspirational. I am inspired as a mom and also as an educator. When I pick her up, I watch the teachers and see how happy the students are — it makes me want to be a better teacher.”

Apply to AltSchool

 

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Topics: School, Classroom Stories, Parents

A Parent’s Perspective: Helping my son grow his confidence

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Dec 21, 2015 12:00:06 PM

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One of our parents, Sharon, shares how her 6-year old son has grown socially and emotionally, thanks to a personalized approach. Here is their story:

What have your overall experiences been like at AltSchool?

AltSchool has changed our lives. Before AltSchool, my son wouldn’t participate in a group, rarely interacted with peers, and felt bad about himself. Now he’s become a child whose loves life, his confidence is growing and he shows great compassion for others. He’s happy every single day and has lots of friends. When I come home from work, he cannot wait to tell me what happened. His face lights up when he talks about school.

Why do you think he’s changed so much?

Without a doubt, it’s due to his teachers and the personalized approach at AltSchool. The first few weeks he struggled while adjusting to the new environment. When the class went to PE, he removed himself from the group and didn’t want to participate. His teachers partnered with me to understand why. They sent me updates over Stream daily with what they tried and what worked until they found a way to help him.

He was picked on at preschool and he is acutely aware if people are judging him. With this knowledge, they worked hard to get him to realize that there’s no judgment and that he is part of the community where everyone is accepted. If he brings something to their attention, they thank him for sharing then show him that they are doing something about it. He is now interacting just as much as the other children. This is just one example of how much they individualize and care for each child. They dug and probed to understand why he didn’t want to participate and then did whatever they could to make him feel safe and valued.

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It sounds like he’s had a lot of social-emotional growth.

Yes! I’ve also seen his empathy develop for other children. Before, he didn’t like playing with younger kids because they can be unpredictable. Now when we go to a playground, if a younger child falls over he will help pick them up and say, “that’s a really good attempt for a 2-year old!” To see him re-assure a younger child is transformational.

I also notice his growth when I try to help him with things. For example, I tried helping him with a project, and when I didn’t do it right he said, “It’s OK Mom, you tried your best!” When I say, “I don’t know”, he’ll remind me that “I don’t know YET”.  

He’s also becoming more comfortable with uncertainty. He has gained the confidence to be okay with not knowing something and not getting things perfect the first time. He’s grasping the concept of “any failure is a learning to redesign or try a different approach.”

You mentioned the Parent Stream app. How do you use it?

I look at Stream every day, and I use that as a conversation starter with my son. I’ll say, “Oh, I saw your teacher post something about jellyfish!” And then he’ll talk about what he learned about jellyfish. He’s proud of his efforts, and they celebrate them in class. They celebrate each child’s progress in what each child is working on. Stream helps me connect with those successes he has in class.

How would you describe AltSchool’s use of technology?

He has a tablet, but the technology is not very prominent overall. He’ll talk about the science experiments he did or how many bugs they collected in the park. He never talks about the technology. Instead he’ll say, “I did this really cool project, and I took a picture of it using my tablet.”

How would you describe the teachers?

I don’t think I have ever met a more dedicated group of teachers. They partnered with me to find out what was going on and found a way to help him. They are 100% solutions-focused and really believed in him when he didn’t believe in himself. They are just incredible!

Apply to AltSchool

 

 

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Topics: School, Dogpatch Classroom, Parents

Back-to-School-Night, Reimagined

Posted by Paul France

Sep 30, 2015 12:50:37 PM

(Originally posted on InspirED.)

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Back-to-School Night has always been one of my favorite nights of the year. Everyone – educators, families, and students alike – are bright-eyed and excited for a new year. Parents buzz in, practically bursting with questions, admiring work on the walls, wanting to see more of what their child’s day actually is like. Ironically enough, on too many Back-to-School nights, parents leave with just the opposite. They don’t learn in the way that we want our children to learn. Instead, they sit, they listen, and they have little opportunity to actually interact with their child’s environment.

Fortunately, my team and I did something to change that last night.

Sure, we had 25 minutes of obligatory logistics. There are many things that parents need to know going into the school year, including communication norms and expectations, curriculum, and the general approach for the year. But this doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed or arduously long. Instead, it needs to be visually engaging, concise, and help parents to leave with a sense of confidence, excitement, and wonder about their child’s upcoming year in the classroom.

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Our most exciting experience, though, was the part when the parents were actually able to step into the shoes of their children. Part of the AltSchool experience is the playlist – the set of activities that students are able to access on their own. In lower elementary, specifically, when starting the school year, this looks mostly like student-driven documentation, as students with their little fingers and developing minds, need a lot of guidance on how to simply turn the device on and take pictures. My team and I wanted to help provide this experience to parents first-hand, and so last night, we gave them the job of documenting their child’s work.

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Each family opened up their child’s playlist, found the activity entitled “Explore Our Learning Space,” and proceeded to take pictures of student work and key areas of our classroom. Not only did this help families to construct their own mental model of our classroom, but it allowed them to see exactly what it’s like to be in their child’s shoes, to document their own work, and to learn in within the four walls of our classroom.

Even after the families were long gone from our classroom last night, a quiet energy still hung in the air, slowly dying with the twilight of the evening sky. Parents’ voices, bubbling with excitement as they left, still rang in my ears. And while I’m proud of our curriculum, our strong communication procedures, and exciting technology, I don’t think that’s why the families left so excited.

They left excited because they had context, they understood, and they could empathize with their child’s experience more than they ever possibly could before. With this new context, and with this reimagined Back-to-School Night, we set our classroom, our students, and our families up for an embodied experience – one that breaks down the barriers between home and school, one that increases common understanding of what learning should be, and one that helps them to understand their child and his or her experience, even better.

In my opinion, that’s what Back-to-School Night should feel like. And I’m proud to say… last night did.

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Topics: School, Classroom Stories, Parents

Watch: What Do Parents Appreciate Most about AltSchool Teachers?

Posted by The AltSchool Team

May 4, 2015 1:46:20 PM

They really know Hank as a student and as a person, too. 

Seeing the transformation for Harrah has been amazing. She now loves to read, she’s willing to try to new things, and she’s transformed in this school year.

They are able to customize and tailor his learning to be about him and his strengths, his abilities, and his likes. 

To celebrate National Teacher Appreciation week, we recently asked AltSchool parents what they most appreciate about their children’s teachers. Above were just a few examples of their responses; watch the full video to see just how and why six parents (and two students!) appreciate AltSchool’s teachers.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week and a big thank you to our amazing educators!

 

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Topics: Videos, Parents

Community Matters at AltSchool

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Apr 21, 2015 12:06:10 PM

“What’s your super power?”  “What’s your favorite thing about school?” “What’s your favorite thing to do outside?”

AltSchool recently hosted a welcome day for both incoming and currently enrolled families in the Bay Area. The day was jam-packed with fun activities; from potato sack races to a brainstorming session to answer questions on post-it notes like the ones above. We had the opportunity to connect as one large AltSchool family.

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The Many Meanings of Community

Schools are more than just classrooms — they’re the starting point for communities of people who share values and experiences centered on growth and learning. School-based communities spur strong personal relationships that often last for years, as children and families grow together during their time in school and beyond graduation. With this in mind, AltSchool aims to foster a community that grows over time and across multiple relationships, including parents, students, families, friends, teachers, AltSchool employees, and the neighborhoods where AltSchool campuses are located.

AltSchool’s network and microschool structure allows us to build community at multiple levels — whether it’s a family maker event at a particular site or network-wide town hall. And with a deep focus on personalization, we look for ways that we can connect families according to their specific interests and skills.

Here are some of ways we foster community at AltSchool:

Town Halls: Every month AltSchool hosts a town hall for parents to come together and discuss an array of topics ranging from parent education strategies (e.g., how to continue your child's learning at home or how to prepare for high school), AltSchool’s approaches to curriculum, and new product releases for parents.

Online Communities: Each AltSchool class has an online community where educators and parents share everything from upcoming student performances, to art projects completed in class, to photos and insights from the most recent field trip.

Regular Field Trips: AltSchool classes take students on exciting field trips across the city that give them opportunities to connect with the wider community. Recent expeditions include the Exploratorium, the San Francisco Zoo, California Academy of Science and the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center.

Family Maker Events: Maker events provide opportunities for educators, parents, and students to collaborate through building, tinkering, and learning together.

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Parent Volunteer Programs: At AltSchool, we build personalization not only into the student experience, but into the parent experience as well. Families are encouraged to share their time and resources in the ways that are most meaningful to them, from planning get-togethers, to welcoming and mentoring new families, to volunteering in the classroom as experts in their fields.

Having a strong community means a more engaging and vibrant educational experience. We encourage all family members to share their unique gifts and interests — contact us at community@altschool.com to learn more and let us know how you would like to contribute!

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Topics: Parents, Community

Why Educators and Parents Chose AltSchool: Four New Videos

Posted by The AltSchool Team

Mar 12, 2015 3:38:00 PM

Now that you’ve had a chance to hear from our students, meet AltSchool parents and our inspiring educators.

In these four videos, parents and teachers share their experiences with AltSchool’s personalized learning approach, the use of technology in the classroom, and the growth they have seen in their children and students since embarking on their learning journeys at AltSchool.

Middle School Parents Discuss Experiences at AltSchool



Lower and Upper Elementary Parents Talk About the AltSchool Community



Lower and Upper Elementary Parents Describe the Teachers, Curriculum, Technology in the Classroom



Meet AltSchool Educators


Receiving over 2,200 applications for 20 teaching positions, Altschool is honored to assemble a team of some of the best educators in the country.

 

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Topics: Videos, Parents