Student Voice at #NST13: Reflections by @EmmyRyder2016 & @AnnaMae778

July 1, 2013

Being able to be a part of New Schools Training this past week was life changing. We were able to meet so many amazing educators from across the country and network with them as well. We were so privileged to be able to lead a Collaboration Clinic. As students ourselves, it was a great learning experience to flip the table and become the teacher. We were asked by Matt Thompson and Theresa Shafer to lead a clinic on students’ point of view, and our personal student stories. We, Emmy Ryder, Anna Reynolds, as well as our friend and fellow student Colson Korpak, first shared our personals stories and gave an overview on who we are. We are all students at Kent Innovation High School in Grand Rapids Michigan. Colson and Emmy are going to be Sophomores this coming school year, and Anna will be a junior.

We began by sharing our names, grade, and what our favorite projects were. That only lasted a few moments. Then we began a Q&A session by the many inquisitive facilitators, in which, to be quite honest, put us to the test. We were asked really thought provoking questions. Questions ranging from: how to create the “family” atmosphere in school, how would college classes fit into PBL, and the hardest question of all: what is your favorite part of being a PBL student. This question, we think, is difficult and different for every student.

For me (Anna Reynolds, @AnnaMae7784), the best part of being a PBL/New Tech Student, is the amazing atmosphere it creates. New Tech schools have a way of bringing people together that other schools don’t have. New Tech schools create a feeling of not only trust, respect, responsibility, but also family. I think the most rare of these traits to find in schools today is the family aspect. Schools are so focused on grades and scores, that students lose personal connections, at no fault to teachers, but to the fault of a system that has failed us. I presume that this family eel comes from PBL and New Tech collaborative requirements. It’s in this collaboration that students begin to accept all people for who they are. We learn that everyone has something special to offer. Outside curriculum, our school, Kent Innovation, does a lot to help add to this atmosphere. We hold fun nights, end of year potlucks, and best of all, a school wide Thanksgiving dinner in which we make one long table that all our students sit at. The last component that makes New Tech students such a family, is the networking we are able to do. Going to this conference for example, has shown me just how loving, caring, and friendly New Tech people are. This sense of family and acceptance has helped me grow and learn so much. I have come to think of all of my facilitators, fellow students, and NTN staff as family, whether they know or not. I am so blessed to be able to be a part this wonderful network.

For me (Emmy Ryder @EmmyRyd2016), the best part of being a PBL student, and more specifically a New Tech Network Student is being able to have so many opportunities. I know if I were still at my traditional school I would never have been able to take part in so many amazing experiences. At Kent Innovation High I was able to have a multitude of opportunities. In December my classmate Ben Wieringa and I were able to keynote a showcase of the documentaries our class created for World War II veterans. In April, I was able to speak to a listening panel about Project Based Learning. This panel included, the Mayor of Grand Rapids, Davenport University professors, State Representatives, and local CEOs. Most recently, while at New Tech Network’s New Schools Training I was able to give an ignite style speech with my facilitator Andrew Holly. We spoke to the staff members at the training,and gave the closing speech of the entire training. Also, because of being a New Tech Student I was able to make my Personal Learning Network. I can gurantee if I was not at Kent Innovation I would have never, in 1 million years, thought about joining in on an educational twitter chat. Through PBLChat (Tuesdays @ 8 p.m. EST.) and MichEd chat I have communicated with so many great educators and other students. If not for PBLChat and twitter I would probably not have had the opportunity to attend and speak at New Schools Training.

Both of our favorite things about NTN we were able at experience at the New School Training conference this past week. Emmy was able to have the incredible opportunity to close the conference with facilitator Andrew Holly and meet several of the educators she had only met on twitter. Anna was also able to network with other educators, some of which she had never met, and others she had only known on twitter. She was able share her story about starting with a New Tech Network school in its first year. It is conferences like these were people from across age groups and the country are able to come together, and really see a family born. It was humbling to be a part of such an amazing event. We hope that we have helped these new schools develop the same atmosphere and opportunities for their future students that we have had. We know that you are ready to give your students the same wonderful learning that we have been given.