Struggling with Direction

I’m really struggling with direction lately.

I feel so torn between moving forward with the school and waiting until I have more experience in the private school world. I feel like my momentum is starting to waiver as my thought process gets all jumbled up going from moving forward and doing more research.

It’s a different kind of research though. More hands on and experience based rather than theory based. I may need to step back from my January Goal of filing paperwork for the 501(c)3, which kind of makes me feel like I’m failing this project.

At the same time, I feel it is important to know more about what I’m getting into so I don’t fail overall.

I guess I need to stop looking at it as failure and look at it more as a delay for education and a better chance of success in the future.

When I talk it through with friends and family, they are supportive either way,  ultimately, obviously, the final decision is mine.

I just realized with that last sentence, I need to reach out to my SCORE mentors and see what they think about my progress over the last few months. I wanted to be able to go to them at the end of the month after all of my paperwork was filed, but now that I think about it, I should reach out to them sooner… I think.

Today I followed the ALC (Agile Learning Center) Map in order to find the local start up listed, but both locations are closed. I didn’t visit the first one I found because online it said it was permanently closed. I went to the address listed for the second location, but the counseling business that is there had not heard of the ALC group. I was hoping to connect with like minded people so we could join forces.

I usually make a con/con list. I wish I could remember the article I read in graduate school about the con/con list. I’ve looked for it since, but haven’t been able to locate it.
At any rate, the journal article showed that when we make pro/con lists we still vacillate between the two choices, whereas if we make a con/con list the choice that is right for us usually jumps right out!

I haven’t made my con/con list. I think I’m procrastinating on this list because I’m afraid of what I will discover. My heart is pulling me toward creating the school now, and my head is telling me to research more. No better time than the present. Haste makes waste…and the debate goes on…

Goal for tomorrow?  Making a con/con list for real!  Time to get real with this whole process. For tonight, I’ll rest, meditate, and focus on finding the perfect solution.

Social Media Infant Gets Hacked!

Today was just the craziest social media day for me.

I was contacted in the late afternoon by a Facebook friends telling me they thought I had been hacked.  Thank you to all of you who shared with me that you were getting double friend requests and requests to join them in making lots of money!

Since I struggle with the logistics of social media, I’ve been working on trying to make all of my accounts more secure including the email accounts my social media accounts are linked to.

For me, this is a logistical nightmare. It took me almost an hour to figure out how to change the settings and passwords on my phone app that manages all of my email accounts.

I hope this doesn’t effect how people see me on Facebook and I hope I can get it sorted out soon. I’m still working on the problem.  I got so frustrated today, I just had to put everything down for a while.

Please let me know if there is anything fishy going on on my sites, or if you have fishy requests, and know that I am not asking for money, nor am I asking for you to sign up to follow or like anything except my Changing Education Now Facebook Business page and/or Changing Education Now Blog.

Savannah River Academy – What Do You Mean MISTAKES are OK?

That’s right! Mistakes really are OK! We all make them, every day actually, but when we think of traditional education and mistakes, we just see the red marks, the low grades, or the head hung in shame! How is this in any way conducive to becoming a lifelong learner? An enjoyer of education?

It’s NOT and Savannah River Academy has not only figured this out, but has started a school that puts thinking outside the box into practice!

Happy students! This is what we all want to see in our schools! No matter if you have no children, school aged children, or grown children, it is always nice to see happy learning children. I don’t think anyone would argue with that!

Here the kids are learning, AND happy about it!

Everyone starts their day with a school wide morning meeting which was described more as a family environment. Sometimes they have character education, or talk about pressing issues, the meeting doesn’t last long and it freshens and prepares everyone for the day.

When children go to their classrooms, they are grouped by skill level, which means multiple ages are in each group. The classes rotate from subject to subject throughout the day with the exception of kindergarten. Students started the school year saying, “I’m in _____ grade.”  Now they say, “I’m in the blue (or what ever color) group.”  The distinction between traditional grade level is gone, and the child is just learning on a daily basis.

Teachers can dress in jeans and were given a supply of Savannah River Academy T shirts (but they can dress how they want). They are expected to get dirty while they enjoy teaching. They also decided what furniture they wanted in their classrooms – tables, chairs, floor seating, or alternative seating. Teachers are welcome to teach from their comfortable space as well, with some sitting on the floor with the children.

In every classroom I observed teachers interacting with student groups or students were working independently making the teacher available for one on one attention. In a well working traditional school, this is standard right? The difference is, the students were all engaged in their work. They glanced up at me, some for a longer stare, but then went back to work and continued their learning.

Math classes use the Singapore Math Curriculum with each level being broken up into 2 books. It is self paced and students can finish more than 1 “year” of math in a school year. Based on real world necessity for problem solving, using mental math and math sense as opposed to memorization, this curriculum works well at Savannah River Academy. Our observation barely interrupted the class when we entered and within seconds kids were back to learning math! MATH!  Everyone knows that’s one of the hardest subjects for a LOT of kids. The teacher was teaching a small group of students while the other group worked independently. While looking through workbooks, I saw many blank or partially completed pages. If the student knows the material, it is skipped, no need to keep reviewing what is already known. If the student doesn’t understand the material, it is covered again. Basic common sense at use here!

Cross over classes cover social studies and science with everyone learning about the same topic, but at different levels. For example, learning about how vision works, older students might dissect cow eyeballs (wow!), while younger students learn about pin hole cameras.

Reading class uses guided reading, small groups read with the teacher every day. Different reading strategies are employed and not all students are reading the same book. The Running Record Assessments assess reading fluency and comprehension and are based on higher level thinking following Blooms Taxonomy. A dyslexia program with one on one support is available for students who struggle with dyslexia.

Ok, so hold on, you said no tests! So how do they know where the kids are if there are no tests?

No, there are no regular classroom tests or standardized tests in the traditional sense of the word, but there are assessments that show the teacher and student the student’s strengths and weaknesses. This enables both to understand where improvements need to be made, goals set, and progress tracked. This is how we all learn, we just don’t usually use such a formal format as adults.

Think of it like this: It is IMPOSSIBLE TO FAIL an assessment at Savannah River Academy. You simply discover what you need to work on and what you know already.

In a traditional setting “50% is considered failing, but here we celebrate success and set goals,” a beautiful statement by Maribeth Burns, Principal of Savannah River Academy. “Kids feel more successful because we’re meeting them where they are,” they have “less stress” from “not feeling inferior,” and the, “faster kids” are, “not twiddling their thumbs.” Isn’t this what we want as a society for each and every one of our students?

One very interesting point is this school does not have parties.

What? The students don’t get to enjoy themselves?

That’s just the point. When students are enjoying every day of school, there’s no need for blow out, waste of classroom instruction time, parties!  Students work from the time they get to school until they leave, every school day, and they enjoy it! Truly Amazing!


Savannah River Academy – Thinking Outside the Box!

Walking into Savannah River Academy, at first glance looks like any other traditional private school setting, but it’s not, it is innovative, and definitely thinking and functioning outside the box!

This poster has common statements seen throughout our educational system (except for the mistakes, but more about that later). The difference here?  These are not just words printed on the wall to the faculty, staff, students, parents, and volunteers; they all believe in them and practice them daily.

The environment at first feels very traditional. It is quiet, and children are working in classrooms, but upon closer examination, this is a non-traditional model keeping with traditional standards. Not the standards set by the state, but our society’s standards for quality education. This could be called a learning center as opposed to a school. Children are not being schooled here, oh no, they are LEARNING, and having fun doing it!

Some of the main differences are:

  • Students are grouped by skill level instead of grade or age in core classes. (Afternoon classes such as Foreign Language, P.E. and Art are grouped by ages so every student has a chance to participate equally).
  • Student’s skill levels are reassessed every few months and changes made to groups as necessary. There are no stagnant groups in the school!
  • Students are allowed to wiggle and use alternative seating while learning because they are kids! Teachers utilize alternative seating as well.
  • Students are learning how to APPLY the information they learn and understand how to find and use resources rather than memorizing.
  • Students work in groups learning social skills and problem solving together (traditional schools do this as well, but here it seems very effective, possibly starting with smaller class sizes makes the first huge difference).
  • Students are in groups of 10 in the classroom with smaller groups within the classroom giving time for each student to have specific academic attention.
  • If Students can do the skill, they move forward, if not, they review, their education process meets them where they are. Learning is SELF PACED!
  • Students have portfolios and narratives rather than grades. NO GRADES!
  • Students are regularly assessed, but there is NO REGULAR TESTING* classroom or standardized!

These are just some of the major differences, and while traditional school settings have been trying to instill some of these like group work and problem solving, Savannah River Academy is actually hitting it’s mark!

Maribeth shared with me about educational journal research showing that 70% of the jobs our current children will be doing haven’t even been invented yet! Considering this, making students go through the traditional curriculum doesn’t help with future employment prospects. She reassures parents Savannah River Academy is doing its best to prepare students for the future and not preparing them for jobs that can be outsourced along the way, or “nothing a robot can do.”

With this thinking, self-paced learning, and problem solving approach that focuses on the child’s growth, in 3 1/2 months, the reading results have increased an average of 12 months!

What kinds of kids go to Savannah River Academy? These kids are from a variety of places, and some of them felt horrible about going to school, but now they love school. They know what it is like to feel good and capable when it comes to their education.

Focus is not on disabilities, but abilities. While they cannot take students with disabilities they are not equipped to handle, as long as they can serve the student well and do that child’s education justice, the disability doesn’t matter. They serve students that are not medicated for ADD, students on the autism spectrum, and students with dyslexia. Student acceptance is based on good fit (student and family) with their philosophy, ability to function and learn in the environment, and whether or not the school has appropriate resources to provide the high quality education each child deserves. Each piece is so important to the child’s success, and Savannah River Academy is truly invested in their students’ successes.

*IOWA Basic Skills Tests are given just in case students transfer to another school, they will have an assessment of their skills to take with them in their school record. IOWA Basic Skills Test scores are recognized nationwide.

Savannah River Academy – An Amazing Parent Led Initiative!

Maribeth Burns, Principal at Savannah River Academy and her team are really making a difference in children’s education with their brand new school!  I learned so much from her in a phone conversation and school visit where she really took the time to outline details of the paperwork and process as well as how they handled some of the hurdles they encountered. I did get a chance to visit the school as well and will cover that in future blogs!

When I tell people I’m starting a school, most times they have a recommendation of a school for me to visit. I’m truly enjoying visiting schools and/or talking to the people who have created schools, but even after a few years, the details of that first step is blurry as it is in their rear view.  I’m so lucky to have been directed to Savannah River Academy by Linda Tucciarone at Heritage Academy and Gary Dennis of Jessye Norman School for the Arts.

Savannah River Academy started having classes THIS past FALL – only a few months ago! Everything is still fresh in the minds of the organizers, and I’m soaking up all the knowledge about the process that I can.

There were several logistical processes I hadn’t even thought about, like applying for zoning permits, meeting with commissioners about zoning and getting the fire marshal inspections!  This information alone made my thoughts swirl!

She directed me to make sure my Vision and Mission statements are in place, and to make sure I “go for the boring business part.”  Luckily, they had a team of emotionally and financially invested people that were determined to make the school a reality. The hard work was split up, and everyone made sure their piece of the puzzle was in place.

I on the other hand, right now, am working through this on my own, but I’m sure I too will have a team of wonderful people working toward our vision and mission.

Maribeth told me, first and foremost – Get my plan together and file for 501(c)3, this can be an arduous process and is time consuming. Hiring a lawyer may be necessary. Charitable donations cannot be accepted without 501(c)3 status being in place.

Assembling a board of directors and having bylaws are required, as well as a starting budget which is difficult to assess because in the beginning it is hard to predict what is needed for the first year. Applying for business license in the county is also required.

I learned that IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) doesn’t apply to private schools (honestly, I was very relieved to hear that, even though I have my Master’s in Special Education and one of my prospective board members has her Specialist degree as well, we really don’t believe the way the Special Education system works benefits the child as much as it creates extra paperwork). We also discussed immunization laws that have specific circumvention aspects protecting the group of children at large.

She stressed having board members that will stick to the vision and mission is very important. Heartwood ALC staff stressed this as well when I visited them. Boards have control of the organization, so they need to be able to trust you to run the school, and you need to be able to trust them to stick to the vision and mission!

We discussed teacher pay scales as well as the requirements for teachers and the accreditation process through SAIS (Serving and Accrediting Independent Schools) as principle GAC (Georgia Accreditation Commission). Originally the school thought they might have a hybrid program, but then decided to go for full accreditation and got it right away. Maribeth encouraged me to seek accreditation for the students and parents security as well as grant access and educational discounts.

We went over how the tuition based process works, the basic break up of payments and when they are due, the option of parent partnership contracts, and possible ways to handle exceptions to the process (e.g. students transferring away or to the area).

She told me when it is time for me to look for a location to be aware of the codes and county laws that have to be followed. I’m thinking this is one of those, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” things. I don’t want to get shut down for not following laws and regulations of which I was unaware!

I cannot express how thankful I am for this information, much I which I was completely ignorant! Thank you so much Maribeth Burns!  You and your team are amazing!

Also, I will say again, it is wonderful that our communities can pull together and help each other with their visions and goals. Every positive change and link is a step in the direction of bettering our community, our state, our country, and our world.

Education is truly the key to living a wonderful life, and as a community, we want that for everyone!



What’s Next with Brand Clarity?

I cannot believe today is the last day of the Brand Clarity Challenge with Abigail from Sweetspot Strategies. Time flies when you’re having fun!

It was hard to really take a look at my vision and really break down what it is going to take to get there as far as building my brand and looking at financials.

The past 4 days:

I’ve assessed where I am (hobby mode), where I want to go (business mode). I’m now tracking my time, so I can look over the challenge pdf’s later and reanswer the questions at the beginning of next month to reassess. I’m going to ask for the money to get started, since that is what is really holding my hobby back from being a business. I know I have support, but my pride is getting in my way. I am FULLY aware of my numbers not being aligned, and I am going to make the first steps of filing the appropriate paperwork to get them in alignment! I’m changing my priorities to paperwork while still giving from the heart as much as I can!

Although this challenge has been time consuming. I have spent about 6 1/2 hours working on this challenge between watching posted videos, reading and answering pdf files, reading and answering emails, posting in the Facebook group for the challenge and reading and responding to posts.

For the amount of clarity I’ve achieved  through these exercises, I think the time was very well invested.

On to continuing to make this dream a reality!


But I Don’t Want to Get Real with My Numbers!!

Here’s what I know. My numbers are abysmal!  Looking at income vs. expenses is not a pretty sight, BUT there’s hope. This Brand Clarity Challenge with Abigail from Sweetspot Strategies has been an eye opener. As I’m in the infancy stages of starting a school, I think this initial shock is good.

One, working with a group of people that support me, not always the same people mind you, but finding a network of people in business as well as in the community has been enlightening and encouraging.  I’ve been surrounding myself with positive people, not the kind that are all unicorns and rainbows, but the heart warming kind that are positive and realistic.

Two, I’m learning so much about business, that as I move forward, even though I know I’ll make mistakes, I feel I have a MUCH better understanding of how success is accomplished and how basic pitfalls are avoided.

Today’s challenge was all about breaking down the numbers, that for me right now, just don’t exist. Not in the frustrating way like the last challenge, where I have been working very hard for a month and wasn’t tracking my activities, so I have no idea if I’m spending too much or not enough time on something, but frustrating because I don’t have a business income to report!  Embarrassing, a bit, but as I said, it’s ok, because I’m going to plan everything out and get the income for our new school rolling in!

Maintaining income will be a challenge as well, but one I think I’m up to. Keeping my eyes on the big dream is how my daily goals and accomplishments will make that dream a reality, someday…

Honestly, when I first looked at the numbers, I felt like a failure, but in the long run, feeling like a failure doesn’t help anyone. Slowly, one step at a time, I will figure this out, network, and be able to provide an amazing learning environment in which I believe wholeheartedly!

That is the goal, now I just have to pay attention to the hard numbers and take the steps to get there.