Report and Wrap of A Year at Mission Hill | IDEA

Report and Wrap of A Year at Mission Hill

Posted by Dana Bennis on Nov 19, 2013 - 01:56 PM

On January 31st, 2013, the first chapter of the "A Year at Mission Hill" film was launched across the networks of 50 partner organizations, on YouTube, on Prezi, and in the conference rooms and homes of people around the country. It was the kick-off of the #YearatMH campaign. Now coming to the end of 2013, we want to take a moment to reflect back on the film and the campaign. 
 
Hot off the presses is this Report on A Year at Mission Hill, which tells the story of the reach and impact of the #YearatMH campaign. The report provides helpful learnings for future national campaigns by offering a glimpse of how the series was used by partner organizations, suggesting ways to improve a campaign such as this in the future, and sharing some of the key links and tweets that were generating during #YearatMH.
 
And now, here's a full wrap of the series and campaign from start to finish. Sit back, grab a snack and refreshment, and enjoy this look back at an amazing story of what education can be when educators, young people, and community members come together to chart a course for meaningful learning and community engagement...
 
 
Ten videos. One year. A public school trying to help children learn and grow. The national conversation we need to be having.
 
 
If you missed the flurry of chapter releases, articles, and media connected to the film, or if you just want to watch them again and read some inspiring commentary about what education can and ought to be, this post is for you. Below you'll see each video embedded with links to articles and resources on each chapter's theme.
 
A brief intro.
 
The A Year at Mission Hill film follows the teachers, students, and community members of Mission Hill School, a public school in Boston, over the course of the 2011-2012 school year. From the school's website: 
The Mission Hill School is a Boston Public Pilot School in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts serving approximately 220 children, ages 3-14 (grades K-8). The small learning community emphasizes a project-based, collaborative curriculum, inclusive of all learning abilities. MHS was founded in 1997 by educator and author Deborah Meier and is modeled on democratic principles...
 
The task of public education is to help parents raise youngsters who will maintain and nurture the best habits of a democratic society - be smart, caring, strong, resilient, imaginative and thoughtful. It aims at producing youngsters who can live productive, socially useful and personally satisfying lives, while also respecting the rights of all others. The school, as we see it, will help strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity and mutual respect.
The first chapter of the film was released on January 31, 2013 simultaneously by dozens of partner organizations - networks, youth programs, foundations, journals, non-profit organizations, and schools - all committed to the need for a new story about education to emerge. This new story shows what is possible when a committed group of educators, young people, and parents come together to build a powerful educational community rooted in engagement, justice, and collaboration. And this new story is not confined to Mission Hill. It's happening in schools and communities around the country (and around the world). 
 
Starting with that release in January, each new chapter was shared every two weeks until the 10th and final episode aired on June 6th. As of today, there have been over 350,000 views of the Mission Hill film and accompanying resources, including 40,000 views of the film chapters on YouTube, an estimated 100,000 additional views through public and private screenings, and 200,000 views of the amazing Year at Mission Hill Prezi (be sure to check it out if you haven't yet!).
 
The film series has sparked public conversation far and wide in schools and communities, among educators and parents and policy-makers, and across social media on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. And now the film-makers Amy and Tom Valens are hard at work adapting the footage to an hour-long documentary titled Good Morning Mission Hill.
 
OK, now let's get to the chapter by chapter review, starting way back in January with the release of the initial segment...
 
Chapter One: Why We're Here.   

Chapter One opens the series by exploring the question, What makes a great school? We're introduced to the teachers and students we'll get to know throughout the series, we learn that at Mission Hill "everyone has value," and we are left to wonder, what if our nation's values were the design principles for learning?
 
In articles inspired by Chapter One, Principal Michelle Hughes explains that great schools share some key qualities, author Carrie Lee Ferguson remembers a teacher who helped her experience greatness, and Dr. Maya Rockeymoore shared that seeing A Year at Mission Hill disorients her as much as excites her since it is so rare to see a positive story about a school in the media. For a complete wrap of more posts and articles about Chapter One, go here.  
 
As with each chapter, you can check out a couple dozen powerful resources focused around the chapter's theme and grouped into 4 areas of Watch, Read, Listen, and Do. These offer more videos to watch with colleagues and friends, articles to share around, podcasts to listen to, and actions you can take to join and inspire conversation and movement toward realizing the ideas and values shared in A Year at Mission Hill.   
 
Chapter Two: Beginning the Year.  

With Chapter Two, the school year gets going and quickly we are immersed into the life of Mission Hill as we ponder the question, What are the design principles of a healthy learning environment? We see students and teachers building the relationships that will sustain their interactions and learning over the year, and we hear from Mission Hill teachers about their school's fundamental design principles, including creativity, community, and teacher autonomy. 
 
Among response pieces speaking to design principles, author Sam Chaltain muses on the balance between freedom and structure, school change leader Laura Thomas talks about the value of relationships, and Principal Ayla Gavins of Mission Hill School describes the democratic culture at the school. 
 
More on Chapter Two: wrap of articles and posts and Watch, Read, Listen, and Do resources
 
Chapter Three: Making It Real

What makes a mind come alive?, asks Chapter Three. We get to see learning at Mission Hill in action in this episode, where students are scientists, explorers in the natural world, and inventors.  
 
Author and education consultant Kim Farris-Berg tells us about teachers having the autonomy to support the interests of students, teacher and doctoral student Zac Chase asks What if teachers actd like students?, Amy Valens describes curricular themes and emergent curriculum, and Superintendent Joshua Starr affirms that all schools can be like Mission Hill if we give teachers more freedom.
 
More on Chapter Three: the episode wrap, and Watch, Read, Listen, and Do resources.
 
Chapter Four: Love and Limits

Going farther into the series and the school year, Chapter Four explores the relationships factor: What is the relationship between our social & emotional well-being and our capacity for intellectual growth? In this stirring episode, we see that there does not need to be a choice between developing emotional literacy and learning how to read, and we see some of the joys and challenges of full inclusion.
 
Teacher and activist Sabrina Stevens turns the "academics first" approach on its head and explains how all learning is social and emotional, former Mission Hill teacher and author Matthew Knoester writes eloquently on the emotional needs of children, and Michelle shares the U.S. Department of Education's mission statement and shows how it's an endorsement for social and emotional learning in all schools.  
 
More on Chapter Four: the wrap of articles, and the Watch, Read, Listen, and Do resources.
 
Chapter Five: The Eye of the Dragon

Continuing the in-depth look at some of the key aspects of a powerful learning environment such as Mission Hill, Chapter Five asks, What is the relationship between points of entry into a subject and engagement? The segment highlights Mission Hill's use of curricular themes to unite and engage the community through arts and culture, and we see how teachers become learners alongside the students.
 
In a beautiful post Mission Hill School parent Naama Goldstein describes how her son is fully engaged in the life and learning at Mission Hill,  while Zac talks about how Mission Hill motivates students by putting good theory into practice, Carrie reminds us to reclaim our imaginations, and Kim shares how teachers can create environments where students want to learn.
 
More on Chapter Five: the wrap of articles and posts, and the Watch, Read, Listen, and Do resources
 
Chapter Six: Like a Family

Chapter Six is framed around the question, How can schools cultivate safe nurturing spaces for everyone involved in the child’s life? In this segment we see with our own eyes how Mission Hill functions as a close and supportive family, and we hear a teacher say, "I've become a better person - as a human being - for being here, not just a better teacher."
 
In posts inspired by Chapter Six, Sam points out how students, teachers, and parents at Mission Hill listen and talk to one another - the lost art of deliberation, Laura writes on how strong school communities can harvest a family atmosphere, and Matthew reflects on the importance of democratic education especially in times of tragedy and uncertainty. 
 
More on Chapter Six: wrap of posts, and Watch, Read, Listen, and Do resources.
 
Chapter Seven: Behind the Scenes

Asking, How do you sustain and nurture a teaching community?, Chapter Seven shows us how teachers can support one another through an open door philosophy, time for honest conversation, and deliberately building trust and connection.
 
Zac shows us how we can honor the "whole teacher" in addition to the "whole student," Kim highlights the possibilities for teachers to be innovative, and Carrie shares with us a beautiful poem on being in authentic community as a teacher and learner.
 
And here's all the info you may want on Chapter Seven: full wrap of posts, and Watch, Read, Listen, and Do resources.
 
Chapter Eight: The World of Work

Facing another key educational question, Chapter Eight asks, How do you connect academics to the broader social context? We learn that one of the main ways Mission Hill does this is through their school theme - the World of Work - where all students from age 6 through 14 see, learn, and participate in the larger world around them.
 
Michelle explores the debate around whether school is preparation for work or the cultivation of citizenship - or both, Amy lists some of the many types of real-world experiences her own students created and participated in, and Sam brings the question around again to ask what is quality work within a school?
 
Here's more on Chapter Eight: the wrap of posts, and the Watch, Read, Listen, and Do resources.
 
Chapter Nine: Seeing the Learning

Chapter Nine puts it's focus on perhaps the most fiercely debated educational issue of recent times - assessment. Where do parents and students fit in assessment in a democratic institution, and What is authentic assessment?  Answering both questions, this segment shows that at Mission Hill authentic assessment involves tasks that connect to students' lives and interests as well as to the needs of the community.  
 
Monty Neill, Executive Director of Fairtest, describes how Mission Hill's use of portfolio assessment and presentations is a powerful example of how assessment supports education, while Matthew explains how the assessment piece is evidence of how Mission Hill puts the habits of mind into practice, Kim holds up on the power of teachers to shift the conversation around assessment, and Laura reports on how schools can make the move towards more authentic assessment.
 
Here's the full wrap of posts on Chapter Nine, as well as this segment's Watch, Read, Listen, and Do resources.
 
Chapter Ten: The Freedom to Teach

And finally, the conclusion of A Year at Mission Hill: Chapter Ten, which poses the question, What can the larger world of American education take away from one school's experiences?  
 
There are takeaways from what Mission Hill alumni share at the beginning of this chapter:
I learned how to be a critical thinker.  I learned how to play off my strengths instead of worrying about my weaknesses.
 
I was going through a lot, but I was able to come here and have teachers, especially Deborah Meier, be here to care for me and make sure that as a student I was able to take care of myself and to learn.
There are takeaways from the leadership of the school, who share that as testing encroaches more and more on their way of life and learning at Mission Hill, they will take a stand.
 
There are takeaways from the teachers, whose singing rendition of Khalil Gibran's "On Children" is a beautiful testament to how to respect and support young people.
 
And of course there are takeaways from the students, in whose eyes and actions we can see the excitement and learning that happens day in and day out at Mission Hill School.
 
We also get more great commentary from those who have been blogging throughout the entire series, including Sam who explains how the Mission Hill community is both extraordinary and as ordinary as every other community around the country, Carrie who helps us realize that in the film we've learned a way of being, Zac and Kim who both raise a call for teachers to claim and advocate for greater freedom to teach, Laura who reminds us to have courage and faith to transform schools, and finally Matthew who inspires us to fight for democratic education and to keep our focus on what is best for young people.
 
And for more on Chapter Ten, here's the full wrap of posts and articles, and the final installment of Watch, Read, Listen, and Do resources.
 
What next?
While A Year at Mission Hill has finished, the questions the film raises are the ones we need to continue asking:
 
What is education for?
What is the role of the teacher? 
How can education be engaging and connect with the broader world around the school?
How can we show that young people are gaining the skills and qualities important to sustaining a more just and democratic society?
 
Amy and Tom Valens have done an extraordinary job bringing the story of Mission Hill to life. Now let's make these questions our own curriculum for transforming the story of education in schools and communities around the country.
 
Watch the film with your colleagues, friends, neighbors, and the teachers and youth you are in touch with.
Read the posts linked here and the many resources compiled for each chapter.
Listen to the voices of young people, parents, teachers, and community members in your area.
 
...and most especially...
 
Do. Take action, gather people together, open the doors of dialogue, and advocate for education that is engaging and meaningful to young people and their communities.