Today I had the opportunity to visit the Queens Paideia School for the second time this year. An instructor at the school, Tim Fredrick (a good friend and a great writer), had invited me earlier this year to check out the multi-age, open design in action. Within just a few minutes of being at the school again, I was reminded of how positive and pleasant the learning flows felt in the space. Along with time and space divisions typical of schools, such as small reading and writing groups and individual work cubicles, teachers and young learners moved to different areas through the open spaces around the school rooms in different allotments of time.
Here’s a collection of moments from my last visit:
I came to the school directly from the Literacy Research Association’s annual conference, where multiple sessions and papers (including mine) focused on the temporalities of literacies learning. These sessions included work from Beth Anne Bucholz on the ways time was allotted and socially constructed differently in reading practice with instructors and between peers. She pointed to the possibilities that each of these temporalities afforded. Claire Lambert, discussed the ways young people used time in their composing processes. She shared how rarely the young people in her study focused on the five-year-plan timescale that is often pushed in high schools. Rather, she was surprised to find that teenagers more often referred to the immediate past to make their present decisions, and they spoke at length about their purposes and preferences for writing based on their understandings of ancestors experiences and the possibilities for their future, imagined descendants. Like the young men in my studies, through imagined anticipation and reminiscence, they made these other times the “really present tense” (a quote from a young man in my work).
Along with the flexible flows of time and space at Paideia, this made me think about an interaction I had with one particular young man at my last visit. He was writing a speech (a draft available here) that would be recorded and produced as a podcast in order to study the rhetorical aspects of ethos, logos, and pathos.
His thoughts immediately turned to the stories he had heard of his ancestors lives, of their “suffering, oppression and pain that they were able to turn into wealth, peace and happiness.” He discussed in a first draft of an artist’s statement about how he realized that his family’s past called him to action in the present to “remember our oppression and help those who are still oppressed.” In his conversation with me, he discussed that these remembrances were threaded across the composing process, through researching the conflicts he discussed in his speech, when choosing specific words, and deciding on what examples he’d discuss at length. I can’t help but think of the learning that happens in these moments of “communion” (a word one of the young men in my studies used to describe such moments). This is learning I rarely hear us talking about conferences until this year. Perhaps its time has come.
This visit has me thinking about how allowing a student to choose the topic of a speech or to continue work on a project for an extended period of time is not just a respectful move by an educator to “engage” a learner’s interest. Rather, in this space where movement through physical space and virtual time (to get a bit Deleuzian and Proust-y) is designed in open and flexible ways, I am seeing youth—in their academic endeavors—stitching together meaning across their lives in creative and critical ways. In other spaces, when schedules and movement are strictly regimented and solely focused on the outcomes of the immediate future, I don’t feel quite the same flow.
Thanks Queens Paideia School for another great visit that has once again left me thinking!
Sidenote: This tweet from my last visit might be my favorite:
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