I still remember my first PSCS graduation.
It was 2009, and I was a first-year member of the Board of Trustees. Some time in the spring, The school’s founding director, Andy Smallman, said to me, “Steve, we expect all Board members to be at graduation. I’m hoping you can make it a priority to be there.”
“Sure,” I said. “When is it?”
“It’s three weeks from Saturday and it runs from 1 o’clock to 8 o’clock.”
I stood in stunned silence, staring at him. I flashed back to all the graduation ceremonies I’d endured as a public school teacher. The big crowds, vaguely familiar school district officials pontificating in abstract terms about the future, and, of course, the inevitable beach ball that gets bounced around among the several hundred graduates before being confiscated.
“Seven hours, Andy?” I said.
“You’ve never been to a PSCS graduation?” he asked. Then he smiled. “You have to come. You have to see this.”
* * *
I’ve now attended two PSCS graduation ceremonies, and they are among the most moving events I’ve ever participated in.
Each graduate is honored individually. Each of the graduates will be introduced by a friend or family member before reading their credo, which is a statement of belief about who they are and what they stand for.
This is very important. The credo is a document that has been crafted over the course of the entire senior year. Students engage in three practicums designed to challenge their beliefs, then reflect on the experience. They conduct three interviews with people they respect about their life philosophy, then reflect on the experience. And, they perform three text studies to explore a particular belief, then reflect on the experience.
Throughout this process, the seniors write draft after draft of their credo, receiving ongoing, detailed feedback from all the other seniors and the teaching staff. By the time they get to graduation, the credo is an extraordinarily powerful document. The family members, staff, volunteers and friends in the audience get access to a window that reveals this individual’s most closely held personal beliefs. After the credo reading, we open up the space for members of the community to share stories and offer appreciation and love for the graduate. It’s unbelievably beautiful.
* * *
A friend recently asked me what my “elevator speech” is for PSCS. An elevator speech is the term used to describe how you explain your work in the short time it takes to ride an elevator with someone.
At this point, my elevator speech is so longwinded that it requires a ride to the top of the Space Needle before I’m finished talking. So I’m working on a new one that goes like this: “If you were to throw out all the assumptions of the old, industrial, factory schools of the 20th century and set out to build a new kind of school for a new century, and you were to design the program based on the most robust findings in behavioral science of the past 40 years, you would create PSCS.”
What do you think?
(Join the discussion at www.facebook.com/reeducate. Get updates at www.twitter.com/reeducate.)