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September 1, 2014
by: Ted Hamm

Open Letter to IDEAS Academy Students

Dear IDEAS Students:

This first day of September is always an exciting time in education. There is so much hope and anticipation for all of us as we look forward to the new year. I am writing to you on the eve of our 2014-2015 school year at IDEAS Academy, because I have worked with teachers and students over the past years and this summer to design a unique approach to building and sustaining our learning community. I want to share the framework for thinking about how our community, with a shared understanding of and commitment to what it takes to maximize learning, will enrich your learning. I hope you will also see the first weeks as an invitation for you to enrich our community by actively participating in the development of our Declaration of Education, a document that publicly communicates the aspirations we hold.

A community is built upon shared agreements and common goals. This year we will create the foundation for our community and generate our Declaration of Education by looking at the type of learning environment that you need and that the overall community needs through three lenses: 1) How will we define ourselves as professional community? 2) How will we define ourselves as an intellectual community? 3) How will our tone of decency and trust serve these communities and the individuals in them.

The strength of our professional community is reflected in the habits we develop in order to help show what we are learning: the ability to persist through a project; the ability to focus on what is needed despite numerous distractions; the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. It is these Habits of Professionalism that help us create a rich intellectual community.

I have often told you that it is the open dialogue, ongoing collaboration, and deep learning shared between members of our community that makes IDEAS Academy unique. Our school is a special place because we learn from each other. This is key to our intellectual community. We have an obligation to share our thoughts because of what that act offers others in our community. Your idea spurs someone else to look at an idea differently and perhaps pursue it. We structure this through our thinking routines and workshops within classes. This is what energizes us.

Supporting all of this is a tone of decency and trust. Trust means that, through our shared purpose, we will make decisions for the betterment of the whole. Trust might be broken at times, but as a community we work to rebuild it. Decency is an expectation of how each member of our community should be treated. We must treat each other fairly and with generosity; in our classroom dialogue, we will disagree, but we will do so with respect with a focus on learning from each other.

Tomorrow we start developing community by simply getting to know one another. We will build familiarity, respect, and trust in our advisory groups and begin to do so as a school. As the first week progresses, we will challenge and strengthen these ties through more intensive team building activities and mini projects (I don't want to give away too much). I want to challenge you to take these opportunities to reflect upon what you need within yourself and within a school community to maximize your learning. Consider how each of these activities impact your Habits of Professionalism, your ability to be intellectually engaged. Reflect on how you treat others in your community and how you will be treated. Be open. These reflections will lead to our Declaration of Education and reflect the aspirations we share for this school year and our community.

I trust each of you will take this charge seriously. I look forward to a rich intellectual community, supported by good habits of professionalism, and a tone of decency and trust.



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