Heads Up

Welcome to Heads Up, a blogging experiment that aims to: 

  • connect the people, parts, and principles of Durham Academy;
  • share ideas about learning and human development;
  • spotlight a few of the many wondrous things I get to see every day at Durham Academy. 

Thanks for reading the posts below — and sending news, links and ideas worth sharing. 

Michael Ulku-SteinerHead of School 

 

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You can't be what you can't see

In two weeks Student U kicks off its Year Round Program, bringing up to 150 Durham Public Middle Schoolers every afternoon together for three hours of homework help, enrichment and remediation classes, club and sports activities, and social and educational offerings for parents. 

Along with Student U's Summer Academy (6 weeks of intensive academic work at Durham Academy), the Year-Round Program helps Student U fulfill its mission: "to empower students in the Durham Public Schools to own their education by developing the academic skills and personal well-being necessary to succeed in college and beyond."

Durham Academy is proud and lucky to be a founding and sustaining partner of Student U. Their success is our success. "Their" students are our students. 

In his last weekly issue of "Dan's Digest," Student U's Executive Director Dan Kimberg shared the following essay. It, like Student U as a whole, is worth your time and attention. 

"You can’t be what you can’t see."

I walked into Ms. Deja’s 6th grade math class the third week of the summer and asked a student what she thought about math. She said “I used to hate math because I never thought I was good at it. Now, it is my favorite subject and Ms. Daja is my favorite teacher.” She then went on to tell me that Ms. Daja was the first African American woman to ever teach her math.

You can’t be what you can’t see.

For so many of our students, a narrative has been written about them as a result of their gender, the color of their skin, or the language they speak at home. We worked this summer to help our students craft counter-narratives, narratives that better match their fearless dreams, and that allow them as we move into the school year, to be leaders among their peers.

For six weeks this summer, 6th graders wrote about their communities, 7th graders wrote about their dreams, 8th graders wrote autobiographies, 9th graders wrote poems about their future selves, 10th graders wrote screen plays in which they imagined the ways in which they could change their communities. Our students wrote, and in writing, began to envision their futures – creating an image of who they can one day become.

You can’t be what you can’t see.

As our 6th through 10th graders were taking classes, our 11th and 12th graders participated in internships. Students went through an interview process and were selected to intern at sites around Durham including the Durham Bulls, MDC, and the Museum of Life and Science. Each Friday, interns engaged in professional development where they learned specific skills connected to certain career paths. One Friday students went to Duke Hospital and heard from a panel of medical professionals. After returning on campus one student shared “I met the man I want to become”referring to a sports physical therapist that was on the panel.

You can’t be what you can’t see.

Employed this summer at Student U were four former/current Student U students in paid positions. Devin Autry and Daniel Odeh taught wellness classes, Angelica Cohen served as our junior internship coordinator and interpreter, and Casey Barr Rios worked as Student U’s executive assistant. The impact these four staff had on our students is impossible to quantify. 6th through 12th graders connected with these students, heard their stories, and were able to envision their own future. A sixth grader, after meeting Devin, came up to me at the end of the summer and said “When can I start working at Student U?” For more reflections on this transition from students to staff, read this blog written by our amazing college students.

You can’t be what you can’t see.

However much our students see our teachers and our staff, we know that they see their families more. This summer, Ms. Bettina and Ms. Anna led a six-week parent workshop series including conversations on racial identity, creating a college bound culture at home, and the nature and need of adolescents. I asked a parent at the end of the last session why he committed to coming each week. He said “I wanted my son to see that I need to work hard too in order to become a stronger parent. I wanted my son to see me committed to my education.”

You can’t be what you can’t see.

In order to see, we need more than role models and good classes. We also need good eye sight. This summer Essilor Eye Care screened students to determine who was in need of glasses and then provided 88 free pairs of prescription glasses. One student commented to me“Wow. There are actual leaves on each tree.”

You can’t be what you can’t see.

My favorite part of the summer was our Family Fun Night. Each week, students, teachers, parents and friends joined together and played sports. From soccer to Zumba to Yoga to tennis, our community was physically active. I overheard one student share “I never knew my mom exercised” before she joined her mother for a run on the track.

You can’t be what you can’t see.

Now we are back in school. Students are in middle schools, high schools, AND colleges all around North Carolina. Students, remember that your peers cannot be what they cannot see. The community is counting on you to be the example. Show your classmates what it looks like to work tirelessly to make your fearless dreams come true. Affirm your friends for their brilliance and encourage them to share that brilliance freely. Act in a way that respects yourself and those around you and watch as your peers do the same. Embody the core values that drive you up your mountain and make room for your friends on the hike.

You can’t be what you can’t see. And neither can the person sitting next to you in class.

We know that at Student U we are role models, teachers, students and friends. It is time to be role models. It is time to lead your schools to a great year.

You can’t be what you can’t see.

Be seen.
Posted by mulkus on Monday September, 1, 2014
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