Teachers work with “learner genome cards,” asking students a series of questions in a game-like environment. What results is a treasure-trove of information about each student.
Here are some examples:
- Kinds of books I enjoy: fantasy
- Favorite book/magazine: Lord of the Rings
- How I spend free time: Be outside, read, catch snake
- If I could change one thing about myself: Focus longer and not be so easily distracted
- What makes me happy: Catching snakes, my family
- My greatest fear: Mosquitoes
- I feel bored when: When there is nothing to do or I’m reading a book I’m not interested in
“So before day one of teaching, we know a tremendous amount about each kid,” Anastasis co-founder Kelly Tenkely said. And with each teacher responsible for only 12 students, that deep knowledge can be employed to great effect.
Teachers also conduct “meeting of minds” parent-teacher conferences, during which they learn about parents’ discipline philosophy, and their hopes for their child academically, socially, and spiritually.
After those two days, the school launches into Detox Week. All kids carry labels about themselves they need to shed, Tenkely said, and that’s the aim of Detox Week. The goal is to keep kids from identifying with those labels – I’m bad at math, I’m ADHD.
Here is how Tenkely described Detox Week in a blog post:
Our detox week is a time for students to remember that they matter. It is an opportunity for them to re-frame the way they think about learning. It is a time for them to share their passions with each other. It is a chance to realize that working together is more productive than competing in learning. It is a safe time to explore creativity and individuality. It is also the week that new students start to discover that the relationship with their teacher is different here; that the goal of coming to school isn’t an “A” at the end of the semester, but real learning and growth.
Detox Week ends with Identity Day. Each student brings something that says who they are on a deep level, that isn’t immediately apparent to others. Tenkely described it as a “huge, science fair-like exhibition.”
This year, for example, a girl built a box with a flexible light that illuminate different parts of her life, from her family to her passion for dance.
“Kids get to know each other in pretty cool ways,” Tenkely said.