fire: a reflection on 2020-2021

[Heroes heading to the future]


Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. (Exodus 3:2)

In our final week of the Outdoor Survival Quest, the heroes learned about fire and how to build one.  To begin the week, we reflected on Moses’ encounter with the burning bush.  The heroes noticed that they can understand things like fire yet recognize that presence of God goes beyond our understanding.  In ways, we’ve understood what’s happened this year.  Yet we’ve encountered God through finances, through recruiting, through hero achievement and through school growth in ways that we can’t fully explain, especially in a year like this one.  And our only response is to testify to God’s goodness and to look expectantly to next year.

Financially, we are thankful to be positioned with the revenue necessary to gracefully traverse the lean summer months into fall.  Coupled with our lean model, fundraising efforts have kept us on solid footing throughout the year as we raised $66,000 for Journey Academy.  There is even more hope as we consider our enrollment.  We ended the year with 23 heroes for 2019-2020.  We are ending the 2020-2021 year with 32 heroes ready to start in August and with 3 more heroes slated to join us in January 2022.  Starting the year, enrollment numbers will be up 40% and by January we will be up to a 50% increase in our heroes.

[Nora displaying the badges she’s earned]

These metrics are important to keep the doors open at Journey.  But what’s happening inside is even more exciting.  This year, the Elementary Studio piloted iReady, an adaptive on-line platform for reading and math.  It gave Miss Cheryl the ability to more deeply personalize learning as she tracked data, offered support and stretch goals, and rewarded heroes with the chance to engage in learning games.  

As we looked at the growth in reading and math in the Elementary Studio, we bless God for the effort the heroes put forth as well as the growth that came from this effort.  Typical Growth is the average annual growth for a student at their grade and baseline placement level.  ES Heroes made 135% Progress to Annual Typical Growth in Math.  This means as a whole, they experienced a year and one third’s growth.  Certainly this doesn’t mean everyone.  This is the studio average with some having even more growth and others having less growth. Importantly, this is a wonderful example of heroes learning at their own pace and we celebrate the progress of each hero!

Even more exciting news awaits in Reading. ES Heroes made 190% Progress to Annual Typical Growth in Reading this past year. This means as a whole, they experienced almost two years growth this year.  Certainly this doesn’t mean everyone.  This is the studio average with some having even more growth and others having less growth. What joy to see our heroes on their journey, taking charge of their learning, and advancing at a pace that is right for them.

[the heroes portfolios show their construction process much like this shelter]

Looking through portfolios offers another glimpse of what God is doing in our midst as our heroes learn.  Here is a clip from an ELS portfolio.  

The step in the hero’s journey that I feel like I am at is:  I’m having some tough times on reading. It may be in the middle of great and terrible.  I’m getting better. Some of the things that I get stuck with is how do you spell this word but sometimes I just say hey I can do this and I get it. So I’m still having a little bit of a hard time and reading and I think I can get better and better as I get older 

These are some of the friends who have walked beside me this year: Elias has been helping me a lot. I like that. Also Jaina helps me with doing reading and I said reading is hard for me, they don’t just tell it to me but they give me clues to figure it out I like that instead of just telling you. Jacob is very pretty good at reading and he knows a lot of words. There’s one more person that’s been good to reading to me. His name is Asa. He’s been very nice to me and he told me some things.

And this ES Portfolio displays a passion for reading. 

The Deep Books I have read this year:

  • One and Only Ivan

  • Love Does for Kids

  • Jim Elliot

  • Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie

  • Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry

  • The Journal of Douglas Allen Deeds

  • (And am about halfway through) Do Hard Things

Deep Book Reviews:

  • Slideshow (One and Only Ivan)

  • Letter to the Author (Love Does for Kids)

  • Mobile (Jim Elliot)

  • Diorama (Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie)

  • Venn Diagram (Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry)

  • Newspaper (The Journal of Douglas Allen Deeds) 

[after a slow start, growth is sprouting in every corner]

Finances, recruiting and hero achievement are all encouraging.  One other hopeful metric is our expansion from two studios to three studios.  Our growth is leading us to launch our Intermediate Studio and hire Mr. Ian Grell.   He specializes in reading, writing, social studies, drama and is a design thinking consultant. Innovating and disrupting throughout his career, Ian promises to bring fresh creativity to Journey.

Every day we stepped into studio gave me this confirmation that this is the work that I want to be around.  Looking around outside the studio, there was certainly cause for discouragement.  But when you encounter God in the midst like that bush, tell the story.  I look forward to telling more stories this fall.

//Dr. T//

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slow down

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18)

Sometimes the task of living at peace with everyone seems impossible.  But then there are other times when the revelation all around me fills me with a humble and sincere desire to live at peace.  I just need to be able to see it.  

8 a.m. is one of the more hopeful times of my daily journey.  Each morning, our team finishes our stand-up meeting where we check in about the day and I then filter my way out to the sidewalk to await the arrival of the heroes.  Will and Stella are often contending to be the first ones to school (We GOTTA go!). That kind of enthusiasm is contagious; to be sure.  

I’m blessed by the privilege of welcoming these heroes to their day.  And at the beginning of the week, I realized that I have the above pictured view each day.  I recalled the movie Smoke written by Paul Auster and starring William Hurt and Harvey Kietel.  In the photo below the tobacco shop owner Auggie explains how takes a picture of his same street corner every day, collecting the photos. 

Sitting there on Monday, I remembered the scene where Auggie shared his collection with William Hurt’s character.  And he gave him this advice, “slow down.” He didn’t want William Hurt to miss anything.  

There’s so much division and fear in our world that most days I could worry and hold grudges and miss the whole day.  Standing out on the sidewalk this week, I try to slow down. I don’t want to miss anything.

I remember.  And I take another picture on Tuesday.

I remember Claire who has come to see herself as a writer.  In her first year in the ES, she has taken hold of her journey as a writer-hero already drafted three narratives in three weeks and is consistently pleading for more time to write during the day.  

I remember again.  And I take another picture.

I see Emmry at my office door with a letter.  The ES heroes are finishing books during their independent reading.  They are reading books they’ve selected.  Now they are reflecting and responding to their texts.  And Emmry has chosen to write a letter to the author of her book.  Positioning herself as one who is able to “talk back” with all the respect and honor that Emmry can muster, she is taking the next step of her hero’s journey as a reader.  

Today I see the moment.  Ms. Sarah has developed a new method for marking growth through the badge system.  They have created buttons for each benchmark (such as writing a narrative or completing a quest or marking a faith milestone or finishing level 2 math) that heroes achieve during their year, this year.  She’s created stoles for each hero on which to button newly earned badges. And I’ve forgotten that today is the first pinning ceremony of the year.

Instead I’m walking to the printer, hurrying to get a bill payment so I can get it in the mail.

The applause stops me.  

And I step in to view the pinning ceremony.  Will is up on the “podium” with his badge being pinned.  

Not my first instinct, I still pull out my camera and I actually document the moment.  Auggie Style.  

I’ve slowed down.  And I get to see the shy smile of a hero that realizes he has taken another significant step on his young journey.

When I see God moving, I gain hope.  When I see God moving, my faith grows.  When I see God moving, I find peace that I can share.  

May we all slow down.  

//Dr. T//

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