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Critical Issues in School Reform

 

S T O R I E S  O F  P U B L I C  E N G A G E M E N T
Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (B.U.I.L.D.)

I. About the Program | II. On-Line Activities | III. Viewer Activities | IV. Resources


III. VIEWER ACTIVITIES

A Viewers' Workshop

The following workshop is designed for educators or others interested in viewing the video as the start of an ongoing, in-depth discussion about public engagement in their school or community, but the outline can readily be adapted to your particular situation. (For example, parts 1 and 2 can be used to structure a more general conversation about the video.)

The workshop takes between one and a half and two hours, including the 30-minute video.

Part 1: Preparing to Watch the Video (15-20 minutes)

Before viewing the video, invite participants to discuss a few of the following questions:

  • What does public engagement mean to you?
  • What is the appropriate role of "outsiders"?
  • What role does tension play in creating an energy for action? How can it help? How might it hinder?
  • When are different types of action - adversarial, consensus-based, gradual - appropriate? When can adversarial actions help move communities?

Part 2: Watching the Video (30 minutes)

Ask participants to consider the following questions as they watch the video. Make clear that these questions will be discussed after the video.

  • What elements of engagement did you see there?
  • What did you think was most powerful?
  • What concerns did it raise for you?
  • Do parents have power? When?

Part 3: Discussing the Issues Raised in the Video (45-60 minutes)

The purpose of this discussion is to gain a deeper understanding of the work of B.U.I.L.D. and the issues it raises about public engagement. It offers a way to begin a conversation about the implications of this work in your own school or community.

Ensuring a Good Conversation:
A Few Basic Groundrules
  • Identify a facilitator and a timekeeper.
  • Set norms for the discussion. Be sure all participantshave an opportunity to understand and agree to these norms. They may want to add others.
  • Focus on the video and the discussion in it. Refer to specific examples from the video in your discussion.
  • Build on what others say.
  • Listen carefully and do not "step on" one another's talk.
  • Converse -- no need to raise your hand, but don't interrupt either.
  • Expose and challenge your own assumptions.
  • Watch your airtime.

Present or elicit several focus questions for the discussion. Here are some suggestions.

  • What excites you about the story of B.U.I.L.D.?
  • What did you see happening that you hadn't thought was possible?
  • How could you reach out to schools and community-based organizations more effectively to improve achievement?
  • Who has the power: Parents? Community? The district?
  • How could you get more school people to see the advantage(s) of bringing in community voices?
  • How could you get more superintendents to believe that, by sharing decision making, they actually gain the power of constituencies rather than losing face?
  • Is the question of "power" more difficult in urban districts?
  • Did watching this video change your definition of public engagement? How?
  • What is "community-asset mapping"? How is it done? Why would you do it?
  • Which of the following characteristics of successful public engagement initiatives (based on research by the Annenberg Institute) did you see in B.U.I.L.D.?

  • -- inclusive, in-depth dialogue
    -- dedication to real improvement in schools
    -- commitment to creating dynamic partnerships
    -- working to find common ground
    -- candor and mutual trust

An On-going Dialogue about Public Education in Your Community

Public schools are crucial to the sustained vitality of American democracy, and a supportive and involved public is crucial to the survival of public schools. For many, an ongoing and open discussion about their public schools is an important first step toward greater involvement and action on behalf of children and public education. Such a dialogue enables everyone to share their views, find common ground, and ultimately work toward the kind of community consensus that is a vital part of American democracy.

Study Circles Resource Center (SCRC), a program of the Topsfield Foundation based in Pomfret, Connecticut, helps local communities organize and conduct meaningful conversations on difficult issues, including race, diversity, social justice, education, and community revitalization. For information about forming a Study Circle or to request technical assistance for a community initiative, contact SCRC at 860-928-2616.


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