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Conversations with Barrington Teachers: Part 2 The iCreate Space and the Challenges of a New Initiative

“We are a little overwhelmed by all of the Fuse Architect meetings with all of the groups involved. We have a lot of initiatives going at the same time, and a lot that is changing in our day-to-day work because of it. The work of Fuse Architect definitely has had a ripple effect on other initiatives going on at the school. Scheduling for teachers is hard because right now all of the prep time is used for meetings about initiatives. We have a difficult structure for scheduling to allow initiatives to happen. I’m on a scheduling committee and we’re looking at kind of a waterfall type of schedule with a larger block rotating. So it would be possible for us to work with students during that time. We’re even looking at making our advisories more effective. Now that we’re really shifting gears in the field and on the frontlines, things have to follow that. What has been key is the support of the administration.” There is a great amount of support from the Barrington administration.

“We have a very open door policy here in Barrington when it comes to faculty and administration.” We can walk in the principal’s office at almost any time and say, “Hey, I have this going on.” Our principal is so embedded in this process right now that we feel the support. I think all of us feel shell-shocked because of all of the changes. I think that’s a normal human trait. Then we start to discuss things. We’ll literally sit down and say, “I have no idea what just happened.” And it’s like, “Okay, now I’m seeing some of the pieces fall together.” Then it’s off and running with the idea. That’s education. That’s what we signed up for. And the students are part of that learning and innovation process. We witnessed that change during the development of the space.

“It was really fun to see the development of the space.” One of my students picked out the color of the wall. So when we actually created this space, and the walls got painted last year, some of the equipment was coming in and we were like, “Wow, it’s actually coming about.” The leadership team is taking ownership and trying to learn from the students who are working in the space now. Each student is signed up for a station and is trained in that area. For example, some know how to work a vinyl cover, a sewing machine, or the 3D printer. Giving the students voice and responsibility and seeing what they do with it is the true beauty of the space.

In terms of supplies and support, our mantra now is “You don’t know what you need until you need it. We have to negotiate about supplies that are ordered for the space because the orders have to be aligned to a project. Also at first, we had so many rules in the iCreate lab and that was not okay. Some of our email exchanges centered on “Don’t put so many restrictions” because it makes it uncomfortable for students to be in here. This room is one of those places. It’s kind of like a demilitarized zone. People walk in and people can say, ”I have the freedom. This is what I want you to do. Go.”

“Parents during open house were really excited about the lab.” They would say, “Have you seen the lab? Look what’s going on down there.” As well, we have a big movement to get girls into STEM programs and when the governor came in the other day, she came into my classroom and said, “Where are the girls?” I told her, “We’ve been working on that for years.” We’ve had women in engineering clubs that didn’t make it because there wasn’t attendance. We’ve had every effort locally. But when girls come into this lab with their friends, I think it’s going to throw a switch that shows them, you know what, technology’s kind of cool. And here we are, 2017 almost 2018 and there’s still that division. There’s still that separation that existed in the 1950s. I know I sound really like a visionary on this, but this lab could break down those barriers. We’re going to be having open labs rather than closed classrooms.

“But hopefully, at some point, everything is going to slow down so that we can see that there’s a finished product.” We’re going from one meeting to another. We’re going to all these things but we’re not setting time aside to collaborate. To me, that’s the next thing, is how do we make the time? I don’t know that I’m so much learning as I’m getting introduced to all these things. But to see the students in action in the space is really amazing – they’re applying their own learning!

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