By: Jennifer Stillittano, Central Coast New Tech High School
We all understand the relevance of growth in the world. When you google “growth” the word that appears in many of the synonyms is process. Let’s agree that growth is the process of expanding, developing and maturing. It’s about helping our students move beyond their starting point in their skills, knowledge and personal attributes. What does this process then look, sound, and feel like within an EdCorp?
This year, the DireLights team has expanded from 10 to over 20 student employees and shown a lot of growth and success specifically in the areas of marketing and branding. Evidence of the company’s growth can be seen in the student work which started by developing a consistent brand through the DireLights style guide, which then influenced DireLights social media presence.
Our mission is to promote personal wellbeing, honest innovation, and hands-on education through the student creation of handmade soy wax candles.
In order to create a cohesive brand that aligned with the mission, students identified what they already know and what they needed to learn. They worked to identify next steps like creating department goals, seeking out feedback from experts, and building positive company culture.
Thinking of growth as the process of maturing means it is critical to help students reflect on their own learning. We can do this by simply asking the right questions, giving them time and space to answer them, and then being willing to model what it sounds like to communicate out loud our thoughts and feelings. One student, Kailey, said, “Direlights has helped me realize that I want to be a part of a collaborative work environment.” Another student, Zoe, shared, “I think it has improved my accountability, creativity, and communication skills. The opportunity to self-reflect on my entrepreneurial skills allows me to more clearly progress in my personal and academic life.” These and other student “ah-has” only get articulated when we as the facilitator ask and give space for these powerful reflection questions. Reflection truly does translate experience into meaningful learning.
Reflecting back on the journey of the past couple of years, we can pull out several applicable lessons. First, use simple tools to make the growth of your student-run enterprise organized, visible, and fluid. Second, areas we grow in are the areas we measure so be intentional about teaching and assessing student agency throughout your EdCorps. Lastly, remember to have fun and take time to reflect on and celebrate the process. So I leave you with this challenge, how can you use your EdCorps to build agency in yourself and your students?
Jennifer Stillittano is a high school teacher at Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo, CA. Follow her on Twitter @PBLLAB. And follow DireLights on social media - Facebook: DireLights, Twitter: @DireLights, Instagram: @DireLights.