Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Upside Down Organization

A few weeks ago, Frank Kros, one of the founders of the Upside Down Organization, came to Unalaska to do some training with folks in our community. They've done a lot with brain research and how kids learn best, using this information and the philosophy of transformation education in the schools that they run. Since we were coming to DC, we decided to ask if we could visit one of their campuses. Our contact person, Tonya, was nice as can be and even came to pick us up at the hotel to drive us to one of their schools near DC. We had a tour with the principal, Tyrone, an amazing guy who obviously loves his work and the students in his care, all of whom have severe emotional or behavioral problems and are referred by other schools in the district. The art hallway is pictured above--very cool--and we observed the art teacher instructing her students about impressionism. :)

Ceiling near the admin area

"Flying," quite symbolic for the students

One of two outdoor classrooms


Artwork from recycled pieces displayed in the other outdoor classroom

More outdoor classroom

Tonya, one of the directors of the UDO, and Tyrone, the principal

The kids maintain a veggie garden


It's a shame that all kids don't get to experience this kind of an educational environment. Though the building is old (formerly a Catholic school that closed), it is apparent that everything possible is being done to create a warm and welcoming haven for these students who have so many difficulties in their lives. There's a counselor for every 12 kids and all of the staff are trained in the transformation education model (see more at No one seemed to freak out when the principal showed up in the classroom because he's stopping by every day, knows the kids and treats them with kindness and respect. They also did not seem to mind having visitors, saying hello and then continuing with their work. Students seemed to feel comfortable and secure and we observed calm, appropriate interactions from staff even when the kids were "acting out." I'm sure there are issues as there are everywhere but we were very impressed with the whole atmosphere. There's very little teacher turnover (only one had to be replaced for this school year) and a waiting list of teachers wanting to join the faculty. This at a school with kids who have not been able to make it anywhere else and often attend several less restrictive environments before being referred here. Everyone we met was utterly positive and upbeat. What a place!

1 comment:

Suzassippi said...

How inspiring to start out my morning! I will have to check out more information. And I love the art work!