In October, Open School North welcomed ECONorthwest’s Allison Tivnon as Principal for Almost a Day. The event, organized by All Hands Raised, gives community leaders an opportunity to spend time as honorary principals and gain first-hand experience interacting with students and staff.
Allison spent the day shadowing Principal Mike Navarro and learning alongside students in class.
Throughout the day, she gained new perspective on why some students don’t flourish when they are overlooked by the standard school system.
“I learned that there isn’t—and more importantly shouldn’t—be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to education,” she said.
To Allison, it was clear that Open School’s model of supporting students with academics, equity, advocacy, and individual support, is different than traditional public schools.
“Many of the students at Open School North were kind of tossed in the shadows in their previous school experience. In the standard approach, they languished—like a flower that’s not getting the right light or soil.”
The biggest difference at Open School North was the level of comfort she saw in student and staff interactions. “All of the kids I met seemed relaxed and content to be there,” she said.
“The classroom ratios are very small, much smaller than I’d seen before,” Allison said. “Because of this, the teachers and faculty have a greater day-to-day ability to talk and interact one-on-one with every student. In every classroom I toured, each student was uniquely acknowledged and engaged.”
Allison was excited to have the opportunity to experience this unique learning environment and reflect on her own school experience.
She remembered what it was like to experience ‘awkward’ years, and schooldays where she struggled with identity, social interactions, and uncertainty about her future. At Open School North, Allison saw students going through these same experiences, but in an environment that encourages and celebrates a greater awareness of identity and uniqueness. “It’s incredibly empowering,” she said.
Allison also noticed how Principal Navarro and the entire staff treated each day, and each interaction, as an opportunity to really connect with every student.
In the hallways, she saw staff taking time to address students’ needs, rather than simply demanding a hall pass.
“It was intense,” she reflected. “I walked away from the day wanting to replicate this approach in how I conduct interactions in general. It’s a very healthy and a very honest way to go through life.”
“Many of the students at Open School have been overlooked, left out, or ignored by way too many adults so far in their lives,” Allison said.
“By showing up and paying respect to these kids, by simply being present and accounted for, helps shape their forming worldview and makes them feel valued.”
“That resonated deeply with me.”
A longtime partner and supporter of Open School, ECONorthwest has a commitment to supporting programs that empower children in Portland and Oregon to graduate on time and ready to take on the world.