Nooha Ahmed-Lee’s approach to the modern day student athlete is refreshingly progressive, innovative and debunks a lot of the myths about how the minds of students function and operate.
In Part I of a Q&A series, Ahmed-Lee who holds a doctorate in professional education talked her vision for the school she oversees, the new YSC Academy in Wayne.
In Part II of this two-part Q&A series, Dr. Ahmed-Lee discusses a typical day for a student at YSC Academy. She delves into how students take “leadership” in their learning.
philadelphiaunion.com: When is a class day? So when do you start, when is it over?
Dr. Nooha Ahmed-Lee: So the kids train in the morning at 7:45 and they train for about an hour and a half and then they are at YSC Academy. They rationale for training in the morning is that we know that adolescents really have a circadian cycle and their neurons really don’t wake up until later. A great educational practice is to get them moving in the morning. This program facilitated an ability to do that for students and for athletes. So when classes start it will be close to 9:30 or 10:00, after they come in and have a second breakfast, and after they have their second breakfast, we have a morning greeting and community time, and we really ask students to be able to be participants in the leadership of the school.
PU.com: Can you explain how kids take “leadership” a bit more?
Dr. Ahmed-Lee: Any community issues that come up, any topics they want to raise, there is a forum that kids run based on things they may want to do, and they work alongside faculty. That gives them the opportunity of knowing how to make a change, to do it respectfully. And so they don’t have to all discuss it and present to the administration; the administration is there guiding and asking questions, so they can critically think about what they may be asking for. So it puts them on the same level as the kids.
PU.com: How long is a typical class and how is it broken up?
Dr. Ahmed-Lee: The kids go into two hour blocks of instruction. The idea of having long blocks of instruction is really important in current educational practice. The forty-five minute class allows you to be able to take ten minutes to kind of get yourself settled, then you have maybe thirty minutes left, and then you go off to the next class. In depth learning takes time, learning actually naturally does not happen in forty five minute slots. The idea of a 90 minute slot with either English, math, history, or science is that students will be able to have some direct instructions from the teachers, they will be able to some collaborate lab work, they will be able to move to other parts of the building, we don’t want kids to just feel like classroom learning only happens amongst four walls.
PU.com: With it being such a small school, is there any time where student-athletes get together as a whole group to socialize?
Dr. Nooha Ahmed-Lee: There will be a lot of collaboration, they will have a break, where they can go off to YSC Academy for a physical break, they can stay here, then they will have a second 90 minute class, then they will have lunch. The coaches will come over for lunch as well, so they will see their coaches and their teachers. Then there is a two and a half hour block at the end of the day called flex time, and in that flex time it is an opportunity them to go to office hours, to get help from their teachers, to do some online learning, we use a program called “Apex learning,” and what that means is that any student really, who wants to take an advance placement course, they want to learn how to take Korean, they want to do something different, languages have that opportunity.
PU.com: I know there is a lot of classroom instruction, but with this school being state of the art, are there other methods of learning?
Dr. Ahmed-Lee: And what is really important is students who are in high school are not taking online learning are really behind the eight ball when they go into college. Time management is really taught during that timeframe. They can work collectively, they can work on their own, they can get PSAT training, and they can do a lot of things like that. We also have something called Explore Share Now time, which is a time where they can take a current issue in the world and they look at how they can make a change in helping resolve that, sometimes they go out and do some internship and meet with people. They might be interested in sports medicine, but they do not know what that is like, so we kind of link them up with someone, maybe in the city or other places, that time goes until four, and at 4:00 they have a break, and if they even go off into their club teams or they go off into the union academy. That is the conclusion of their day.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org