The Four Cs
Written by Nova students- updated 10/23/13
At Nova every student is assigned a coordinator. These teachers act as counselors and help guide us through the educational experience here at Nova, and often beyond. Almost all teachers here are also coordinators, which gives students plenty of options to really find the right fit; in fact, after two months students are given the right to change coordinators if they feel more connected with someone else. Most student find that they really bond with their coordinator and over time build a good working relationship. In general a coordinator has a coor with around 25 students or less, which gives more one on one time with each individual. Students generally meet once a month to every week or more, depending on the student. These meetings are where you can check in on how you are doing in your classes and other activities beyond school, set up for the upcoming semester, and even keep you on track to graduate. During your senior year, they would be the one to work you through planning for you future outside of Nova as well.
Coor at Nova is essentially the heart of our school. Much like homeroom, it’s a community space where the coor group meets three times a week to hear announcements, have small discussions regarding Nova and other issues, bond, etcetera. Some coors choose to have themes, cook together, talk about worldly issues, plan social or working events at nova and so much more. School spirit is really achieved during coor, because its one of our best bonding times you have with your peers.
Nova has a class system unlike traditional high schools, and a big part of that is because our credit system is about demonstrating competency in the material rather than just doing your work and getting graded on it. Our classes are inquiry, project and seminar based and are more alternative in the sense that teachers have more freedom to explore different styles of teaching and students can explore different styles of learning. An example is a film class where students watch, review and analyze different films. Students are also able to co-teach classes in a variety of subjects and have successfully co-taught in almost all of the various subjects offered at the high school level. Students can also set up independent contracts for any subject and are able to earn high school credit by demonstrating competency even if they are not enrolled in a class. Independents can be anything from PE activities outside of Nova to journal writing to music.
All classes are competency based which means that students are expected to demonstrate specific skills in classes or independents. Because we have a competency based system, Nova does not have grades. Students are required to do all of the work in a class to show the related competencies and therefore to receive full credit, although assignments can be adjusted with a teacher if there is something else you are interested in doing to show credit. The competencies that a student has to fulfill in a specific class are explained to them at the beginning of the class. One example of a way to demonstrate a competency in a Language Arts class could be to read a book and do an analytical book project.
At Nova we handle our schedules and classes differently. When students come to Nova, one of the first things they will do is meet with their coordinator to choose their classes. Most of Nova’s classes meet twice a week for an hour and a half, though there are a few that meet for longer period of time. Our school hours are from 8:30 to 4:00 but if students do not have classes, committees, meetings or other commitments, they are not required to be on the campus. We encourage students to find opportunities to learn and grow outside of the school building and learn in different ways. This flexibility lets students plan activities, jobs and outside classes around their class schedule at Nova.
Nova strives to be a democratically run school, and we make school decisions through our committee system. Every student is required to be a part of at least one governing committee, but many are involved in more than one. Committees happen four days a week for 45 minutes. The committees are divided into three different categories:
Governing committees: These committees make decisions for the school! This is where our goal of being a democratically run school really plays out because governing committees empower students to take control over their own education. Examples of governing committees at Nova include Budget (handles our money), Hiring (trains students to conduct interviews with potential staff), and Recruitment (recruits new students through student-led orientations, tours, and exhibition night).
Activities: These are the recreational or extracurricular “committees” that help build community throughout the school. Recreational committees are ones like Bombardment Society (dodgeball), Ultimate Frisbee, and Art committee.
Social Justices: Since Nova has a focus on art and social justice, every Wednesday students participate in a chosen social justice activity. These activities (roughly ten) include Knitting for Social Justice, Interlaken Park Restoration, the Naked Truth on Stereotypes, FEEST, and various partnerships that support the work of outside groups doing social justice related work in the community.
As Nova students, we aspire to create accepting anti-oppressive communities, both here at Nova and in our outside worlds. We have various groups and committees that exist for the purpose of helping support our students in all different ways. One of the main goals of our community is to maintain an accepting environment at Nova- to build and maintain a “culture of kindness.” For instance, bullying is incredibly rare here. Students have the opportunity to voice and work through concerns and most student-to-student conflicts are solved through the coordinating system. We rarely have instances that require principal intervention.
Students and teachers maintain a peer-to-peer relationship, and the level of respect is equal on both sides. This is not a place where teachers have to yell in classes to be heard or where students feel disrespected by teachers’ attitudes toward them. When something isn’t working we and the teachers talk about it together to try to find something that will work better. Students are always helping the teachers learn as the teachers are teaching the students, which is not just true in classes where students are co-teaching but in all classes. This creates an atmosphere of positive learning, which is a main goal of Nova. We are also committed to creating and developing relationships within our neighborhood and throughout the wider world.
Since Nova arrived in the Meany Middle School building, we have developed relationships with the organizations and resources surrounding us. Nova has worked very hard to create a positive and supportive environment for all students, teachers and staff but we are constantly growing and expanding upon that community because we recognize that our community can always be improved.