Episode #90: Being the Controller of My Learning with Aidyn Grice

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

Aidyn Grice is a 6th-grade doing 9th-grade math and is a student at Norris Academy in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. I met Aidyn and his mom, Nicole, at the Aurora Institute (past was iNACOL) conference in October 2019 in Palm Springs where Aidyn who was an amazing speaker on the student panel. After talking to Aidyn, his mom, and Johnna Noll, Executive Director of Norris Academy, we decided it was time for a conversation with Aidyn on my podcast.
Where did you grow up
I was born and raised in a small city outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. About two years ago, we moved to Mukwonago when my mom got a job at Norris Academy.
Aidyn eating pancakes with maple syrup he made at Norris Academy.
They tapped maple trees and boiled the sap down to make the syrup.

Let’s talk about school 
I thought school was normal until I went to Norris Academy and I saw how big a change it was and how the communities are different than my other school. Kindergarten was fun at West Allis with a good environment and nice people. Then starting in first grade, we were sitting at desks doing your work all day through session after session. We did math in the morning and then reading in the afternoon every day for the entire year. It kind of got boring after a while. I thought that’s what school was going to be like for the rest of my life. This is what I would have to do: suck it up and deal with school so I could go on with my life.  
After you started Norris Academy, what was different about school for you?

It was really different, actually. There is a big difference between this school and the local school in how the school is structured and the environment. This school is way more about you and not always thinking it’s the kids, sometimes it may be the teacher. Sometimes you might like a teacher but sometimes you may need a different teacher. In my other school, if there was a problem, it was the kids problem. But at Norris, we look at both sides of it so we can work it out. 
Johnna Noll, Executive Director of Norris Academy, jumped in. “As the staff here at Norris, we focus on a learner-centered environment. What Aidyn was explaining is that at some schools, people tend to look at the learner and what they are doing wrong and why they aren’t improving. For us, we look at the lack of growth and improvement of any of our learners as our failure of what we’re doing and what can do to better support that learner. When I heard Aidyn say it is sometimes the teacher or its other people, I think that is indicative of when we see a learner has not had much success, we wrap a team around that and try to offer supports that will be more helpful to Aidyn.”

Aidyn and his Learner Profile
At first, when I worked on my Learner Profile, I thought it was a little weird. Then I got used to it and I realized what they were doing.  It felt good to write about me. You always learn stuff about yourself and then the teacher knows about you and how you learn best. The questions they asked like “what are your triggers?” and “what do you like doing?” and “what do you want to do on a break?” and “what’s your favorite subject?” helped them to get to know me. They’re not trying to figure it out on their own. 
What is it like for you at Norris Academy?
I can read articles to get science and math competencies together instead of separate like at my other school. Each grade level has its own amount of competencies within the subjects. If you get all of those competencies, basically, you keep going up in your subjects. My cousin is in a local school and has all straight As and cannot go up and beyond what she is doing higher than her grade level. 
When I confer with my learning specialist three times a week or more, I share the evidence of my learning and how much I’ve grown in my pathways.