"You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it."
- Astronaut Edgar Mitchell, on the view from the moon
Goal: Conscious Worldview
"We cannot solve today's problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
- Albert Einstein
We live in a time of great transition. The pace of life is accelerating, and the complexity of global challenges and their far-reaching implications increase each year. We have a choice to respond to these changes with conscious reflection or with blind self-interest. Exponential advances in technology can be used to benefit society, yet simultaneously require that our level of wisdom keeps pace with our appetite for growth. There is an opportunity before us to rise above our patterns of fear and separation, and to embrace a more thoughtful, compassionate, and connected way of being. This requires courage. It requires that we learn to see ourselves as part of an interconnected whole, to explore complex problems with creativity, and to appreciate our shared humanity. We must evolve from a worldview of division and achievement to one of compassion, acceptance and mutual success. Fortunately for our children, these attributes can be inspired, fostered, and learned. We must only dare to create the environment and support for them to naturally embrace a more conscious worldview.
Basis: Developmental Science
Developmental Science integrates developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience to provide a research-based framework for human development. Taken together, these sciences provide a roadmap for healthy identity formation and define the building blocks for successful young adults. Through developmental science-based education, we seek to empower the development of whole-teachers, and in turn cultivate whole-students, integrating aspects of cognitive, social-emotional, physical, and spiritual domains. This Social-Emotional foundation affords students a greater sense of agency, and the security to explore their inner beliefs and values. Research indicates that this development leads in turn to greater academic performance, as well as increased resilience and improved interpersonal relationships.
These organizations provide some of the leading research into cultivating healthy, whole-student development:
Theory: Teachers as Agent for Change
“As a general rule, teachers teach more by what they are than by what they say."
- Parker Palmer
Traditional instructional delivery requires teachers to understand their material and how to engage students in comprehending facts and concepts about the world. Human development, in contrast, involves a different set of skills… wherein the student him or herself is both the object and the subject of exploration. Teachers in this case play a role of modelling and mirroring to the student, helping them to consciously investigate different parts of their emerging individuality. In true student-centered education, teaching is highly relational, and requires the teacher to serve as the agent of change by embodying the skills and values we hope most for students to learn. Many teachers do this naturally, and in fact likely became teachers for this very purpose. Yet the current structures, measurement standards, and limited time and resources of public education rarely permit teachers to step into this role. To be effective, teachers require sufficient time, training and support to serve as catalysts for whole-student development.
"The advisory period is the linchpin in the middle-school movement. Yet many middle-school programs suffer from poorly implemented advisories."
- education world
To help address the growing skills gap, the vast majority of secondary schools in the US already offer some form of student advisory period. The duration, frequency and structure of these periods vary from school to school, but generally represent 40-50 minutes per week dedicated to non-academic development. That’s 30 million students and 2 million teachers across 67k schools spending up to an hour a week with little training, curriculum or measurement.
To keep the group sizes manageable and provide personalized instruction, schools often require all school staff, from teachers to administrators, to facilitate at least one group. Yet rarely are educators provided with quality training in adolescent psychology and small group facilitation or the practical tools and curriculum needed to guide their students. Most often this weekly period defaults to a “study hall”. Millennium provides educators with a structured small group circle technique called “Forum” to transform their student advisory periods from often-wasted time into one of the most essential elements of school. Through the Forum structure, students meet weekly in groups of 12-15 students and engage in peer-to-peer dialogue and exercises, moderated by the teacher. These exercises introduce a comprehensive curriculum of SEL-related skills, allowing space for self-discovery, conflict resolution, and other social-emotional development.
Support: Tools, Training & Community
"Advisory can be the most powerful block of time for students when used well— and the biggest missed opportunity when it’s not."
- James Willcox, former CEO of Aspire Schools
After nearly three decades focused on academic outcomes and test scores alone, education in the United States appears to be evolving to embrace whole-student development, valuing each individual’s social-emotional growth along with their academic achievements. This evolution shouldn’t be surprising; developmental science research consistently highlights the important role that high functioning social-emotional development can play in the future academic, career, and life success of students. Yet, while educators and parents are clamoring for increased social-emotional learning, many schools - particularly in the middle and high school grades - struggle when it comes to making the aspiration of whole-student development a reality in the classroom. Moreover, teachers who are being tasked with developing their students social-emotional skills, are reporting increasingly high levels of stress in the workplace while also expressing frustration over the lack of SEL training and support they have received.
Millennium seeks to provide the missing element of educator support with…
Professional Development Programs
Teachers are often open to leading high-impact student advisory groups, yet lack the time for in-service training and the support to feel confident. Online and summer professional development programs can provide a stronger foundation in mindfulness, developmental psychology, adolescent neuroscience, social-emotional learning, and small-group facilitations skills.
Student Forum Tools
Teachers don’t have time to create their own student advisory curriculum; and most SEL programs for adolescents lack the dynamic flexibility to provide high-quality, just-in-time materials aligned with the teacher’s own training. Millennium can help by providing a balance of online tools, content, and media to support teachers’ busy schedules and reality in the classroom.
To address teacher stress, develop SEL skills and foster peer-to-peer support, educators meet in small groups on a regular basis during prep periods or scheduled PD time. By first shoring up their own levels of connection, awareness and well-being, educators can engage students with less stress and more authentic presence, guiding from their own experience of what Forum is like.
Whole School Implementation Services
Each school is unique, with its own master schedule, culture and traditions. To be successful, whole-student programs and professional development efforts must fit within existing systems. To implement new techniques school-wide often requires on-site coaching, tailored certification programs and a phased timeline for transition.
Outcome: Bridging the Gap
Millennium supports schools by addressing the two primary gaps that have stymied efforts to date: i) defining a research-backed framework that translates developmental science into classroom application effectively for adolescents, and ii) organizing networks of teachers across schools and districts into peer-to-peer Forums, supported by a large-scale online professional development platform. Over the last three years Millennium has convened a science advisory board comprised of national leaders in the fields of education, psychology and neuroscience. It has also successfully launched its laboratory middle school (Millennium School), and ongoing pilots with San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) middle schools. By bringing developmental science research and classroom teachers together, Millennium is bridging the gap between research and application to create a systemic approach to sustainable and scalable whole-teacher and whole-student development.