Meet a Student: Interview with an Ednovate Senior

Thanks for talking with us, Malik! Can you introduce yourself? Name, age, and why you decided to come to this school.

I’m Malik, a senior at USC Hybrid High. I'm 17 years old. I decided to come here because I thought I would have a better chance at getting a good education than at my previous school.

Talk me through a typical school day.

Usually I get here around 7ish and go to the morning meeting in the cafeteria. First there is advisory for 15 minutes, which is pretty fun; you get to talk and you also get your work done. First period is English with Ms. DeRogatis. Usually if we’re not having a discussion we’re just working on our modules and catching up on work. Then I have Government for my second period, where you pretty much choose what you are working on, and you have to learn not to let yourself fall behind. For third period I either have Spanish or College Readiness, which is a college prep class. Fourth period I have Statistics, and fifth period I have Physics. Then it’s back to advisory where we talk about everything that went on during the day, or we just sit down and do our work, and we also get to interact with each other. We also get guidance and help from our advisor, and she brings us food sometimes. It’s pretty fun.

Describe the breakdown in your day between technology based learning and non-technology based learning.

I would say it’s pretty even, or maybe 51% technology. We have the option of doing everything on paper, but sometimes it has to be done on our Chromebook. In my Spanish class, we’re only eight people; it’s a special class since we’re non-native Spanish speakers. Here, we do everything on paper, while in, for example, my Government class, we take notes on paper, but we have to submit everything online.

How is a typical day here different from a typical day at your old school? How is your experience here in this type of learning different from there?

I went to another school for 7th-9th grade, and I transferred to USC Hybrid High after freshman year. I didn’t get as much support there as I get here; that was a big factor. The environment is also different. Here, you’re surrounded by a business type of environment, and you’re expected to act professionally, which I really like. At my old school people were just going wild. And a big difference is the laptops. When I was at my old school my dad was pushing for them to do what they’re doing here, to do everything on tablets or laptops, and they just implemented that last year, but I actually think they stopped; that’s what my friend told me. Here, technology is a big part of the school, and I think it’s a big reason for why we’re so successful, because it’s so easy to find information that you need, and you really learn how to teach yourself the material. In college you’re pretty much on your own. Your professor is there to teach you, but you pretty much have to take it upon yourself to learn. So this school does a really good job in preparing you for that, and also time management.

How do you manage your time?

Mostly I try to finish everything in class so I have more free time at home. But in classes like Government, where we have really big assignments that take forever to do, I just try to do as much as I can at school and then finish the rest at home. In classes like English, where we have short assignments that take about 30 minutes to do, I try to finish as much as I can either in class or in advisory, so I can spend more time at home working on big projects for my Government class, etc.

You mentioned getting a lot of support here. What does that look like?

If I feel like if I emotionally need help or need to talk to someone, I always have someone I can go to, like Ms. Matthews who you can always go to if you have any type of problem. Also for grades, recently my grades started slipping in my physics class, and I told the teacher who really helped me out and my grade went up 8%. She helped me submit like three assignments. If you need help, you can find it anywhere here. With homework, if you can’t get in touch with a teacher, you also have the Internet.

How was the transition to personalized learning?

The biggest problem I had, which I still sometimes have, is that I am used to surfing around the Internet a lot when I am home. All those pages are blocked on the school computers, so that really helps. I still have the urge to be off-task sometimes, but I got used to doing work on the computer pretty fast. It took me about one or two weeks. The teachers really walked us through the steps. Now I know it like the back of my hand.

How does mastery-based grading impact your learning?

You know exactly what you need to do get certain grades; just having the reminder of knowing exactly what you need to do to succeed, which eliminates every excuse. It puts your future in your hands pretty much.

Since you have been going here, what do you feel like you have learned about yourself or how you are as a student?

I have learned that I get distracted really easily. I learn more sometimes when working in a group, but it really depends on the day and on the class. Sometimes I like to work by myself. In Physics I need to see it, and in Spanish class I need to be writing stuff down. It really depends on my mood or on the day.

Have you changed a lot since you started here?

Ever since I was little I have been really shy. In 9th grade I kind of opened up at my old school. Here it took me about three weeks before I actually ended up talking to people except for my cousin. People started to come up to me, so I became a more friendly and sociable person. I also learned that if I am motivated and very passionate about something it is easier to put more effort towards it. We had a performance task called Shark Tank last year, and the theme was drought, and we did a water-saving showerhead pitch. My inspiration was that I like to shower, and California is in a drought, and I get in trouble for being in the shower for too long. I was never behind on any of the assignments, because I was so into it. If it’s a random assignment that I am not that passionate about it is hard to put a lot of effort into it. I also get easily distracted, and I know I need to work on my focus.

You mentioned that finding your passion keeps you motivated; does that inform you at all about what you are thinking about doing after high school?

Right now I am really passionate about computer coding, like making websites and stuff. You also get paid really well, and I have always been told to find something you love and find out how to get paid while doing it. One of my assignments that I am working on is about how I think we should teach students at a young age how to code so they can be prepared for the outside world. This is what I want to major in, and it really helps me to know all this information early on.

Do you know which college you want to go to?

My frontrunners are Cal State Long Beach and USC. Since I was three years old, I have wanted to go to USC.

What advice do you have to students who go to personalized learning schools?

Don’t give up, because I did a few times. It is a big transition to come from straight lecture on paper to technology-based and personalized learning. In the long term it will work out well for you. You learn so much more about yourself, and you also get a lot more prepared for college and your future. You have so many people who can help you, and it is important to find a good group of friends who can motivate you. So don’t give up, and find a solid group of friends who help you be a better you and keep you motivated.

What advice do you have for teachers?

Some teachers come in and kill it, like Ms. Matthews. My advice is, I know that it can be frustrating at times, especially if you’re new to personalized teaching and you have students who are new to personalized learning. So don’t give up, persevere through it, and be patient. When I first started I had a lot of questions, but if I threw 100 questions at for example Ms. Mendoza or Ms. Batizy, they would throw me 120 answers back and always help me. I also like that our teachers are energetic, and we learn a lot about the outside world. They teach us how we can use academics in real life situations, like for example using math in real life.

Personalized learning sounds harder for students and teachers. Do you think it’s worth it?

Yes, it is worth it because in the long run you gain more. You learn more about yourself, about how you learn, how you work, how fast you can work. You learn about yourself in a learning environment. It teaches you how to help yourself. If the teacher is not there, I know that I can go back to the modules or Google it. It teaches you how to navigate through school, and also in real life, how to help yourself and be resourceful. My dad says that if he had the same tools as I have at this school, it would have been way easier to succeed.