Things I’d like to go viral…in education

This week was back to school for teachers. In meetings we wove in clever memes to help folks make connections. We created videos to “Happy” by Pharrell. Our head challenged some of us to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (still on my to-do list).  This video showed up several times in my FB feed. Then a friend of mine sent me this article about unschooling via FB.  I replied to her and tagged a friend who might also be interested. It made me think about harnessing the power of the viral idea to find an entrepreneurial model for an independent school to provide a true unschool- ed model. I like the idea of unschooling but I don’t want to live off the grid. When I disagree with policies I don’t withdraw, I find someone with better ideas and support them. Would there ever be a way to mainstream unschooling?

I’d love for the conversation to go viral so whoever controls College Board or Pearson Ed would be pushed to think about the reach and power of their tests. I’d love for politicians and college admissions boards alike to get doused with a bucket of ice water to wake up to what their policies are doing to learning environments. I’d love for students to create and build off what was created before.

Reflection is key to my success. Life gives me little time for this. Friday night is my deadline.

P.S. Wash your hands to stop the germs. Not everything is good when it’s viral.


Making Teacher Meetings Look Different

Reflection is key to my success. Life gives little time for this. Friday night is my deadline.

I just completed hosting new faculty week at my school. It was a great experience designing a week to get our new faculty to experience the mission and philosophy. I read a number of articles going into the week about orientation — how they were supposed to transmit the culture of a school. Transmission, come on. I don’t need to pour the knowledge into their brains. How will I know what they are ready to do if I talk at them for hours on end? We designed lesson with objectives and held ourselves to the standard of how we want their classes to look  for students. They were out of their seat, exploring, asking questions, making connections, do authentic work, learning through real life examples. The addition this year was an exit ticket – not your standard “give us feedback” fare. We listed objectives of the week. They rated themselves from “I’m solid on this” to ” I need a refresher” to “I never heard of this.”  My team can take this data and determine the next steps for each — personalized orientation.  This is where the stretch starts for my group. Our goal is not transmission, you see, but rather achievement. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I need to thank my team and those who owned the parts of the week for their thoughtful implementation of the format. It takes a lot to plan active learning. I also need to thank the previous Dean of Faculty who helped us break away from the traditional format (we experimented with a flipped video iteration the previous year). While the flipped format wasn’t the right instructional method for this project, trying it helped us get to a better experience. And of course there’s a big thank you to the current leadership at my school for continuing to be open to the best way to do things for the faculty.


Star Realignment

During this past week, just as bit of luck and positive energy were shifting back in my direction, a friend said to me, “the stars are realigning”. I learned last Monday that the chance of a lifetime landed in the lap of one of my dear friends and colleagues. He and his wife have the chance to move to the land of Jefferson who wrote, “where has Nature spread so rich a mantle under the eye mountains, forests, rocks, rivers…with what majesty do we there ride above the storms! how sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder…”. OK, Jefferson was talking about Monticello and Mr. A is moving the Charlottesville, but you get the idea. These kinds of opportunities don’t just happen for independent school history teachers. T-minus 7 days for me to find a history teacher.

Top Ten Ways to Approach This
10.Cry — I did get teary
9. Ask for help
8. Take one thing at a time
7. Look for the small solutions
6. Buy your son “Everything is Awesome” and listen to it on the way to work
5. Buy the above song and set as the default ringtone (in the effort to surround yourself with positive thoughts)
4. Pull on your inner Food Czar and write a spoof to Ariana Grande’s “Problem”
3. Open your mind to things you haven’t thought of
2. Ask for more help
1. Talk to lots of people and listen — both candidates and others to get their opinions

I found 2 new teachers for my school this week, wonderful additions to our community who will do great things for our students.Through the week I found myself being more open to possibility and embracing the challenges of the job. The net effect is that I am very much looking forward to our new faculty orientation and all the possibilities for the school year ahead.

One other thing happened this week: answering an email for my high school’s alumni association I synthesized my teaching vision statement:
Helping people learn how to learn is what I am passionate about. When you unlock for someone how to learn new things, you sow the seeds of innovation and invention. Couple that with teaching the why of doing things and you have the potential to make the world a better place.
This, too, echoes star realignment. I found a way to express how to marry my background as a history teacher with my new passion – innovation and invention. The same stars, just a different pattern.

Reflection is key to my success. Life gives little time for this. Friday night is my deadline.