What is learning?

This week I reprised my role as the Dowager Food Czarina to inspire some delectable potluck breakfast items at our annual Grinchfest Potluck and Last Food Czar Breakfast of the (calendar) Year. I searched my files and found this gem that I wrote way back in 2012 – before I became admin.

I was funny. I had the bandwidth to create. I miss those days. This piece was inspired by the upcoming exams for our students.

We Need A Little Learning (to the tune of “We Need A Little Christmas”)

Haul out the T charts;
Start thinking before my spirits fall again.
Fill up the notebooks,
I may be rushing things, but re-take those quizzes again NOW.
For we need a little learning
Right this very minute,
Review sheets  in the window,
podcasts in the iTunes.
Yes, we need a little learning
Right this very minute.
There hasn’t been a single exam,
But students, dears, we’re in a hurry;
So logon onto the ebooks;
Put up the brightest string of neon highlights I’ve ever seen.
Divide up the content;
It’s time we came up with a study group NOW.
For I’ve grown a little leaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,

And I need a little student
Sitting by cubicle asking thoughtful questions,
I Need a little learning now

Even as a sing that to myself I think about how I am not sure any of that reflects learning, or does it? Does learning happen in the week before the exam? Are T-charts used to develop deeper understandings? What does coloring in neon highlights have to do with it?

For the first time in 18 years, I will not give a December exam. It feels strange. My design thinking students are building furniture for their final project. It’s been a flurry of activity to see them go from 4 inch prototypes to full-size, working models this week. Their learning is also fixed to a final moment — the moment their friends take a seat in the chairs or use the desks. It’s also not really a final moment. So the chair sags, so the desk is wobbly. Hopefully that will give them a moment of realization and something to work with to improve.

Maybe for next week I’ll have a new spoof for the kind of learning I hope to inspire currently.

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





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.

Friday night deadline – Introduction

I used to compose a weekly humor email for my colleagues at work. It functioned as a simple reminder that we had almost made it to Friday and that the potluck . You could take a breath and slow down a bit and know the chunk of time to decompress, reflect, catch up on work, plan for the next week was almost here.

The email announced the impending arrival of Friday, the fact that caffeine, conversation and carbs (and the occasional quiche) would be available 7:27ish to 7:55 in the faculty lounge. The beauty of this weekly exercise was in finding the theme that would speak to the masses while cleverly (hopefully) capturing the week’s events AND the email had to go out before lunch on a Thursday. That deadline inspired a daily habit of looking at the moments of life, trying to fit them into a bigger, happier, funnier picture that would inspire my colleagues to finish the week strong and to know we are all in it together. It taught me the value of google – but that’s a whole other post. It provided some challenges on the healthy eating front. It always gave me a sense that people can band together to enlighten, to inform and to empower each other through sharing (food, a bit of encouragement, a smile, that nugget of information that will make a difference).

I gave up my weekly emails when I moved into a new position at school. It doesn’t work to be “the man” and to make fun of “the man”. Welcome to iteration #2 of my attempts to reflect and contribute to the general sense that we are all in this together. Being mindful of those patterns and themes and the moments of joy is the basis for my life and work.

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