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Showing posts from 2018

Mid-Year Reflections - Redos, Reboots and Restarts

As a new calendar year approaches, many of us will participate in new year’s resolutions - that time-honored cultural tradition in which we collectively and individually resolve to change an undesired trait or behavior, accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve our lives.
     In schools, we tend to do similar annual cathartic activities in the summer. Educators typically take the summer to expand their professional skills, make new plans, pilot new technologies or resources - ultimately embark on a reflective journey about making the next school year more creative, engaging and successful.
     What if we combined the annual reflective journey of summer with the resolutions associated with the new calendar year? This would become a mid-year reboot, restart, redo or redesign? Instead of waiting until next summer, let’s in January (or even before Winter Break here at the end of 2018), one could implement a new strategy, tool or idea. This could be a classroom redesign, a la…

PBL Educates The Heart, Mind and the Whole Student

Project-based learning has been touted as the pedagogical cure-all for many things. Indeed, I have long argued it’s the ultimate instructional response to the need for real world relevance and application, problem solving, collaboration, student engagement, presentation skills, mentors and even tech integration. It’s the pedagogical glue if you will.
     But one area that is maybe not mentioned as often is its connection to Social-Emotional Learning. Indeed, PBL may not just be the best academic answer, but also the best cultural answer. Project-based learning, through it’s diverse and varied experiences, allows students multiple opportunities to engage with others, as well as themselves, in new and more personalized ways. By contributing to something larger than themselves, i.e. a real world project, they begin to see themselves as contributors and advocates who have self-worth, a voice and a real role in the world at large.
     Here are just a few areas where PBL can begin to …

Cultivating the Culture of Creativity

Ever since the Partnership for 21st Century Skills introduced the Four C’s into the education vernacular, we have been trying to define, and maybe most importantly, actually implement Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking into our instructional practices.
     One of the Four C’s that is routinely referenced and seen as foundational to our students’ future success is creativity. Most see it as essential to innovation, entrepreneurship, technology and to solve our many global challenges.
     But as foundational as we collectively view creativity, it is also elusive in terms of common understanding and implementation. We can point to the word on a presentation slide, but often find it difficult to identify in the real world, let alone how to teach it, grow it and enhance it. So, let’s see if we can identify some elements that would help to create and cultivate a culture of creativity. As educators, how can we help all of our students tap into and optimize t…

School Should Be About Limitless Possibilities; Not Limits and Liabilities

In all my years of education, one essential question always seems to return to me. What if school was about what we ‘could’ do instead of what we ‘can’t’ do?      As millions of school-aged students return to their classrooms this year, many, if not the majority, will be greeted by rules, policies, expectations, syllabi, homework, calendars and schedules. Very few will learn about what the possibilities could be. Very few will find school inspiring, motivation or engaging.       Obviously, this is not a brand new topic or issue for us edu Insurgents. Indeed, at every school I’ve worked, I’ve questioned and worked to redesign the on-boarding experiences for all students. I’ve shared the idea of school being more about ‘no’ than ‘yes.’      How can we transform schools into environments that communicate to students that these are place of limitless possibilities instead of learned limited liabilities? Here are some things that could help assist in this transformation:
Create a Truly…

Smart Start Your School

Jim George’s now infamous quote - “It’s not how you start that’s important, but how you finish” - has been lauded by many as almost a foundational philosophy for life. However, for those of us who are responsible for starting the school year each year for millions of students, we may want to flip that line of thinking on its ear. Seems that how we start the school year might have more to do with how we finish than anything else.
     In all my years as a classroom teacher, program advisor and site leader, I worked hard to make the first day and week of school was engaging, inspirational and motivational as possible. But no matter how hard I, and many of my colleagues, tried, it seems that the institutional expectations took over and the emphasis became less about student engagement and more about rules, expectations, syllabi, policies, contracts, books and academics. That’s right. After all, does it seem reasonable that the earlier we start academics, the more academic success w…

An Open Letter of Apology to the Class of 2018

Graduation is a natural and important time to reflect. It’s important for the graduates, but it’s also important for the rest of us. Our society has very few rites of passage more heralded that high school graduation. So, with yet another graduation season upon us, allow me the indulgence to reflect once again.

     For previous graduation seasons, reflections included the following: students we did and didn’t recognize, how we bombarded our graduates with rules and regulations vs. relationships and many other musings. This year, for the class of 2018, I offer you an Open Letter of Apology. That’s right. I’m sorry. Truth is that I have not worked directly with high school students since the class of 2014. I served previous classes from 2014 back for about 25 years or so. And although I didn’t serve you directly class of 2018, I have, behind the scenes, still been rooting for you and attempting to be your tireless champion.
     First, I’d like to tell you how impressed I am with …