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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 …

9 Ways To Make Student Work Authentic

Since the advent of formal education, many students have questioned the validity or relevance of the work they are doing. The question of “when am I going to use this?” has been launched at most veteran teachers countless times. Indeed, making learning more “real” has long been a goal of those who have promoted everything from project-based learning to career technical education. Both learners and learning facilitators want learning where the ‘why’ is an integral part of the process. It’s this desire to be “real” that has now found its way into our vernacular as AUTHENTICITY. Authentic learning can be the guide to not only make learning more real, but also more maximized and optimal for all learners. In a world where authenticity is often elusive in everything from our food to our entertainment, we are now holding our teaching and learning to a new standard of authenticity. Project-based learning practitioners, as well as those truly working on a more 21st century, personalized learni…

Students Can Lead School Improvement Through Culture and Community Building

Ever since I began teaching 28 years ago, I have always been interested in student voice and ownership. Maybe it was because my bachelor’s degree was in journalism and my initial career was media. Maybe it’s because I never felt like neither I, nor my peers, ever had as much say in our education and learning as I think we could have or should have. Maybe it’s because I think finding one’s voice and the leadership required to take action on that voice are the hallmarks of real learning and self-actualization. Regardless, I’ve seen the power, over and over, of students when they are engaged in pursuing work they have chosen or helped create (voice, choice) and are willing to take responsibility for (ownership).
Throughout my collective experiences as a teacher, advisor and site leader, I have consistently witnessed students producing amazing, powerful, relevant and impactful work when given the opportunity and support. One of those experiences that truly transformed me, my students and …