Sunday, December 27, 2015

forward together

The year in Search, Google 2015

The year in ideas, TED 2015

The year in status updates, Facebook 2015

The year in tweets, Twitter 2015

“... that I forgave him, and that she forgave us, and that we have to forgive to survive in the labyrinth. There were so many of us who would have to live with things done and things left undone that day. Things that did not go right, things that seemed okay at the time because we could not see the future. If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can't know better until knowing better is useless.” 
― John GreenLooking for Alaska

Sunday, November 29, 2015

you love this world very much

Yesterday was Small Business Saturday. At our local bookstore I bought Mary Oliver's new book of poetry, Felicity. It will make a wonderful holiday gift for all the Mary Oliver fans and poets on your shopping list.

I couldn't resist reading it before I gift it.

Here's my favorite:

A Voice from I Don't Know Where
by Mary Oliver

It seems you love this world very much.
     "Yes," I said. "This beautiful world."

And you don't mind the mind, that keeps you
     busy all the time with its dark and bright wonderings?
     "No, I'm quite use to it. Busy, busy,
     all the time."

And you don't mind living with those questions,
     I mean the hard ones, that no one can answer?
     "Actually, they're the most interesting."

And you have a person in your life whose hand
     you like to hold?
     "Yes, I do."

It must surely, then, be very happy down there
     in your heart.
     "Yes," I said. "It is."

Monday, November 16, 2015

wherever you go for the rest of your life

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” 
- Ernest Hemingway

Friday, November 6, 2015

create something new and better

Innovation is a mindset - a way of thinking - that creates something new and better.

This week I read The Innovator's Mindset 
by George Couros.

I highlighted more of the book than not. It may take several readings and re-readings before the entirety of the many ideas fully sink in. 

I have so many favorite parts and quotes. Here are just a few:
Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.
We forget that our responsibility isn't solely to teach memorization or the mechanics of a task but to spark a curiosity that empowers students to learn on their own. To wonder. To explore. To become leaders.
I believe education's why is to develop learners who create a better present and future.
When I use the term leaders, I'm not talking about bosses but people who have influence over and can make an impact on the world.
The world only cares about - and pays off on - what you can do with what you know (and it doesn't care how you learned it).
Innovation, though, starts not by providing answers but by asking questions. To be innovative, these questions focus on having empathy for those we serve.
And this bit comparing school vs learning:
School promotes starting by looking for answers. Learning promotes starting with questions. School is about consuming. Learning is about creating. School is about finding information on something prescribed for you. Learning is about exploring your passions and interests. School teaches compliance. Learning is about challenging preconceived norms. School is scheduled at certain times. Learning can happen any time, all of the time.
School often isolates. Learning is often social. School is standardized. Learning is personal. School teaches us to obtain information from certain people. Learning promotes that everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a learner. School is about giving you information. Learning is about making your own connections. School is sequential. Learning is random and non-linear. School is about surface-level thinking. Learning is about deep exploration.

I have followed George Couros on twitter (@gcouros) and have always been inspired by his posts and articles. When I saw that he had a new book out, I knew I had to read it. George's passion for innovation in education is exceptional. This book is a wonderful guide that is sure to inspire change.
Developing students into problem solvers and problem finders is crucial for their success

Learners need to be creative, innovative, interactive producers... not isolated consumers. We must promote and capitalize on open, connected learning. "My encouragement to you is to share your learning every step of the way, so others can benefit from your experiences."

I highly recommend Innovator's Mindset to all learners, teachers, parents, and leaders... so, really, anyone interested in critical thinking, productive citizens, and responsible decision makers.

Monday, October 12, 2015

dare to do things differently

You need to read this...

The Back to School Night Speech We'd Like to Hear

This is a brilliantly clever article written as a back-to-school night speech. An imaginary principal delivers an exercise in wish fulfillment.

Here are some of my favorite quotes...

What questions do they have about the world? How can we help them build on and find answers to those questions?

Our main concern is that what students are learning, and how they're helped to learn it, make sense for the particular kids in a given room. That's why our teachers spend a lot more time asking than telling -- and even more time listening to what the kids wonder about. The plan for learning is created with your kids, not just for them.

A good way to tell how successful we are is how excited the students are about figuring stuff out and playing with ideas.

Hold us accountable for helping your child to be a deep thinker who loves learning. Expect creativity. Expect curiosity.

Real excellence comes from helping students to see one another as potential collaborators.  

I have recently been researching the concept of Micro Schools... and I am falling in love with the idea. 

Imagine if curriculum could be discovered (not delivered) based on relevant events and student questions. 

Imagine student voice and student design in learning.

Imagine a place that creates healthy, happy young people who love to learn, want to contribute to the world, and can tackle the enormous problems of our times with innovative ideas and solutions.

I'm reading two amazing books that are bringing this imagination to life: Future Wise by David Perkins and Beyond Measure by Vicki Abeles.

I am so excited by what I have read and experienced so far. A change in learning is not going to come from the top down, it is going to come from the round pegs in the square holes... from those who dare to do things differently.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

naturally curious and wired for learning

A great conversation was started the other day on twitter when @Sisyphus retweeted @agileschools quote, "This goal, learning to learn, should be the primary goal of education."

The world is filled with beautiful and dramatic questions. We are surrounded with opportunities to create things and have them matter. As humans we are naturally curious and wired for learning...

So why is the idea of learning to learn so popular?

Learning or discovery shows up in after school programs, in outside the classroom games, and in the archetype of the Hero's Journey (challenge, failure, success, return). Perhaps it's time to start supporting the idea of innate learning in the pursuit of discovery.

This twitter conversation reminded me that I had Will Richardson's new book, Freedom to Learn, on my kindle. I started reading it and couldn't put it down.

From the overview:

It's a great book. You should read it... because our education system isn't going away any time soon and you might be asking yourself, "What, if anything, changes?"

My favorite quotes from Freedom to Learn:
By and large, education is something still organized, controlled, and deliver by the institution; very little agency or autonomy is afforded to the learner over his or her own learning.
Here's the problem: increasingly, for those who have the benefit of technology devices and access to the internet, learning outside of school is more profound, relevant, and long lasting than learning inside the classroom. Connected learners of all ages have agency and autonomy that are stripped from them as they enter school. 
Learning is continual, effortless, unpremeditated, independent of rewards and punishment, a social activity, all about growth, and never forgotten.
It's arguable that we've always wanted knowers over learners; just look at our assessments.
... shouldn't the focus of our work now be to develop kids as learners instead of knowers? 
And then... toward the end of the book, there's a reality check of where we've let ourselves come to:
And, finally, current standardized assessments are a multibilliondollar industry - more than a quarter billion just for Pearson alone - that few in the business (or in the statehouse) have any real interest in changing.
The fact is that learning is leaving the building. 
What do you have the courage to change? How committed are you to bringing those changes about?

"What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook." 
- Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Struggle for wisdom

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.” 
― Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me

I read Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I read it after seeing Mr. Coates on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart... so that was a while ago. It has been one of those books that I can't get out of my head... that haunts me still... that I can't quite wrap up.

I would love to hear if you've read it and what you think. How can we unravel this twisted knot we've created?

There is so much to talk about, and so much to listen about.

Between The World And Me is written as a letter to the author's 15 year-old son. It's a warning about racial injustice in America. Here is a sample of some passages I can't put down:

“The question is not whether Lincoln truly meant “government of the people” but what our country has, throughout its history, taken the political term “people” to actually mean.” 

“The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine.”  

“The truth is that the police reflect America in all of its will and fear, and whatever we might make of this country’s criminal justice policy, it cannot be said that it was imposed by a repressive minority.” 

“That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free. The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished. It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished. But you were young and still believed. You stayed up till 11 P.M. that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you.”  

“And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.”  

What I've come to know as history, both past and current, is that black American citizens have been far more likely than white American citizens to die at the hands of the police. The phrase "Black Lives Matter" is not asserting that black lives are more precious than white lives. The declaration is underlining the fact that the lives of black citizens have been discounted and devalued. It's an indisputable, unpleasant  truth.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” 
- Andrew Boyd

Monday, August 31, 2015

Rhythm and Resistance

Rethinking Schools has published Rhythm and Resistance: Teaching Poetry for Social Justice, edited by Linda Christensen and Dyan Watson.

@pennykittle tweeted about Rhythm and Resistance...

What a resource from ! Can't wait to start reading & writing poetry with students this week.

I always love Penny Kittle's recommendations, so I got a copy and it does not disappoint!

The opening chapters of Rhythmn and Resistance demonstrate how poetry can build classroom community and develop students' confidence in their writing.

The opening poem by the book's co-author "Why Poetry? Why Now?" makes Linda Christensen my new literary hero:

Why Poetry? Why Now?
by Linda Christensen

You ask, "Why a book on poetry? Why now?

Because we stand at the brink of public
education's demise;
because funds from billionaires
control the mouths of bureaucrats,
who have sold students, teachers,
and their families for a pittance;

because curriculum slanted to serve the "job market"
carves away history and humanity,
poetry and narrative,
student lives and teacher art;

because teaching students to write an essay
without teaching them to write
narratives like poetry is like
teaching someone to swim
using only one arm;

because poets are truth tellers and lie breakers
wordsmiths and visionaries
who sling metaphors in classrooms,
in the narrow slices of school hallways,
on the bricks of public courtyards,
and cafes with blinking neon signs
without laying out a dime to corporations;

because new poets are rising up,
pressing poems against windows on Wall Street,
spilling odes down the spines of textbooks,
posting protest hymns on telephone poles,
bubbling lyrics on the pages of tests
designed to confine their imaginations;

because poems hover under the breath
of the boy in the baseball cap,
the girl with a ring in her nose,
the boy with his mom's name inked on his neck,
and the silent ones in the back:
she's the next Lucille Cliffton
and he sounds like Roque Dalton, saying:

"poetry, like bread,
is for everyone."

At a time when students and teachers are smothered by testing, Rhythm and Resistance is a reminder of the larger vision of education. 

Poetry, it turns out, can remind students and teachers alike that their words, their thoughts, and their lives matter.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

RIP Cecil

Over the past few days I have been following on twitter the death of Zimbabwe's beloved lion, Cecil.

The lion's tragic death has sparked both outrage and heartbreak...

I don't begin to understand the world of Trophy Hunting. But I do like what this hunter had to say...

I have been trying to wrap my head and heart around the senseless killing of a beautiful lion and America's role in Big Game Trophy Hunting around the world. But, so far, that has been an unproductive exercise.

Instead, I am hoping that Cecil's death inspires compassion and grace and seeing ourselves with new eyes. And, as Hazel Grace Lancaster would say:
“I want to minimize the number of deaths I’m responsible for.”   -The Fault In Our Stars

So, I used my go-to:  Post-It Notes and a little glitter...

... hoping these little memorials will inspire compassion and grace and reflection.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

equal dignity in the eyes of the law

"They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law," Justice Kennedy wrote of same-sex couples in the case. "The Constitution grants them that right."

It is so ordered...

"Why are you crying?" my kids asked as I read the final paragraph of Justice Anthony Kennedy's Opinion.

This gif may explain some of my feelings.

From Statutory Bans to Constitutional Bans... it all felt so hopeless. But so many brave and hopeful people fought on.

And H repeated his favorite Nelson Mandela quote to me:
"It always seems impossible until it is done."
It was a momentous day for civil rights. From this day forward there is no more gay marriage and straight marriage. Now, in America, there is just marriage. And that is awesome.

I knew I had to do something. Something to celebrate this awesome day... so I decided on glitter bombs and post it notes:  #LoveWins

Victor Hugo once remarked: “You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.”

Saturday, May 23, 2015

find the Blue Ocean

This weekend has been a bit crazy. 
Will and I have been sharing pictures back and forth...
I am with H in Utah at a Pokemon tournament. He is in Idaho with V at a reined cow horse show.

As we were sharing pictures, one word kept popping into my mind: quirky.

And one book too... one I read and had since forgotten about bubbled back up into my thoughts: Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

The Blue Ocean Strategy is a fabulous concept you should know about, if you don't already. It is simple... most people stick to confined areas and compete like crazy for the same pool of resources and opportunities. The competition can get fierce (imagine college entrance or career paths). However, the ocean is huge and vast and loaded with abundance. You just need to swim out into the blue water - where maybe no one else is, or few others have ventured.

It can feel scary or quirky or like a fools errand, but that's how different feels. Take whatever it is that makes you different, unique, interesting, uncommon and turn that into a fascinating story.

Get out there and meet new people, attend events, join an organization, find a mentor... There are other people out there who love the fascinating and wonderful and strange thing that you love. Go find them.

There is so much open space out there to play in. Go find your bit of Blue Ocean.

Monday, April 27, 2015

stretch across time

I'm reading the book The Road to Character by David Brooks. I love reading books and articles by David Brooks because sometimes we agree, but often we disagree. It's always an exciting journey.

The Road to Character is a perfect example. While reading it, I find myself cheering... for example, in chapter one there is a bit about reviewing the mistakes of the day each night:
"He tallies his recurring core sins and the other mistakes that might have branched off from them. Then he develops strategies for how he might do better tomorrow. Tomorrow he'll try to look differently at people, pause more before people. He'll put care above prestige, the higher thing above the lower thing. We all have a moral responsibility to be more moral every day, and he will struggle to inch ahead each day in this most important sphere."

And, in chapter two, the part about changing the question from 'What do I want from life?' to 'What does life want from me? What are my circumstances calling me to do?'
"This perspective begins not within the autonomous self, but with the concrete circumstances in which you happen to be embedded. This perspective begins with an awareness that the world existed long before you and will last long after you, and that in the brief span of your life you have been thrown by fate, by history, by chance, by evolution, or by God into a specific place with specific problems and needs. Your job is to figure certain things out: What does this environment need in order to be made whole? What is it that needs repair? What tasks are lying around waiting to be performed? As the novelist Frederick Buechner put it, 'At what points do my talents and deep gladness meet the world's deep need?'"

In chapter five, I found that I am, surprisingly, a big fan of George Marshall. Marshall is an example of courage and honor and obligation to community and country.
"Some people seem to have been born into this world with a sense of indebtedness for the blessing of being alive. They are aware of the transmission of generations, what has been left to them by those who came before, their indebtedness to their ancestors, their obligations to a set of moral responsibilities that stretch across time."
 I struggled more with the last 4 chapters. As is typical with my relationship with author, David Brooks. But this book has given me much food for thought, many references for further reading, and a wonderful appreciation for the character of those who have come before me.

A wonderful quote in the book by civil rights leader Bayard Rustin pretty much sums it up:
"The only way to reduce ugliness in the world is to reduce it in yourself."