Should high school be more like the real world? These innovators think so

The USA Today recently shared a great post called “Should high school be more like the real world? These innovators think so“.  It highlights the work of Powderhouse Studios.

Here is part of the introduction:

“The high school, set to open in a repurposed former school building in Somerville, Mass., next year, won’t have grade levels or traditional classes. Instead, students will be immersed in interdisciplinary projects that tap into their interests and ambitions. They’ll divide their days between seminars and project-based work, meeting with faculty for guidance regularly. And students will go to school year-round from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., taking vacations based on their families’ schedules. Classrooms, lectures and lesson plans – the things traditional schools are built on – won’t be a big part of daily life at Powderhouse.

In short, Powderhouse will look more like a workplace than a high school.”

This piece is so powerful that it is a MUST READ.  These educators are taking innovation to the next step and taking a HUGE risk.   They are taking #placebaseded and #makerspaces to the next level.  I can’t wait to read about and see how successful this school is.  I believe they are on an amazing track for success.

#IMMOOC Week 4 – Be the Teacher You Dreamed to Be

Look in the mirror and ask yourself this question: “Are you the teacher that you dreamed of being when you are 8, 12,16?”

If your answer is “Yes!” then high five to you and I would LOVE it if you add some comments to this post as to why you feel this way and what you have done to completely fulfill your dreams!

On the other side, I am going to speculate here but, I am imagining that most of us will say “No” but please do not let that ruin your day!  The beauty is that we still have tomorrow like I talk about in a previous post.  We have a chance to reflect, analyze, and start fresh each day.  Now it is time to get to the bottom of why you feel this way.  In the Innovators Mindset George highlights several quotes that may help us get to the bottom of this, I am going to focus on 3.

Wow isn’t this true!  How many of you have looked at it this way before?  I certainly learned a lot from my teachers growing up!   Some good, some bad.  Think about this, “How many of you, as you have grown up, had picked up parenting styles, personality traits from your parents that you are not particularly fond of?”

I believe that most of us will say yes the previous question which leads me to the next quote from George.  We need to embrace our experiences and find ways to learn and make the experiences of our students/children better.  George talks about how “simple” some innovations can be where you take one experience, tweak it, and then boom!  Think about this, “What can we do in our professional learning that will enable us to learn and be better leaders for our students/children?”

When I think back to my time as a teacher one of the first things that I made a mistake doing was looking to the the authority in the room.  I learned quickly that there are more than one way to be the “authority”.  The 3rd and final quote was HUGE to me because we HAVE TO CHECK EGO AT THE DOOR.  Step back, embrace the process, and be co-learners with your kids and the amount of things you will get done will be inspiring.

Taking bold stances, being strong willed, egotistic can work BUT it is not the only solution.  What kind of relationship will you have with your students if you take this route?  Is this the teacher that you dreamed of being when you are 8, 12,16?!  I would assume not because you can be SO MUCH MORE than that.

Reflecting back, as I shared, I definitely fell into each of these traps.  I remember asking my self something similar to “Are you the teacher that you dreamed of being when you are 8, 12,16?”  That was the day that I started to flip my class on its head, change the culture, and walk on a new path.  Mr. McKean’s path.  This path allowed me to be empathetic, listen to my students, let them into aspects of my personal life, rule with a loving heart, relate to them, empower them, and model for them the behavior that I wanted in return.  This in turn changed my outlook on teaching and allowed me to impact and teach my kids on levels I had only dreamed about.

One of my students highlights life with me as she joined me for my first podcast for Perspectives in Education.  In the podcast our goal is to evangelize education and share amazing stories to celebrate it’s greatness.  We want to interview students, parents, teachers, administrators, counselors, researchers, change agents, and the whole gambit of education!  Each of us has a story to share, a perspective on education, and we all deserve a voice! 


4 Common Creativity-Killers + How to Avoid Them

Krista Gray highlights “4 Common Creativity-Killers + How to Avoid Them“.  Here is an excerpt from her article:

“Learning to channel your creativity to produce awesome work is one of the most valuable skills you can develop (and use to stay inspired!) this year. Not only will your ultra-original style set you apart, whether working on quick projects or making your wildest DIY dreams come true, but it can help you share all your feels for a happier, healthier you.”

This had me sold!  I am all about finding fast, efficient ways to make my life better and she comes up with 4 killer ideas AND provides us with an idea to solve them!!  Here the four but you will have to read the article for the details!

  1. Having Super-Specific Expectations
  2. Your Regular Old Routine
  3.  Insecurities of a Fear of Being Judged
  4. A Time Crunch (or a Hard Stop)

Featured image is borrowed from Studybay

What makes you special? – Mariana Atencio

This TEDx Talk is amazing and REALLY made me reflect on how I look at and perceive others.  She reflects on a very unique childhood that her father provided her and her sister.  They traveled the world, experienced what is like to be “different” then what it is like to fit in.  This could easily be a great lesson on social emotional learning where you students can sit back, think, and then reflect on how they look at others.  Use this to build a culture in your school or classroom of love, compassion, and empathy.

Here is Mariana’s bio copied from TEDx Nevada.

Mariana Atencio is a Peabody Award-winning journalist, currently a national correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC. The Huffington Post called her ‘our Latina Christiane Amanpour’ and Jorge Ramos wrote: ‘Mariana is the next-gen voice for Latinos breaking all barriers.’ Mariana is known for combining in-studio work and high profile interviews like Pope Francis, with tenacious field reporting all over the world, covering youth-led protests in places like Ferguson, Mexico, Haiti and Hong Kong.

An immigrant from Venezuela who fled violence and censorship, Mariana’s passion lies in telling stories that promote understanding and give a voice to undercovered communities. She anchored the series “Searching for the Latino Voter” during the 2016 election; “#SOSVenezuela” about the crisis in her native country and ‘PRESSured’ a one-hour documentary on press freedom in Latin America. Mariana is a millennial journalist leading the next generation of storytellers.

Helping Struggling Students Build a Growth Mindset

The growth mindset is one of my favorite topics to read about because to me, under the hood of the lies love, empathy, and relationships.  I originally read and sharing this post on twitter and it got lots on interest so I wanted to make sure if was part of our library!

Dr. Donna Wilson and Marcus Conyers write a great post called “Helping Struggling Students Build a Growth Mindset” that was shared on Edutopia.

Here is an excerpt from the post:

“Now we turn to the benefits of helping students who find school difficult maintain a positive mindset as they persist in the sometimes hard work required for learning. When failures mount, it’s easy to give up. A positive mindset focuses on the gains that are possible when students persevere through learning challenges. Here are five strategies to help struggling students develop a growth mindset.”

For me this reminds me of a previous post where I talked about Dr. Robert Brooks. He is a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and an established author.   He discusses the mindset needed to deal effectively with students.

Enjoy and remember – its always about the kids and providing them a positive environment where they feel loved, supported, and cared for is the LEAST that we could do as educators.

The featured image is borrowed from the article on Edutopia.


Five Guidelines to Make School Innovation Successful.

Here is the introduction to the article written by Katrina Schwartz via Mind/Shift.

“Eleven years ago Chris Lehmann and a committed team of educators started Science Leadership Academy (SLA), a public magnet school in Philadelphia that focuses on student inquiry through projects in a community that cultivates a culture of care. The school has been so successful over the last decade that the district has tapped Lehmann to help other schools get started or transform themselves.”

I love the post because it highlights the basics of being a successful innovator and the first guideline is the most important to me.

Simplicity Matters

So many educators, when they decide to take the leap and try something new, attempt to develop the best lesson plan OF ALL TIME.  They want to showcase their new found pedagogy and they forget that doing too much the first time through might set them up for failure.  This is just part of the learning process (and a valuable one at that) because they will learn from their mistakes and it will make them better.  Change is not easy and it is not easy for your students either.  Keep it simple and make sure you provide not only your students to succeed but yourself as well.

The 6th guideline – my addition – is TALK ABOUT THE CHANGE WITH YOUR KIDS.  Prepare them for the change, let them know why your doing it, and sell them on the change!  Why not invest in some time to sell them on the idea first?  If they buy into the process then the chances of it being successful are even better.  I did this frequently as an educator and I found that: my students appreciated it, I was more successful, and most importantly is fostered a strong relationship between my students and myself.  They appreciated me treating them like adults, talking through things, and being a FAMILY.

“Don’t leave anything to chance. Educate everyday like it is your last chance to shape the future.”

Short Introduction: This post is dedicated to my Aunt.  It brings  a story on religion and connects it to education.  I do not wish to push my beliefs on anyone.  The story is sad, speaks about death, but out of tragedy I believe we can always pull out something positive.  The goal of this post is to do just that.

I recently introduced to a story about death that touched me personally and as an educator.  Personally: I recently made a trip to Atlanta to say goodbye to my dear Aunt Chickie (Louise) as she was given a terminal illness so this story made me reflect and hope that she feels that she has lived a fulfilled life.  As an educator it made me reflect on my time in the classroom and how I am going to impact education moving forward.  Here is the story (it can be found under number 8):

John Wesley was once asked, “If you knew that you would die at twelve o’clock tomorrow night, how would you spend the intervening time?” “Why,” was the answer, “just as I intend to spend it. I would preach tonight at Gloucester and again tomorrow morning. After that I would ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon and meet the society in the evening. I should then repair to friend Martin’s house, as he expects me; converse, pray with the family, retire to my room at ten o’clock, commend myself to my Heavenly Father, lie down to sleep and wake up in glory.”

Most of us would pull out our bucket list, have a party, go to church (maybe even if you have never been), go skydiving, etc.  The interesting thing about John Wesley’s response was that he would not change a thing.  He would go about his life as he always did, present himself to God, and be satisfied with his life, his mission, and what he had accomplished.

Do you take advantage of every day, every lesson, every chance to learn, every chance to make an impact?  I am no longer in the classroom and I instantly started to think about how I felt about this question.  I integrated technology, used innovative practices, built relationships with kids that to this date have withstood the test of time, and I feel really good about how I utilized my time BUT I can’t help but feel like I left somethings on the table.  Maybe I could have done more?

How do you feel?  It is my hope that you feel like you great about what you have done but if you have not, the beauty of my question is that it isn’t real!  You do have tomorrow and the next day, month, year, decade depending on where you are in your career.  Take advantage of the moment and seize the opportunity.  One thing that the Innovators Mindset has shown me it is never too late.  Forget about what do not do well and focus on your strengths as an educator and design ways to impact students everyday.

“When we build on our strengths and daily successes-instead of focusing on failures-we simply learn more.” – Tom Rath

Take what you have learned (in this book, career, recent PD, whatever) and apply it.  Don’t get stuck in a holding pattern where you are worried about how taking risks will impact your students.  Kids are resilient, more resilient than adults in many ways.  Explain to them your vision, dreams, and why you are doing what you are doing and if solid relationships are established, they will stand by you.  If you have not established solid relationships then use your willingness to try new things to build them!

Take advantage of today, teach with no regrets, and mold the future into one with life-long learners who are empowered, innovative, and ready to take on the world.

The #1 Leadership Trait

Great leaders see the value in relationships, innovation, taking risks, supporting others, accountability, honesty, communication, the list goes on.   These traits can be debated over and over again but when you look at each trait, I feel that there is a larger trait that connects them all, humility.

“Humility is the number 1 trait that all leaders should strive to achieve.”

Think of a leader that you work(ed) with that was humble.  Answer these questions about that person (I’ll do the same):

  1. Were they trustworthy? (Me-yes)
  2. Were they good at building relationships? (Me-yes)
  3. Were they empathetic? (Me-yes)
  4. Were they open to others opinions? (Me-yes)
  5. Were they able to reflect? (Me-yes)
  6. Were they micro-managers? (Me-no)

This is an ideal leader!  If one is humble; they are empathetic, honest, and open-minded while also able to reflect, let people do their jobs, and accept ambiguity.  Who doesn’t want to work for a humble leader who:

  • Supports you in taking risks
  • Trusts your judgement
  • Accepts when you make mistakes
  • Admits when they make mistates
  • Listens and shows empathy
  • Encourages you to grow
  • Inspires you through modeling all of these

Not me!  Give me a leader who is humble all day because I know that they are that and more!



S01 Episode 02: Evangelist & Change Agent: Jon Bergmann, Flipped Learning, and their Global Initiative

Episode 2: Evangelist and Change Agent

Link to Podcast

Our guest for episode 2 was Jon Bergmann.  Jon is an educator, evangelist, and change agent who is one of the pioneers of the Flipped Class Movement.  He is the author for 7 books including the bestselling book: Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student Every Day and is the founder of the global FlipCon conferences.  He also has a new book coming out in April called “Solving the Homework Problem by Flipping the Learning“.

In this episode we discuss:

Please share and comment!  Would love to get feedback and suggestions.  If you are interested in sharing your story, please reach out to us!