February 2010


Happy Valentine’s Day!   This is a holiday about romance, and there seems to be lots of romance on this campus these days—which is a very nice thing—a wonderful quality of the St. Gregory community.

I have no wish to discourage romance: please enjoy it, in ways that are kind, respectful, and joyous.  But as you do, I think it is important to remember that to be successful in romance, and to be successful in relationships with others whether they be romantic or platonic, you need to be very serious about starting from a place of respecting yourself, of staying true to yourself.  As the Greeks say, you need to first and always know thyself.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

Not new, but new to me, and terrific, this is.   I live in a home of Harry Potter fanatics, and it is awfully fun to see Rowling speaking at my alma mater.  But more than that, it is her message which is so compelling, and aligns exactly with two of my favorite topics here: we learn best from learning from our mistakes, and we must make the cultivation of learning

Her topic: “the benefits of failure, and the crucial importance of imagination.”

favorite quotes:

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation, in its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power to empathize with humans whose experience we have never shared.

I was most fearful, as a student, of failure. (more…)

Hello Blog visitors!  A special invitation to all of you coming  for information about the ISAS Teacher Conference: Please comment.   Whether you attended the event, or are an ISAS member school teacher or administrator, we want to hear from you here!   Also, take the time to read the comments others have made (which often requires you click on the “more” button at the bottom of each entry on the homepage.      Thank you!

ISAS did a great job with this conference, and their team deserves great praise.    They asked me to remind readers that you can find many of the slide presentations that our speakers presented online, HERE, at their website.    Check them out.

Great to see a Harvard guy make good; Shawn Achor is introduced as a graduate of both Harvard and Havard Divinity school, and for a period, the most popular lecturer at Harvard, on the topic of Happiness.   His project, he explains, is to take the research of positive psychology and bring from it the most important nuggets for parents and educators.

Shawn shares a scatterplot graph with a very clear trend, and as he talks about it, he makes fun, funny, and self-deprecating comments; while soft-spoken, he is already impressing us with his charm.

Traditional psychology is about how we can move depressed people back up to average; but Achor worries that only reduces the purpose and project to only how we help people become average.   If we study positive outliers, we can move up the average to a higher place, and help everyone to become happier.  We need to stop focusing on ‘getting rid’ of the bad things and focus on “other side of the curve” towards thriving. (more…)

486/p8079182_9003.jpgQuest is a public school (of choice) in Houston.  The video we watched came from CES.  Quest describes itself this way:

Quest High School facilitators seek to use individualized knowledge of each student to shape that student’s schooling and to teach habits of the heart and mind through three core curriculum areas: Academic Foundations are based on state and national standards and include language arts, social studies, fine arts, mathematics, the sciences, health and Spanish. Learner Behaviors are affective proficiencies such as problem solving, critical thinking, self-discipline, social cooperation, communication and citizenship that are essential for student success in school and work. Workplace Tools teach technology and research skills such as computer graphics, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software.

Tony tells the audience that these are the critical Questions for Consideration, about the video, but quite possibly, they are good questions to ask in observing any school:

  • What skills are these students learning?
  • How they are being motivated to learn?
  • What is the teacher’s role in how they are being asked to learn?

As before, standard font is largely Tony’s own words, italics are my own commentary.

Cannot help but note as I look at the website for Quest HighSchool that their teachers are referred to not as teachers but as facilitators– as I was just writing in the previous post, sometimes even talking about “teaching” can put the wrong emphasis on the main point of schooling, which is faciliatating learning.

Tony invites the room to discuss his first few questions, and the room is buzzing, and then asks two more questions:

  • 1. What would have to change in your schools to make this kind of teaching and learning more the norm?
  • 2. What would you have to do to move in this direction? Start doing?  Stop doing?  (more…)

Mark Desjardins, Head of Holland Hall in Tulsa (and newly appointed Head of St. Johns in Houston) introduces Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap, a book which has been a huge influence on my thinking about the necessary reform of high school education to meet the changing demands of a fast changing world.

Mark tells a story of Dr. Wagner’s visit to Holland Hall.   During an evening presentation Mark had an interesting conversation, where some of the attendees were parents who were opposed to school progress and reform at Holland Hall.   One of those parents sought Mark out, and one of them asked Mark why he hasn’t moved MORE swiftly to adopt the reforms Dr. Wagner advocated, to which Mark responded: “If I had adopted all of the changes Dr. Wagner advocated, you wouldn’t have only wanted to run me over in the parking lot, you would have actually have run me over.

Tony begins, with a note that it is hard to follow Dan Pink–“I hate following that guy.”  Most of the below are direct quotes from Tony, but my comments are in italics:

Teaching matters, learning matters more, mastery matters most! This is so important– too often we conceptualize the project of schooling to promote and ensure good teaching, but we have to try harder to keep the focus on good learning.   I myself almost find myself shrinking away from talking about teaching as a project at all, but instead prefer the terminology faciliatating learning.   Over on the twitter feed, other attendees are also appreciative of Tony’s recognition that the name of this conference, Teaching Matters, is a little tiny bit off-base.  (more…)

Thursday afternoon, two sessions ran side by side, and I was unable to attend the Eagleman presentation: the following is a post by Chris Bigenho; you can see his blog here.  My thanks to Chris.

Touring 10 Unsolved Questions of the Brain with Dr. David Eagleman

What are memories and where are they stored? How are they retrieved? How does the brain work? What are emotions? These and many other questions were briefly explored as Dr. David Eagleman spoke to packed house at the ISAS Teacher’s conference in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Eagleman took the room on an amazing and engaging journey of the brain as he introduced 10 unresolved questions of the brain. With humor, wit and an amazing ability to make complex material accessible to the layperson, Dr. Eagleman increased our wonder about the 3 pound organ that allows us to think, feel, cry, laugh, and learn. So what were some of the big ideas from this tour? Here are a few that caught my attention. (more…)

This is only my second time seeing Dan Pink, and it is great to be here.   I count Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, as being for me my single greatest inspiration to entirely rethink, about five years ago, how education must change with our changing times.   To be sure, there have been many more books, articles, and school visits since then which have informed and refined my thinking, but I still vividly remember the day I sat down on a cabin porch near Lake Tahoe to read Pink one summer afternoon, and “waking up” to a new vision of education in what is still our new century.

Over the past week I have read Drive, and for those reading this off-site, I encourage you to view the TED video above which conveys these ideas usefully and succinctly.  I am intending to publish here in the next few days a review of Drive.

Session begins with an introduction by Scott Griggs, who quotes Pat Bassett to make the point that he cannot think of any environment which provide all community members, from Head of School to Teacher to Student,  Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose, than independent schools!

Pink opens with the “old” adage, “behind every successful man lies a very surprised mother-in-law.”

Dan tells us he has spent the last few years studying the science of human motivation– an endlessly, bottomlessly fascinating subject. (more…)

Tough choice this hour; both sessions are very attractive, but I am sticking with the plan to learn from Andrew Zucker on web 2.0 “realities, not hype.”  From quick glances, it seems clear that the other session, Ten Unsolved Questions of the Brain, is considerably more crowded, perhaps two or three times more in attendance over there.   Funny the psychology that exerts itself upon me to want to follow the crowd.

Arnie Cohen, Head of Lamplighter, speaks of the progress his school has made in just ten years, how swiftly and strongly it has come into the digital age.   Andrew Zucker, we are told, has had a long career in teaching and technology, beginning with years teaching at Milton Academy and then all the way to the US Department of Education.

Zucker begins with a warm endorsement of independent schools: “teachers and parents are still more important than digital media,” and “independent schools have a lot to offer to public schools.”    Zucker encourages us in independent schools to write, publish, and share our good ideas and practices with other schools and systems.

Top three reasons our students’ homework is missing in the new century

  • I emailed it, didn’t you get it?
  • Tech support help was down
  • I had to delete, needed space for iTunes

Technology is here, it has advantages and disadvantages, but we have to reckon with it.    Technology is coming at us like a firehose, one which we have to drink from without getting hurt or drowned.  (Interesting conversation over on Twitter: is Zucker disserving his very purpose of encouraging digital integration in schooling by his expression of sympathy for those who feel overwhelmed by this; is his focus on the fear actually reinforcing the fear?)

Take your time, you need to innovate, you cannot keep up with it.” (more…)

An entertaining introduction brings us to our first major speaker, Samuel Betances.   His work, we are told, revolves around the idea “there are many reasons, but there are few excuses.”   A biography of him is here.  As we were told, he has a doctorate from Harvard, yet is a high school drop-out.

Born in Harlem, but then he was raised, he tells us with quite the rolled “r” in Puerto Rico, and we learn more about his family and upbringing, and even his facial genetic heritage– “that is why I look Arab,” he says to rollicking laughter.  Betances urges us to give him some call and response, and after several options are suggested for response, he asks us to use the Emeril “Bam” when we hear something we support and admire.

“How do we make our differences count, how do we ensure we can create the inclusive, diverse teams that are essential to making our society more productive, more innovative, more successful?”

“This is the first nation (ever) to elect a black President by a majority of non-black people! This says something of what we are capable of doing, symbolically.”

Dr. Betances is passionate,  and he cares deeply, calling for a new identity, a new way for children of mixed races and backgrounds: he calls the identity a “Proud Blended Heritage American.”  “Teach the Children!” As a fellow attendee writing on Twitter reports “Depth/wisdom of Dr Betances manages to bring up challenging cultural/political issues here in a way that empowers all that hear him.”

Contact our speaker at Samuel@betances.com, or at his site, www.betances.com; his firm is diversity consulting, and his motto is “strengthening the world of work through diversity.” He assures the audience he will return all emails.

Dr. Betances recalls being told: “You don’t have enough words to graduate; you have intelligence, but middle class people have 3500 words or more, but you and others have only 2000 or fewer.  You don’t lack intelligence, you lack words!” (more…)

Kicking off with remarks from the ISAS President, Arnie Holtberg from St. Marks, and Rhonda Durham, ISAS ED.

Rhonda opens with the point it is a nice day to be inside and warm, and she is right, though I wish it were warmer still in here.   The topic today is Teaching Matters, because after all, that is what our schools exist to do.  Rhonda acknowledges her event planning committee.

(Looking around the room, a quick comment: people here are much (much!) better dressed than at the comparable event I attended often in California.   I thought I was fine, at a Teacher conference, choosing to go without a tie, but I am feeling under-dressed!)

1100 teachers are here for this event, but there are still 4300 teachers are back in their classrooms now, teaching!   But, Rhonda points out, all those of you at home can read along– right here at this blog.  Thanks Rhonda!

Rhonda ends with a huge shout-out to the Saints in the upcoming SuperBowl.

Head of School Arnie Holtberg asserts that he cannot imagine a more impressive slate of speakers for a regional teachers conference, and I think he is right– this is a “conference of the highest order.”

The core of who we are, the center, is teaching and learning.”  Yes, let us never forget. “Stimulating People Are Stimulating Teachers.”

Arnie ends with the charming, traditional tale of the medieval cathedral: one man reports he is chiseling a place in the wall, a second is making a living, but the third proudly explains he is building a cathedral– which is exactly what all are doing: building a cathedral, creating a very lasting legacy for generations.

My blog is a great place to follow this conference, but another option everyone should consider is following the event on Twitter.   I am there, @jonathanemartin, and there is also, more helpfully, a hashtag that Chris Bigenho (@bigenhoc) established, which you can find at #isastc.   Check it out– Twitter is an amazing way to create a professional learning network for yourself, and stay connected to great ideas.

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