listen and tell your story

My soon-to-be colleagues are doing an aMAzing thing today. They are listening to and telling stories. I don’t know the details as I did not set up or plan their PLC time, but I understand from my soon-to-be mentor and boss that they are watching this inspiring talk by TED prize winner and StoryCorps founder, Dave Isay and then creating telling their own stories as they relate to the mission of MA. What an awesome use of faculty development time!

First, watch it:

And then, consider:

What story do you have to tell about your life’s journey? More importantly, what story do you need to hear? Each of us has a unique story to tell. And so do our children. They can enlighten us with stories of laughter, adventure, and family–sports, animals, and camp. And they can also enlighten us with stories of fear, shame, doubt, and pain. When we listen to the stories, really listen, we gain have the opportunity to develop our sense of empathy and build connections to one another on a concretely human level.

This song keeps running through my head today and while unrelated, hopefully it will inspire you too:

Your story matters. If you need an ear to listen, I’m here.

honoring the introvert.

In the push for 21st Century Skills (*buzzword*), we stress collaboration as an incredibly important skill. I think collaboration is great, awesome, fantastic, and essential to competency in 2015. I am also a Grade A introvert, not to be confused with “shy**”,  and collaboration can be exhausting, frustrating, and terrifying. In meetings, I’m often the note-taker or the facilitator as both of these roles allow me to listen intently and process the visual or aural stimuli. I want to contribute but find that without the appropriate amount of process time, I often have my brilliant contributions after the meeting has finished.

Susan Cain speaks of this sort of introversion in her book: Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. This book has been on the market for sometime and her TED talk was spectacular but I was really thinking about it today when I worked with my Coding class. While I realize that there is great value to collaboration in programming, I want to allow students who work best independently to have their own time. So today’s class was split between a group activity and independent work time, during which kids who are social learners can quietly collaborate around problems. (It is helpful that much of our course is self-paced.)

As teachers, we often teach to our own learning styles/strengths. However, I have always fought against my introversion to encourage group problem solving. I think part of that is related to years of being in some form of choral ensemble-it’s a team not a solo! Introverts are often passed over for leadership roles both formally and informally because they are not the “loudest voice.” However, as Susan Cain writes: “I worry that there are people who are put in positions of authority because they’re good talkers, but they don’t have good ideas. It’s so easy to confuse schmoozing ability with talent. Someone seems like a good presenter, easy to get along with, and those traits are rewarded. Well, why is that? They’re valuable traits, but we put too much of a premium on presenting and not enough on substance and critical thinking.”  We simply must dig deeper to honor each of our students for their own personality including their intro or extro-version.


If you are an extrovert (ahem, Mom.) and want to honor the introverts in the room, here are a few resources for you:

Embracing Introverts in the Classroom

The Power of Introverts

How to Teach a Young Introvert

If you are an introvert, stand tall and know that you have a place at the table!


** “Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.”
Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

You go first

i have the honor of serving on the Launch Team for Rachel Held Evans’ new book, Searching for Sunday. She recounts her journey of “loving, leaving, and finding the church” through the lens of the seven sacraments. This book has been a marvelous and real look at her crisis of faith and her adventures in finding it again. As I read chapter fifteen just now, I was struck by this sentence: “I often wonder if the role of the clergy in this age is not to dispense information or guard the prestige of their authority, but rather to go first, to volunteer the truth about their sins, their dreams, their failures, and their fears in order to free others to do the same.” (Searching for Sunday, p. 112)

If one takes this idea and considers (all) school leaders, we have a powerful concept. If we want to build authentic relationships with our school communities and model for our students, we simply must be real and we must “go first.” Transparency should be the norm and honoring failure should be a source for growth. By accepting our own humanity, our own authenticity, and allowing the vulnerability to lay it bare, we serve our communities better in the long run. For a glossy facade can only last so long before it chips away. 

So I’ll go first. Want to come along?


#naisac15 “before”

design the revolution

I’m headed to Boston on Wednesday to attend the annual National Association of Independent Schools conference. I have packed my best gore-tex boots and an extra scarf. Who thought it was a good idea to go to Boston at the end of February? Just kidding, I’m really excited for another year of learning. I’ve attended NAIS in Seattle and Philadelphia as well as POCC here in DC last year. As usual, it is jammed packed with sessions and speakers that pique my interest. Also, this year, I am a member of the Teacher of the Future cohort, so I’m looking forward to seeing my other TOF peeps and hosting a live-chat from the conference.

As someone who is super-active in the edcamp movement, a traditional conference poses a challenge. There are so many things I want to see and do and much of it overlaps. So I can use the law of two feet and get the most of my own learning or I can be polite and stay put. I think we all know which choice I’m going to make. Here is what is sparking my curiosity for this year:


First Session:

  • A Matter of Trust: Manifestations of Trust for School Leaders (Perfect for someone starting a new admin role, don’t you think?)
  • Leading Online and Offline: Blending Practice for Advancing Leadership Goals
  • Creative Capacity: Design Thinking, Curriculum, and Networks

Second Session:

  • Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns (This is with Michael Horn. The TOF class has read his new book, Blended.)
  • Design Thinking for Change: Creating Global Student Leaders
  • Revolutionary Changes to Faculty Growth, Compensation, and Evaluation (This stars my edu-friend, Anthony McGrann, a TOF’er and genius.)
  • Diving into Design Thinking: the NAIS Conference as a Laboratory Experience (This is being led by the team from Leadership + Design including my edu-friend Greg Bamford.)

Third Session:

  • Creating Culture: The Evolution of Independent School Leadership
  • Education Rethink 2020: Are You There Yet? (I love rethinking education and envisioning a future.)
  • Team Diversity: Creating Institutional Change Through a Diversity Team (This session has my heart. I believe that our diversity makes us stronger.)
  • Balancing Tradition and Innovation: The Case for a new Model in Global Programs


First Session:

  • Rethink and Redesign 21st Century Summer Learning (How are we harnessing the power of technology and creativity to really use our summers to learn and grow?)
  • Globally Relevant and Culturally Responsive Classrooms: A Design Thinking Model (This will look at the Nobis Global Action Model. I am unfamiliar with these projects but social justice + design thinking = win.)


  • Design Thinking for Identity-Safe Classrooms: Building Empathy and Diverse Book Collections
  • Success by Design: Navigating the Division Head Role  (This seems like a right choice.)
  • Immersive Professional Development: Rethinking Learning Experiences for Educators

I also get to drop by the Klingenstein reception on Thursday to visit old friends and share a great meal with my TOF friends on Friday. This is a great time to re-connect with colleagues near and far. Saturday will put the icing on the cake with an extended half-day version of edcampIS at Buckingham, Browne, & Nichols school. (Hopefully a stop at the COOP can be snuck in somewhere.)

Follow all of our learning shenanigans this week!! #naisac15 and #edcampis Are you headed to Boston for NAIS this week? Let’s tweet up!

follow your bliss

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a web docu-series called City Ballet. Narrated and produced by Sarah Jessica Parker, these shorts give the layperson a glimpse into the life of the dancers and the company of New York City Ballet. I immediately soaked up season one during one lazy Saturday morning and watched most of season two as soon as it was released. Today, being a snow day, I revisited the series and watched, Season Two, Episode 10: Inspiration. It is amazing-take a look:

What I think impresses me the most about this episode is the way that the dancers respect the fragility of their art form, its fleeting timeline, and follow passions in their lives to become well-rounded individuals. They take time to cultivate their own interests outside of the ballet, be it art, diy, or faith formation. This makes me think of the Joseph Campbell quote, “follow your bliss”


image source

So why am I waxing on about ballet and bliss? Because I feel we as educators have an opportunity to allow our students to apply their own interests to learning. We can provide experiences for them where they can explore a wide-range of interests and projects. We can help them develop the well-roundedness by stepping out of the bounds of the classroom and the textbook and into the real world. Certainly, they explore a wide range of topics within a traditional curriculum and in their extra curricular activities, but we can structure our teaching and time to allow these things to take place within the instructional day.

I am a huge proponent of passion-projects/20% time. The fable goes that this concept originated at Google-allowing company employees to use 20% of their work-day time to follow their own innovation and ideas. It seems, based on a quick, ahem, google search that this might have gone by the wayside at google directly, but it still remains a very good concept for our classrooms. Giving students the time, space, and resources to design their own learning project is an excellent way for them to work through design, organization, testing, working with mentors, research, and, possibly, failure. Through these projects they can develop creativity, curiosity, collaboration, resiliency, and problem solving.

Students might choose from a wide range of topics from building an app to running a marathon to working in a political campaign. They might write a novel or build a schoolyard garden. Their only limitations are based on their own creativity and imagination.

For more information, check out the 20 Time in Education Community! I’m also a huge fan of the Nerdy Teacher and his work with 20 Time is amazing.

Have you used 20% time or done passion projects in your classroom? Tweet me and let’s discuss!

Happy Safer Internet Day!

I was super excited to see a little message from Google reminding me that today is Safer Internet Day. I am feeling a bit sheepish that I didn’t actually know that today was Safer Internet Day but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to shout it out! Now is the perfect time to go through a check-a-doo with your Google accounts. (There is a nifty link at the bottom of the search page.)


This is also a great reminder for parents and other adults who work with kids to make sure you are actively communicating and modeling your family/school/community values for your kids.

Here are some great resources:

Let’s Choose to Create a Better Internet

How Technology Makes Me a Better Parent

Seven Steps for Good Digital Parenting

Safer Internet Day 2015-UK

Safer Internet Day 2015-US

One Good Thing for the Internet


I LOVE the idea of #onegoodthing So I shall add mine…I absolutely love the way that the internet allows us to connect across time and space. I have edu-friends from around the globe whom I could never had met without this fine series of tubes. Also, I get stuff like this when I’m stressed; you’re welcome.

Be safe out there!!

Bored and Brilliant Follow-Up

Saturday was the last day of the New Tech City Bored and Brilliant project. I was deeply ensconced in edcamp Maryland so I did not participate in last day’s challenge nor did I really do the observational challenge. However, I did take several of the challenges quite seriously and was really interested in the results.

Day 1: Do not use phone while in motion. For me, this meant, “do not use phone while walking the school hallways.” This was a great challenge and I found myself putting my phone back in my pocket this morning while going up the stairs. This practice is definitely a keeper.

Day 2: Don’t take a picture. Ok, I did take one picture from a colleague’s classroom that was totally awesome. But on this day I took no pictures of myself or my dog. (or food or….) This wasn’t too hard.

Day 3: Delete that App. Oooh, this was hard. Delete the app that sucks the most time from your day. Obviously, I cannot delete email-that is work. However, I know full well that Facebook sucks so much time out of my day and I can waste hours on it. I almost didn’t delete the app. I was so worried about losing connection. But a friend said, “that is WHY you need to delete it.” So I did. I can still access fb via the web but I have spent significantly less time on fb since deleting the app. This, my friends, was a break through.

Day 4: Take a Fauxcation. In my job, I need to be responding to emails pretty much 24/7. I’m expected to respond within 24 hours and if it is during the school day, sooner. So this one was tough. However, I did take a Social Media free day and everything was fine. The world still turned and I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything.


Day 5: This was the Small Observation day. Honestly, I didn’t feel comfortable doing a sociologial study on my kids and since it was a school day–I didn’t do this one. However, I love people watching, so I’m going to this challenge sometime soon. Look out Ktown Starbucks…I might just be stalking you.

Day 6: (See opening paragraph about edcamp.) I will say that the power of digital connection was alive and well at edcamp and I couldn’t imagine having a twitter-free day….it’s part of the ethos of edcamp.


So what are my conclusions? I have just scratched the surface in examining my own relationship with my device. I use it for so many elements of my life and despite taking breaks from social media and deleting apps, my daily active time with my phone remains over 300 minutes most days. This seems excessive. I know where I can still cut time. I just have to make the disciplined effort to do it.

And so what is the repercussion of this for our students? For teaching and learning? For me, part of it is about a healthy balanced relationship with our devices. Frankly, I think students have healthier relationships with their screen time than many of the adults in their lives. I also think that it is about balancing time and making intentional practice to single-tasking. (This piece is important to model for our students.) I also think there is something to be said for giving students practical challenges that they can access in bite-sized portions. The way this project was organized and delivered is a model for our classrooms. (Great job NTC!)

I love learning and being reflective of my own practice. In this instance, this is project has allowed me to consider my daily use of technology and its intersection between my professional and personal life. This project may have ended via New Tech City, but it has offered me an opportunity to reflect and change my own habits and in turn model appropriately for my students. I didn’t spend enough time being bored. I definitely need to address my need for accessing creativity via boredom. So with that thought…..