Puppeh Problem Solving.

We are at a crazy time of year where time seems to move at light speed and molasses all at the same time. In the midst of the crazy comes this amazing metaphor for problem solving via the facebook page of Sonic1029:

This adorable dog is the perfect metaphor for persistence and problem solving. Good ole’ fashioned, grit, as they say in eduspeak. I hope you enjoyed your two minutes with him as much as I did. Keep at it friends, until the very end.


As if leading Christian formation wasn’t challenging enough, today’s ordained and lay formation ministers face the extra challenge of navigating the digital world with their youth. Is there a place for Jesus on Instagram? How do I (as a formation practitioner) help kids build positive Christian identity in a digital world that doesn’t share their values? Where are the limits? What does the law say? Please Lord, how do I get them to put down their phones?

I’m excited to talk about these questions and more when I present and facilitate a discussion at the e-Formation conference at Virginia Theological Seminary in June. This conference is jam packed with amazing speakers and sessions to guide those who work in the church to harness the power of the digital world to communicate, collaborate, and shape our hearts and minds as the body of Christ.

I am beyond honored to be on the docket to present workshops on Wednesday, June 3rd. (Picture me as Wayne and Garth in full on “We’re Not Worthy” mode.)   

I pray that my experience as a teacher and student of all things digital and adolescent will allow me to impart practical and inspiring info and resources for the conference attendees. YOU should come to e-Formation 2015!! (See below!) 

e-Formation full banner temp

Q: What is e-Formation?

A: A learning community for ministry in a digital world, convened by the Center for the Ministry of Teachingat Virginia Theological Seminary.

Q: Why should technology matter to churches?

A: Because digital media are helping churches reach out to their neighborhoods and strengthen the ties among their members. Because technology is helping individual Christians explore and deepen their faith outside of Sunday morning. Because the Spirit of God is with us wherever we go (Psalm 139). Because Christ has no online presence but yours.

Q: What is e-Formation 2015?

A: This year’s big e-Formation gathering—150 or so ministry practitioners sharing hands-on training and big-picture inspiration. You can check out this year’s program here.

Speakers include author Keith Anderson, Augsburg Fortress CEO Beth LewisScott Gunn of Forward Movement, Anthony Guillén and Jake Dell from the Episcopal Church Center staff, and so many more.

Q: Tell me about the cost, location, etc.

A: The event takes place June 1-3 on the campus of Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, just a few miles from Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport. Limited on-campus housing is still available for the evenings of May 31 through June 3. The cost of attending the full conference is $279, and online registration is available here.

Q: Is there somewhere I can get a taste of last year’s event?

A: Absolutely. Our #eform14 Pinterest board contains links to workshop materials and recordings from last year, and there are photos on RebelMouse and Flickr. You can also read our summary here, or check out blog posts from participants Chris Yaw and Nurya Love Parish.

Q: What if I can’t afford the time and expense of attending?

A: For just $79, you can purchase webinar access to the conference for simultaneous participation with a lively online audience and/or later streaming of recorded workshops and plenaries. For $99, you can purchase a single-day pass. And students can take advantage of our discounted registration price of $167. Find more information on the registration and webinar accesspages.

Q: Are there opportunities for training in Spanish?

A: Yes, absolutely. In partnership with the Episcopal Church Latino/Hispanic Ministries office, we are thrilled to offer an evening program in Spanish corresponding to each day’s conference theme (Monday: congregational growth and development; Tuesday: tools/skills bootcamp; Wednesday: faith formation and learning).

Participants can attend in person or online via Zoom at prices designed to be affordable for everyone. Simultaneous interpretation will also be available at the conference for the plenaries and a small selection of workshops. Learn more about e-Formation en español here.

Q: OK, so why should I come to e-Formation?

A: Come learn how to harness the power of digital media for good not evil! Gain insight on the realities of kids online life. Plus, I tell funny stories and even sometimes break into song. 

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!