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…..


edcamp MSDE. (aka, why I love edcamp.)


I’m at one of my favorite places today. I am spending this gorgeous sunny and almost warm day indoors with 200 Maryland educators. We are from all over the state. We teach public and independent and hybrid schools. We teach K-12. We teach every subject. And we are here today to pick apart the blue crab legs of education. (I had to throw an MD metaphor in there.) Our day began with an empty schedule, as all edcamps do, and soon filled with ideas from professional learning and social media to next gen science standards.

Why do I love edcamps so much? They give us, educators, the gift of time. Time to discuss what we want to know and share what we know. Time to collaborate and commiserate. Time to learn new things. We honor that the experts are already in the room. We honor that if someone isn’t getting what they need or want in terms of professional learning, they can use the law of two feet. I have met some of my favorite mentors and friends at edcamp.

This type of learning is so very powerful and empowering. It can be scaled to a classroom or a state (as we are doing today.) This is my 13th edcamp to date and each and every time I walk away with something new.

Have you ever ed-camped? WHY NOT? There are edcamps all over the world! There is probably one near you. If there isn’t, start one. I’ll help you. #edcamprocks

Bored and Brilliant Part 2

Technically, Bored and Brilliant with New Tech City begins tomorrow but I’ve spent the last week collecting data on myself via Moment. Whoa. I am on my phone way too much. There is just no way around it. In the last week, I have averaged over 350 minutes per day on my phone. At first I set it for 90 minutes and when I realized I’d already broken time frame before I left for work, I knew I need something more reasonable. So I set it for 3 hours. And even before the evening was over, I had reached my daily limit.

What was I doing? The “normal stuff”: email, texting, messaging, facebook, instagram, twitter, reading the news, and watching netflix. Some of it is purposeful and work related, but do I really need to watch HIMYM while I brush my teeth? Must I flip through facebook while I stream Sherlock to my chromecast? And more than all of these idle, first world questions, how is this changing my brain? Do I know how to let my mind wander anymore?

In an article from February’s Real Simple, Teresa Belton, PhD., from University of East Anglia says, “It feels uncomfortable for the mind to be unengaged.” I have felt this more acutely as I have calculated my time on screen this week. I know that my mind rarely stops moving and the time to get quiet is fleeting. So perhaps, I need to allow for disengagement of thinking and perhaps true creativity will arise from these quiet moments.

And then the bigger question, do our students, who don’t really know life without a screen, know how to be bored or let their minds wander? Do they know how do doodle? Make up crazy games? Play without structure? I have some anecdotal thoughts on these things for another day, but for now I’ll say the data is mixed.

My hope is that through this experiment, I gain a better understanding of my own tech use so I can truly model appropriately for my students, not just talk the talk. Let’s just see if I can stay under three hours one day this week?

Until then, here is some food for thought from Bored and Brilliant which, alas, you need your screen to access.