Highlights From a Busy Fall!

Last fall my EdJourney took me to 64 schools via 10,000 miles in my Prius.  This fall it was six cross country round trip flights in seven weeks, with many stops along the way, to work and learn with something like 1,500 teachers, students, administrators, and parents who care deeply about the future of our students’ learning as they prepare for a future in a rapidly changing world.  As I fine-tune my manuscript from last year’s work for publication, I see how much I am gathering from this new round of work…and what it holds for another book in the near future!

Just a few highlights from my mad round of workshops, keynotes, school visits, and networking over the last seven weeks (how did your team advance your vision this fall?):

  • The Design 39 Campus team in Poway Unified is ideating a calendar that includes week-long time blocks for passion-based, on and off-campus learning engagements, and daily schedules that create a MINIMUM of a half day of teacher PD time for every member of the faculty…every two weeks!
  • Students at All Saints Episcopal in Ft. Worth, given just a few minutes of time to observe, reflect, synthesize, and ask “What if…?”, offered up the best idea, in my opinion, of the last two years, perhaps the Holy Grail of creating vast amounts of time for adult professional growth in the school day…simply, elegantly, and at virtually no cost.
  • At Rowland Hall School, where we had seven hours to dive deeply into opportunities that lie in the dynamic tension of tradition and innovation with a large, diverse community team, head Alan Sparrow paid me the high compliment of “the most effective PD day in 23 years”.  By mid-day, upper school teachers had turned to lower school teachers, saying “You guys have been teaching like this (embracing the natural creativity of young children) for years and we just didn’t know it!
  • Heads of school and veteran trustees at the Virginia Association of Independent Schools wrestled with the simple question that should be a LEAD question for all public and private school leaders: “Who is our customer?”
  • Teams from three public school districts…Poway, Los Altos, and Milpitas… gathered in an almost impromptu and unscripted day of sharing about how they are effecting change right now; what is working and what is not; and created the foundation for partnered growth and NOT all inventing the same wheel.
  • Hundreds of educators in active learning days in North Carolina, New York, Texas, and Massachusetts added to our growing database of insightful, provocative, helpful, actionable questions: “What if you changed something fundamental at your school?”  My list of those questions is now more than 30 pages long, single spaced, and stewing in my head.
  • Ninety faculty and staff at Miami Valley School said the best idea they generated in a long day of generating thousands of notes and ideas was…inviting students in to participate!  The community built a foundation on re-imagining their collective future, not rooted in their past.
  • The leadership team at the Summit School began to map their vision to what they do each day at school by asking questions they had not asked in the past.  They recognized the power of engaging an entire community in the process of frequent, nimble strategic thinking.
  • Nearly 200 academic leaders gathered in the Hudson River Valley and shared ideas about how Time, Space, and Curriculum can shape, help, and hinder their forward leaning visions for the future.  Rather than sitting in rows listening to one person, they spent nearly the entire conference leveraging the collective brainpower in the room to generate new, sometimes, unique, action paths.

My big takeaway: there is remarkable transformative power when educators meet more frequently and more actively to ask questions together.  The era of sit-and-get, once-a-year conferences is dead. It was an exhausting, yet utterly exhilarating Autumn!

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