Changing Education

How can you change something as big as education?

The same way that you would eat an elephant:

One bite at a time.

Like my dear friend Nate Turner, I am an advocate for all children. My advocacy is focused on parenting and education. Why?

Both families and schools are like farms that have the potential to grow spectacular crops. They just need a little help. Here are some places I have started to take bites:

1. Writing the book, “Laugh More, Yell Less: A Guide to Raising Kick-Ass Kids.”

In April 2015, I self-published an easy-to-read, short book with seven ideas to raise the kick-ass kids that the world is eager to receive. You can find more info here.

Once the book was published, my attention turned to making a ruckus in education. I identified three entry points to apply the powerful research on positivity and happiness. My goal is to push the education system toward a more human-centered learning experience and to boost buy-in from parents, educators, and students. These three constituencies are like sleeping giants (especially parents!) who have the power to drive change.

2. School for Superheroes

I entered a proposal in the XQ Super School Project and recruited a team to develop the concept including altMBA5 alumnus Oliver Schinkten

SUBMITTED 2/11/16 to XQ Super School Project:

    We can’t predict the future. We’re really bad at it. A “school that learns” requires two things: (1) a process for students to identify their superpowers and find ways to use them in the real world and (2) an organizational structure populated by human beings that continuously seek ways to respond favorably to change.
    Our school is built around circles. Not brick walls built in circular patterns, but circles of chairs. Circles of people, sitting together.
    The design of the school, the curriculum, the technology, and the physical plant are not as important as the people who create the school everyday in their decisions to empower students to follow their dreams and exercise their superpowers. School for Superheroes is built around the Conference, the Airlock, and the Roundtable. Each of these circles has a structured format to serve a purpose connected with the other circles, engaging with the community, and ultimately seeking to uncover, empower, support, and celebrate a student’s learning and growth.

Details about the XQ proposal for School for Superheroes can be found here and here.

…then I attended #EdCampLdr

Learning from the people I met at #EdCampLdr in July 2015, I began to explore IDEO’s Design Thinking for Educators. I was so inspired by this approach that I began to generate ideas and enter them to The Teachers Guild, a group that IDEO set up in collaboration with Riverdale Country School to curate 30 challenges over three years.

I entered two concepts, the first in response to the challenge to re-imagining professional learning, sponsored by Sonoma County Office of Education. The second is a challenge to re-design the parent-teacher conference, sponsored by the RSA.

3. Pop-Up PD

I adapted the #EdCamp model to give teachers and staff a taste of a more democratic model for professional development. After all, how can we expect teachers to empower their students if they haven’t gotten a taste of that power themselves? I was proud to see the concept gain traction at The Teachers Guild. In the end, it was chosen as one of the 11 winners of the challenge:

4. What is your superpower?

I was excited to find an easy way to insert the superpower idea into education, by putting a new spin on the the Parent-Teacher conference. The idea has potential beyond sprinkling positivity in the conversation between the most important adults in a student’s life. If a teacher and students fully embrace the idea, it could infect the culture of the mini-community that exists in the classroom.

Teachers Guild screenshot

I am currently gathering input via Google doc and recruiting team members. As of 5/20/16, four classroom teachers (two Kindergarten, two 3rd grade) at Patterson Elementary in Southwest Philly want to pilot the program beginning in September 2016.

You have a part to play in the revolution to change education.

What can you do? Dig deeper into the ideas above. Get behind one, critique it on the Google docs, or join The Teachers Guild and start your own.

We all have a part to play. Pick a place to start and take a bite.

At the end of Back to the Future, Doc Brown rushes Martie McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) and his teenage girlfriend into the time machine with an urgent message:

“It’s your kids, Martie! Something has got to be done about your kids!”

Doc Brown was talking to parents in the 21st century and his message couldn’t be more important: It’s about your kids! The future is now.

-from “Laugh More, Yell Less: A Guide to Raising Kick-Ass Kids”