About Chris Lehmann

Founding Principal Science Leadership Academy Philadelphia, PA
Apr 03

Join the Innovation Network!

This is an exciting time in the School District of Philadelphia as we continue to grow the Innovation Network!

On Thursday, April 6th from 2pm – 6pm in the School District of Philadelphia Auditorium at 440 N. Broad St., we will host the Innovation Network Recruitment Fair! All of the schools of our network will be there to meet prospective teachers. All of our schools are hiring for next year, and we are looking for teachers who want to be part of a network of schools dedicated to the idea that schools can be authentic, empowering, caring and modern for all its members – students and teachers alike. Our schools are:

Come join us in the Innovative Network of the School District of Philadelphia and help us to build some of the most exciting schools in the nation!

Mar 19

Occam’s Razor and the Trump Era

Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.

— Occam’s Razor [Wikipedia]

Cuts to anti-poverty programs. Cuts to programs that ensure children are fed. Cuts to agencies that preserve civil rights. Cuts to health care for 24 million Americans. Cuts to programs that work for environmental justice. Cuts to federal housing programs. And a new tax policy that would benefit the most wealthy Americans. (Some links: NY Times, Washington Post, CNN, Tax Policy Institute)

And in all cases, the most convoluted explanations of why.

I’ve seen people try to explain how these actions aren’t simply Draconian. I’ve seen people try to explain this away as if this was somehow a traditional Republican v. Democratic view of government.

It’s not.

And this is where Occam’s Razor is important. Occam’s Razor, at it’s root, is simply this: When faced with many explanations for a situation, the simplest one is the best explanation.

And that leads us to this:

Those in power in the American government simply do not care about the people these policies will hurt.

Let me say that again:

Occam’s Razor demands that we understand this simple fact:  President Trump and his Republican allies do not care about the people his policies hurt.

This isn’t about competing views of government. This isn’t the traditional Republican vs. Democratic views of how we view our country. This is kleptocracy. This is “I got mine” governance. This is about people who view wealth as moral justification for crimes against their fellow Americans.

Those of us who want to ensure schools provide free breakfasts and lunches to the kids who need them… those of us who believe that we cannot step backward in our fight for a more just world have to understand this.

They don’t care what happens to those they hurt. This means they do not care about the people they hurt.

And we have to hold them accountable for that.

Feb 11

Skills not Traits

[This post has its roots in a wonderful professional development sessions led by Matt Kay, SLA founding teacher and author of the upcoming book Loaded Conversations. Buy it when it comes out.]

Think of the kid that frustrates you the most in your classroom or in your school. Maybe it’s the kid who can’t stop calling out or the kid who never lets an opportunity for a snide comment go or the kid who seems to slide into class two minutes after class starts every day. Pick your frustration – there are a lot to go around in our profession.

Now, be honest with yourself.

When you think of that student, do you think of that behavior as a fixed part of that student’s personality? Do you think of them as “lazy” or “mean” or “impulsive” in a way that fixes that trait in your head as something immutable in that student?

If you do, can you change the way you see that?

What if you saw the behavior as a skill the student needs to develop? To wit – let’s look at the three examples:

  • “This student hasn’t learned how participate in a class discussion yet.”
  • “This student hasn’t learned how or why to be kind in school yet.”
  • “This student hasn’t learned the benefits of being in class at the start of the class yet.”

How does that change our lens as teachers? We’ve progressed as a profession such that teachers know that the statement, “This student will never learn X” is no longer something that can be tolerated in our schools. But in many places, we haven’t translated that to the way we think about the soft skills students may need to be successful in academic settings or the kinds dispositions that will help them be the active, vibrant citizens our world needs.

What if we changed our lens so we asked the next questions:

  • “What does this student need to be a responsible member of a class discussion?”
  • “What does this student need to learn how and why to be more kind?”
  • “What do I have to do as a teacher to help this student learn why s/he needs to be in class on time?”

What we teach kids about how they can walk through the world as a full-realized person is as important as the facts and figures they learn in our classes. When we see our students as still very much learning how to walk through the world wisely, we can change our lens on student behavior as something that is not fixed or immutable, but rather as a skill to be learned, and therefore, deeply in our wheelhouse to teach.

And as importantly, when we remember that students are still in process – still learning – it makes it that much easier to forgive and understand those moments that drive us crazy. And, maybe, it allows us to remember that we, too, are in process and that the kids might need to forgive us from time to time too.