Jun 20

What if…

[This blog post coalesced around reading the NY Times article Black Church Is Target Again for Deadly Strike at the Heart and the work and mission of my friends leading the EduColor movement are engaged in every day.]

I have a concern.

I have a concern that we exist in a cycle right now where horribly violent and racist things happen and people, whether they be newscasters, politicians or teachers, rush to decry what has happened and then things settle back to whatever we call normal in this country until the next time something horrible happens, and the cycle starts all over again.

That’s not going to bring about the change our world needs, because it is a profoundly reactionary frame of reference, and things like racial justice and equality are pro-active states of being. And while, yes, our history is dotted with positive change as a reaction to moments of pain and tragedy and hate, I worry that the change we need today requires a far more forward-thinking mode of being than what we are seeing around us.

That’s where the teachers come in.

What if all of us admitted that the institution of school is part of an American system that has not lived up to its potential – its stated ideals – of being a more perfect union for all who take part in it, and that too often, school has intentionally or not, reinforced the racial, gender, religious and socio-economic inequities that have kept our country from achieving the most idealized vision what of what it means to be America?

What would happen if all of us, every day, asked ourselves if our actions actively worked to make a more just and kind world every day?

What would happen if all of the educators who use social media and blogging to share our ideas with the world took the time to always examine our ideas through the lens of equality and justice?

What would happen if we as educators asked ourselves first, are our actions are best for children who have been long marginalized by the American educational system and second if our actions are best for all children?

What would happen if more and more educators took the risk of publicly figuring this out for themselves and wrote about it, not just when national tragedies happen but in the quiet moments, so that we could, as teachers, model the powerful notion that fairness, justice, equality are everyday pursuits, not simply grand gestures?

What would happen if we, as a nation, understood that the goal of making a better nation – a better world – was the priority of public education every bit as much, if not more so, than the goal of helping a single student?

What if we said that the idea of “each and all” meant that we had to examine our systems, our structures, our very teacher-selves to ensure that what we did every day worked to empower all young people to see the need for a better world and work to make it so?

What if we all – especially those of us who are not confronted by this reality every day – didn’t wait until the next tragedy to talk about all of this?

Jun 18

Charleston and Teaching Children

I’ve run out of ways to write about this.

I don’t think I’m going write anything I haven’t said before.

I’m certain that I’m not going to write anything that other people haven’t already said – and said better.

Maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe the important thing is, simply, that I write.

Last night, a white 21-year-old man walked into a historic African-American church, sat and listened to Bible study for an hour before opening fire – apparently with a gun his father bought him for his birthday – and killing nine members of the congregation including the pastor.

It doesn’t matter if no organized hate group takes “credit” for this heinous action – this was domestic terrorism.

We can not afford, as a nation, to treat the continued hatred, prejudice, and violence against those who do not neatly fit into the dominant paradigm – racially, sexually, religiously – in this country as isolated incidents. To do so is to perpetuate the myth that there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the violence and make a better, more just, world.

As teachers, we have an obligation to teach our children to examine the systems of thought that perpetuate hate and prejudice so that our students can work to change them.

As teachers, we have an obligation to teach all our children that equity and justice are not just the cause of those who face oppression, but the cause of all people who believe in the promise of a better world.

As teachers, we have an obligation to teach all our children that it is not enough to passively hope for change, rather we must speak to the world we wish to create, work for the world we want to see.

Today, I have tried to use social media to speak to the hurt and anger I feel, not because I think I have much to add, but simply because I want all SLA students and families — especially our African-American students — to know that I stand with them. In a moment of tragedy, I would never want any student — especially our African-American students — to have to question for a moment where I stood or if I cared. And I am writing this now in the hope that students know that I never think it is enough for me to exhort them to action, rather that they understand I, too, will use my voice to demand a world where being black no longer means fearing for your safety anywhere you go — even in sanctuary – in church.

Last week, I told our graduates that the world could not wait for their voice, their action, because the problems we face are far too great. Last night, I was reminded how true that really is. Today, I hope that all of us who are lucky enough to teach children remember that we must teach our children to critically analyze the world around them and then have the voice, skill, and courage to be the change our world needs them to be. And today, I hope all of us who would claim the mantle of teacher realize that it is imperative that we model that voice, skill, and courage for them as well.

Jun 14

It’s Not Just Kid Behavior

How many times have you heard a colleague say — or said yourself — “That’s just kids?” I’ve probably used some version of that statement a few thousand times in my career as an educator.

It’s a pretty innocuous statement, in fact, it often is a kind statement used to diffuse tension or to ensure that an adult in a school doesn’t overreach to a student’s behavior.

But I worry that it’s subtly not as helpful as we think it is.

I think it may be more powerful to think about student and teacher – kid and adult behavior – on a continuum of human behavior. So much of what we see from students is, as David Perkins might call it, the junior varsity version of adult behaviors. And when we create the space for us to see our students’ behavior as more similar to our own behaviors than we’d like to admit, we can come to a place where we think about the consequences for actions in a far more humanistic way than if we think that “kid behavior” is instead something that we can make kids grow up and out of.

Am I suggesting that there’s no difference between the maturity and actions of a 15-year-old or a eight year old and a forty-year old? No… of course not, but our motivations, our responses to situations, our frequent foibles are often along a continuum where, if we look hard, we can see the adult in the child and vice versa. And that should help us forgive more quickly, seek to punish less frequently, and be willing to understand more deeply.

It’s when that teacher with the Draconian late work policy realizes that the school secretary has to chase him down for his attendance every day.

Or when that teacher who gets so frustrated by the student who always has to be the first one with a comment in a class discussion realizes that she does the same in a faculty meeting.

Or the principal who gets so annoyed with kids being loud at lunch with their friends stops to take a minute and hear the volume of their own laughter at a faculty luncheon.

That’s when we can see behavior is not simply “kid behavior” or “adult behavior,” but rather it is simply human behavior – as awesome and flawed and frustrating as we all can be. And when we see ourselves in our students, when we do not use language — even when it is meant to be kind and understanding — to other our students, we create the conditions by which we can better understand, know and serve the students we teach.

Jun 09

The Open Door Isn’t Always Open

“I have an open door policy.”

It sounds great, right? Who could argue with it? But you have to ask a very important question: who isn’t coming in?

As educators, we can convince ourselves that an open door policy is working because kids are coming in. I had a teacher say to me recently that her policy of working with kids who came for extra help was working because there were always kids coming to her for extra help. I asked her about a student who was struggling, and she told me that he never came for extra help. I asked her, “Do you ever ask him to come?”

“I tell all the kids about extra help every day,” was the answer.

Some students need to be invited to come for extra help. Some students need to be told that the teacher wants to see them. That individualized attention where a student feels the personal investment of a teacher is invaluable.

And more than the personal, there’s a sociopolitical aspect to this as well. Often times, children come to school with the ghosts of the experiences their parents had in school. So there are reasons beyond the obvious – sometimes – for why a child may not come for extra help. They may not trust the teacher. They may view that help as “punishment.” They may have been taught that they shouldn’t “need” help. They might just want to run around at recess. There are any number of reasons that might keep a child from walking through that blanket-policy open door.

So when we examine our policies – especially those that center around how we make sure that every student gets the support they need – we have to not be satisfied with inviting everyone in. We have to understand that caring for children means making the time to make the individual invitation as well – to make sure each and all children know that we are there for them.

 

 

 

May 16

On Kindness

“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

Tonight, a bunch of people I know, like and respect shared yet another video on Facebook of someone accidentally making a fool of themselves. The people who shared it were other educators, some SLA students, folks I know from other parts of my life… folks from across the myriad pathways of my life. I can only imagine how many times that video has been seen across the world by now.

For whatever reason, tonight, that made me really sad. I wondered what those people would think if that was their student, their parent, their child, their sibling. We’ve become callous to the people in those videos, to the people behind the screen, and maybe too many of us are callous to the people we see in person every day.

Certainly, Schadenfreude is nothing new. People have long gotten pleasure in the suffering of others. But that doesn’t make it right.

More than anything else in this world, I value kindness – real kindness where we extend ourselves to others simply because we can.

Kindness is more than being nice. Kindness requires empathy. It requires listening. It actually requires asking people what they need – not giving them what we think they need, but listening to their needs and acting upon them.

When we engage in true kindness, we must remove the space between us and those around us. We must learn to not treat people as “The Other.” We must enter into what Martin Buber called the “I and Thou” relationship. And it means we must acknowledge that other people are as important as we are.

I want to live in a world where people think about being kind as a reflex. I want to see schools where students, teachers, administrators are willing to see each other, listen to each other, and treat each other with kindness and care.

I truly believe that if we can build schools that operate first and foremost from a place of kindness that our kids can build a world that does as well. Our students will learn what we teach, what we model, what we live. Could there be anything more powerful than seeing our students go out and change the world to a place where people truly cared for one another?

As Mr. Vonnegut said, “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

Apr 10

Share Your Passion – Learn Your Best Teacher Self

This afternoon, the SLA Boys Varsity Ultimate found themselves with a home field for a game and no opponent. So the boys split up and scrimmaged in a game filled with some really amazing plays and more trash talk than I have heard in an Ultimate Frisbee game since I played in New York Summer League. The game was awesome – it was sixteen boys doing something they loved with people they love.

I got to coach the game. I love it in a way that is visceral.

Most mornings, you can find me coaching Ultimate. We don’t have fields or a gym at SLA, so all three of our Ultimate teams (Girls Varsity, Boys Varsity, Junior Varsity) practice from 6:30 am to 8:00 am in the morning. So does our softball team and our girls basketball team, and I think our track team is about to start. Our Students Run Philly Style team is going to go for a ten-mile run tomorrow (Saturday) morning.

Our debate kids are flying to Florida for Nationals with their coach, Jason Todd. Matt Kay’s poetry team is brilliant, and they write and perform after school what seems like every day. Doug Herman spends somewhere in the neighborhood of four zillion hours doing film projects with kids. Our robotics team…

You get the idea.

So… after-school activities. In most schools, they are the things that kids love most. It’s what they get to choose. That’s nothing new.

But I don’t know that we talk enough about what we as teachers can learn by doing after school activities with kids. In fact, I’ve heard teachers talk about how they are so different with their after-school kids than they are with their students, to which I always think, “Why?”

I think there’s a ton we can learn from the teacher-selves we are when we do are sharing something we love with kids who have chosen to be there too.

Years ago, when I was at Beacon and coaching girls basketball, there was a student teacher who asked to assistant coach with me. She was awesome. She had an incredible rapport with the kids. She was knowledgable. She laughed easily with the girls, and she could get them to push themselves to greatness.

So I was shocked when her cooperating teacher told me she was struggling deeply as a classroom teacher. I went in to watch her teach, and I didn’t recognize who I saw. She was tentative, unsure of herself, and deeply unsure how to bring out the best in the kids. After the class, the three of us sat down and talked about her teaching and her coaching. We told her simply, “Teach like you coach.” And it made all the difference for her. She really unpacked what made her successful on the court and found the ways to bring that into the classroom.

If we want “the curricular” to be infused with as much joy and passion and energy as the extra-curricular, we have to examine the role we the teachers bring to the student experience of extra-curriculars. And, yes, it is easier to be joyful and passionate and playful when everyone is choosing to be there together, but what if we brought that same persona to our classrooms?

The best teaching I ever did was on the fields and on the courts at 6:30 am. It was there I discovered my best teacher-self. It was in the relationships I developed with the kids who shared that time with me that I learned how to listen and be the adult the kids needed me to be. It was in the dedication of the kids who showed up every morning to practice that I learned what it meant to feel the need to work hard enough so that you never let down the kids.

All over the country, every day, teachers and students collaborate after (and before) school in service of a shared goal and passion, be it Ultimate frisbee, drama, robotics, the school newspaper. In doing so, students and teachers often find the best versions of themselves. The stories of what those activities do for teachers and students are multitudinous.

But maybe it’s time to unpack the people we are when we do those things so that we can take the best of who we are in those moments and bring them back our classrooms every day.

I’d argue that the people we are in those moments are our best teacher-selves. I think everyone wins if that version of ourselves found its way into the classroom every day.

 

Apr 09

Join the SLA Family!

It is hiring season for the SLA family of schools, and I am thrilled to post job opportunities for now three SLA schools – Science Leadership Academy – Center City, Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber and Science Leadership Academy Middle School!

For teaching at Science Leadership Academy – Center City and Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber:

Call for Teachers:

  • “How do we learn?”
  • “What can we create?”
  • “What does it mean to lead?”

These three essential questions form the basis of instruction at the Science Leadership Academy high schools –  two Philadelphia high schools built on the notion that inquiry is the very first step in the process of learning. Developed in partnership with Inquiry Schools and The Franklin Institute — a nationally recognized science and technology museum — and its commitment to inquiry-based science, the SLA high schools provide a vigorous, college-preparatory curriculum with a focus on science, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship. Students at SLA learn in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in all classes.

The Science Leadership Academy high schools are looking for faculty to continue to develop and implement a vigorous, inquiry-driven, project-based curriculum. In addition, all teachers at SLA have an advisory class where they work with the same students for four years. The SLA schools are a national models for “School 2.0,” a reform movement that seeks to harness the tools of technology, tied to a progressive pedagogy, to re-imagine what high schools can be. As such, both SLA schools are 1:1 laptop schools that uses multiple resources — web-based and traditional — to create meaning and understanding.

Positions Available — Science Leadership Academy – Center City:

  • Physics
  • Social Studies
  • Special Education / Math

Positions Available — Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber:

  • Bio/Chemistry
  • English
  • History
  • Math

Qualifications:

  • Applicants must be PA State Certified or eligible for PA State Certification in their subject area.
  • Applicants must be committed to the idea that we teach students first and our subjects second.
  • Applicants must be willing to challenge students to work in an inquiry-driven, project based environment.
  • Applicants must be willing to work collaboratively.
  • Applicants must be willing to work in a diverse environment with students who reflect the rich heritage of Philadelphia.
  • Applicants should have a strong background in technology infusion into the classroom and be willing to see their classroom as happening both on and offline.
  • Applicants should have an interest in developing extra-curricular activities.
  • Applicants should be energetic, flexible, and have a strong desire to work with administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students to create a school that reflects SLA’s core values.
  • Applicants with multiple certifications are always appreciated, although that is not required.

How to Apply:

For more information, please visit http://www.scienceleadership.org and http://www.slabeeber.org or contact SLA at teaching@scienceleadership.org or at 215-979-5620. Resumes and cover letters can be sent to teaching@scienceleadership.org and all applicants must apply through the School District of Philadelphia Site Selection Process found online at http://webgui.phila.k12.pa.us/offices/e/ee/.

Contact Info:

Email: teaching@scienceleadership.org

Science Leadership Academy
55 N. 22nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-979-5620
Fax: 215-567-2809
Administrator: Chris Lehmann

Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber
5925 Malvern Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19131
Phone: 215-581-2107
Fax: 215-581-2109
Administrator: Chris Johnson

And… I am so excited to announce that we are posting for a founding principal for our new middle school – Science Leadership Academy Middle School! (yes – SLAMS!)

Founding Principal – Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLA-MS)

  • “How do we learn?”
  • “What can we create?”
  • “What does it mean to lead?”

These three essential questions form the basis of instruction at the Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLA-MS), a new Philadelphia neighborhood middle school proposed to open in September 2016. SLA-MS is built on the notion that inquiry is the very first step in the process of learning. Developed in partnership with Drexel University, The School District of Philadelphia and Inquiry Schools, SLA-MS has been designed as the middle school for the Powel Elementary School catchment area and the two schools will share a single campus. SLA-MS will provide a vigorous, well-rounded curriculum in all subjects with a focus on science, technology, mathematics and the entrepreneurial spirit. Students at SLA-MS will learn in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in all classes.

SLA-MS will serve as a model program for meeting the specific needs of middle level learners while embracing an inquiry-driven, project-based, technology-infused instructional model. An ethic of care will guide all systemic, assessment and curricular decisions for the school.

The principal will be on special assignment for the 2015-16 school year as she/he plans for a September 2016 proposed opening.

Job Summary:
To work with the SLA-MS Leadership Team to plan and create and open an inquiry-driven, project-based modern middle school for the Powelton and West Powelton communities in West Philadelphia. The creation of this school is in alignment with the School District of Philadelphia’s goal of creating a diverse portfolio of high-performing schools for the children of Philadelphia.

The first year will include time spent at both Science Leadership Academy (SLA) and the Powel School, as the candidate will need to do a deep dive into the SLA educational model and learn the Powel School community and educational practices. The first year will also include collaboration with Drexel, The Franklin Institute, and the Academy of Natural Sciences to best leverage partnerships with these organizations. Finally, the first year will include work with the design and facilities teams to prepare to open the school in temporary space for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 schools years, and to plan for the design and construction of a new school facility that would house both SLA-MS and Powel as of school year 2018-19. At the end of the planning year, SLA-MS will open with its first class of fifth graders, with a powerful educational framework that can both be a national model and a benefit to the local community.

Essential Functions:

  • Creates the implementation plan, in consultation and collaboration with Inquiry Schools, for an inquiry-driven, project-based neighborhood middle school that leverages modern tools to provide an authentic and empowering education for its students.
  • Co-designs and outfits a state-of-the-art K-8 facility that would serve SLA-MS and the Powel School as of School Year 2018-19.
  • Creates a sustainable budget that takes into account the grade-by-grade growth of the school.
  • Implements a web-based technological infrastructure to serve as a model for a blended learning school web-site using tools such as GoogleApps for Education, Canvas and SLATE.
  • Collaborates with School District of Philadelphia to create an innovative project-based benchmark system that mirrored the SDP benchmarks.
  • Works with Drexel University, The Franklin Institute, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Inquiry Schools to create deep partnerships between primary community partners and the school.
  • Works with the Powel School and the Science Leadership Academy to ensure a seamless academic and social/emotional transition between elementary and middle school.
  • Develops four-year advisory program that allows students, teachers and parents to work together to ensure student success.
  • Provides leadership in the recruitment, development, and retention of staff.
  • Hires and manages all founding faculty and staff.
  • Transitions from a planning process to an implementation process after the planning year.
  • Performs related duties as required.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
Demonstrated knowledge of:

  • the unique challenges and opportunities if the middle school environment.
  • technology infusion into the classroom as well as happening both on and offline.
  • developing a school with a rich after-school life.
  • current educational trends and research.
  • the unique needs and characteristics of students.
  • personnel management and supervision techniques.
  • curriculum theory and development.

Demonstrated ability to:

  • commit to the idea that we teach students first and our subjects second.
  • challenge students to work in an inquiry-driven, project-based environment.
  • work collaboratively in an educational complex shared by multiple schools.
  • administer all aspects of an educational facility.
  • coordinate the provision of professional development activities.
  • work in a diverse environment with students who reflect the rich heritage of Philadelphia.
  • be energetic, flexible, and a strong desire to work with community partners, fellow administrators, teachers, parents and students create a school that reflects SLA-MS core values.
  • communicate effectively, both orally and in writing.

Minimum Requirements

  • Master’s Degree from an accredited educational institution
  • Seven years full-time, paid, professional educational experience, two of which have been as a Principal or assistant Principal, illustrating successful experience in teaching, school administration, or significant leadership roles.

Certificates/Licenses

Possession of a valid Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Administrative Certificate for K-12 School Principal.

OR

Possession of a valid Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Administrative Certificate for Elementary and Secondary School Principal.

How to Apply:

For more information, please visit http://www.scienceleadership.org or contact SLA at teaching@scienceleadership.org or at 215-979-5620. Resumes and cover letters can be sent to Chris Lehmann at teaching@scienceleadership.org and all applicants must apply through the School District of Philadelphia Site Selection Process found online through the TeacherMatch job posting at https://platform.teachermatch.org/applyteacherjob.do?jobId=9689.

 

Apr 04

Intentionality and Serendipity

We had some visitors to SLA the other day, and when they were doing a debrief with me, a person asked me to unpack a statement we say a lot – “Standards, not Standardization.” It lead to a conversation about balancing being intentional in everything we do while also giving students voice and choice which bears some unpacking here.

First, the SLA learning ecosystem – with the core values, shared curriculum planning tools, common project rubric, grade-wide essential questions and aligned subject-specific standards – means that students can expect a consistent language of teaching and learning. The purpose of that is make sure that students spend as little time as possible trying to figure out the adults. By having a common language of teaching and learning, there is a framework that is empowering for students because it becomes much easier to move across the disciplines and learn.

Next, creating the space for 33 kids in classroom to all be able to thoughtfully investigate an idea and build toward making something powerful requires thoughtful planning. And it requires a balance of structure and freedom that takes a deft hand. Not enough structure, and there’s a real risk of having a lot of “inch-deep, mile-wide” work from students. Too much structure, and you’ll get “recipe-based teaching” where the vast majority of the student work looks far too much alike because the students weren’t given the freedom to make the work what they wanted or needed it to be.

A great example of how that work comes together is the work spearheaded by Roz Echols around creating a structure for our Capstone projects. Every year, 125 seniors create original inquiry-projects where the topics are completely student created. The structure of the capstone project has to be flexible enough to encompass student plays, event planning, and more “classical” deep research projects. The framework for the Capstone projects (found here) is simple, elegant, and it allows students enough of a roadmap to plan a year-long project while being open-ended enough to encompass so many different ideas.

Thoughtful frameworks for learning are at the heart of the idea “standards, not standardization.” The kind of intentionality required to allow students to engage in deep learning that is empowering, authentic and personally meaningful requires teachers to think about their classes not as day-to-day, but unit to unit and as part of the larger ecosystem of the school. When we are intentional about helping students to interpret standards, skills and content in ways that have meaning for them, understanding that there are many ways for students to manifest their learning, then we create the space for those moments in our classes where students can surprise us in wonderful ways by bringing their creativity and ideas to the subjects we teach.

Thoughtful structures can move us intentionally away from a scripted classroom and move us much closer to the kinds of classrooms where students and teachers have a shared sense of purpose and a shared sense of responsibility to each other. And in those classrooms, the ideas can flow freely, and those serendipitous moments of learning when things come together and the learning is powerfully communal can happen accidentally by design.

Apr 01

Exciting New SLA Partnership

As most folks who visit this blog know, these have been some very difficult years for the School District of Philadelphia. It has meant that many principals have found themselves in the role of Fundraiser-in-Chief. For me, it’s a skill-set I never really wanted to develop, but after years of cuts, it has become what was necessary to maintain the program at SLA.

Probably, we could have thought of a better financial time to open our second campus – SLA@Beeber, but so many families made it clear that an inquiry-driven, project-based education was what they wanted that, even under financial duress, we felt that we needed to move forward. And I am amazed at what the teachers, students, parents and principal, Chris Johnson, have done in such a short time.

Realistically, however, the work needs more support. SLA@Beeber needs to find a sustainable financial model to thrive as I know that it can. As such, Chris and I have been working to find ways to ensure that the incredible work of the students can continue, no matter what the outcome of Gov. Wolf’s and Mayor Nutter’s budget proposals.

It’s not easy work, and after nine years at SLA, I know how frustrating it is to chase grant after grant, donor after donor, knowing that all the time you spend fundraising is time you aren’t spending with teachers and students, doing the work you believe in the most.

Like it or not, this has become part of the job of the principal in too many under-resourced public schools all over the country. And no matter what SLA and SLA@Beeber can do as individual schools, it does not change the need for equitable and adequate funding for all of Philadelphia’s schools, and nothing changes our commitment to urging the politicians of our state to do the right thing for the children of this city and this state.

Fortunately, SLA has benefitted from the kind words of so many educators who have walked the hallways of our schools that we have been able to work with some amazing people who want nothing more than to see the schools — and the kids who do amazing work within them — thrive.

One of the challenges of fundraising is that often donors want to influence the work of the school. Too many grants, too many donors, often money with strings. We have been both very lucky and very deliberate in that all of the organizations we have worked with – whether it has been The Franklin Institute or Dell Computer – have wanted to support our work and grow and learn with us. I fully recognize the gift that has been, and I am thrilled to say that our latest donor shares the same belief.

Our dedication to our core mission – of an inquiry-driven, project-based education with a deep ethic of care is steadfast. Our donor spoke powerfully about how what he saw at our school could have saved him from making some of the bad mistakes he has made in his life. He spoke to our students, and in the midst of making his own personal, powerful changes, he saw a powerfully opportunity to give back. All he asked in return was one small change.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to announce the renaming of our second campus, now known as SLA@Bieber. Thank you, Justin!

See the full press release here.

Mar 29

Post for Admins: Question More, Solve Less

At first blush, being an administrator who is a problem solver seems like a uniquely positive trait. There are certainly enough problems in schools that require solving.

But problem-solving isn’t always as important as we think it is.

Sometimes, we can rush to solve the problem in front of us in a way that feels productive but doesn’t really help us to think deeply about what is going on in our schools. Sometimes, quickly solving the problem doesn’t allow us to see root causes. And worse, simply solving the problem in front of you quickly can have unintended consequences.

As frustrating as it can be sometimes, we need to move more slowly when we look at some of the problems in our schools.  More often than not, our schools are better served when leaders don’t merely solve the problem in front of them, but rather take the time to ask questions of a range of folks to get at the real question at hand.

What we need in our schools are more leaders who ask questions of many stakeholders. When problems arise – especially ones that seem like they could be solved by just being a little harsher, a little stricter – we need to ask better questions. And we should listen to the answers.

Just like we ask teachers to do with our students.