Change Everything to What Suits You

person playing brown guitar
Photo by 42 North on Pexels.com

The more you dive into creative work, the more creative you are. It’s like building a muscle.

Keep flexing that muscle, and it will grow until you reach a plateau, causing you to search for a new challenge. Creating is no different; you’re just flexing different muscles.

Musicians know this, as they can see the direct result of hours of focused practice months later in new skills and abilities on their instrument, or perhaps even on a new instrument.

Enter Jacob Collier.

Collier, who experienced viral stardom through his YouTube channel in the early 2010s, now regularly collaborates with some of the biggest names in the music industry.

At some point, he decided to pick up the guitar and transfer his piano skills to a new instrument. When he did, something interesting happened.

In this video with Paul Davids, Collier describes learning to play on his first guitar, which had only four strings, like a mandolin. Because of his love of tight harmonies, Collier eventually spoke with Taylor Guitars to craft a 5-string guitar rather than the typical 6-string layout.

The results? Something utterly new and beautiful. But, Collier admits that he doesn’t think of himself as a guitar player because he doesn’t play like a trained guitar player.

“I couldn’t play the guitar, but I would imagine playing the guitar,” Collier notes as he explains his learning process. He admits that he doesn’t follow many of the guitar-playing rules.

Davids, the host and an accomplished guitar player himself tells Collier, “If you don’t like a rule, tweak it… change everything to what suits you.”

If we could grasp that statement and put it into practice with our students, I think we’d see some amazing things come out of our schools. How often do we ask our students (and ourselves) to do things that don’t fit naturally with how we think, act, or create? Why do we continually try to force everything in education to fit into a box?

Sometimes, we allow “tradition” to dictate our work far too much. Remember, tradition is just peer pressure from dead people.

On Not Knowing the Way But Doing It Anyway

Collier talks about hanging with Joni Mitchell–yes, that Joni Mitchell–and watching her play guitar. She plays chords she doesn’t know, but her fingers and ears let her find the right ones to play, making something new.

This idea of not really knowing what you’re doing as you create isn’t new and certainly isn’t exclusive to educators trying to change their teaching practice for a different generation of learners.

Paul McCartney, one of the most well-known songwriters in the history of songwriters, said in a 2016 interview:

“There is no sort of point you just think, ‘Okay, now I can do it, I’ll just sit down and do it.’ It’s a little more fluid than that. You talk to people who make records or albums and you always go into the studio thinking, ‘Oh, well I know this! I’ve got a lot of stuff down, you know, I write.’ And then you realize that you’re doing it all over again you’re starting from square one again. You’ve never got it down. It’s this fluid thing, music. I kind of like that. I wouldn’t like to be blasé or think, ‘Oh you know I know how to do this.’ In fact I teach a class at a the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys — I do a little songwriting class with the students — and nearly always the first thing I go in and say [is], ‘I don’t know how to do this. You would think I do, but it’s not one of these things you ever know how to do. You know I can say to you: Select the key. We will now select a rhythm. Now make a melody. Now think of some great words,’ That’s not really the answer.”

Paul McCartney on songwriting

So, fearless educators, if someone like McCartney doesn’t have it figured out yet and still doubts his abilities to write songs, I think we’re doing alright as we face the productive struggle of creating new ways to do things in our schools.

Final Thoughts

I’ve often said that educators must be some of the most creative people on the planet. Every day, we face different situations, needs, and demands as we do our best to prepare students for a future we don’t know.

Maybe we should worry less about getting it all right and feel great about diving into new adventures and figuring it out as we go.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Essential Resources to Guide Your AI Journey

elderly man thinking while looking at a chessboard
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

Jisc, a technology organization in the UK, has compiled a selection of resources to support different stages of AI maturity, including strategic resources, supporting students and learners, supporting staff, maintaining academic integrity, safe responsible use, and AI tools. The resources include blogs, reports, videos, podcasts, and training courses covering generative AI, accessibility, assessment, bias, ethics, and AI tools. Jisc is also developing new resources to support the move to the operational stage, such as pre-procurement selection criteria for generative AI tools and a generative AI skills training program for staff.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Saying “No” More Often

Learning to say “no” more often is a primary driver of success. We all have only so much bandwidth to dedicate to projects. Choosing not to do something or having no opinion about it leads to more productivity and less stress.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Shared Assumptions & Changing Culture

The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.

Edgar Schein

I’m reading An Uncommon Theory of School Change for a class, and the image text struck me. Actually, it knocked me to the floor.

Specifically, the idea of “shared assumptions” among a school’s teachers and staff. Every organization has these shared assumptions, and they all influence how the day-to-day functions of the organization, specifically in defining the organization’s culture, as Ed Schein explained.

So, why are these shared assumptions important in our schools?

Easy: they play a large part in how students learn. If teachers have decided, perhaps with the best of intentions, that “our kids can’t do that“–whatever that is–then it’s highly likely that the kids won’t do that.

(Somehow, this has turned into a bad commentary on one of Meat Loaf’s greatest hits…)

This line of thinking also shows up in John Hattie’s work, as teacher estimates of achievement significantly impact student learning.

Part of our work to change schools should involve a hard look at our shared assumptions and, perhaps, some adjustments to those assumptions.

After all, you know what happens when you assume something…


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Nurturing Teacher Well-Being: Advocating for Time and Energy

stacked of stones outdoors
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Digital Promise explores strategies for improving teacher well-being. It emphasizes the importance of teacher autonomy, community building, and inclusivity, advocating for instructional coaches to support these aspects. The article also highlights the role of mindfulness and reflective practices in fostering a positive educational environment.

The post suggests that teachers and students can benefit from a more supportive and effective educational experience by focusing on these elements.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Leveraging the Science of Learning and Development to Combat Loneliness in Schools

person sitting on bench under tree
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

Understanding the Loneliness Epidemic

In a profound exploration of the modern societal challenge, Harvard professor Robert Waldinger sheds light on the growing epidemic of loneliness in his recent YouTube lecture. He defines loneliness as a subjective experience where an individual feels less connected to others than desired. This feeling is distinct from isolation, as one can be isolated and content, surrounded by people, yet feel profoundly lonely.

The Rise of Loneliness

Loneliness has been on an upward trend since the 1950s. Factors contributing to this rise include increased societal mobility, the introduction and evolution of television, and the digital revolution. These changes have gradually eroded community engagement and personal interactions.

The Health Impacts

Research by Julianne Holt-Lunstad highlights the severe health implications of loneliness, equating its danger to smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day. Loneliness contributes to physical health deterioration and accelerates brain decline in later life.

The Power of Connections

Waldinger emphasizes the importance of investing in relationships for well-being. It’s not just close relationships that count; even casual interactions with community members, like a mail carrier or a grocery store cashier, can foster a sense of belonging.

Sale
Student Mental Health: A Guide For Teachers, School and District Leaders, School Psychologists and Nurses, Social Workers, Counselors, and Parents
  • Dikel MD, William (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages – 08/16/2022 (Publication Date) – W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)

Schools’ Role in Building Inclusive Communities

Recognizing Loneliness in Students

Schools must first acknowledge that loneliness can be a significant issue among students. Young adults, in particular, are highly susceptible to loneliness. Educators can play a crucial role in identifying signs of loneliness and providing support.

Creating Inclusive Environments

Schools can use the science of learning and development to build inclusive student communities. This includes:

  1. Promoting Social Skills: Integrating social skill development into the curriculum can help students who feel lonely and are hesitant to reach out. Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques can be adapted for the classroom to help students revise their assumptions about social interactions.
  2. Encouraging Community Engagement: Activities that foster community involvement can help students feel more connected. This might include group projects, community service initiatives, or school clubs that cater to diverse interests.
  3. Building Casual Connections: Schools should create environments where casual, positive interactions are encouraged. This could be in the form of mentorship programs, buddy systems for new students, or structured social time during the school day.
  4. Supporting Emotional Health: Schools can provide resources for emotional support, such as counseling services or workshops on managing feelings of loneliness and building healthy relationships.

Empowering Students

Empowering students to understand and combat loneliness is essential. This involves teaching them that seeking connection is normal and healthy and providing them with the tools and opportunities to build meaningful relationships.

Conclusion

Loneliness is a complex and growing challenge, but schools can play a pivotal role in addressing this epidemic by understanding its dynamics and implementing strategies to promote connection and belonging. It’s about creating a culture where every student feels, as Waldinger concludes, “You belong. You matter. You’re connected.”


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Embracing the New Year: Five Approaches to Goal-Setting and Growth in the Classroom

green typewriter on brown wooden table
Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

John Spencer’s enlightening piece on reimagining goal-setting in education. serves up five refreshing strategies like a gourmet meal for the mind: SLIME (a quirky acronym for a robust planning method), differentiating process vs. product goals, nurturing creative momentum, the ‘Snailed It’ approach (slow and steady wins the race), and meaningful mid-year reflections.

These are not your typical classroom goals. They’re innovative, dynamic, and all about growing and adapting in today’s ever-evolving educational landscape.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Yes, We Need to Get Rid of AP Courses

classmates doing studies for exam together
Photo by Armin Rimoldi on Pexels.com

There, I said it. That’s my hot take. We need to get rid of AP courses.

Why? Because they’ve been pushed down the throat of our education system for the past twenty years, pitched as an equity solution because we should be offering the best content to everyone.

I agree 100% with that statement. Every student needs access to the same high-quality, highly relevant, highly personalized content and pedagogy. We need our teachers to be the very best, to create authentic, engaging learning environments that not only teach our students how to learn and grow but also how to be good people and participate in society.

That’s not what AP tests or courses do. They certainly don’t do it for most students.

Some 60 percent of A.P. exams taken by low-income students this year scored too low for college credit — 1 or 2 out of 5 — a statistic that has not budged in 20 years.

I know the argument for having AP courses is that they are more rigorous and require more from students. But the reason they do those things is because of the AP test students take at the end of the course.

And they take that test to earn college credit. And that is the only reason. No one takes an AP course because it sounds exciting or they want to be a professional AP course taker.

They take them so they can pass the test and get college credit. Which doesn’t happen for most of them.

Getting college credit after taking an AP course is a crap shoot, at best. At worst, it’s a waste of time. This isn’t a new argument, and I’m sure it will continue to be argued long into the future. Students hate it, and some professionals have noted the need for improvement in the system or even other companies entering the arena to give the College Board some competition.

I don’t want competition. I want the AP system gone. It isn’t serving the purpose we need, which is rethinking and redesigning Tier 1 instruction in ALL classrooms for EVERY student.

That’s the goal.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

Fill the hours more meaningfully

mount washington kentucky water tower

“The month of November makes me feel that life is passing more quickly. In an effort to slow it down, I try to fill the hours more meaningfully.” – Henry Rollins

Is it just me, or are the short work weeks the ones filled with craziness? It’s been a crazy busy week around these parts, and it’ll be even crazier as we head toward Thanksgiving.

Anyway, here we go…

10 Things Worth Sharing

This week’s 10 things…

BONUS: I’ve been jamming to this album from Azymuth, a Brazilian jazz-funk band. It’s fantastic and makes for great background music while you work


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. If you’ve enjoyed the insights and stories, consider showing your support by subscribing to my weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated and dive deeper into my content. Alternatively, if you love audiobooks or want to try them, click here to start your free trial with Audible. Your support in any form means the world to me and helps keep this blog thriving. Looking forward to connecting with you more!

3 Pillars of High-quality Blended Learning

group of people sitting on chair in front of wooden table inside white painted room
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Catlin Tucker continues to lead the way in blended learning. Her most recent post outlines the three pillars of high-quality blended learning.

Tucker describes the three pillars of successful blended learning are student agency, differentiation, and control over the learning pace. Student agency involves giving students meaningful choices in their learning process, such as content-based choices on subjects or topics and process-based decisions on learning approaches or resources, fostering a sense of responsibility and engagement.

Sale
The Complete Guide to Blended Learning: Activating Agency, Differentiation, Community, and Inquiry for Students (Essential guide to strategies and … student learning in blended environments)
  • Catlin R. Tucker (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 232 Pages – 07/05/2022 (Publication Date) – Solution Tree Press (Publisher)

Differentiation, the second pillar, requires adjusting teaching methods to address each student’s unique needs and abilities. This could involve varying assignments based on proficiency levels or providing structured guides for students who need additional support. The final pillar is student control over the pace of learning. Misalignment between the pace of learning and the learner’s needs can lead to disengagement or distraction; therefore, granting students autonomy over the speed at which they learn enhances engagement and success. By integrating these pillars, educators can create robust blended learning environments, enhancing student engagement and improving educational outcomes.