You never connect the dots in advance

My former boss, Brett Jacobsen always said that we don’t connect the dots until afterwards. When we are planning for the future we can’t know exactly what the final product will look like. We can’t predict the future. It is hard to believe that just over two years ago I stepped into the role of the Head of Upper School at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. As a school of “inquiry, innovation and impact” it was a match made in heaven. For years I had been chasing the dream of transforming education for our students and Mount Vernon was just what I was searching for. Each and every day I had the opportunity to work with a talented team of educators to push boundaries to constructively answer these three questions. How might we …

  • make school more reflective of real life.
  • empower all learners to be seekers and explorers.
  • inspire one another — and the larger world — through the work we undertake.

I had the pleasure of continuing work where students could explore their passions with iProjects, developing interdisciplinary courses, watching students partner with outside organizations to develop ideas and create was inspiring, creating meaningful project based learning was fun,  using design thinking to develop creative solutions made sense, and where studying assessment for the future was beyond the trees.

The work was challenging and rewarding.

So, no one would have predicted that by July 2017 I would be on safari for new teacher orientation in Mikumi National Park. I never would have predicted that path back in 2015.

Elephants 2
Taking a Drink
Hippo Heart
Sunset at the Hippo Pool
Sailing
Sailing in Msasani Bay

I never would have guessed that my family and I would move to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where I would be the Secondary Principal at the International School of Tanganyika. IST is another amazing school but very different than MVPS. We strive to “challenge, inspire and support all students to fulfill their potential and improve the world.” At IST our curriculum is based on the International Baccalaureate Primary, Middle Years and Diploma Programs. There are 60 different nationalities represented in the student body and the faculty hails from 20 different countries. Like MVPS, I anticipate that the work will be challenging and rewarding.

After spending 14 years working at three different international schools outside the United States it feels like we’ve found our niche. While our time in Atlanta was an adventure, our life here in Dar will be an uber-adventure. Now that the transition is over I’m ready to share my learning again.

Karibu Nyumbani!

 

 

 

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Ideo Studied Innovation In 100+ Companies–Here’s What It Found | Co.Design

  • tags: Innovation Innovative

    • Purpose, experimentation, collaboration, empowerment, looking out (i.e. staying informed about what’s happening in the industry), and refinement (the ability to successfully execute new ideas).
    • For instance, the metrics might show that a team is very purpose-driven, but lacking in collaboration; or a team might score highly on experimentation but less so on refinement.
    • Instead, when teams iterate on five or more different solutions, they are 50% more likely to launch a product successfully.
    • Everyone Should Feel Comfortable Challenging The Status Quo

      Anecdotally, we’ve all heard that team members who are unafraid to challenge the status quo–which often means the leadership–are a surefire way to encourage new ideas.

    • When a majority of team members who took the survey said that they felt comfortable challenging the status quo and acting with autonomy, the chances of a failed launch decreased by 16.67%.
    • “The factor that we’ve identified is that when it remains stable over time, the priorities aren’t constantly changing and the innovation projects and teams have a stable foundation that they can continue to work towards,” Aycan says.
    • As surprising as it might seem, teams that work together across distances can actually be more successful than teams with fewer remote workers.
    • deo’s data shows that the most innovative companies surveyed have between 25% to 57% of their employees working remotely, with an average ratio of remote workers at 41%. Teams with remote workers are 22% more successful in their initiatives compared to counterparts that are comprised of less than 15% remote collaborators.
    • For teams to truly work together seamlessly, they need to collaborate every day–which, amongst the companies using Creative Difference, led to 28% fewer failed launches.
    • “Teams that work together seamlessly across other business functions daily, compared to those that only update on a weekly or monthly basis, are 21% more likely to be successful,” Aycan says.
    • Ideo’s data shows that leaders–both executives and project leaders–who see their role as helping their employees reach their full potential are 17% more effective when compared to more top-down, traditional leadership styles.
    • “But the best organizations are able to empower more of their organization to identify tensions, equip them with ways to solve them, and be fair in terms of where budgets go and what they chose to work on.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Breaking Down the Silos

In the Upper School at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School we are on a mission to open up interdisciplinary learning experiences to our students. In January, we introduced 10 new interdisciplinary courses that will be team taught. If all goes as planned we will have approximately 21 faculty members working in a co-teaching situation.

We believe so strongly in the benefits of breaking down the disciplinary silos.

“The historical model was based on separation and specialization; the new model will be about creating connections and interactions among a wide variety of separate domains.” 

Duke University President Richard Brodhead

An interdisciplinary approach offers so many benefits to today’s students.

“Interdisciplinary teaching helps students…

  • Uncover Preconceptions or Recognize Bias…
  • Advance Critical Thinking and Cognitive Development…
  • Tolerate or Embrace Ambiguity…
  • Appreciate Ethical Dimensions of Concerns.

Study compiled by Arthur H. Goldsmith, Washington and Lee University

These 9 courses, along with Humanities 10 make up our new interdisciplinary courses for the 2017-18 school year. You can see that we have the common social studies and English connections, as well as science and English and statistics and English. These are one period classes where students can determine which core content area they can earn the credit for. Yes, we’re still working under a Carnegie unit paradigm.

interdisciplinary-courses-2017

Here are a couple of course descriptions. The course below is one that every student should take during his/her academic career. These particular courses allow students who are interested in math and sciences to take those courses and then use this course for their English credit. Oh, and students can earn honors credit for any of these courses. The sections are heterogenous and those who want to excel must complete work at a higher level.

Data and Rhetoric: How Statistics Shapes Arguments How do we know what data to trust? How do we use data responsibly? Because of practices like data dredging, p-hacking, and the use of logical fallacies, not all arguments are created equally, and the mere presence of data does not validate an argument. In this course, students will master introductory skills in statistical methods and data interpretation in conjunction with argument analysis and construction. Students will become critical readers as they learn to evaluate sources and evidence, including the statistics methods and analyses used to collect and interpret the data, trace an author’s line of reasoning, and evaluate the logic and efficacy of the claims, ultimately preparing students to become thoughtful researchers and writers. As students work to answer the essential questions for this course, they will also examine how culture and context shape data and its presentation as they work to answer the essential questions for the course. Learning outcomes and spiraling skills for this course allow learners to take this course for 1.0 English credit or 1.0 Mathematics credit.

Ecological Rhetoric: Science and Literature of the Environment In this course study discussions of environmental issues through a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction texts, exploring both the rhetoric and the scientific basis for claims made. The course emphasizes a strong foundation of the chemical, biological, and physical processes in ecosystem, as well the literary themes and linguistic devices deployed in environmental argumentation. Students will also craft arguments about the environment and attempted to mobilize communities around environmental issues in this project-based class.

We also are striving to provide our students with more options and to allow our older students to build their own path. These changes create many more options for out MVPS students. Prior to making a decision our Upper School Leadership team tested out possible schedules for student. What we found that each one had his/her own story based on their new choices.

Notice the differences between Javier and Ignacio.

Javier

  • *Data and Civic Engagement (SS) Year
  • *Environmental Advocacy: An exploration of the science and rhetoric surrounding the environment (Science) Year
  • Atlanta’s Place in America/Southern Studies:  What is Southern Culture? (English/Social Studies) Sem
  • Propaganda and Protest: Studying 20th century American warfare through the lens of film (Social Studies/English/Arts) Sem
  • Race, Class, and Gender in America (English/Social Studies) Sem

Ignacio

  • PreCalculus
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Data & Civic Engagement (Eng)
  • AP World
  • AP Latin
  • Yearbook

Our teachers will be in course development the rest of this semester and into the summer vacation. Afterwards each individual decided to honestly find a way for the child. The next step that is on our agenda is to find someone who can teach programming and also be able to craft. Leads on these position.

Since rolling out Humanities 9 this year we have learned that our teachers need support with becoming high performing teams in the classroom. At one of our recent meetings someone said, “We’re all alphas in our own classrooms.” Navigating class with  a teaching partner can be a stressful situation.

 

Empowering Seekers and Explorers

Disclaimer: This post has been in my draft box since August. It’s still worthy of sharing even though the timing is off.

This week we welcomed new faculty members to the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School Family. In the past we have spent a small amount of time on mission and culture before diving into the nuts and bolts of work life. This year we tried something different and we focused on our Norms and Principles and Practice:

  • Relationships are foundational to learning
  • Curiosity and passion drive learning

  • Empathy influences learning
  • Learners apply knowledge to make an impact
  • #FailUp

  • #HaveFun

  • #StartWithQuestions

ponce-city-marketWhile the maker and design thinking activities were excellent, the highlight for me was our field trip to Ponce City Market. In my recent post, #ILOVEMYSCHOOL I mentioned that one of our strategic questions is, How might we empower all learners to be seekers and explorers?”. 

 

 

fsbl-boBefore embarking on our adventure, Bo Adams shared his lifelong quest searching for project based learning (PBL) and his experience with Father-Son Based Learning (#FSBL). He also touted the benefits of building muscles around “Innovator’s DNA traits – observe, question, experiment, network, and associate. – through the methodology of observation journaling and curiosity-curated curriculum.”

 

Once we arrived at the market we split up into two groups but people were free to go wherever the wanted. The time together helped us build relationships and we had FUN. Not exactly what most people are used to during an orientations session.

city-planning
Learning from ATL City Planners
atl-popup-lab
So much to consider when redesigning a city
collage-ponce-cm
You just don’t know what you’ll find…

Let’s see what comes of trips like this. Who knows how it may transfer to our students.

 

 

 

Just ask the students…

popup-lab-students-1

For the past several months we have been working on hacking our curriculum for 2017. Our Upper School faculty has been collaborating on new courses for next year. The discussions have been driven by three questions from our Manifesto.

  • How might we make school more reflective of real life?
  • How might we empower all learners to be seekers and explorers?
  • How might we inspire one another — and the larger world — through the work we undertake together?

We initially posted displays in the Hive for teachers and students to comment on during a 2 week period. There were several informal meetups organized during our lunch/enrichment period. We provided examples of courses and schedules from other schools, documents from our current academic program, prototypes from our faculty members and external constraints that we have to consider. The process led to lively discussions between faculty members but we knew that there was something missing. So, we decided to include students in the process.

hacking-curriculum

After the two week Pop-up Lab faculty members formally proposed new courses for the 2017-18 school year. During the course review process we brought in students to find out what they …

likewishwonder

student-pop-up-lab21

student-pop-up-lab2

This gave our Upper School Leadership team additional information to consider during the approval process. As you can imagine, we learned a ton from our students that informed our decision making process. The end result is that we’ll be rolling out new interdisciplinary courses that are inquiry based and incorporate real world connections. All were vetted by the students prior to approval. Let’s see how the students respond in January.

st-pop-up-lab-course

I would love to hear how other schools include students in academic program discussions. Please share what you are doing.

Why we Start with Questions at #MVPS

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-2-59-18-am

Our first norm at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School is “Start with Questions”. Why?

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things that you have long taken for granted.”

Bertrand Russell

“No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

Thomas Berger

“Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”

Voltaire

“What makes us human, I think, is an ability to ask questions, a consequence of our sophisticated spoken language.”

Jane Goodall

“The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions.”

Claude Levi-Strauss

“He who asks the questions cannot avoid the answers.”

African Proverb

 

Empathy as a Precursor to Innovation – Reflective Stance – Medium

  • tags: empathy innovation design_thinking design thinking

    • How can we possibly understand what someone needs if we do not know them?

    • I am just beginning to embark on a new project to support schools in creating School Narratives to tell the story of learning and improvement and I am struck, once again, by the need for relationship to drive any type of learning and improvement.

    • We need to find the soul of our data and that soul is always found in the stories of those we serve.

    • We need to stop acting from what we think we know and listen to those we serve, to find what is truly needed.

    • They felt that the culture allowed them to be innovative, take risks, learn from one another and be truer to themselves.

    • The main character, Rodney Copperbottom, is born to be an inventor. He creates numerous inventions but it is only when he looks at his father, lying exhausted in a chair at the end of a hard day of work that he comes up with his best invention.

    • Invention is the creation of something whereas innovation is about improving something — be it a process, a product, or service.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.