All posts by Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 

Every Day is a Lesson

So I turned 50 years old this past week and honestly, it feels pretty good. I was fabulously spoiled by my family and my friends, and by my students and colleagues, and it was such a great day that I think I’ll find a way to turn 50 again next year as well 🙂 The thing about milestone birthdays however, as much as they are great in so many ways, is that they do make you pause and reflect on your life up to that point. They make you take stock of your current reality, and think about the journey that has led you up to that day…the triumphs and joys and successes, the stumbles and mistakes that you’ve made along the way, and most importantly for me anyway, the lessons that you’ve learned that have shaped who you are. 

Looking back, it’s funny to see how many lessons I had to learn the hard way, and over and over again until they finally sunk in, and how fortunate I am to have arrived at this half century mark to the life that I currently lead. Like most of us, I’ve pulled off some Houdini-like escape acts that could and should have derailed my life, but somehow it has managed to work out. It’s been fun over the past week to think back and reflect, and to get a little nostalgic, but the biggest take away for me throughout that reflective exercise is the realization that regardless of how old you are, every new gift of a day that you are graciously given is indeed a lesson. Everyday is an opportunity to learn, and to do better, and to find a way to bring joy to someone else’s life. 

These daily lessons are often times not ones that you’re learning for the very first time, especially if you’ve lived for more than a few decades, but the ones that just cement some universal truths that help you become a better person for yourself and for others. This past week, for example, I was reminded of a couple of life lessons that have reconnected me back to what’s truly important in life…in my view anyway. I re-learned from a child last week that something as simple as a kind word and a small celebration can change their lives forever. I re-learned from from a colleague that a smile can change someone’s day for the better, and is often just what someone is needing at a particular moment. I learned again from my beautiful wife that you absolutely get back the energy that you give out to the world. I re-learned from my daughter that beauty is everywhere in the world, all around us all the time in the simple little things that we often take for granted. I learned from my brother that age is really just a number, and it’s what’s inside your mind and your heart that really, truly matters, and finally I learned again from a good friend of mine, who had a parent and hero pass away earlier in the week, that none of us are ever promised tomorrow, so live your life today. 

An important lesson for all of us, regardless of how old you are, is the ability to recognize that life is made up of a string of single, individual days…little gifts of time that are presented to you to learn from, and grow from, and to embrace. It’s never too early to pass this sentiment on to our students, and even though they will need to go through their own journey, and make their mistakes over and over again until they finally sink in, we can still use our wisdom to give them some help along the way. At the very least, we can try our best to get them to see that every day is indeed a lesson, and an opportunity to become a better student, person, friend, and a better human being for our world if they only just embrace the here and now. 

Anyway, turning 50 has been wonderful, and thank you to everyone for making it so special. I’m excited to continue learning and growing and doing better, and here’s to the next 50…bring it on! Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.  

Quote of the Week…

The fastest way of learning is little by little and day by day – Lewis Carroll

Inspiring Videos – 

Michigan Marching Band

Son’s Graduation

Rethinking Challenging Kids

Who’s Coming for Dinner?

Soul Pancake

Related Articles – 

Daily Lessons

Self Reflection

Powerful Life Lessons

Free Time TED Talk

Something in the Air

So here we are at the very beginning of a brand new year, and even more exciting than that for me, the start of a brand new decade. I’m a little bit more inspired than usual honestly because there seems to be something in the air, a significant shift or tipping point that has finally begun to take hold in the world of education. It’s not necessarily new this paradigm shift, but certainly more widespread and ubiquitous these days I feel, and it’s resonating profoundly everywhere I look…in schools and conversations, and in research articles and conference themes across the globe. 

I’m talking about a shift in what gets top billing and top priority when we look to prepare our children for the future of our world…a shift to an approach to teaching and learning that is delivered through a different lens, or under a different umbrella, which better emphasizes the skills that our children really need to go out into the world having mastered. The essential teachings that our world desperately craves right now. Themes like kindness, empathy, diversity, inclusion, environmental stewardship, creativity, and resilience…and a formative education and taught curriculum that is truly a little closer to the heart.

This year, when I ask my own kids each morning what their school schedule looks like for the day, the conversation goes something like this. Hey Gabby and Max (my 6th and 9th graders), what classes do you have today?. I hear back things like Math and Science and Social Studies and English and French, with some cool electives thrown in there as well, which are typically the classes that they tend to get really excited about. We’re so used to this structure of school, and this traditional approach to how we prepare our kids for the world when they graduate. You know how I’d really love that morning conversation to go? Something like this…Hey, what do you guys have in school today? Gabby will say, Oh, my first block is empathy, and then I have creativity, inclusion and diversity. What about you Max? Well Dad, I have environmental stewardship, kindness, and this afternoon I have a double block of resilience, which is a really tough class but it’s helping me become a better learner. Great, I’d say, see you at school and I can’t wait to hear all about it at dinner tonight. 

It’s not that we have to give up teaching the important math and science concepts, or go away from languages and literacy, it’s just reframing and delivering the classes through a new lens. Teaching science and math with a focus on the environment and service learning for example, and teaching literacy skills through a lens of kindness and empathy, and even social studies through a lens of diversity. Of course we will need to change what we call the classes because language truly has power, and it would signify a purposeful shift in curriculum thinking, writing and delivery. Anyway, without going on too long I think you get what I’m saying, and honestly, these essential shifts are already happening in leading international and independent schools around the world, like ours, through strategic planning and curriculum review and implementation, and through non traditional course offerings and student opportunities that are more aligned to these essential needs, themes and skills. 

Take a look at the upcoming AAIE conference for example, and see the themes that are being championed…panel discussions and conversations around cultures of dignity and inclusion and what’s really paramount for the future of education. Things like positive social change and health and well being and diversity and resiliency. These ideas and this narrative is being championed everywhere you look and to me it feels good. It feels like it’s finally time, which is why this year, and this decade feels different. There is something in the air and it smells sweet and it feels like real, transformative change is happening…it feels like the future of education is upon us. I’d like to end with some song lyrics taken from one of my favorite songs, “Closer to the Heart” by a Canadain band called, RUSH. These lyrics seem appropriate to this change in the air that I’m feeling, and even more poignant considering the Band’s drummer and lyricist, one of the greatest of all-time, Neil Peart passed away just the other day. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. Happy 2020 everyone…it’s going to be a great year!

Closer to the Heart – Rush

And the men who hold high places

Must be the ones who start

To mold a new reality

Closer to the heart

The blacksmith and the artist

Reflect it in their art

They forge their creativity

Closer to the heart

Yes, closer to the heart

Philosophers and ploughmen

Each must know his part

To sow a new mentality

Closer to the heart

Yes, closer to the heart

You can be the captain

And I will draw the chart

Sailing into destiny

Closer to the heart


Inspiring Videos – 

On the Road – A Year in Review

A Surprise Thank You

Related Articles – 

Social-Emotional Learning

8 Critical Skills

Essential for Students

Getting Smart

Important Skills

10 Feet Tall and Bulletproof

So this week I had several students sent to my office to be celebrated. It is literally my favorite part of the day when a student arrives at my door, with a teacher by their side, holding a book or a piece of writing or simply just standing there empty handed excited to share something special with me..I absolutely love it! There was one student in particular though, this past Wednesday, who had me choking back the tears. He walked in a little nervous and very excited, holding a large print chapter book, and he was super eager to read it to me…and he did so beautifully.

You see, this 4th grade boy came to ASP at the beginning of the year not knowing a single word of English, and there he was only three months later ready to read out loud to his principal…in English! I sat there and listened, and watched him grow in confidence with each spoken word, and the look of pride on his face made my heart want to burst. After the celebration, as he was walking back to class, it hit me that this particular moment, that was orchestrated by two incredible teachers (thank you Sherri and Gabby), will stay with that boy for the rest of his life. That feeling of success, and that sense of pride that he felt in that moment changed him, and absolutely strengthened his relationship with school and learning. I managed to catch up to him later on in the day, after I had composed myself, and I asked him how he felt. He told me that he felt like a reading superhero, and as he walked away smiling I swear he felt 10 feet tall and bulletproof. 

I was reminded once again through that magical experience that it doesn’t take much to change a kid’s relationship with learning. Little successes, some small wins, and a few well thought out celebrations can make all the difference. An encouraging word here, a high-five there, a note or a phone call home at some point throughout the week, and of course a trip to the principal’s office will go a long, long way in strengthening a child’s relationship with school and learning…for us, it doesn’t take much time to do but the effect on the student will last a lifetime! We are all so busy at school doing what we do, and if we aren’t careful then days can go by without us purposely finding ways to set up, or call out moments of success with each one of our kids. A child’s relationship with learning is at the heart of it all, and the foundation of a student’s educational experience. There is nothing more important for us as educators than to go after that relationship specifically, and to help build that foundation. 

I’m challenging you all this week, with less than two weeks to go before the holiday, to celebrate as many kids as you can, and to go out of your way to strengthen all of your students’ relationships with learning…purposely make them feel like learning superheroes, and watch their eyes light up, their chests swell, and the smiles start to spread across their faces. Make them feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof, if even just for a moment. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

Neither comprehension nor learning can take place in an atmosphere of anxiety

-Rose Kennedy

Beautiful Holiday Videos –

Hafod Hardware

Secret Santa

Dragon Fire

Make Someone’s Holiday

The Time Shop

Adoption Support

Related Articles – 

Celebrating Student Success

Learning How to Care

Pushing Forward – Bret Olson

Teaching Through Relationships

10 Ways to Inspire a Love of Learning

Do I Have a Choice?

So when I was a kid I didn’t have much choice in what I learned in school. I remember clearly as a whole class having to read the same books and to write about the same things, and having to do the same math worksheets, and having to research the same topics in Social Studies, and even having to do the exact same science experiments. I remember never being able to choose my own partner and I absolutely remember being forced to play the clarinet in 6th grade when all I wanted to do was to play the drums! I also remember not being very interested in any of it. 

As far as I can remember I had no personal connection or choice in anything that I was learning when I was a kid, and I always felt like I was being forced to learn things that I had no desire to learn. Thank goodness for recess and sports and after school activities where I could finally get a little control back in my life. There was however, this one amazing year when I was in 5th grade, and I had a teacher (Ms. Lumsden) who let us all choose our own just right books to read, and who allowed us to write about topics that were important and meaningful to us, and to research anything we wanted in our current events unit, and she even let us design our own science experiment to share with the class…and I could choose my own partner if I wanted! That was easily the best year of my school life, and the year where I actually remember the book that I read, and the experiment that I designed, and the essay that I wrote about baseball…funny enough, It’s also the teacher who I connected with the most, and the one who I felt truly knew me as a young person…man I loved Ms. Lumsden and I loved 5th grade!

Anyway, I’m writing about this because we have been working very hard as a school over the past couple of years to find ways to give our students more voice and choice in their learning, and lately I’ve been noticing it everywhere I look. I see it in our Math stations where kids get to choose which games they play, I see it in our literacy workshops with kids choosing their own just right books and writing about topics that deeply interest them, I see it in our Inspiration Projects where kids go after a passion that they are keen to research and present, and I see it in our science and maker-space programs where kids are given choice in the areas of environmental stewardship, school service, and creative design. In music, kids are able to choose the instruments that they want to play, and in PE students are often able to design their own activities. In Art kids are choosing what materials they use and how they want to represent their learning, and in French students are able to choose the roles that they play in their green screen skits, and they write their own scripts…student choice is literally everywhere! 

You know what, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen our students more engaged and joyful in their learning, and when looking at student data I am seeing an increase in student achievement as well…but the best part of it all is when I pop into classrooms and ask kids about what they truly love about their school experience, they consistently talk to me about the choice that they are given throughout the day. It’s been validating for us to have recently attended conferences and worked with consultants who are championing student voice and choice as a way to deeply engage kids in their learning, and I’m thrilled that our new strategic plan is connected strongly to this purpose…so good. 

Finally, I understand that we can’t give students choice in every activity and experience throughout the day, and I am acutely aware that there is a time and a place for direct teacher instruction and whole class activities. What I am celebrating is the attention that we are paying as a school to finding places across our programs to give students more voice and choice in their learning, and to inspire our students to take more ownership of their total educational experience. I’m asking you all this week to look for ways to give kids choice if you can, where and when it’s appropriate, and then watch as the joy and engagement explodes all around you. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

The necessity of creation is the sovereign power of choice

– Sunday Adelaja

Inspiring Videos-

Call Someone

Fred Rogers Speech

Returning the Favor 

E.T. Returns

Happy Thanksgiving

Related Articles –

The Benefits of Choice

Student Voice and Choice

Why Choice Matters

The Power of Choice

Voice and Choice

Giving Thanks

So with American Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday, I want to post an updated and reworked list of some of the things that I am genuinely thankful for as an educator. I’m writing this from a hotel room, as the sun rises over sleepy Luxembourg, ready to head off for day 2 of an Inquiry-Based Learning conference, and I’m feeling very thankful indeed. So, here we go…in no particular order, I am truly, truly thankful for…

The Noise â€“ Have you ever taken a few minutes in the day to stop and listen to the white noise of a school? If you haven’t then do it on Monday morning…it might just be the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear. It’s a constant hum of laughing and learning, and failure and success, and teaching and determination and love. One of the best parts of my day is to walk down a hallway and to listen from outside the door to the sounds of kids engaged…or to stand off in the corner of the playground during recess time and listen to the shouts and squeals of happiness, as kids play and make new friends and learn how to fit in…it is definitely music to my ears, and without a doubt, the soundtrack to a beautiful day. 

A Child’s Beauty â€“ Children are the best teachers that any of us could possibly have, and the most beautiful inspirations that exist in our world. It is impossible for someone to spend a day with a child and not come away inspired and changed for the better. If you really listen to what children say, and if you take the time to watch them interact with the world, your heart will fill with joy and your smile will stretch across your face. The way they notice the little things in life that we often take for granted, the way that they are constantly curious, the utter joy that spills from their bodies when they learn something new and find a little success, and their imagination, creativity, and willingness to fail and to try, try, try again…wow…there is nothing in our world like the beauty of a child. 

Committed Educators â€“ Teaching is the most noble, honorable and important profession/vocation that we have in society, and quality teachers are as close to true and living superheroes that we have in our world. Committed educators are change agents…they are sculptors…they are artists…they are mentors…they are role models, and they are often times under appreciated. No professional works harder than a committed educator in my opinion, with the sole focus and responsibility of moulding their students into positive change-makers for our world, and into empathetic, compassionate, critical thinking, and creative members of our communities. Quality teachers are truly amazing and deserve to be lauded for their tremendous efforts and contributions to the future of our planet. 

The Opportunity â€“ The opportunity that we have as educators is incredible, and the responsibility is immense. The opportunity to re-imagine education and to break free from traditional schooling is in our collective hands, and there is no more exciting time to be an educator than right now. We have the ability to transform how we teach our kids, and how we design and redesign learning spaces, and how we write and deliver curriculum, and how we prepare our students for a rapidly changing world…awesome! We have the opportunity to be courageous and innovative and transformational…let’s seize it!

The Struggle â€“ Watching kids learn, and grow, and fail, and develop is a beautiful struggle, and one that I will never get tired of being a part of. Growing up is hard, and trying to find your way in this world is difficult at the best of times. I love this struggle, and I love each child’s journey into becoming who they will eventually become. They all burn so bright, and their joy and pain is so open and honest and so on display. The struggle is incredible to watch, and it brings you back to that time in your life that shaped who you are. It’ll make you laugh and cry and get frustrated, and it will make you proud…but most importantly it will make you feel, and become a part of something truly special, which is each child’s journey into finding themselves, and their purpose…this struggle is at the core of what is beautiful about education. 

The Constant Learning â€“ Each and every day I learn (and re-learn) something new. Being in classrooms and interacting with students and teachers is a constant learning process that makes me a better person. I learn from my mistakes, I learn from the mistakes of others, and I learn about people and how to best support and challenge them. I learn about current educational trends and research, I learn about what’s being successful in other quality schools, I learn from my outstanding leadership and admin teams, and like I said before, I learn from the best teachers that we have…our kids. They teach me everyday about the importance of being my best self for others, and to be humble and honest and a good listener. It’s staggering how much you can learn in the run of a school day if you just open yourself up to it.

The Unexpected â€“ An educator’s day never goes as planned and I love it. The thing about school is that you never know from one second to the next what will come your way, and this uncertainty makes me love my job. There’s always an unexpected mini crisis or a student celebration or an issue with a parent or a teacher or a kid, and it keeps us on our toes in the best possible way. From one hour to the next you can be floored by a student accomplishment, you can be bewildered by a decision that a student or adult has made, you can have a belly laugh from something that a kid says to you, and you can be thrown into a situation that will break your heart…and it’s all good. An individual school day is just like a student…ever-changing, unpredictable, surprising, and always beautiful!

The Joy â€“ If you’re like me then coming to school everyday brings you tremendous joy…how could it not? We get to hang out with kids all day long, we get to spend time with our colleagues who are also our friends, we get to learn and feel and become better human beings because of our daily interactions with our students and each other, and we get to shape the future of our little (and not so little) kids. What other profession can offer such a joyful and purposeful existence? Just when you start to feel stressed or frustrated or overworked, you turn the corner and run into a beautiful little kid, with a huge smile on their face, and so much joy in their hearts, and they run up to you and they give you a big hug and you just melt as their energy reminds you why you love school so much. I’m so grateful for what children bring to my life!

Well, I could go on and on but I’ll leave it at that for now. I hope that some of these resonate with you, and inspire you to think about what it is that you are thankful for as we stare down Thanksgiving this week. I am thankful for the opportunity to be working with such an outstanding faculty and I’m truly grateful for our ASP community. There are only four weeks left until the holiday break so keep your energy up and keep your heart open to why you love school so much. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other. 

Quote of the week…

 Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses

-Alphonse Karr

Beautiful Videos – Watch them!

Unintended Consequences

So I just finished reading a truly fascinating book titled, Loonshots, by Safi Bahcall, which I highly recommend by the way, and that book coupled with a few recent experiences at school and in my personal life have got me thinking deeply about the law of unintended consequences. You hear people all the time saying things like, “wow, I didn’t see that coming”, or “you know, things never turn out the way you expect”, or “whoops, I didn’t really think about that”, and even after years of leading change initiatives in schools, and having to unpack plenty of decisions that didn’t turn out like I had planned throughout my life, I still get caught dealing with situations that I had no idea were coming my way…but don’t we all!


Bahcall tells a great story about when the Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered by Bedouin shepherds in a desert cave near the Dead Sea in modern day Israel. The archaeologists offered to pay money to the shepherds for each new scrap of scroll that they found. Their idea and intention was solid and sound at first glance, but they didn’t anticipate the unintended consequence of the shepherds ripping up any full scrolls that they found into little tiny fragments to make more money…whoops. It’s a wonderful little reminder about the importance of thinking deeply and critically about the decisions that we make in schools or in life. 


The beautiful and somewhat scary thing about life as we know it is that you really have no idea what is about to come your way. This realization, which I embraced years and years ago, has led me to a focused approach to living in the moment, and a carpe diem kind of mindset that grounds me in the here and now. That said, even though I gave up long ago trying to control the world around me, I have gotten much better at planning ahead, and trying to identify consequences that are in my blind spot. In schools, particularly when rolling out a change initiative, it’s absolutely imperative that you take the time to think about and identify any negative, unintended consequence that might derail or delay your desired outcome. You’ll never absolutely be able to predict how something may eventually play out, but by purposeful planning and strategic thinking, you can help mitigate any undesired or unintended result.


Reading this book was an important reminder for me to slow down, to use the people I trust as thought partners when making important decisions, and to purposely plan time in meetings for strategic and systems thinking exercises. I’m sharing this with you because unwanted surprises are never fun, and I just want to remind you all to pause, take some time to think about the “what ifs”, and to get differing perspectives when making a decision that will ultimately impact other people. Yes live your life in the present, and absolutely seize the day, but also know that it never hurts to plan ahead. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…The greatest thing that science teachers you is the law of unintended consequences- Ann Druyan


Loonshots – Safi Bahcall

Inspiring Videos – 

Heart Transplant

Find Your Voice Choir

What Happened to Kid President?


TED Talk – Unintended Consequences


Related Articles – 

The Cobra Effect

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Organizational Change

Lessons and Takeaways from Loonshots

What’s Your WHY?

So for the past several years I’ve been working as an adjunct professor for Endicott College, teaching Master’s Degree classes on change management and innovation in education. It’s something that I truly enjoy for a number of reasons, but mostly because it provides me the opportunity to learn with educators from all around the world. With every new class and cohort I get re-inspired, I re-connect with why I love teaching so much, and I continuously get challenged to think about the “why” behind what we do as educators. This past week, I asked my current group of passionate professionals to answer that very question in a discussion post, “What is your own personal WHY as an educator? How do you live that truth both inside and outside of the school?”, and the answers that were shared absolutely made my heart want to burst!


It was beautiful to hear them all talking about wanting to inspire young people to be positive change agents for our world. It didn’t matter what subject or grade level or position within the school community they were in, every student in the cohort, from countries spanning across 4 continents, feverishly talked about wanting to develop beautiful human beings…not engineers, or mathematicians, or scientists, or entrepreneurs, or doctors or artists, but beautiful human beings!

 
They talked about the responsibility and opportunity that they had to teach compassion, and empathy, and resilience, and diversity, and social justice, and environmental stewardship, and intercultural understanding and love…it was heartwarming to say the least because I share in that belief that regardless of what careers our young people end up choosing, it’s who they are as people that will make all the difference! It feels good to know that teacher leaders from around the world are living and breathing this same purpose, and connecting to the same WHY when they wake up every morning. I felt honored to be able to reply back to each discussion post and to share that my WHY connects so strongly with theirs. 


Honestly, it was a fun question to ask, and an important one to think about from time to time I believe. We often get so busy in our day to day lives that we can go weeks and weeks without stopping and re-connecting with our meaning and purpose as educators. This week I’m going to ask that you all take a few minutes to answer that same question for yourselves, and maybe even talk about it with a friend or a colleague…maybe even start one of your weekly meetings sharing your WHY out with each other. It’s a powerful and empowering experience to share your WHY with others, and to see how beautifully we are all connected to one another in our pursuit of creating a better world for our kids. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

When you learn, teach. When you get, give. -Maya Angelou


Inspiring Videos – 

Football Surprise

The Surprising Science of Happiness

Cupcakes

Lego Wheelchair


Related Articles – 

Teachers Make a Difference


Simon Sinek – The Origin of the WHY

Strength in Numbers

So I was walking down the hallway this past Thursday on the way back to my office when I passed by a group of students working together outside of the library. I stopped, turned around, and went over to hear what they were discussing, and as I was sitting down, one of the students said, “you know what Mr. Kerr, when we work by ourselves we’re pretty smart, but when we work together we are way, way smarter”. After about 10 minutes of listening to them share ideas, defend their thinking, ask thoughtful and clarifying questions, and eventually come up with several different solutions to a problem, I walked away thinking about what that student had said, and about the whole notion and power of collaboration.


The following day I decided to look for and track all the ways that we work together in schools as students and as professionals, and honestly, I lost count before noon. It started first thing in the morning as I watched kids on the playground working together in teams all over the place, solving problems and playing games. Then I saw it in classrooms during our morning meetings as kids shared ideas, and built trust and made collective plans for the day. As the morning went on I saw group math stations and book club conversations, and strategy groups and peer sharing and editing in writer’s workshop, and team building and strategizing in PE, and group presentations in French…it was everywhere! Kids learning with and from each other…together…sharing and teaching, and gathering and considering perspectives other than their own. It was beautiful to watch.


It didn’t stop there though, as I saw teachers co-teaching and co-planning, meeting in teams to create assessments and lessons and units, looking at student work and analyzing student data, presenting to each other and coaching each other, and using each other as thought partners…again, it was everywhere that I looked! Collaboration builds those critical life skills, which are so necessary for all of us to be successful in today’s world…kids and adults..both in our professional lives and in our lives outside of work. Skills like active listening, analyzing, brainstorming solutions to problems, critical thinking, building consensus and compromising, embracing mistake making, trust building, respect, being open to new and opposing ideas, conflict resolution, self advocacy, leadership, and so much more. 


Working together in groups and in teams really does make us better, and giving these opportunities to our students, and to each other as colleagues is key. All that said, I do recognize and understand the importance of being able to do work on your own as well, and to have that time to write, read, think and create all by yourself…I really do value that time. There is however a power in collaboration, that does enhance the learning experience for all of us I think. I believe in that old idiom, strength in numbers, and like that student so confidently stated, working together really does make us way, way smarter. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team – John Wooden


Inspiring Videos-

Sign Language

The Funeral

TED Talk – Collective Creativity

This is Water – David Foster Wallace

 Best Friends


Related Articles – 

Successful Teams and Projects

Collaboration in the Workplace

Why Collaboration is Essential

Real World Tips

In the Workplace

Partnering for the Win!

So last Thursday evening we had our Lower School back to school Open House event for parents. It was inspiring for me to watch this partnership so beautifully on display, and honestly it was a little emotional for me too. There is something truly magical about watching teachers and parents partnering together in the educational experience of their child, and to see our community come together around the learning of OUR kids. 


Teachers gave parents an authentic look into the day to day experience of a student at ASP, and engaged them in many of the daily routines and community and culture building activities that we embrace as a Lower School. The energy in the building was positive and palpable, and we all left at the end of the night committed to doing our part in support of our children…what better way to begin our school year?


Leveraging the parent community to the fullest extent is something that schools talk about all the time but rarely do all that well. Schools have their usual parent-teacher conference days, and parent coffees, and communication mechanisms and all the rest, but how well do schools really partner with parents as teachers and as professionals and as change agents? Think of the expertise that parents have that we rarely tap into, and think of the missed opportunity that is right there for the taking.


It’s true that kids can’t be what they can’t see so to speak, meaning that the parent community can and should be a portal into unlocking a child’s passion and curiosity and view of a possible future. Doctors and Engineers and Artists and Authors and FilmMakers and Interior Designers and Entrepreneurs and Athletes and Activists and so, so much more…just waiting there to inspire our young people around the endless exciting possibilities, many of which are unknown by our kids at this young age. 


We often talk about giving our students “real life, real world” experiences, and if we really mean that, then let’s look at creative ways to get kids out into the real world. Internships and classroom career days and school future fairs and day trips to check out real life in action…what are we waiting for? As part of our strategic plan initiative, embedded in the idea of “Going Beyond”, we are focused as a school on leveraging these partnerships this year and in the future. My challenge to you is to look for ways in your own departments and grade levels and classrooms to go beyond the usual and traditional way that we partner with parents…and get creative. I’ve shared the poem below a few times before but it is worth sharing again in my opinion. These truly are OUR kids, and the more we partner with each other the better and brighter their future will be.

 
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the climate change protests and marches that happened over the past two days around the world, and I’ve included some important messages from Greta Thunberg for you to act on and absorb. Talk about real life, real world passions for kids…positive change-making across the globe. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 


Whose Child is This?

Whose child is this? ‘ I asked one day
Seeing a little one out at play
‘Mine’, said the parent with a tender smile
‘Mine to keep a little while
To bathe her hands and comb her hair
To tell her what she is to wear
To prepare her that she may always be good
And each day do the things she should’

‘Whose child is this? ‘ I asked again
As the door opened and someone came in
‘Mine’, said the teacher with the same tender smile
‘Mine, to keep just for a little while
To teach her how to be gentle and kind
To train and direct her dear little mind
To help her live by every rule
And get the best she can from school’

‘Whose child is this? ‘ I ask once more
Just as the little one entered the door
‘Ours’ said the parent and the teacher as they smiled
And each took the hand of the little child
‘Ours to love and train together
Ours this blessed task forever.’

– Jessie Rivera

Quote of the Week…

Everything ​counts…what you do counts! – Greta Thunberg
Inspiring Videos – 

NatureNow

A Dream Come True

Step Up as a Person

What Does Inclusion Look Like?

Greta Thunberg TED
Related Articles –

Inclusive Schools

Two Way Partnership

Parents as Partners

Community Collaboration

Parents as Teachers

The Happiness Advantage

So I managed to read a number of truly inspiring and thought provoking books over the summer, which I will talk about in future posts, but none of them resonated with me as much as The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor. I had read it before, about 7 or 8 years ago after watching his popular TED Talk, but reading it again this time around felt a little different.

 
You see, I have been thinking a lot about the field of positive psychology lately and how it relates to education and student learning, and his research around the 7 principles of lasting positive change helped shape and focus my approach to this school year. I’ve always been a firm believer that the foundation of any great school begins with the culture and relationships that are present in the building, and if you can get the culture and relationships right then the really important work of schools can begin. So, with that firmly in mind, and with two years of culture and collaboration work behind us as a faculty, we have started the year with a focus on the importance and power of things like gratitude and optimism and happiness, and how we can begin cultivating these mindsets with our kids…and with each other.

 
To go hand in hand with this, we have also intensified our focus on the social curriculum, and ramped up our commitment to giving weight to the social and emotional learning of our students each and every day. We’ve made a commitment as a team to hold on to the people around us…each other…and to individually “being the weather” so to speak when approaching all our conversations and interactions with adults and students. We’ve committed to presuming positive intent, finding the educational courage to have the conversations that we need to have, and going to the source when we have issues or miscommunications. We’ve committed to being grateful for the opportunity that we have as educators and as change agents, and we are modeling this approach to life and learning for our kids and community.

 
It’s no surprise that this has been a truly amazing start to the school year, with this focus playing out palpably already in the hallways and classrooms, and the positive energy of our lower school humming at a fever pitch. Changing our own mindsets as adults has had a profound effect on how we come to school each day, and my challenge for all of us is to keep it up…and to turn this wonderful start into just “the way we do things around here”. If you haven’t read Achor’s book yet, then do yourself a favor and pick it up. It’s an easy read but a very powerful one, and a book that can truly help you leverage that happiness advantage.

 
Anyway, being a world class educator begins with who you are as a person for the people that you meet throughout the day, and what mindset you bring to school with you when you enter the building…so keep those smiles burning bright, cultivate that joy, and be grateful. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week….Everywhere you go, take a smile with you – Sasha Azevedo

Inspiring Videos – 

Earning your Parent Stripes

Holding Doors

The Happiness Advantage for Children

Addicted Handyman

TED Talks – 

Shawn Achor

Malcolm Gladwell

Related Articles –

Why is Positive Psychology Important?

The Pursuit of Happiness

In the Classroom

Happy Teachers, Happy Students

Happy Classrooms