Darn it. It’s my blog, and I’ll write if I want to!

It’s happened again. An acquaintance of mine told me that I was writing too much on my blog. She said that I was annoying her with how much I post. If you have been a regular reader of It’s About Learning, you may remember that I have written about this before. In fact, similar feedback from another friend played a part in me starting the “CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60” series.

Such feedback – that I write too much – puts me in an interesting space. I try to be a poster child for practices of empathy. I often fail, but I constantly and continuously try to grow as an empathic thinker and doer. I can appreciate what someone is saying when they tell me that I annoy them with how much I post some days. Often I struggle to keep up with my own reading. However, there is something much deeper and richer happening within me.

I think back to my most influential and supportive and encouraging teachers. They ALL encouraged me to write more. Now, on particular pieces of writing, they all provided me with periodic feedback about taking away and reducing my writing on a particular piece. But in total, they ALL encouraged me to write more. They said that writing is thinking. They taught me that those who write regularly develop a better sense of what they think and understand. They provided me with insight that daily writing is like daily exercise – we grow stronger from the regular routine of writing and thinking daily.

I cannot imagine telling a student of mine that they are writing too much as a total practice. I cannot imagine getting to peek into the journaling and sketching of a writer – of a thinker – and telling her that she is writing and sketching and thinking too much.

My most influential teachers wanted me to be a lifelong learner and thinker. Mrs. Webb, Mrs. Fuller, Mr. Brewbaker, Dr. Butters, Dr. Cook, and Dr. Pajares – they all encouraged me to draw, write, sketch, journal, try, fail, try again, reiterate, prototype, and construct meaning.

So, I’m going to keep writing and sharing at the pace that I feel is appropriate for my thinking. I hope that doesn’t make me stubborn or obnoxious. I pray it does not make me seem non-empathetic. But I have a lot to learn in my second half of life. I have a lot of thinking to do. I have a lot of doing to think. I have to keep writing. I desperately want to be one of the solutions finders. To contribute to that team. I’m going to keep pushing.

If you are experiencing a filter issue, then I am happy to help in other ways. I have some experience and learning to share about how to manage a vigorous reading stream. But, I’m not going to slow down my writing and thinking. I’m mostly writing for my own thinking and learning. But I do it “out loud” so that my nodes of thinking might connect with those of others. Even when I receive no comments, I find the writing incredibly helpful to my thinking and understanding. But…when I receive even one comment on my blog, something magic happens. I get stretched, encouraged, challenged, and supported. I get feedback, pushback, and reciprocal questioning.

And I grow.

I’m gonna keep growing. I’m gonna keep writing. I’m gonna keep thinking and trying to understand. And I’m here to help if I can about how people filter and control the flow at their end of the faucet. But I’m gonna keep water in the pipes for those who want to open the flow.

CHANGEd: What if we all tried something new for 30 days (or longer) and learned out loud? 60-60-60 #60

Working at summer camp was really what caused me to pursue a career in education. At Camp Sea Gull, Captain Lloyd used to explain the length of camp sessions this way:

When other camps are moving to two-week sessions, we are sticking with four-week sessions. You know why? It takes 21 days to form a habit. While our campers are with us, we want to guide them to form habits of taking better care of themselves, each other, and the world around them. It’ll take some time to break a few bad habits, and we have an extra few days to make sure the new cement dries.

For the past 62 days (I started at “0” and I wrote a “48.5”), through this “CHANGEd: What if…? 60-60-60” blog series, I have been building new habits. I am just one day short of repeating the 21-days-forms-a-habit rule for three consecutive cycles. Here are just a few of the things I have learned and enjoyed:

  1. I crave the time to write each day. I wake up wanting to write. At about day 16, I wondered if I would make it for 60 days. At day 25, I knew I would make it.
  2. I failed more times than I succeeded. I set out to write 60 posts…in 60 days…of 60 words each. I rarely achieved the 60-word goal, and that was part of the challenge for me. I failed repeatedly. And I learned everyday from the failure. I embrace that failure. I will be a better writer for that failure. I still feel very successful nevertheless.
  3. By “learning out loud,” I connected with people whom I probably would have never met otherwise. During the 60-day challenge, I have doubled and tripled my average weekly readership, compared with the number of weekly readers before the series. Through those new readers, my PLN has grown, and I am the better for it.
  4. Megan Howard helped me tremendously. She became my partner in this exper(ience)ment, as she called it. By getting in this boat with me, she made me feel more accountable… to at least one other person, and I did not want to let her down.
  5. All day long, I now think of what if questions. I think I have developed and enhanced my Innovators DNA because of taking this on and building better habits of observing, questioning, experimenting, networking, practicing, and associating.

Won’t you try something new for 21 or 30 or 60 days? We ask our students to do so all the time. Shouldn’t we be students ourselves? Shouldn’t we be learning out loud? Shouldn’t we be building the habits that will make us better teachers and educators for the future? Better learners?

What if more of us worked to develop not just 20/20 vision, but “60-60-60 vision?” We educators should never think that we’ve got schooling as good as it can ever be. We should be seeing our current reality clearly, and we should be envisioning how we can get better. Isn’t such delta-oriented vision what it will take for education and schooling to be CHANGEd?

Assigning myself a learning challenge…CHANGEd: What If…60-60-60 #0

Last week, at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference, someone I deeply respect and admire essentially expressed to me that I blog too much. She told me that I, and a few other educational bloggers, overwhelm her with too many posts in a particular period of time. That comment has been bouncing around in my mind since that post-session conversation last week.

Ironically, for quite some time, this colleague and I have been discussing the nature of innovation, especially innovation in schools, and we agree that habits of questioning, experimenting, sharing/networking, and practicing are essential, necessary, iterative components to innovation. Among other purposes, I see my blog as a means to raise questions, experiment with ideas, practice ideation, and share/network with other educational thinkers and doers. During my brief blogging history, I have experienced periods of rapid ideation, and I have experienced periods of slump…frozen-fingers-on-the-keyboard. I imagine a frequency diagram of my blogging would be fairly sinusoidal, with some moments of high frequency and some moments of low frequency. So, maybe I do have some responsibility to monitor more carefully the idea-rich moments and my desire to share. I wonder what his responsibility is to develop a comfortable method for tracking the blogs that she likes to follow.

On another line-of-flight thought, I really like daily blogs like the 3six5 and edu180atl, but these daily collectives restrict their authors to a certain number of words in each post. And I really like the concept and practice of 50-word mini-sagas, too. Hmmm….

As I have continued to ruminate on my colleague’s comment, my love of short dailies, and my appreciation for a well-turned mini-saga, I have made myself more aware of others’ blogging practices, especially one blogger that I hope to emulate – Seth Godin. Particularly since the collegial comment last week, I have paid even more attention to the fact that Seth Godin blogs almost everyday, and he packs a lot of punch into brief, concise packages of posts.

So, in the spirit of learning out loud and learning in public, I have issued myself a learning challenge. I am going to try to synthesize a few of the contemplations summarized above, and I will attempt to do the following – I will post 60 ideas for educational change in the form of “what if” questions, I will do so for 60 days straight, and I will constrain my posts to around 60 words each (and maybe an image, an embedded TED talk, etc.).

I am thinking that I might set 60 drafts to autopost at a certain time each day. As I find a few minutes, I will enliven the template with an idea each day. Each post will start with the title, “CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 #X.” I plan to insert at the beginning of each post the logo that I designed for fun this morning. And I’ll add a new category to house just these 60 posts. More scaffolding may evolve along the way, but that’s my basic framework for now.

I imagine that I will strike out and fail miserably on a few days. I hope that I will hit a few homeruns in 60 days and 60 attempts. What I know for sure – I will learn from the experiment. I dream of helping others to learn and inspiring others to do. After the 60 days, I cannot wait to revisit with my admired and respected colleague – we’ll have so much to talk about.

See you tomorrow for “CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60 #1.” It’s already in the hopper!

To #Unboundary

(n.) strategic design studio, located in Atlanta, GA, which helps companies “define their purpose and pursue significance.” [from the Unboundary web site]

(v.) to remove limits of an area, subject, or sphere of activity [adapted from Apple’s spotlight definition of “boundary”]

In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

– Eric Hoffer

As you walk into the former Atlanta-roundhouse space that is now inhabited by Unboundary, the Eric Hoffer quote greets you near the door. This is a door, in fact, that draws me in; this is a door that greeted me daily during my sabbatical (see two of many sabbatical posts here and here); this is a door that will mark my coming and going much more frequently beginning on July 15. Through this door, Hoffer reminds me that I am, indeed, in times of profound change, and he reminds us all to be learners embracing change.

During my almost twenty years as a professional educator, and certainly during my almost nine years as a school principal, I have found myself immersed in countless discussions concerning the pace and nature of change in our world. In the most recent years, I have concentrated my efforts to be one who enables and empowers schools to maintain pace with this never-ending change, so that we might help people of all ages serve and lead in our changing world.

Joining the conversations and communities on Twitter and other world-connecting blog media, I have similarly surrounded myself with hundreds and hundreds of professional educators and others who are contemplating and implementing school change so that schools remain deeply significant in an age defined by ubiquitous access to information and learn-anytime-anywhere technology. In so many conversations, both those that happen online and those that happen face-to-face, it seems that we educators are striving to unboundary the areas typically referred to as “school” and “real-life.” During her TED talk, Kiran Bir Sethi beautifully espouses the notion of blurring the lines between school and life so that students can be infected with the “I can bug” and realize their ability to make a positive difference in our world – not when they graduate to their real life, but now, because now is their real life.

On September 19, 2011, I announced that the 2011-12 academic year would be my last as principal of The Westminster Schools Junior High School. I took a leap of true faith. Then, I began to piece together and design a potential next chapter of my educational career as something akin to an innovation strategist and synergist for 21st century school change and development. In the months of October, November, December, and January, I benefited immeasurably from the wisdom, questioning, advice, and guidance of about two dozen individuals who graciously engaged me in countless conversations about how to create a job serving as a hub to the various spokes of this learning-in-the-21st-century wheel. To each and every one of you – THANK YOU! And to my wife Anne-Brown, BLESS YOU for your faith and support, and thank you for being the first and foremost of this tribe who helped me discern my next steps.

As of Tuesday, February 21, I officially have my new, dream job…my next chapter…my ideal, “plan A” role that will allow me to continue and to expand my service as an educational leader in these times of profound change. In his announcement to the Unboundary team, president and chief executive Tod Martin explained my future work in the following way:

Bo joins us in a hybrid role. He will be integrated into existing client work, particularly in workshopping, and will also play an instrumental role in expanding Unboundary into a new arena. Over the past year, you’ve heard me talk about the vision of us developing new kinds of clients — other than corporations — where our skills at transformation design would be valuable. One of the “new kinds of clients” we’ve talked about is education. Bo will help lead our efforts to build a practice and develop clients in education.

Already I am indebted to the visionary leadership of Tod Martin and to the team that he has fielded at Unboundary. So much synergy potential exists at the crossroads of corporate leadership and educational innovation, and I believe that Unboundary works at this exciting crossroads. Likewise, I am forever grateful to Westminster for eliciting and developing in me the vision and the skills that this fine school declares for all learners in its community – to serve and lead in a changing world.

To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?
– Katharine Graham

I do love what I do, and I feel that it matters greatly. I am excited for this next chapter, to which I take a great deal of learning. Yet, I dare not consider myself learned. I am a continuous learner, and I intend to do all that I can to serve and lead in this changing world – to play my role on the team that strives to define purpose and pursue significance.

Our children – our leaders of today and tomorrow – deserve nothing less.

Learning is the constant. Let’s re-examine time in 2012.

“Learning is the constant. Time and support – the variables.”

For far too long, it has been the other way around. I hear and say the above quote so often, that I forget when and where I learned it first. I believe I heard the first utterance from Rick or Becky DuFour, the Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi of PLCs.

Just today, I discovered an excellent article at Edutopia that addresses the core of the opening quote:

It’s Time to Rethink the Hours America Spends Educating

I wonder sometimes what would happen if we treated faculty initiatives as “student-like classes.” What would happen if we allowed every faculty member the same exact number of days and hours to learn/accomplish a new technology, process, pedagogy, or procedure? (I would have been “in trouble” more than a few times!) In my experience, though, we allow for different learning bases, paces, and rhythms for faculty – without (outwardly) tracking them as “regular” or “honors.” Of course, the same could be said of administrators and learning, too. (Use of Google Docs and email search features come to mind… “Can you re-send me that email with that attachment? I can’t seem to find it.”)

No, let’s not change the adult time-pattern to match the student time-pattern. Let’s change the student pattern to match the adult pattern – learning should be the constant. We did not all learn to walk and talk at the same developmental month, nor at the same pace. As adults, we don’t constrain ourselves to the same time progression as school learning for quizzes and tests. Why do we treat  students so differently? Efficiency? What about effectiveness, instead!

Perhaps you see that we are already in such a transformed place – where time and support are the variables, and learning is the constant. What do you think?

[Note: I’ve been in this discussion many times. With one colleague, he found fault with me for perceiving that I was demanding “limitless time” for school. For the record, I don’t think I am asking for such a boundless solution. However, I think the artists and scientists who are educators can devise more creative solutions than currently exist with the 50-55 minute class periods that dominate an approximately 180 day school calendar.]