Being called and curious. Being an explorer. Widening our options.

“Certainly to enter a world of terror, you should not be pushed by someone. You should be called. You should be curious. You should have the heart of an explorer.” — Philippe Petit, high-wire artist (from here)

In Dan and Chip Heath’s newest book, Decisive, they illuminate a process for making better decisions. It’s called W.R.A.P.

W = Widen Your Options

R = Reality-Test Your Assumptions

A = Attain Distance Before Deciding

P = Prepare to Be Wrong

On the Heath Brothers’ site, one can register and gain access to some great resources. One of them is a one-pager summary of the WRAP process.

For “W” —

Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 5.56.14 AMIn looking for “analogies from related domains,” I often turn to TED and NPR. Recently, I listened to the TED Radio Hour feature called “To The Edge” – a curation of talks about exploration.

Many people talk about “fear of the unknown” and our “V.U.C.A.” world (Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic, Ambiguous). While the future of schooling is not a “world of terror” in any way, shape, or form, in my opinion, I wonder if some view it that way, even if subconsciously.

As for me, I feel called. I feel curious.

I am an explorer.

And I am grateful to be a member of a team that believes in systemic exploration – driven by curiosity – to generate increasingly better models of school-based learning and education.

I learn a lot about my role and my calling and my curiosity by approaching educational innovation as an explorer.

How might we enhance the manner in which we systemically explore innovation in schools? 

One idea (among many) – BE an explorer! Encourage systemic exploration and nurture methods and manners to explore educational enhancement AS a school team and community.

Most, if not all, schools highlight the explorers and inventors in world and U.S. history, mathematics, science, etc. How many of us are practicing exploration and invention, as an organization – intentionally, purposefully? How are we creating time and space for exploration and invention?

Here’s to being called out on that high-wire, to that summit, for that row across the ocean. (You’ll just have to listen to To The Edge, if those references make you… curious.)

Lessons on #creativity in 1 min, 20 sec. (and then some, if you want to study awhile)

For those schools who really want to bake creativity into their core being…weave it into much of what they do…breathe it in like air as a taken for grantedness some day, then they better dig into, unpack, and implement the stuff mentioned just in this 1 min, 20 sec.

And it wouldn’t hurt to re-imagine, re-solve, and re-purpose school according to many of these lessons…

TED Radio Hour:

And don’t forget GRIT!

Walking Myself and My Dog to School, or Braiding NPR and a Cup of Joe

I’ve gone back to school. Well, at the very least, you might say that I am enrolled in a course. In some places, one might see the class title listed as “Multitasking 101.” In other catalogs, one might discover the course name as “Mornings with Lucy.” Or, it might make the board as “Mix-alot Podcasts and a Cup o’ Joe.” You see, I’m not sure what to call the class – I am designing it myself. Here’s the backbone of the offering:

  • Task #1: In the early morning, I take my pointer-hound mix on a walk. Her name is Lucy, and her whole body wags in anticipation. If I weren’t fearful of pulling some infrequently used muscle, I might wag my whole body, too. I love our walks, and we modulate between a stroll and a mild cantor for 30-90 minutes.
  • Task #2: I enjoy a travel mug of house-brewed coffee. Leash in one hand, mug in the other.
  • Task #3: Listen to a podcast on my iPhone. I have this great set of comfortable ear phones. Beats they are not. I think they cost $9.99 at Target, but they wrap ergonomically around my ear and provide some extraordinary listening pleasure.

All three task-strands weave together to make quite a braid. A bit of cardio in the pre-sunrise hours, a socially-accepted stimulant that thrills the tastebuds, time with my beloved, four-legged companion, and a chance to listen and think. Shear bliss. And not the ignorance is bliss kind, either. Real bliss.

A few weeks ago, at a workshop, a co-participant alluded to some research that claims that multitasking damages our IQs. I think my month long experiment could do some damage to this claim. I believe my IQ has increased during this morning line-braiding. I haven’t even tripped or mis-stepped, but, mind you, I haven’t added chewing gum to the equation. That would be the honors level course, I feel certain.

What am I listening to? What’s on the ear-syllabi? Here’s a smattering:

TED Radio Hour on NPR

Planet Money

This American Life

While enjoying this morning syllabus of self-directed learning for the past month, I am also re-reading Michael Michalko’s Creative Thinkering, which tackles as its thesis the nature of creativity to be the combining and integrating of seemingly unrelated things. So, as I walk Lucy, drink my coffee, and listen to the chosen podcast(s) of the day, I play some of the games and thought experiments listed in Michalko’s work – I try to find and create connections among what I am listening to and what I have listened to in the past. I try to think of Education and Schooling through the lenses of the morning listening. For instance, I have wondered lately how School is like the health care issue, I have wondered how School is like the economic crises in Europe, and I have re-imagined Education through the lenses of many of the interwoven TED talks on the TED Radio Hour.

I am having a blast, and I am learning a ton. I wonder…What if we built in such self-directed discovery into the typical school week or school day? Minus the coffee of course. I just don’t know how I feel about kids drinking coffee. Do we allow for, support, and create enough space and time for young learners to decide on their own paths of schooling? Do we empower them to weave in these lessons with what they are directed to learn in school? How can self-directed learning methods inform the ways we think about and structure schools of the future? How are we hybridizing what school has been and what school could be? Are we rotating our crops and fields so that we continue producing good (brain)food? [Okay, that metaphor just jumped in from nowhere, but Michalko has encouraged me not to backspace out those thoughts while I am thinking.]

Have a good “walk” today! Where are you going to school? What are you learning? How are you multitasking and thinking creatively? I would love to read or listen to what you have to share!

Intent. Design. Creative Process. Teachers as artists of school change. #ASI2012 #MICON12


Last week and the week before, I communed with artists and designers. They invited me into their galleries and studios. At the time, I thought I was attending educational conferences – first Lovett’s American Studies Institute and then The Martin Institute’s 2012 Summer Conference. However, after watching and studying “John Hockenberry: We are all designers,” and after listening to NPR’s TED Radio Hour on “The Creative Process,” I realize that I communed with artists and designers at these phantasmagoria .

In the large-group sessions, I explored galleries of thinking – both from the featured speaker who held stage at that moment and from the co-participants “thinking and designing out loud” on Twitter (#ASI2012 & #MICON12). Through tweets, we talked about art and artists…designs and designers. During the break-out sessions, I literally traversed the museum of art and design in education as I chose to saunter past some works of art so that I could stop and peruse in-depth a particular frame and painting – like Bob Dillon’s “Picture This: How Images Impact the Momentum of Change.”

Our INTENT as educators and teachers is to design moments and experiences, while capitalizing on relationship and curiosity, that light fires in learners’ hearts and minds. We INTEND to stir emotions and motivations, not by filling vessels, but by lighting passions. We paint and sculpt. “We who cut mere stone must always be envisioning cathedrals.” Our lesson plans are blue prints and schematics. Our classes unfolding are jazz riffs and improvisations that can never be experienced again as they were played that day and period.

We are artists and designers.

And we are crowd sourcing. We are gathering as tribes to share our designs and our sketches and our framed pieces. For we intend to change the world – one student at a time, if need be. Our INTENT is to compare palettes and prototypes and to borrow from the masters and apprentices who gather around our conference fires to tell stories and share tales.

Please don’t think me dramatic or histrionic. I believe what I have written above, especially upon re-reading. I am moved by the artists and designers with whom I co-designed and co-created at Lovett and Presbyterian Day School. I see our paints mixing and intermingling as we contemplate and prepare for Teaching for Tomorrow and Connecting Across Disciplines.

Such is why I fear the silo-ing of subjects, disciplines, and departments. What if we don’t design with INTENT so that the colors might mix and re-mix? For we do not teach subjects. We teach people. And our people deserve the richness of infinite colors – mixed and complex.

What do you see as the INTENT of schools and teaching in the next decade and century? “What is school for?” Are you designing and creating such that our works are beautiful pieces of art WHO can inspire the world in the years to come?

Discipline and creativity must synergize, and we should check our INTENT so that we know we are using our limitations to enlighten that which can be possible next (from Abigail Washburn in the TED Radio Hour linked above).

What do you do?

I teach.

Oh, what do you teach?

I teach children.

No, I mean what do you teach?

I teach the curious to paint and design in this world with grand INTENTIONS.

Oh, so you teach art?

Yes, and math, and history, and science, and English, and… I use all the paints because my canvas deserves the infinite possibilities, and I refuse to limit what could be possible. I teach children and adults and learners of all ages. I teach people, and I learn from them far more than I could ever teach them. For they, too, are artists and designers. And I will not steal their dreams.

And what do you do?