Middle School Focal Points 2017-18

I am excited to transition into the role of Head of Middle School this July as my colleague Chip Houston takes over the Upper School. As part of the transition process, I had the pleasure of conferencing with all faculty before the end of the school year, and I outlined some focal points in research and practice together (which also served as themes in our search for new team members). Stay tuned to learn more of our progress, both as individual faculty members and as a division. The focal points include:

  • Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary learning: how might we make school more connected and reflective of real life for our students?
  • Assessing and reporting progress on Mount Vernon Mindsets (Collaborator, Communicator, Creative Thinker, Solution Seeker, Innovator, and Ethical Decision Maker): how might we share a better understanding of a child’s development in these life-ready skills?
  • Assessment as a whole: how might we design a student progress monitoring and reporting system that comprehensively reflects a student’s learning journey?

Connecting to the focal points of Middle School as well as our new Mount Vernon strategic plan, my stack of books reflects a continued desire to dig deeper into learning, design, and assessment. In addition, a focus on positive student culture has become a focus. Similar to our students, I have a long list of pleasure reads that I have chosen and hope to get to as many of them as possible. In the words of author Vera Nezarian, “Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” My professional reads include (among others):

  1. Deeper Learning: Beyond 21st Century Skills, edited by James Bellanca (an all-faculty read)
  2. Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson
  3. Hacking Homework: Ten Strategies that Inspire Learning Outside the Classroom by Starr Sackstein
  4. The Perfect Assessment System by Rick Stiggins
  5. Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World by Devorah Heitner.
Trailblazers- Student Driven EdMagazine

Trailblazers- Student Driven EdMagazine

I am so proud of the work of three Mount Vernon students who are living our mission of inquiry, innovation, and impact!

The Life of Pinya

It’s official, the first edition of Trailblazers, a student driven magazine on the Education Transformation Movement, is here with young writers from around the world contributing!!!! My peers in the Innovation Diploma, Abigail Emerson and Kaylyn Winters, and I have been working at this project all year after some last minute edits over the summer, we now feel it is time to ship the idea and get it out into the world.

So please check out our first edition which includes:

A Letter From the Founders

Meet the Curators: Anya Smith-Roman, Kaylyn Winters, Abigail Emerson

The learner-centered movement: Q&A: Sparkhouse Conference

Creating Something New: Brady Vincent

Change is a Conversation: Neel Pujar

Free Ranged vs. Caged: Kim Mi Yeoh

Intelligence: Cali Ragland

Community Connections

Good Reads

Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible!! Can’t wait for issue 2!

View original post

Sharing the Well: NAIS names MVPS as one of 10 most innovative schools

Although I am dreadfully late in writing this post, my excitement has not waned in what I am sharing! I am blessed and privileged to call Mount Vernon Presbyterian School my home away from home. My colleagues– my tribe– continue to inspire and challenge me every day.

So I was so proud to document the #speedinnovation session that my partners Brett Jacobsen (Head of School) and Bo Adams (Chief Learning and Innovation Officer) hosted at the annual NAIS conference in Baltimore, MD.

The Storify linked here shares the play-by-play of the sessions.

What was amazing? The energy and excitement that both Brett and Bo exuded session after session.

What was gratifying? The crowd around the table shifting in for a closer look each time they presented.

What was not surprising? The fact that Brett and Bo exemplified one of our school norms, Share the Well. We won’t rest with keeping our innovative practices to ourselves. Just as we are committed to influencing this generation of students whom we have in our school community, we are also committed to influencing and inspiring schools and organizations everywhere to embrace innovation, challenge assumptions, and fail up along the way.


Project Pitches: An (i)Project Launch

I had the absolute pleasure of participating in our Upper School students’ pitches for their (i)Project yesterday. An important component of Mount Vernon’s Upper School program, (i)Project centers on the design principle Curiosity and Passion Drive Learning. Goals for (i)Project include:

  • Developing Mount Vernon Mindsets (Creative Thinker, Communicator, Collaborator, Solution Seeker, Innovator, and Ethical Decision Maker) through authentic learning experiences;
  • Cultivating curiosity, following passions and interests, and failing up in learning;
  • Strengthening connections (or lessening the disconnect!) between “school” and “real life;” and
  • Empowering students to pursue inquiry, innovation, and impact while having fun.

Students are encouraged to seek feedback from internal and external mentors throughout their (i)Project, and a strong opportunity to do so occurred yesterday. Teachers, leaders, and external experts (many parents who participate in our Experts-in-Residence program) sat together and listened to several students pitch their ideas. This pitch was an iteration of a previous one and called on students to incorporate feedback they had received from teachers.

The breadth, depth, and variety of (i)Project pitches were noteworthy. I listened, questioned, and offered feedback to students focusing on:

  • enhancing marketing efforts of an online Etsy art shop;
  • learning more about filming and editing so that a student-led course could be developed;
  • honing investment skills in the Chinese stock market in order to give back to families living in poverty;
  • learning (or re-learning) Portugese in order to speak fluently and connect more deeply with a former nanny, among others;
  • using filming and editing to enhance golf coaching for high schoolers; and
  • collaborating on a mixed media art piece and documenting the journey.

Each and every one of these projects, and the many others that students are pursuing, connects not only to content-area skills and learning outcomes, but also to skills that some label as 21st century and others label as lifeworthy.  In a nutshell, passion was abundant, presentation/communication skills were growing, and feedback was fully flowing. I look forward to seeing where these amazing students will go in their next steps.


fuse16 Summary

What an amazing fuse16 experience! From the DT101 Flashlab to take a lap in design thinking to the core experience partnering with four non-profits in the Atlanta area to the DEEPr sessions at the end to connect more with schools, attendees and coaches alike were inspired and invigorated!

Here is a Storify summary of the conference– so many tweets and retweets occurred, and I tried to capture as much of it as possible.  If you have not attended a fuse conference before, make a note to look for information about fuse17 at http://www.mvifi.org.


A Blogging Reflection

On this last day of the blogger challenge, I am both happy and sad, both rejuvenated and tired. Perhaps I should include that I am also coming off of a major high from serving as a coach for fuse16 (blog post to come). What an amazing ten days for blogging and three days for fusing!

The biggest thing I have gained from this challenge, you might ask? I hope that I have strengthened my involuntary muscle memory by forming a habit of blogging (reminds me of a fabulous book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg- a must read!).  I will continue to reflect on this and how I might look beyond the constraint of busy-ness to blog more regularly.

Another thing I learned and practiced was writing shorter blog posts. This should help me blog more frequently, but I will not give up the “long blog” that allows me to share/formulate thoughts and document research or readings.

Would I do a challenge like this again? You bet! I encourage you and your team to do the same. I wonder what our next team challenge will be…

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

I am a sleep fanatic when it comes to my two boys. They have early bedtimes compared to most of their friends: 7:30 for my 8 year-old and 8:30 for my 13 year-old this past year. For this coming year, my young rising 3rd grader (Yikes) will progress up to 7:45, and my now 14 year-old, rising 8th grader (Double Yikes) will move up to 8:45.  Every now and then I hear a slight whine, yet most of the time I hear gratitude and confirmation that they like the amount of sleep they get.

I was thrilled to read about the latest report on how much sleep children and teens need.  Vindication!  But why is it so difficult for agencies and organizations to act on these recommendations? The cynic in me observes that the almighty dollar gets in the way of sporting clubs ending practices and games early. After all, they can not begin these activities until after school is out, and there are only so many hours in the day.  The clash of restricted available spaces for activities also leads some to forget whom they are serving.

I dream for the day when those agencies and groups who serve children think of their user and his/her needs first and foremost instead of starting with the constraints of time and space. After all, creativity loves constraint!