fuse16 Launch!


A major event held each year at Mount Vernon, fuse16 launched today! We began with a pre-conference workshop centered on Design Thinking 101. Attendees were able to take a lap in design thinking through a flashlab centered on the question How Might We design a better driver’s experience for the morning commute? Later this evening and through Friday afternoon, we will host our Core experience where attendees will work with one of four local non-profits in a real-life design challenge. Lastly, Friday afternoon offers the DEEPr experience where attendees can choose three of several sessions to learn more about applying design thinking in their classroom. More information on fuse can be found on the MVIFI website here. I am honored to serve as a coach once again. Let’s get designing!

To Fuss or not to Fuss: That Is the Math Question

Once a math teacher, always a math teacher.  I just adore teaching math, especially as I have learned more effective ways to do so.  The way I started teaching math is extremely different than how I would (and did) now. And that is a good thing!

On the one hand, I am thrilled at the attention that math instruction is receiving. On the other hand, I am very concerned.  Is the scrutiny that math instruction is receiving bothering anyone else? Why not the same scrutiny for other content areas?

Assuming the best, the scrutiny requires us to question our craft, to ensure that our purposes are sound, and to seek many ways to communicate and justify the why of what we do– kind of like showing our work. Another benefit that I hope occurs is that teachers and administrators yearn to learn more and to grow as math professionals.

Yet, the unintended consequence of such scrutiny is the perception that we don’t know what we are doing.  There are too many people out there asserting that this “new math”– oh yes, history is repeating itself– is doomed to fail because it is not the way they were taught.  And unfortunately, when schools shift to newer methods without robust professional learning and time for teachers to work through the changes, they are falling into the self-fulfilling prophecy dilemma.

What are your thoughts and ideas?


Speed Date to Build Culture

Today I participated in a wonderful exercise to build a team culture. Any time new members are added to a team, a reset button needs to be pushed to set the conditions for the team to build itself differently than what was there before. In five-minute “dates,” I was able to connect with a number of fellow team members around the following questions:

  1.  What is your primary role?
  2. What is your greatest strength?
  3. What do you need from me to be successful this school year?

I thoroughly enjoyed each and every conversation. I learned and connected more deeply, not only with teammates with whom I have worked before but also new ones. I came away with ideas of how I can contribute to their individual growth and the team’s collective growth.

When was the last time your team hit the reset button? Has it been too long? Even if you are working with the same people, is there a need for a reset?

What position are you as a leader?

I love baseball. Good thing- I have the pleasure of watching a lot of it with my sons.  Today as we sat for a 20-minute lightning delay with sweat pouring from every inch of our body, my mind began to wander. Each defensive position on the field has a purpose and serves a leadership role in some way or at some time. What position best supports your leadership vision and action? I wonder how many people feel that the pitcher is the most prominent leader…the catcher…center fielder…first baseman…and so on.  Which position are you and why?

Similarly, each offensive position has a purpose and serves a leadership role in some way or at some time. Where would you place yourself in the lineup as a leader?

Inspired: Star Wars and Mindsets

I was inspired by my colleague Chip Houston when I read his post today. He is a Star Wars fanatic, as am I, and he connected the Mount Vernon mindsets to the characters in the early movies.

I wonder why Innovator was left out. That can be a tricky one, and some confuse it with Creative Thinker. The Creative Thinker suspends judgment, challenges assumptions, imagines and adapts as new challenges arise.  Han Solo is a perfect fit, as are others. But the Innovator builds resilience by taking risks, exploring and experimenting in changing times, and creating unique ideas which add value. I immediately think of Padmé Amidala. She was the consummate risk taker and tried very different things through her “queenship” and term as Senator.

But, truly, when I think of the Mount Vernon Mind, the character that comes most to my mind is Yoda.  Perhaps a synonym for the Mount Vernon Mind should be Master Jedi!

A Friday Post: Adaptive Leadership

So I am day 5 into the blogging challenge from my colleague, Chip Houston, and I am wondering what to share. If you haven’t noticed, my blog posts tend to be lengthy where I am working through or sharing thoughts in a more comprehensive manner. Chip has encouraged me to think about just putting something quick up and not worry about fully developing a thought or idea. Here goes…

Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky’s The Practice of Adaptive Leadership (2009) is a favorite of mine. I have found applications from the book to my professional life as a leader and a teacher as well as my personal life. I like that they focus on leading for change requiring both inspiration and perspiration– no-brainer. I like that they couple compete and collaborate in the same sentence, stating we need to find better ways to do both. I like that they urge us to look backward and forward at the same time; each view informs the other.

The key concept revolves around:

How Might We “…sift through the wisdom and know-how of their heritage, to take the best from their histories, leave behind lessons that no longer serve them, and innovate, not for change’s sake, but for the sake of conserving and preserving the values and competence they find most essential and precious.”

So short and sweet is not truly short, but the essential idea here is sweet!

Remembering Psychologist Jerome Bruner

I was saddened to hear of the passing of noted psychologist Jerome Bruner recently. Bruner shifted focus away from the behaviorist view of children as blank slates towards teaching and learning occurring through social interactions. He also emphasized the need to understand how both culture and content affect learning (his groundbreaking book, The Process of Education, was written in 1959).

In 2013, he was interviewed  here: Inside the Psychologist’s Studio with Jerome Bruner. Take a look and be grateful for the work of Bruner and how it has positively impacted our work with children.