Here Are Some “Things” Worth Studying! #BCSLearns “is a community for news, stories and leadership on innovations in learning and teaching.” A blog post from May 2016 by CEO Tom Vander Ark shares Earth Owner’s Manual: 17 Things Young Adults Should be StudyingThese 17 things are from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals AKA the 17 Goals to Transform our World…

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Wellbeing
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equity
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable & Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work & Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
  10. Reduce Inequality
  11. Sustainable Cities & Habitats
  12. Climate Action
  13. Life Below Water
  14. Life On Land
  15. Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions
  16. Smart and Safe Technology
  17. Partnerships For the Goals

As we think of authentic, inquiry-based driving questions to peak our students’ interest in learning, keep these 17 things in mind when crafting driving questions for your units.  And, yes, this is happening at BCS! Just this week, visiting a science class, the teacher shared the following statement as a driver for their upcoming unit on water: “Some scientists believe the next World War will be fought over water.” These types of driving questions (or statements) align with more than a few of the Sustainable Development Goals and can also drive project/problem/challenge-based learning.

Check out the “to-do list” and a video that may be a great one to motivate your students…


Are Today’s Students Ready for the World? #BCSLearns

A team of us at BCS are about to embark on a series of training this school year focusing on social emotional learning and emotional intelligence through Yale University with Marc Brackett.  Brackett, in the article Today’s Students May Be Emotionally Unprepared contends that “The problem — and the solution — is not intellectual. It’s emotional.” I’ve posted about the importance of empathy and emotional intelligence in the past, both of which align with Brackett’s notion of the problem-solution. His research on emotional literacy includes five critical components best remembered by the acronym, RULER:

  1. Recognizing emotions in self and others
  2. Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions
  3. Labeling emotions accurately
  4. Expressing emotions appropriately
  5. Regulating emotions effectively

Do you believe? “Emotions drive learning, decision-making, creativity, relationships and health. Mastering the skills of emotional intelligence paves the way for greater well-being, better relationships and overall effectiveness — for college students, for students from kindergarten through high school and for the adults who surround them, including educators and parents.”

If so, are our students today prepared for the world ahead of them?  They are at BCS because we know the importance of emotional intelligence and we work to infuse social emotional learning with our Moral Compass daily into our intellectual learning with students.

Want more?

Take a look at the 17 minute video with Marc Bracket giving us an introduction to emotional literacy and its importance.

Positive Attitude-Is it Really that Important? #BCSLearns

Positive attitude was an overarching theme at our Town Hall meetings with students and staff on the first day of school, and I have included positivity, happiness and gratitude as themes in past posts to be sure.  The three below come to mind…

A recent article I came across called 7 Tips to Encourage a Positive Attitude in Students leads with a famous quote by Norman Vincent Peale, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Positivity matters! Tips included below and detailed in the article are great reminders for teachers AND parents (except for #7 I have to disagree with).

  1. Be an example. Model a positive, encouraging attitude in all that you say, do, and believe.
  2. Create a positive learning space for your student(s).
  3. Help your student(s) visualize a positive outcome from every scenario before starting.
  4. Eliminate negative verbiage from your student’s dialogue.
  5. Help your student(s) change negative thinking patterns.
  6. Play the role of your student’s biggest fan.
  7. Incorporate a rewards system to encourage positivity at all times.

Now, regarding #7, I’m not a big fan of rewards and extrinsic motivators as a way to encourage positivity or self-discipline.  Check out a post from last year, Students Are Totally Motivated, Indeed! #BCSLearns, where I share some resources about building intrinsic motivation – rewards are not part of it.  How about rephrasing #7 to “Build instrinsic motivation through authentic feedback to your student(s) helping them see the power their positive attitude has on their lives.”?

And finally, check out these two, very short, videos of Alfie Kohn on rewards and the other regarding punishment – both linked to intrinsic motivation and are thought-provoking.  You may even find yourself chuckling!

Gearing Up for another Great School Year! #BCSLearns

We eagerly await Tuesday, our first day of school with our students, having finalized the installation of new lockers, the renovation of a more safe and secure front entrance and a great week of learning together last week. While new lockers are exciting for students, the new school year also allows us to feel excitement to reconnect to our vision and inspire those students we serve “to lead in the global community through a passion for learning, innovating, and inquiry & design.” I had the privilege this summer to hear Pasi Sahlberg (Finnish researcher and visiting professor at Harvard) speak a conference regarding “What Makes Some Education Systems Successful?”  The result of his research noted the key elements that exist in successful schools include:

  • cooperation,
  • creativity,
  • trust-based responsibility,
  • professionalism and
  • equity.

As a school community at BCS, I look forward to renewing our efforts together living into these five critical elements. Our students achieve at high levels, both in developing academically and in character, through these five elements by invoking the skills of our Moral Compass and valuing our 3E’s (education, environment, each other).  To best live into these five critical elements, we must invoke key skills of ethical character:

  • positive attitude
  • respect & kindness
  • honesty & integrity
  • responsibility & accountability

Sahlberg brings what he has learned from the education system in his native Finland to United States’ parents, teachers and policy makers. Check out the video GERM that kills Schools (18:41) or his keynote address at Vanderbilt University, Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? (1:19:27).

Want a few quick articles to read?  Check out Rick Wormeli’s article from Education Leadership entitled What to Do in Week One? where he outlines three key actions for teacher in that first week (and beyond) – make sure students feel safe; know your students well; practice empathy. AND…check out this article from the New York Times called What Kids Wish Their Teachers Knew; it’s not to be missed!

8th graders, You “Made” It – A “Graduation Speech”

The theme for this year’s 8th grade Farewell Celebration is “We Have Perfect Vision for the Future.” Our vision at BCS is to “inspire students to lead in the global community through a passion for learning, innovating, and inquiry & design.” To help you live into that “perfect vision o the future,” we want you to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, inquire and design, and create solutions for the problems/opportunities you end up “finding”.  In short, we have wanted you to “make” things, tangible or intangible.  Well, in three short words…

  • You made it!
  • You “made” the transition to BCS to a very different school than your previous one.
  • You “made” great friends at BCS.
  • You “made” efforts to work hard and to do your best.
  • You “made” it to the end of your 8th grade year.

Many of you in Engage have ended this year with your “Make Project”. You’ve spent time submitting a proposal to your teacher to “make” something.  With that theme of “Make” in mind, as well as the three short words “You Made It”, as you move forward into high school…

  • “Make” the transition to high school a great one!
  • “Make” more great friends!
  • “Make” even greater efforts in high school to do your best!
  • “Make” each day, week, year count!
  • “Make” it to your senior year proud of what you’ve experienced and accomplished!

And most importantly thinking beyond high school, my sincere hope for each of you is to “make” a successful life…

  • “Make” happiness and a positive attitude part of your everyday life…
  • “Make” honesty & integrity, respect & kindness, and responsibility & accountability the lifeskills by which you live …
  • “Make” a powerfully positive difference in the lives of others…
  • “Make” your goals and dreams a reality…
  • “Make” more of your life than you ever imagined…
  • “Make” your life a great one!

To sum it up, let me leave you with the words of American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, as my ultimate hope for you in having a “perfect vision” and making a successful live…

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, 
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.


A World without Teachers? Yikes! #BCSLearns

“We spend our lives trying to beat the current…
to tough it out, put our heads down, and keep swimming.”

My brother and sister-in-law are “knee-deep” (maybe neck deep) in the world of swimming.  My brother recently shared this swimming video with me (second video below).  As I viewed it, it became an immediate metaphor for me for us as educators, and for the students we serve, particularly this time of year as we all try “to beat the current…to tough it out, put our heads down, and keep swimming,” learning, celebrating, supporting.  Our students will do the same thing, and without learning and celebrating, like with us, stress, even despair, can set in.  Thank you for promoting positivity with your students even when the negative shines brightly in our face.  You are “the lifeguards who do look for people drowning……………….on the inside”! What would the world be without teachers?  Celebrate the last week of school with your students and each other and realize what the world would be like without you!  In the first video below, see what you inspire…


Students Are Totally Motivated, Indeed! #BCSLearns

Every student, in fact every person, is motivated!  They’re just not always motivated to do what we may want them to do at the time we want, and then we say with deep frustration, “They have not motivation.” What is the motivation for doing what we do each minute of every day?  According to Daniel Pink’s examination of motivation, rewards are not as effective as many of us would think. He shares stories in a pretty captivating TedTalk (embedded below).  Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Drive, begins by posing the question, “If you want people to perform better, you reward them, right? Bonuses, commissions…incentivize them.” We use rewards and incentives thinking they will “sharpen thinking and accelerate creativity,” but it has been proven that they do the opposite and, in fact, rewards/incentives “dull thinking and block creativity.” In his talk, Pink shares how for simple tasks rewards can work, but NOT for the complex tasks in which we want each other and our modern learners to engage.  Makes me wonder why our federal and state governments think this carrot and stick approach to improving schools would work.  Do our legislators heed the research? Guess not! Let’s get back to Pink. He outlines his keys to intrinsic motivation (detailed in his book Drive linked above):

  • Autonomy – “the urge to direct our own lives”
  • Mastery – “the desire to get better and better at something that matters”
  • Purpose – “the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves”

Let’s compare some other thinkers on this concept of motivation by checking out the links to articles below (videos for you and students too), and here’s to finishing the year and leaping into next by working to

  • allow students to direct their own school lives,
  • provide them learning opportunities that help them get better and better at something that matters, and
  • build their yearning to do what they do in the service of something larger than themselves.

The following links come solely from Edutopia:

Or how about some short motivational videos to share with your students these last few weeks of school to inspire them (or you) to finish strong: