Category Archives: Uncategorized

It’s No Longer the Three R’s #BCSLearns

As we get closer to finishing another year strong and think to our summer R&R which inevitably includes our teachers thinking enthusiastically about next school year, I thought I would share an article that’s an “oldie but goodie”, The Seven R’s of a Quality Curriculum by Ron Ritchhart.   More recently, Ritchharts work around Creating Cultures of Thinking, The 8 Cultural Forces that Define our Classroomand Making Thinking Visible has supported us in implementing high-quality learning experiences in our classrooms.  This article helps us quickly think deeply about what to be sure to include in our learning experience for our students.  Here’s a quick summary of Ritcharts “Seven R’s“:

  • Rigorous – Ritchhart suggests, “Rather than think of [rigor as] difficulty, I think in terms of affordances. A rigorous curriculum embodies and affords students opportunities to develop a deeper understanding and not just show what they already know.”
  • Real – As it relates to the performance task, Ritchhart encourages us to “engage students in authentic [inter]disciplinary activities so that students’ classroom activities mirror the real work of adults in the field.”
  • Requires Independence – Ritchhart references “Educational theorist Jerome Bruner [who] defines understanding as the ability to use and apply one’s skills in novel situations to solve problems, make decisions, and advance new understandings.”
  • Rich in Thinking – “Students must make connections, observe closely, ask questions, form conjectures, identify points of view, consider alternatives, evaluate outcomes, make evidence-based judgments, and so on.” Ritchhart explains.
  • Revealing – This is about formative assessment and Ritchhart contends that, “This is the holy grail of ongoing assessment, which is not a separate piece of the enacted curriculum but part and parcel of it.”
  • Rewarding – In classrooms where deep learning is occurring, “There is a sense of purpose to the work [students] are doing…Students can articulate what they are learning and why…” suggests Ritchhart, “The written curriculum seldom addresses the issue of intrinsic rewards, but the enacted curriculum must if it is to engage students in building [deep] understanding.
  • Reflective – In his final “R”, Richhart makes the case that “Reflection on one’s learning—not one’s feelings about an activity or experience but on the actual learning itself—helps to anchor understanding and facilitates connection making [for the learner].”  This is the power of metacognition!

Want more? Check out the video below where Ron Ritchhart defines Cultures of Thinking and reflect on how Cultures of Thinking relate to the Seven R’s.


Soft Skills Aren’t So Hard, But They’re Critical #BCSLearns

I have referenced Daniel Goleman and his important work with emotional intelligence in a past post titled How Important is EQ? including the four domains of his model.  I recently came across a website called More than Sound on which Goleman and his team share resources and summaries of their research.  I found the section from the website called Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies: An Overview” from last April, a great summary of his work. He shares that there are four parts, or domains, to his Emotional and Social Intelligence Model: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.  Within each domain, are what Goleman calls “learned competencies” and below they are listed and described quoted directly from the article.


  • Emotional Self-Awareness: The ability to understand our own emotions and their effects on our performance.


  • Emotional Self-Control: The ability to keep disruptive emotions and impulses in check and maintain our effectiveness under stressful or hostile conditions.
  • Achievement Orientation: Striving to meet or exceed a standard of excellence; looking for ways to do things better, set challenging goals and take calculated risks.
  • Positive Outlook: The ability to see the positive in people, situations, and events and persistence in pursuing goals despite obstacles and setbacks.
  • Adaptability: Flexibility in handling change, juggling multiple demands, and adapting our ideas or approaches.

Social Awareness

  • Empathy: The ability to sense others’ feelings and perspectives, taking an active interest in their concerns and picking up cues about what others feel and think.
  • Organizational Awareness: The ability to read a group’s emotional currents and power relationships, identifying influencers, networks, and organizational dynamics.

 Relationship Management

  • Influence: The ability to have a positive impact on others, persuading or convincing others in order to gain their support.
  • Coach and Mentor: The ability to foster the long-term learning or development of others by giving feedback, guidance, and support.
  • Conflict Management: The ability to help others through emotional or tense situations, tactfully bringing disagreements into the open and finding solutions all can endorse.
  • Inspirational Leadership: The ability to inspire and guide individuals and groups towards a meaningful vision of excellence, and to bring out the best in others.
  • Teamwork: The ability to work with others towards a shared goal; participating actively, sharing responsibility and rewards, and contributing to the capability of the team.

Check out the image below for the framework of the model and take the video below of a clip for the movie Patch Adams.  How would you assess Patch’s emotional intelligence?  His self-awareness? His self-management? His social awareness? His relationship management?  Have a look with Goleman’s domains in mind, as well as these two quotes:

  • “Death is not the enemy gentlemen. If we’re going to fight a disease, let’s fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.”
  • “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.”

What other quotes from the clip resonate with you about emotional intelligence?


If you didn’t last year, be sure to view the videos (one of Goleman and another from Seinfeld) on emotional intelligence from my February 21, 2016 post.

Keeping with the Theme of Culture #BCSLearns

How does Asana, a workplace-productivity management company founded by former Facebookers and Googlers, create a culture of shorter hours, intense collaboration, and lots of time for reflection?  In the article from Fast Company, How Asana Built the Best Company Culture in Tech, Taylor Lorenz explains how: “The company is built on the idea that mindfulness, clear communication, and compassion are all critical to long-term success. Asana has become known for its radically inclusive, positive work environment.” 

Core Values of Asana include:

  • healthy work-life balance
  • inclusiveness
  • embracing mindfulness and equanimity
  • taking responsibility and
  • always communicating openly and honestly

How did the build this culture and how do they sustain it?  It’s simple, “We decided to treat culture as a product,” states co-founder Justin Rosenstein.  In effect, he and his partner, Dustin Moskovitz, take the approach that I also firmly believe is flawed thinking –  the belief that culture is something that will just happen and take care of itself based on the good people we hire.  At Asana, culture is “carefully designed, tested, debugged, and iterated on, like any other product they released.”  Culture is indeed something that needs to be nurtured.

Key questions to elicit feedback:

  1. What’s working well?
  2. What isn’t working well?

Do you think BCS could offer some of those Asana “top-notch perks”?

  • Free meals and snacks
  • its own in-house cook
  • new employees are given $10,000 to set up their own customized workspace
  • a row of treadmill desks
  • a game area
  • squishy chairs to relax in
  • in-house yoga sessions
  • access to a life coach.

Oh, well.  Maybe not most of these, but we certainly can attend to many of the other strategies that promote a positive culture.

The article end with Rosenstein’s poignant quote, “Companies that are succeeding with a more mercenary model are succeeding in spite of it, not because of it.”

Yes, indeed! Let me be reminded of my leadership values:

  • Advocate on behalf of our students
  • Have an orientation toward continuous improvement
  • Be of service to others

All while maintaining, what Jim Collins describes in his book Good to Great, a paradoxical blend of professional will and personal humility.

Below is a video of Dustin Moskovitz speaking about…

  • transparency
  • accountability
  • reflection, learning mindfulness
  • leverage your talent

…Or the video below that where he’s interviewed about his notion to “Work less to be more productive”

Making “Joy” our School Culture #BCSLearns

You may have heard about the Ann Arbor, MI company Menlo Innovations and the attention they give to culture.  The company is said to have “a workplace that generates joy both for those doing the work (workers) and for those for whom the work is being done (clients).”  What I gathered from both the Forbes article by Steve Denning called The Joy of Work: Menlo Innovations and the video I include below of Menlo CEO Rich Sheridan, we can create a culture in schools, like Menlo does in their workplace, where we:

  • make mistakes faster so we can correct them when they are small
  • allow freedom – not micromanagement
  • pair programming – teamwork is not optional
  • nurture maintainable code – in school terms, quality teaching and learning that is clear and understandable and maintainable by all teachers
  • team continuity and scaling – shared expertise
  • build human relationships
  • scale down, which is as important as scaling up
  • drive out fear – “pump fear out of the room like a cold air return [HVAC system]”
  • are anthropologists – learn about the people we serve
  • experience the joy of what we do, not the stress
  • avoid “sunk cost thinking” – a fear of change
  • give accountability, not expect it
  • smile
  • trust our team and run experiments
  • get our customers (parents) to participate in our culture
  • we shrug our shoulders and run the experiment

By the way, my next read is going to have to be Joy, Inc. authored by none other than Rich Sheridan. Check out his message in the below video.  Watch it till the end and his concluding story is absolutely heartening…

Let’s not just survive, Let’s Thrive #BCSLearns

One of those educators I follow in the land of Twitter posted an article from Heather Beasley Doyle of the Harvard Graduate School of Education that caught my eye: How to Thrive in the 21st Century.  As we look forward to our theme of Empathy that will be the focus of our 2017-18 school year, I made particular note of where Doyle Writes, “Empathy is a cornerstone 21st-century global competency. We’re all familiar with empathy between individuals: someone’s hurt, and another person deeply understands the pain. But [Fernando] Reimers and [Connie] Chung envision the concept on a global scale. Empathy resides in the ability to consider the complexity of issues, Chung says — in an interconnected worldview that recognizes that ‘what we do impacts someone else.'”  At the center of the article is a framework for “21st Century” skills under three key competencies:  cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.  In reflecting on my post about gamers from last week, these skills do matter in the digital world and, perhaps most importantly, in the global world.

Cognitive Competencies:

  • Communicate effectively and listen actively
  • Use evidence and assess information
  • Speak at least one language beyond one’s native tongue
  • Think critically and analyze local and global issues, challenges, and opportunities
  • Reason logically and interpret clearly
  • Become and remain digitally literate, including the ability to “weigh and judge the validity of the content that’s in front of you,” Chung says.

Interpersonal Competencies:

  • Collaboration
  • Teamwork and cooperation
  • Trust
  • Leadership and responsibility
  • Assertive communication
  • Social influence

Intrapersonal Competencies:

  • ethical orientation
  • strong work and mind habits (self-regulation and intellectual openness) “We need to make sure that we can get along, and that we can see our differences as an opportunity, as a source of strength,” Reimers says.
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • be creators and inventors
  • take the initiative and persevere
  • think beyond the short term

Check out this video related to “21st century learning” and last week’s blog on gamers, “On Demand Learning in the 21st Century Classroom” with high school teacher, Kayla Scheer.

Can Gamers Make the World a Better Place? #BCSLearns

The benefits and disadvantages of gaming has been a longtime debate.  There are clear benefits to learning from gaming, though the amount of screen time among children is continually questioned.  I have posted about the spirit of gaming in schools in a past post highlighting its benefits, but nobody has argued it better than Jane McGonigal in both her book and her TedTalk (included below) where she asks, “Does gaming help us feel like we are the best versions of ourselves?”  Perhaps, yes, she contends, because gaming can have the following positive outcomes:

  • gaming provides epic wins
  • we achieve more in “game world”
  • it motivates us to do something that matters
  • gaming inspires us to collaborate and cooperate
  • it motivates us to stick with a problem as long as it takes
  • gaming helps us deal with and move beyond failure
  • it provides immediate feedback
  • gaming is often times better than reality
  • it provides repetition (10,000 hour theory of success- Outliers)

McGonigal shares four “Superpowers” of Gaming:

  • creates urgent optimism – desire to act immediately with a reasonable home for success
  • weaves a tight social fabric – relationship building (bonds, trust, cooperation)
  • creates blissful productivity (given the right work)
  • creates epic meaning

How gaming falls short according to McGonigal  – gamers are “super-empowered, hopeful individuals who feel they are individually capable of changing the world.”  The problem is, only in the virtual world, not in the real world.  That’s what she is trying to figure out.  How do we make the real world more like a game?  At BCS, could we get our students, in a project based learning / service learning manner, to create games that can change the world – or at least make BCS an even greater place to be?

Want more? Check out her video below where she ends with the story of Herodotus – ancient epic gaming, and 3 games she has developed on how to solve real world problems through gaming.  Anyone want to try them?

Also, check out the Resource Roundup from Edutopia with a bevy of gaming resources.

Want even more?  Read McGonigal’s book, SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully.


Finish Strong! Should We Go Slow to Go Fast? #BCSLearns

Spring is here and with it, so is the final quarter of the 2016-2017 school year.  At this time of year, we all like to invoke the mantra “Finish Strong.” To help us think about this phrase for ourselves and the students we serve, let us use some animal metaphors.  Below are a few videos of animals we can use as metaphors as we consider this post’s title as we ramp up the fast-paced environment that spring brings to our schools. Might there be caution to heed as the pace quickens with the end of the year in site (less than 50 days).  Perhaps slowing down will allow us to “run faster than a cheetah.” What do you think?

Check out the “How do you outrun a cheetah?” video below and consider the following:

  • What comes with the price of going too fast?
  • How can you keep a “cool head” even at a fast pace?
  • What does success come down too? How about a head start?
  • Bottom line, we need be smart about our pace and stay away from “strong jaws and sharp teeth.”

Let’s now consider the Gazelle.  Does this time of year ramp up your speed and make you fast like a gazelle?  Speed can cause problems as evidenced by the below video.  Seemingly running beautifully and at high speed to get where it wants to go, what happens to the Gazelle?  What will be its eventual outcome?

Could slow and steady win the race? Yes indeed!  With the right tools and support around you! Note the example in the below video…

And now, getting back to our human relationships.  Finishing strong is not about winning or beating the competition or leaving people behind.  It’s about our 3E’s (education, environment, each other) and helping each other in a collaborative way in our efforts to finish strong.  Check out the video below of this fast-paced race from last summer’s 2016 Rio Olympic Games.  Let us finish strong together, helping each other…