The Strength of Difference! #BCSLearns

“Maybe there’s more that brings us together than we think,” is the closing phrase of the below video. Its title, “All that We Share” is rather appropriate in that there is, for sure, more that brings us together than separates us. I wonder if too frequently, we don’t spend the time to get to know people in our lives on a personal level, simply surface.  But then, when we take the time to hear one’s story, it is then we find empathy.  Each of our stories is so personal, so unique, so interesting, why not take the time to hear another’s story, and even share our own.  Roberto Chene, a cultural anthropologist, I heard speak some years ago stated so powerfully, “You cannot hate someone’s story you know.”  Perhaps that is the problem in our world today with the hatred.  Are we not taking the time to get to know each other and hear each other’s story?  Wouldn’t this give us the opportunity to build empathy in each of us and toward others?  As we look forward to our Spring Vacation, finishing the school year strong, and plan for next year at BCS, let our work around empathy be the torch we carry as we continue to build on the caring community we have! I hope you find this short video as powerful as I do.

Give These Collaborative Team Roles a Try! #BCSLearns

Knowing of our continued effort to infuse student collaboration throughout our learning with students, I received an email a few weeks ago from our BCS founding principal, Dale Truding, who shared this Harvard Business Review article with me called The New Science of Team Chemistry.  If organizations are not getting the performance they need from their teams, what about our classrooms?  Could these Business Chemistry roles, directly quoted below from the article, help us achieve the shared goals of the students in your classrooms?

  • Pioneers – “value possibilities, and they spark energy and imagination on their teams. They believe risks are worth taking and that it’s fine to go with your gut. Their focus is big-picture. They’re drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches.”
  • Guardians – “value stability, and they bring order and rigor. They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk. Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter. Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past.”
  • Drivers – “value challenge and generate momentum. Getting results and winning count most. Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data.”
  • Integrators – “value connection and draw teams together. Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount. Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative. They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.”

In a post from last fall related to Getting to Deep Learning, I shared Michael Fullan’s work on New Pedagogies for Deep Learning and outlined his 6 C’s: Creativity, Communication, Citizenship, Critical Thinking, Character, and Collaboration.  How do the roles listed above (pioneers, guardians, drivers, and integrators) align with Fullan’s notion of collaboration?  The brief, 3-minute video below highlights critical skills, related to collaboration, that students will need for success in this modern, connected world.  Why is collaboration important? The equation for collaboration – “join forces + pool resources = achievement of common goal/solution.” Check it out!

An Effective Teacher: A Self Reflection #BCSLearns

A post from Edutopia by Carrie Lam lists 11 Habits of an Effective Teacher.  As I read the post and reflected upon the habits and details within them, I began to think, as an educator, which of these habits are my strengths.  Which would be my goal areas?  Which ones would students say are my strengths?  My weaknesses?  What shall I keep doing?  Start doing? Stop doing?  Where does more of my attention need to go?  Review the “11 Habits” listed below and go on a self reflective journey with the aforementioned questions in mind to see where you end up. An effective teacher…

  1. Enjoys Teaching
  2. Makes a Difference
  3. Spreads Positivity
  4. Gets Personal
  5. Gives 100%
  6. Stays Organized
  7. Is Open-Minded
  8. Has Standards
  9. Finds Inspiration
  10. Embraces Change
  11. Creates Reflections

Our BCS teachers know my mantra:  “Presume Positive Intent.”  Check out the last sentence in Lam article: “There is always something positive to be found in every situation but it is up to you to find it. Keep your head up and teach happily for the love of education!”

Getting at the heart of teaching: Lisa Lee at TEDxCrestmoorParkED where she “gives an emotional talk about making a difference in children’s lives as teachers and teaches us that if we reach the inner core first, the common core is more easily taught.” 

How can the 11 habits of an effective teacher listed help us reach that inner core of our students where, as Lee suggests great teachers do, we help each student we serve see value in him/herself?

Getting at Innovative Learning #BCSLearns

Building off last week’s post on original thinking and a previous posts on creativity and wisdom, I continue to enjoy reading and reflecting on these concepts as they relate to learning, adult or student.  I hope these 7 Essential Principles of Innovative Learning from MindShift/KQED News provoke some reflection in you like they did in me.  Simple yet interesting to reflect upon:

  1. Learners have to be at the center of what happens in the classroom (Interestingly enough, Edutopia asserts that Student Centered Learning starts with the teacher.)
  2. Learning is a social practice and can’t happen alone. “By our nature we are social beings and we learn by interacting,” said Jennifer Groff, an educational engineer and co-founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign. “We learn by pushing and pulling on concepts with one another.” (peer to peer collaboration)
  3. Emotions are an integral part of learning. Brain research has found that emotions plus cognition drive meaning.
  4. Learners are different and innovative learning environments reflect the various experiences and prior knowledge that each student brings to class. “You really want practices and processes that help teachers engage each student where they are,” said Groff. Think about our work and training around Culturally Responsive Teaching.
  5. Students need to be stretched, but not too much. “It’s really critical to find that student’s sweet spot,” Groff Said. Peer collaboration can help reach a wonderful level of inquiry and discovery through press and support.
  6. Assessment should be for learning, not of learning. “Good teachers do this informally most of the time,” Groff said. “But when it’s done well and more formally it’s a whole structure and methodology where you collect feedback on the learning pathway and it drives the next step that you take.”
  7. Learning needs to be connected across disciplines “and reach out into the real world.”  Our efforts with Project Based Learning and the PBL Continuum we developed aspire to achieve this in our classrooms.

Check out the 18-minute TED Talk below of Sir Ken Robinson where he “makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.” Watch and/or listen to how encourages us how to attack this “climate crisis”.  We don’t need reform or “evolution” in education, we need “revolution”.  Listen as we continue our learning revolt…

Who Are Original Thinkers? #BCSLearns

I have posted about innovation and innovative thinking in previous blogs like the one titled Moving from Pockets of Innovation to an Innovative Culture, as well as creativity in a post entitled What Does Creativity Require?  Adam Grant, organizational psychologist, in his book, Originals, and within his TEDTalk (view below), shares his sense about original thinkers.  “Originals are nonconformists. People who not only have new ideas, but take action to champion them. They’re people who stand out and speak up. Originals drive creativity and change in the world. They’re the people you want to bet on. And they look nothing like I expected,” he explains.  The three surprising habits of Original Thinkers, according to Grant, is that they:

  • fall somewhere between procrastination and ‘precrastination’
  • doubt their ideas — but not themselves
  • fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most.

For Grant, original thinking is “the best way to improve the world around us.”  Here’s to us at BCS working to inspire creativity, innovation and original thinking among our students so they can live into our 3E’s (valuing their education, their environment and each other) in order to make the world a better place!

Individualization, Differentiation & Personalized Learning – A comparison #BCSLearns

International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), through feedback from educators with whom they work, created the following definition of Personalized Learning: “Tailoring learning for each student’s strengths, needs and interests–including enabling student voice and choice in what, how, when and where they learn–to provide flexibility and supports to ensure mastery of the highest standards possible.”

Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda authored the recent book published by ASCD called Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind. The image below is a table compares three different instructional models: Personalized Learning, Individualization and Differentiation. Note the differences between the three…


Personalized learning, in short, can capture completely the key aspects of both individualization and differentiation while achieving clearly higher levels of authenticity, problem-solving, inquiry, analysis, co-creation and self-discovery.

Nellie Mae Education Foundation  mission is to “reshape our system so that learning is personalized, and students have a true voice in their education.” Check out the video below that brings this mission to life.

The Gift of Metacognitive Moments #BCSLearns

I posted a bit about wisdom last week, and this week’s post focuses on reflection – metacognition.  Confucius quoted that, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”  Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching cites a variety of research concluding that “metacognitive practices increase students’ abilities to transfer or adapt their learning to new contexts and tasks.  They do this by gaining a level of awareness above the subject matter: they also think about the tasks and contexts of different learning situations and themselves as learners in these different contexts.”  In short, reflection for learners, at any age, is a highly effective tool for learning.

How do we provide ourselves and our students metacognitive moments?  A tweet from TeachThought, referencing Exit Slips, listed 8 Reflective Questions to Help Any Student Think about Their Learning.

  1. What surprised you today, and why?
  2. What’s the most important thing you learned today? Why do you think so?
  3. What do you want to learn more about, and why?
  4. When were you the most creative, and why do you think that is?
  5. What made you curious today? How does learning feel different when you’re curious?
  6. When were you at your best today, and why?
  7. (Assuming we were studying the same thing and you could decide and have access to anything), where would you start tomorrow? Why?
  8. What can/should you do with what you know?

As educators, is easy for us to pose reflective questions like the ones above, but how do we help students make metacognition a habit.  Metacognition: The Gift that Keeps Giving from Edutopia shares specific details on how to teach students to be more metacognitive.

  • Define the term metacognition.
  • Ask students to describe the benefits and supply examples of driving their brains well.
  • Look for opportunities to discuss and apply metacognition across core subjects…
  • Model metacognition by talking through problems.

Dr. Derek Cabrera is an internationally recognized expert in metacognition (thinking about thinking), epistemology (the study of knowledge), human and organizational learning, and education.  Check out his TedTalk below on “How Thinking Works.”

Want More Metacognition Resources?