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Arne Duncan’s Learning Story

Check out the first in our ongoing series with the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss, who will post a different person’s learning story every week between now and the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act.

Have a story of your own to share? Visit rethinklearningnow.com and tell us who helped you use your mind well.

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Name the Book Competition — Round 2

On Thursday, I formally submit the manuscript for the book of learning stories (estimated release date – February 2011) and it still doesn’t have a working title. However, many of you have written to share your feedback, and I think it’s time for an updated list of finalists.

Remember — whoever submits the winning entry gets a $50 gift certificate to the bookstore of their choice.

  1. Learning to Matter: 50 Powerful Stories of How Learning Experiences Shape Who We Become (from Pennsylvania’s Charlotte Hummel)
  2. Minds on Fire: 50 Powerful Stories of Learning & Teaching — in School & in Life (from Virginia’s Bruce Price)
  3. The Book of Life: 50 Stories About the Life-Changing Power of Learning To Use One’s Mind Well (from Australia’s Troy Jones)
  4. Your nomination — just post a comment in this thread and share your idea.

OK, people — what should it be?

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The Book of Learning Stories — Title Search

I need your help in coming up with the title for the book of learning stories. Whoever submits the winning entry will get a $50 gift card to the bookstore of their choice.

Here are the three I have so far:

  1. The Learning Book: 50 Powerful Stories of Learning & Teaching — In School & In Life
  2. Learning Matters: 50 Powerful Stories of Learning & Teaching — In School & In Life
  3. “Dear Mr. Hatfield”: 50 Powerful Stories of Learning & Teaching — In School & In Life

Yes? No? Maybe? Something else? Talk to me . . .

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Draft Intro for Book of Learning Stories

For anyone interested in learning a bit more about what the book will look like . . .

——–

This is a book of different people’s stories.

Some are about teachers who changed their students’ lives. Some describe the moment when a person first discovered how to ask the right questions, or found what they were most passionate about.  Others are about making art, or going on a challenging hike, or studying everything from Morse code to Macbeth to Kung Fu. But all of the stories in this collection are about one central thing – learning, and what it feels like to discover one’s purpose, passion, and capacity for greatness.

The 50 stories gathered here, along with hundreds of others, were submitted as part of the Rethink Learning Now campaign, a national grassroots effort to change the tenor of our national conversation about schooling by shifting it from a culture of testing, in which we overvalue basic-skills reading and math scores and undervalue just about everything else, to a culture of learning, in which we restore our collective focus on the core conditions of a powerful learning environment, and work backwards from there to decide how best to evaluate and improve our schools, our educators, and the progress of our nation’s schoolchildren.

In sharing their stories, our authors – who range from students to social workers to the Secretary of Education himself – were responding to one of two simple prompts:

  1. What was your most powerful personal experience in a learning community – regardless of whether that experience took place inside or outside of school?
  2. Who was your most effective teacher, and what was it about that person that made him or her so effective?

The purpose in asking these questions was twofold: First, to give people an opportunity to reflect on what they already know to be true about powerful learning and teaching – rather than tell them what some “expert” thinks it is; and second, to use the insights of these stories to help people see more clearly what a powerful learning environment actually looks like – and what it requires.

Based on those insights, the stories in this book are divided into five sections – challenging, engaging, supportive, relevant and experiential. As you read them, imagine how the insights they provide might be used to strengthen the learning cultures of the schools in your neighborhood. And rather than viewing each story as a “best practice” that should be replicated and scaled up, think instead of how these authors’ collective wisdom clarifies a “best question” we should ask whenever we want to improve our schools: “How can we best support educators in their work to create schools that are more challenging, engaging, supportive, relevant and experiential?”

Now, more than ever, our country needs these sorts of schools. Unlike any other pillar of our society, public education is the only institution that reaches 90% of every new generation, is governed by public authority, and was founded with the explicit mission of preparing young people to be thoughtful and active participants in a democratic society. And as these stories illuminate, the business of improving our schools doesn’t need to be a tiresome, desperate, and futile task; it can be a collaborative, risky, and deeply fulfilling journey that results in us better understanding ourselves – and each other.

So please, enjoy the stories that follow. Consider which of the recommendations we provide might be worth putting into action in your community. And take the time to share your own story, and read the stories of hundreds of other fellow citizens, at rethinklearningnow.com.

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Final 50 Selected for Book of Learning Stories

Nine months ago, the Rethink Learning Now campaign launched a national storytelling initiative by asking people to reflect on their most powerful learning experiences, and/or their most effective teachers.

Since then, the campaign has received hundreds of insightful and illustrative submissions from people across the country –from students to social workers to the Secretary of Education himself. And this past month, I’ve had the difficult challenge of selecting just 50 of those stories to be collected into a book that will be released next spring.

My work has been so difficult because the stories people have submitted are all so good, and so varied. Some are about teachers who changed their students’ lives. Some describe the moment when a person first discovered how to ask the right questions, or found what they were most passionate about.  Others are about making art, or going on a challenging hike, or studying everything from Morse code to Macbeth to Kung Fu. But all of the stories in the campaign – and, ultimately, the book – are about one central thing – learning, and what it feels like to discover one’s purpose, passion, and capacity for greatness.

And so, I’m proud to officially announce the Final 50. I want to congratulate all of you who took the time to share your stories with the campaign. And I want to urge anyone that hasn’t yet done so to add your voice to our growing patchwork of learning memories. Do so today at rethinklearningnow.com.

  1. Zainab Ali – Office of the Mayor – Los Angeles, California
  2. Anonymous — Evanston, Illinois
  3. Rachel Barnes – Humanities Teacher — Chatham, Massachusetts
  4. R. Dwayne Betts – Spokesman, Campaign for Youth Justice — Suitland, Maryland
  5. Maritza Brito – World Languages Teacher — Toms River, New Jersey
  6. Cass Carland – Youth Voice Consultant, QED Foundation – Keene, New Hampshire
  7. Gary Cohen – Businessman, CO2 Partners – Wayzata, Minnesota
  8. James Comer – University Professor — New Haven, Connecticut
  9. Elijah Cummings – United States Congressman — Baltimore, Maryland
  10. Jill Davidson –Director, Coalition of Essential Schools — Providence, Rhode Island
  11. Arne Duncan – United States Secretary of Education — Washington, DC
  12. Michelle Durange – 1st & 2nd Grade Teacher — Littlestown, Pennsylvania
  13. Joel Elliott – Peace Corps Volunteer — Limpopo Province, South Africa
  14. Amy Estersohn – Afterschool Program Volunteer, Learning Unlimited — Chicago, Illinois
  15. Jamal Fields – Elementary School Principal — Livermore, California
  16. Jenna Fournel – Outreach Director, Center for Inspired Teaching — Alexandria, Virginia
  17. Jenifer Fox – Founder, Strong Planet — Franklin, Tennessee
  18. Al Franken – United States Senator — Minneapolis, Minnesota
  19. Emily Gasoi – Student — Washington, DC
  20. John Goodlad – President, Institute for Educational Inquiry — Seattle, Washington
  21. Loretta Goodwin – Senior Director, American Youth Policy Forum — Arlington, Virginia
  22. Carl Glickman – Educator and Writer — Athens, Georgia
  23. Stedman Graham – Businessman and Educator — Chicago, Illinois
  24. Patrick Ip – Student — Chicago, Illinois
  25. Gerlma A.S. Johnson – Middle School Principal — Detroit, Michigan
  26. Gloria Ladson-Billings – University Professor — Madison, Wisconsin
  27. Liz Lerman – Choreographer — Takoma Park, Maryland
  28. Sitembiso Ncube Maduma – Special Education Teacher — San Bernardino, California
  29. Andrew Margon – Special Education Teacher — Brooklyn, New York
  30. Kevin McCann – Senior Vice President, Edelman Public Relations — Washington, DC
  31. Robert McLaughlin – Administrator, New Hampshire Board of Education — Concord, New Hampshire
  32. Deborah Meier – Retired Educator – Hillsdale, New York
  33. Renee Moore – Teacher Instructor — Cleveland, Mississippi
  34. Steve Moore  — Reading Instructor — Republic, Missouri
  35. Larry Myatt  — School Leadership Consultant — Boston, Massachusetts
  36. Susan Oliver – Communications Consultant — Waterford, Virginia
  37. Margaret Owens – Student – Palo Alto, California
  38. Terry Pickeral – President, Cascade Educational Consultants — Bellingham, Washington
  39. Bruce Deitrick Price – Founder, Improve-Education.org — Virginia Beach, Virginia
  40. Jan Resseger – Minster for Public Education and Witness, United Church of Christ – Cleveland, Ohio
  41. Mark Rockeymoore – Senior Fellow, Global Policy Solutions — San Antonio, Texas
  42. Carrie Rogers — 2nd Grade Teacher — Rancho Cucamonga, California
  43. Elizabeth Rogers, Public Affairs Director, Oral Health America — Portland, Maine
  44. Ahniwake Rose – Policy Analyst, National Congress of American Indians – Washington, DC
  45. Chantale Soekhoe – Legislative Liaison, New York Civil Liberties Union –  Bronx, New York
  46. Maya Soetoro-Ng – Education Specialist, East-West Center – Honolulu, Hawaii
  47. Angela Valenzuela – University Professor — Austin, Texas
  48. Jill Vialet – Founder, Playworks — Oakland, California
  49. Stephen Vick – Director of Child Welfare, Association House — Chicago, Illinois
  50. Jenerra Williams – 2nd & 3rd Grade Teacher — Boston, Massachusetts
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