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Mr. President: Just Go With the Flow

A day after Landon Donovan’s dramatic game-winner in the World Cup, I find myself thinking about the unpredictable beauty of soccer — and the work I do in public education — in a different way. Click here to keep reading.


Democracy in the Workplace

I’m in Las Vegas this week, attending Worldblu’s 2010 conference, at which Worldblu CEO Traci Fenton will honor the world’s most democratic workplaces. It’s an eclectic group of people and industries, and although there will be a few other educators at the event, it’s primarily an opportunity to learn what some forward-thinking folks in the private sector have learned about how the use of democratic principles can help create an optimal learning environment. In particular, I’m looking forward to hearing more from Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos and the recent focus of an extended profile in the New Yorker. I’m also preparing to test-drive my belief that the core challenge in any organization — whether it’s an elementary school or an online shoe retailer — is to strike the right balance between providing a few clearly-defined, goal-oriented shared structures, and reserving enough space for individuals to feel free to express themselves, ad lib, try new ideas, and find ways to improve the overall flow of the organization. I’ll be blogging about it all week, so please stay tuned and share with me any questions you think would be particularly worth considering.


Best Questions — Starting a School, Part II

I’ve volunteered to take the lead at putting together a plan for recruiting, interviewing and evaluating prospective principals for our new elementary school here in DC (scheduled opening, August 2011), and thus far it’s been a really useful process of trying to surface the “best questions” one should ask to get the fullest sense of a person and his or her philosophy about education and how best to help children learn. As is always the case when I’m trying to get to the root of an issue in education, I begin by calling Kim Carter, the head of the QED Foundation and, as I said recently on Twitter, the finest thinker/doer I have met in K-12 education work. Kim pointed me to the work of The Haberman Foundation, which has done some great research on teachers who make a difference. She also said the core question to ask should be: What do you think are the most important factors that determine student success? I like it, and I was also thinking of asking the following. Please check them out and offer any and all feedback and new ideas so we can be sure to get the process as finely tuned


Name the Book Competition — We May Have a Winner!

First off, thanks are in order to everyone who has weighed in — either here or on Facebook — to offer such useful feedback on our ongoing search for a title to the forthcoming book of 50 learning stories. Yesterday, I had a long meeting with the publisher’s marketing folks, and when I explained to them the concept for the cover — a mosaic of images of either each author’s profile photo, or a montage of photos that remind them of the learning story they shared, or perhaps a combo of the two — I think we may have found our title: Faces of Learning: 50 Inspiring Stories Yes/No?


Starting a School, Part I

Thanks to the vision of the remarkable people at Center for Inspired Teaching, I’m part of an initial working group tasked with bringing a new school to life. And, after a three-hour meeting yesterday, I’m struck by the totality of decisions to make — from the sacred (hiring the principal and staff, designing the curriculum, etc.) to the profane (choosing a food vendor, picking office furniture, etc.). What’s most exciting to me is the chance to help create the central frame on which the future faculty will build — the vision, the mission, the curriculum, and the developmental benchmarks. Already the process is uncovering the core questions that need to be asked in order to arrive at the optimal frame — “What do we want a graduate of our school to know and be able to do?” “What kind of a person do we want a graduate of our school to be?” “How will we identify our developmental benchmarks?” What will be the interdisciplinary elements of the curriculum?” “To what do we owe our fidelity?” When you have the opportunity to ask these questions before anything has been established, I’m realizing that you must immediately wrestle with a vital threshold

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