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Turning Learning Upside Down

Twitter version: Read this book, and join me as I try to change education.

I have been trying to change education from the inside out for YEARS! Ever since I started, I have been poking and prodding and trying to change and adapt it to better meet the needs of our students.

It started with inner-city kids blogging on salvaged computers my first year teaching. Then, a standards-based RTI approach that allowed every student in my class for two years to pass successfully (400 kids!). When kids get D grades, they have failed their potential. When a student gets an F, it is the teacher who has failed the student.

After that, I sought to change libraries in a 33,000 student school district so that they were hubs of learning rather than just places to check out books.

Following that I moved to a curriculum specialist position that allowed me to coach teachers to implement a coteaching practice. We also created a middle school schedule that increased reading scores significantly.

Then, I started administration, and started focusing more on kids as individuals, hearing their concerns and treating them with respect, even though they were usually in trouble. We also raised attendance rates from 85% to 95% in a Title I elementary school by doing 1 simple trick.

In my next school, we added Tier 2 and Tier 3 supports to the school day, rather than forcing kids to be told they are dumb all day, only to be forced to attend an after-school program where they still felt dumb. Honestly, if we can't meet kids' needs during the 7 hours we have them each day, that's our fault.

At my current school, we are really upping the ante by making education personalized for our students. Not just lip service, which is what most personalized learning is. We are looking at big ideas to make things happen for kids in a powerful way.

Here's my Four Year Plan (TM haha):

Click the image above to go to the podcast where I explain this in more detail. 

Click the image above to go to the podcast where I explain this in more detail. 

In the last month and a half, there has been a confluence of factors that have helped me see that it is truly possible to do what we need to do for our kids.

I'm a podcast nerd, so many of these links are to podcasts, which is worthwhile, because you get to hear the excitement in the voices as they talk about it.

I spoke a little bit about this passion in my podcast a couple weeks ago, where I suggested that we end college career readiness.

The dream I have had for education is already happening at a place called Acton Academy. At least a year and a half ago, Seth Godin suggested I talk with Jeff Sandefer, the co-founder (with his wife, Laura) of Acton Academy.

We really need to empower kids to make their own learning choices. I've been doing this with my kids for the last several months by just goal setting each week with them. It has been very powerful to see the goals they have set. Things that I have wanted for them for months they are choosing to do, without my involvement. It's awesome.

Last month, I interviewed Heather Staker for the Transformative Principal Podcast. That interview is not out yet, but you will enjoy it when it is, so please subscribe.

One of the things she said was that I must interview the Sanderfers and was kind enough to connect us.

While I was in the process of arranging that, the book Courage to Grow was released, and I bought it for me and my Mastermind right away. I suggest you buy it as well. I read it in two hours.

Soon after that, Laura was on The 1 Thing Podcastt. Listen here. I was on The 1 Thing podcast, too, btw.

Then I interviewed Jeff a couple weeks later. Here is the early release, unedited of that episode.

We can turn learning over to our students and really empower them in a powerful way.

So, how do we change education? We empower students to be the learners they are innately, and stop letting our public education put road blocks up that bore them and destroy their creativity.