Empathy, Ethnography, Reflection


I had the opportunity to visit the Founders Campus on Friday, during this learning walk I found myself in Tarrik Mabon’s class (Coach T). His students were completing the first run of their classroom presentations. These sixth graders have worked on a PBL unit for close to a month and Coach T has invited other MVPS faculty members to visit the class and give feedback. So this was their last chance for practice before the PBL would go public.

Upon arrival a group of four students had just completed their rehearsal and he was giving them feedback. I loved how he was open with the students. He did not sugar-coat his feedback to make them feel good. He gave his honest thoughts on what they did well and areas of improvement. I was amazed how he used a “coach” tone in an academic setting. It was also great how receptive the students were to the feedback. They did not make excuses or try to explain how this was their best work. He challenged them to be great. He challenged them to take pride in their work. He challenged them to go above the norm.

The class, along with the entire 5th and 6th grade, transitioned into advisory/club time. Coach T sponsors the Passion to Business club. These are students who are interested in forming a business and have identified a passion that could potentially spark a business idea. Students shared their interests, curiosities and passions. They also shared how transform this idea into a business. There were some that did not have a business plan but they wanted the opportunity to grow into success. Coach T shared his background as an entrepreneur and some of the characteristics of an entrepreneur. This short visit was a Bright Spot in a long busy week. Thank you Coach T for shining so brightly.


Retreat to Reconnect with My Creative Force

Teachers are the Innovators.jpg


In July of 2015 I began coaching with The Teachers Guild.  It was a handful of educators from various locations in the United States, all skilled in the use of Design Thinking in the classroom. My training in Design Thinking began at the Stanford d.School and I have been able to practice my craft for several years at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School and train others through MVIFI.  The Guild initial mission centered around guiding educators through 30 design challenges in 3 years.  I was excited about the opportunity to work with educators in various parts of the world and to tackle challenges that face all educators.  Although excited, I soon realized that virtual coaching came with a set of new challenges.  I desired additional training and an opportunity to meet the other members of our team.  When the opportunity for a Coaches Retreat was introduced I said YES before all the details were set.  


October 20, 2016 I trekked across the country back to the San Francisco Bay for two days of training and fun.  Our first day was spent at IDEO offices, our team gathered under the leadership of Emma Scripps and Molly McMahon.  We started off by creating a set of Agreements to assist us through our deep dive into The Guild.  The Agreements/Norms reminded me of the need to establish culture is a requirement to do great work.  

  1. Be Present
  2. Be Excellent
  3. Assume Good/ Be Optimistic
  4. Have Fun
  5. National Park Rules

Soon after we discussed how we saw The Guild and I was quickly reminded why I wanted to Coach and Be Coached.  WHAT IS THE GUILD? “Team of Educators coming together to tackle the tough questions surrounding the future of education and providing solutions to those questions.”  HOW?

  1. Working Collaboratively
  2. Disrupting Educators
  3. Systemic Change
  4. Committed to Teachers as a Creative Force
  5. Inclusive
  6. Diversity
  7. Online and In Person Meetups
  8. Reimagining Today and Tomorrow
  9. Committed
  10. Creative Spaces

The highlight of my day was meeting the founder of the Teachers Guild, Sandy Speicher.  It was not just meeting her but it was what she shared.  She spoke about the Design Thinking for Educators being produced to support teachers in the design work they already do on a daily basis.  She shared why teachers need to be involved in the creation of the culture of school.  How it is important to tackle the vague, messy and sticky issues surrounding education.  Why it is important to hear complaints and then start investigative learning and designing possible solutions.  She reminded me that teachers need to view themselves as Designers and a Creative Force.


We all have to be reminded of our greater purpose.  Sometimes it takes getting away from the day-to-day norm and gain a different perspective.  Being around the other members of the team and learning from IDEO designers helped me to refocus my energy and thinking.  Hope to share more soon.  


Artwork courtesy of Erin Quinn