Creating a SPACE to Make, Create and Think


I am not a maker… I shared this inability a few years ago during a MoVe(Moment Of Visible Empathy) talk on the MVIFI Fuse 2016 stage. It is a reality I have come to terms with, even though I strive to stretch myself and attempt to make. My mind and body struggle to bring my hopes of making into reality. Yet with all my hopes and wishes, the plan never seems to come together. Even though my making skills do not measure up to true makers. I have focused on not allowing my inabilities to stand in the way of others.

Currently I am in year two of my new role (maybe not so new) as STEAM Interdisciplinary Specialist. With any job there are defined and undefined responsibilities. Without giving a laundry list of what I do. I narrowed it down to some primary focus areas:

  1. Giving our students opportunities to engage in STEAM activities.
  2. Co-creating and assisting teachers with lesson/unit plans.
  3. Connecting Atlanta Girls’ School with the Atlanta community.
  4. Developing and Providing meaningful learning experiences for our teachers.

What is the connection between my opening statement and my current rambling. I am looking forward to AGS transforming the old science labs into our new Makerspace. This space will be a place where AGS girls can use power tools to create, break things and figure out how they work, and bring their thoughts to life. In the words of Ms Frizzle, “Take chances, Make Mistakes and Get Messy.”

Old Science Lab soon to be New Makerspace

So I am not a maker but I need to know enough to create a safe environment, give guidance on the proper use of equipment and share the value of making as a tool for thinking. We are in the early stages of creating this Makerspace and I welcome any thoughts.

Deconstruction of Old Science Labs



AGS Strong: Academics and Athletics


Physical Conditioning class can be a place for you to show off your strength or a place you might fear and just want to get it over with. Today I entered Coach Stacy Floyd’s physical conditioning class at the Atlanta Girls’ School. My purpose was to gain a greater understand of her teaching style and what her students go through over the course of a sixty-five minute class. I am also attempting to figure out possible ways physical conditioning can be included in project based learning and/or collaborative opportunities with other disciplines.


The first part of the class is student led. Each student understands they come into class and warm up. This time allowed for students to get their minds ready for the workout and clear their head from the previous class block. Then students learn a new skill through direct instruction. Today’s lesson focused one the second pull of the Power Clean. I love that Coach Floyd did a quick demonstration and then allowed them to attempt the move. Throughout the process, encouraging, correcting and challenging each student.


After the demonstrating and practicing of the skill. Students were prep for the Workout of the Day (WOD). Weights were prep, instructions given and the next 15-20 minutes was a constant moving of individuals from one exercise to the next. Stacy truly served as a facilitator at this point. Challenging students to push through perceived pain or fatigue. Correcting mistakes in the moment. Students were given individual teaching based upon their immediate need. The class was completed with a group wrap up. Everyone shared their personal times and reflected on the workout.


My Thoughts:

  1. I loved that she gave students individual instruction based upon the gaps she noticed.
  2. I loved that feedback was timely and in the moment.
  3. I loved that she demonstrated and immediately allowed them to do.
  4. I loved that she allowed students to self-assess. (If you are not sure of a move stay on this side for additional instruction, if you are good move to this space.)
  5. I loved that students corrected/thought each other.
  6. I wonder if students see the connection between athletic and academic strength/challenge.
  7. I wonder what are the natural subjects/discipline connections. (anatomy, art, biology)



HQPBL: process over product

IMG_0361The summer of 2018 allowed me to give 14 educators the opportunity to develop High Quality Project Based Learning units for their students. These dedicated teachers spent time creating new or polishing old units and using the HQPBL framework as a guide. Amber Player, Atlanta Girls’ School English teacher and Author, recently introduced her unit to her grade 10 English class. The focus of their work centers around the summer reading, Never Let Me Go. The final product will be a student choice artifact focused on MEMORY, THE PURPOSE OF ART or THE NATURE OF THE SOUL/ETHICS OF CLONING.



Students are in the very early stages of the project and in my opinion the most important phase; researching, developing ideas, journaling and on-going discussions. I believe that process is more important than the finished product. It is the time when students gain key skills: analyzing, critical thinking, project management, communicating in various forms. This time might not demonstrate what looks like a lot of excitement but the process is necessary to have a finished product that generates a WOW moment.IMG_0363


Reintroduction of Me to Myself

When I initially started this blog in the spring of last year, the plan was to have a reflective blog that captured my experiences as an Educator. My previous blogging experience (https://quest4creativeconfidence.wordpress.com)focused on my students and my children helping them explore their creative side. That blog is still up and running and showcases more images than text. This blog was to be my place to reflect, share and hopefully receive feedback. Unfortunately my reflecting has been few and far between. “Bad Teacher,Bad Teacher. You have your students reflect and you do not.”

So allow me to reintroduce myself. Today I decided to start back reflecting (really three weeks ago I decided). I have placed a couple of steps in place to make the process a little easier for me to enter, share and get back to the business of the day (thats another issue) I will type my reflections directly in the blog site. Previously I was typing, editing and adding imagines in Google Docs and transferring into WordPress. A few less steps.

I will also place myself on a timer 15 minutes and I am done. The good part is that I will not analyze until I get nothing written. The downside it will be raw uncut and sometimes unfinished. I made this decision because it takes away my excuse of no time. It allows me to have a place to find that idea and return when the time is right. Looking forward to enjoying the ride.

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

Connections, Empathy, Reflection

My Leadership Change 2016 – 2017


“Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” (Sinek 9)


The end of the 2016 school year I made the decision to work as Head of Grade 11. The past few years I served as Head of Grade 9. It made sense because I taught only Grade 9 students.  As an Upper School we made a shift in our Advisory System. As a result I was faced with leaving my advisory group that I had served for two years or start with a set of new 9th graders. I made the decision to stick with my 11th grade students and serve as Head of Grade 11.

I knew for many Upper Schoolers 11 grade year was the most difficult. Many students take between 3 -6 Advanced Placement courses. They realize this is the last year colleges will see a full year of coursework. They also spend hours prepping for ACT or SAT testing. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the 11th grade process.

What I did not prepare for is the test that I would be facing.  This year has me examining my leadership skills, my ability to listen and truly gain understanding and has me analyzing my negotiation methods.     It has been a struggle at times but I can see things getting better.  Some of my HOG duties: 

  1. Mentoring new teachers.
  2. Instructional Rounds/Learning Walks.
  3. Shepherding grade 11 students.
  4. Assisting team members with goals.
  5. Facilities Parent – Teacher – Student meetings.

One need to do highlight and celebrate the Brightspots


Learning Walk K-4


One of the keys to success as an educator is learning how to steal great ideas.  The best way to steal great ideas is to go on on a learning walk.  For the record, of course I am not talking about the unethical practice of taking from others.  When you allow yourself time and the freedom to wander around the school and witness the works of others it can be an enlightening experience.  

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to visit every K-4 classroom at MVPS with Nicole Martin.  We held ourselves to a quick pace and caught a glimmer of each classroom.  So this was not an in depth analysis of educational practice but it was very insightful.  During one class we saw students working independently, exploring various way to learn and practice math.  This reminded me that students need to have choice in how they learning.  In another class student were prepping for a debate.  Each student was spread out in various corners of the room reading and gathering information to create an argument.  Debate sound like a sophisticated endeavor but scaffolding properly all levels can create a valid argument.

I  witnessed second graders working in teams to craft public service announcements.  Some students creating posters and some writing messages to warn of the dangers of smoking.  I even was able to enjoy snack time while kindergarteners listen to an engaging book.  These moments allowed me to reflect on the joy of learning and the impact curiosity can have on  the learning environment.  

The learning walk was capped off by hearing the stories of students shopping at Home Depot.  They are in the midst of planting an organic garden and realize that wild animals like spinach also.  These fourth graders designed a plan to combat the critters and had to purchase the necessary items to bring their ideas to life.  Real World problem solving in action.  Next step learning walks on the Upper School Campus.  


The Year So Far…

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

John Dewey

Version 2

This marks week six of the school year and I am asking myself where has the time gone.  A lot of exciting things are taking place and my desire was to capture and reflect on these various experiences. Six weeks in and I have fallen short on the capturing, no reflective writings or moments of stopping and reflecting.  Right now I am in a state of doing and struggling just to “Be in the Moment.”  Here is what is happening in the world of JamCam…

  1. Grade 9 Humanities course is no longer a theory but a living functioning organism.
  2. The Humanities PLC still meets to craft, restructure and develop the program.
  3. Mentor Program for new teachers meeting 1 complete, meeting 2 coming soon.
  4. HOG duties are kicking in Folio Meetings, 73 and Under Reports, Team Building.
  5. Advisory with Grade 11 is different from Grade 9.
  6. Football Coaching: one last second defeat and one hard-fought win .
  7. MVIFI is in motion with Collider coming and School Visit day soon.
  8. The Teachers Guild is ready to roll: Civics Education and STEM.
  9. Both boys are in school, 2 year olds and 8 year olds have different needs.
  10. Leadership team still building capacity for PBLs, Instructional Rounds and more.

Those are the Top 10, more to come…


The Educator

IMG_0881I decided a few months ago to get away from calling myself a Teacher when people ask what I do for a living.  When I shared that I am a teacher, people would immediately ask what do you teach.  I would then proceed to say History.  From there they would share how much they hated History.  How their teacher lectured the entire time and made it dull and boring.  I reply, you did not have me as a teacher.  You would have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  If they do not tell me they hated the course, they tell me how much they love History.  They proceed to tell me all about Greek History, or how they enjoy reading about the Boxer rebellion and the War of 1812.  When was that War again.  I smile and acknowledge their excitement but I am not really excited.  But I find being called a teacher is so limiting because I (we) do so much more than teach a subject.

I feel that the title Educator encompasses more of the day to day work that I do.  Yes I teach students and I enjoy teaching.  I do not sit at the board and lecture for 60 minutes and throw homework at them as the bell is ringing.  I attempt to make it student center because we are all students, generating student voice and choice blended with my adult “wisdom.”  As an educator, I also teach and train other educators sharing my experiences and ideas.  Hopefully giving them useful insights and pearls of wisdom.  I coach sports and coaching is another avenue of teaching.  I have always felt that good coaching and good teaching go hand and hand.  This is only a segment of what I do but I did not want to bore you with my many metaphors and analogies.

So today is the first day back from summer vacation, summer learning, summer decompression, summer get my life together or whatever you want to call it.  This year I hope you will join me on my day to day journey as an educator.  I plan to share my experiences as a member of the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School Faculty, a coach for The Teachers’ Guild , a proton of the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation , a life long learner and a father striving to further his sons.  I will try to speak from an Academic Authority but I tend to share from the philosophy of KISS (Keep It Simple Son).  Please feel free to provide feedback, give comments, dialogue with me or just give a thumbs up.  I will use Quest 4 Creative Confidence as a photo gallery blog, so for imagines of my day to day  check it out.  
Thank you for indulging me as I begin year 14 in the world as an Educator.