DesignThinking, Empathy, Reflection

Designing A Life

DesignChangesMy first “adult job” – 40 hours a week, health benefits, vacation and all the things we desire when we think of careers was a Job Coach.  My work consisted of working with individuals who were physically or mentally challenged.  I would visit local companies and attempt to help my clients attain employment.  Once employed I would train them, monitor their daily progress and eventually set them free at there new place of employment.  These positions did not require a great deal of skills but for these individuals it gave them purpose and independence.

The individuals I served had other people in their lives to assist them with additional day to day functions that we often take for granted.  Some had dietitians who managed daily menus and food preparation.  Many had  hour to hour schedules designed to assist them with basic functions and administration of various medications.  Higher functioning individuals lived at home with parents or family members.  The daily planning was very methodical and well thought out to ensure the success of each individual. In the world of education, where I currently exist maybe I would have been labeled as an Executive Function Coach .  As a 25/26 year old this lifestyle seemed necessary but very restrictive, looking back now it seems more liberating.  

We talk about Creative Constraints as a means of limiting the amount of time to overthink a project.  I give my students timed writings to get them to focus on sharing the main points and avoiding the fluff and added drama when defending a thesis.  So could intentionally designing my life lead to more freedom and creativity? Could this liberate me from the self imposed barriers that I place in my path.  Let’s give it a shot.  How Might We (I) design my life?

Prototyping is a key component of Design Thinking.  I personally consider Empathy the number one component and prototyping comes next.  Prototyping puts you in the mindset of not designing the perfect experience but creating the initial prototype and seeking feedback to make it better.  You have to allow feedback and failure to guide your course of action.  So designing  a life or more specifically, My Life will require me to plan day to day life and legitimately give myself feedback on what works and what does not work.  Finding the points in the day where I have the most impact on my personal life.  Identifying the times of day where family takes the forefront and when other important people in my life take the lead.  Knowing when I am completely in the moment and when my brain is wondering.

Since I am currently in summer OTA’s this will afford me the time to work on designing my life.  Why is this necessary?  It is necessary for me to ensure that I am creating the most meaningful life for me and others.  Being halfway committed means that I am not committed.  Being fully committed and having focused energy will allow me to create a greater experience for all that I encounter.  Striving to be the best Connector, Learner, Father,  and Educator requires Designing or ReDesigning my life.   

What are you Designing?

Connections, DesignThinking, Facilitation, Reflection

Small Group Facilitation

Make Monty

As an educator more and more I am required to be a facilitator.  It is a skill that requires you to give up a degree of power in the classroom or workshop.  I liken a facilitator to Magic Johnson when he was point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Magic was a very talented point guard and had the ability to play all five positions on a court.  He could easily have been a ball hog and taken control of a game but his role of facilitator required him to get all players involved and make everyone great.  A good facilitator has to recognize when to step into a situation and when to step back.  How do you gain those skills as a facilitator?   Its very easy, PRACTICE – to perform or exercise repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

What happens when your practice does not mimic an experience you are about to encounter. I recently had an experience in facilitation that that brought me into unfamiliar territory.  I was hosting a meetup event for The Teachers Guild.  I was expecting close to 20 participants at this event.  My previous experiences with the Guild have all involved virtual coaching so this was truly a new endeavor.  My gameplan was set and my previous experiences with facilitation would be displayed.  Only four people showed up!  It was a little disappointing, but reflecting back it was understandable.  High School Graduations were taking place at various schools, it was exam time and many people were planning for memorial day weekend.  So as a facilitator what was I to do in that moment.

My facilitation prep for 20 people, became a small intimate fireside chat.  Instead of standing at the front of the room talking down to my small group.  I sat at the table with them and had more of a conversation.  The workshop was centered around Empathy Interviewing and Prototyping and in essence I was testing my ability to facilitate in a small group.  Things I learned:  (1) small group facilitation can get a little uncomfortable because there is no place for participates to hide, (2) because of the intimate setting you get to know your participates a lot better, (3) the encounters can be more meaningful because you become a close knit group.

Still consider the following, give the members of the small group space and time to plan without you as facilitator always being in the mix.  Do not make members feel uncomfortable by forcing them to speak, allow it to come natural.  Yes and spread the conversation around so that all members are active.  Push them to allow their ideas to go deeper but read body language to identify when you are getting pushy.  Ask questions to gain insights from the group, while helping they go deeper but avoid being annoying.

The art of facilitation can be a wonderful skill once you get the hang of it.  In the classroom it can take the burden off of the teacher and get students involved.  Amongst peers great facilitation can turn an us against them professional development into a team effort. When you “master” facilitation you realize you are not giving up power but gaining more power and influence. Remember perfect practice makes perfect.
How Might You handle small group facilitation?  

DesignThinking, Empathy, Reflection

A New Experience: My Four Words

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

                                                         William Shakespeare

Make Monty

I was able to enter the stage for the first time as a keynote speaker.  It was the first annual Make Monterey and thanks to Meg Omainsky  I was able to share my story and the impact I have seen as a result of the Maker Movement.  Here is the quick overview…

From my viewpoint it is necessary to connect with the audience by sharing aspects of your personal side.  This has never been easy for me because it requires me to pull back layers of my complexities. Quoting Shrek, “Ogres are like onions, they have layers.  The first layer I pulled back was sharing the four words I use to describe who I am.  I am a Father, Educator, Learner and Connector.

If I could only carry one title it would be Father.  Being thankful that my wife and I have been blessed with two sons, Kamau and Kanoa has been a bright spot in my life.  As a father I feel it is my duty to Further them, meaning that they will have opportunities that I did not have as a child or a young adult.  Hopefully by paving a straight path for them they will encounter a different set of challenges that will help them become outstanding young men.

I shared with the audience how I consider myself an Educator and not just a History  teacher.  As an educator I have been placed in the wonderful position to create a learning environment for 100s of students during my 13 year  teaching tenure.  I have also served as a coach of various sports.  Coaching is a form of educating not just the physical body but also the mind.  It has allowed me to impart lessons that only sports can teach.  Being an educator has also placed me in a position to teach and share with other educators.  I love being a classroom teacher but I feel being called an educator captures the fullness of my duties.

To be an effective educator I also have to be a Learner.  I spoke about entering all learning opportunities through the eyes of a child.  Being curious, willing to take chances and not allowing past experiences to dictate current learning opportunities.  Explaining that sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the vast amount of information to process.  Yet feeling excited when I learn something new and connecting new information to other areas of life.

The final of the four is being a Connector.  I love seeing the connections between various topics and ideas.  I get a rush when I meet new people and the positive energy that is shared.  Being empathic is something that I truly value and to share Brené Brown view, “Empathy Fuels Connection.”  This is what I love about the Design Thinking process, it calls upon you to connect with other humans.  To go beyond the surface and create a moment of visible empathy.   

More to come from Monterey tomorrow…

What are the four words you would use to describe yourself?  


DeepReflection, DesignThinking, Education, Empathy

The JamCam Experience: Memoirs of an Innovative Teacher in an Ever Changing World


Allow me to introduce myself. I am James Campbell – Educator, Learner, Connector and Design Thinker.  I am also a husband, father, son, cousin, uncle, teacher, coach and a host of other things.  I attempted to identify the four words that best describe me and how I am connected to others but could also describe me if I were to stand alone.  In August of 2015, I shared with my co-workers my personal life mission: Assist 10,000 people in exploring and developing their Creative Confidence.  Over the course of this school year, I feel I have made progress on this mission but I do not have the numbers to back it up.  I have discovered my biggest gap exploring my Creative Confidence.  

I tend to be an encourager as I try to inspire students to pursue their passion.  I strive to help others share the best they have to offer.  I give space and time (sometimes at my detriment) for others to gain creative confidence.  What about me?

So it is now April and I am dealing with the closing of another school year and the mad rush to complete the many tasks that all teachers must accomplish.  My dilemma: I do not just want to finish the year exhausted and My Bucket Empty.  I need to fill my bucket and find my passion. I need to explore my creative confidence and strive to share my best.  I need to share my story.

I am switching gears in my thinking.  I plan to focus on identifying my passion.  I hope to explore my creative confidence.  I will seek and share my strengths and weakness.  I will make myself vulnerable to criticism and feedback from the outside world.

If you are reading this initial post, I hope you will read others.  Since I am not using Grammly and I write “fill” when I should “feel”. Please feel free to comment with edit recommendations.  If you start noticing patterns and consistent behaviors, please point them out.  If you identify strengths I should explore or weakness I need to conquer, please speak up.  Hopefully my rambling will free you up to explore your own Creative Confidence, Pursue Your Passions and Share your Story.  Thanks for reading.