Connections, Education, Ethnography, Reflection, Uncategorized

Summer Choices Create Senior Voices – MAP2016


It is common for students to take the summer off. You have spent 9 -10 months  in intense study, writing epic papers, engaged in higher order thinking and solving the most complicated problems the world has to offer.  So yes you deserve a break and should be allowed to enjoy  summer but what about spending part of your summer investing in your future.  What if 2.5 days of personal investment could catapult you ahead of most rising seniors in the nation.  Day two of the Summer Intensive was spent doing just that.



Students began the morning engaged in Case Studies.  In these case studies they played the role of College Admissions Counselor.  They had to determine if a student should be admitted, denied or wait listed for The University of _______________.  These rising seniors played their role well, analyzing every detail from SAT scores, GPA, personal experiences and extracurricular activities.  The benefit of such an exercise, students can a greater understanding of the admissions process.  Many assumed that GPA and grades were the primary deciding factor.  They were pleased to learn that life experiences can play a role in an admittance and sharing their personal stories during the essay portion can sway the reader’s view.



Learning the value of a well crafted essay was eye opening to many of the Summer Intensive program participates.  So these rising seniors were thrilled to learn they would be able to practice their initial essay.  Gathered in a small group with only their mentor (representatives from College/University admission offices) students wrote at a fevered pace.  From an outside observer you may have thought it was the official SAT or an English final exam.  It was a group of students giving up a portion of their summer to gain insights into the college process.  Learning how to tell your story is a crucial part of life not just college admission. Sharing your life in a way that does not come across as braggadocious or makes you seem mediocre can be tough.  Through quality feedback from their mentors students came away from workshop with a developing first draft.


What happens when your GPA, SAT scores and personal experiences are not enough.  What do you when you crafted your words the best way you know how but it does not get your point across.  Maybe it is time to show demonstrations of interest.  Making a phone call to the university admissions office.  Taking the time to go on an additional college visit.  Maybe when you know the representative of that school is in town setting up an interview.  As a part of day two students participated in Mock Interviews.  The mock interviews lasted ten minutes and then students received immediate feedback.   Hearing pointers around making eye contact but not staring, telling stories with vivid details yet knowing what not to say, and how to be an active listener without seeming insincere.  These soft skills seem like common sense but as student learning  these skills  may be the difference between, “hey we need you at our school” or “we wish you the best during your search.”


The second day involved a lot of think work and personal reflection.  Students analyzed case studies, thoughtfully developed essays and experienced mock interviews.  They learned more about the Common App  and how to use it as a tool to navigate the process thanks to Aba Blankson,  Director of Communications .  Johnathan Hill with ZeeMee demonstrated ways to make their profile come to life and standout amongst other applicants.  So day two saw students exhausted mentally but ready to have fun.  The day closed out with a talent show and then time to relax in preparation for the final day.  

Connections, Education, Uncategorized

The Summer Intensive – Metro-Atlanta Access Program 2016


It is the summer of your freshman year of College.  Each night you are contemplating am i attending  the correct University.  You waited until the last minute to make your decision and settled on an out of state school.   The financial aid office is “dragging its feet” on securing a package that truly meets your needs.  In reality you procrastinated and thought they would understand your tardy paperwork party.  Even as you countdown the days to your first official class, you are already considering transferring closer to home.  You daydream, wandering if only I had attended the Metro-Atlanta Access Program Summer Intensive.  Thankfully this scenario is only a dream, you are currently attending MAP 2016.



The inaugural summer intensive started yesterday with a bang or more like a pop of a balloon.  MAP 2016 will take place June 18th – 20th at Oxford College of Emory University.  The organization’s co-directors, Sam Aleinikoff and Erin McCubbin, are excited to host 40 students from Atlanta Public Schools and Dekalb County Schools. “Living and working with students for three days allows us the time, space, and opportunity to cultivate relationships that empower students to begin their college search.”  The Metro-Atlanta Access Program  provides lessons, resources, and tools that enable each student to build the muscle needed to begin the application process their senior year. We promise that each student will:

  1. Engage meaningfully through sports, talent shows, down time, and meals to build relationships,
  2. Participate in a case study to help visualize the college admission reading process,
  3. Be empowered to brainstorm and develop a working draft of a personal narrative,
  4. Educate themselves on application and testing fee waivers, financial and merit aid processes and distinction, and scholarships available to high-need families,
  5. Work to build a robust resume highlighting his or her experiences and strengths,
  6. Develop a deep understanding of the high school transcript and its place in the application review process, including GPA calculation and HOPE GPA eligibility, and
  7. Have a customized list of schools to consider at the end of the summer intensive.


Aleinikoff and McCubbin will be joined  by  9 college admission officers.  These officers will serve as small group mentors, giving students advice that will definitely impact their search for the ideal college.  The following Colleges and Universities represented:  



  1. Emory University
  2. Georgia College
  3. Sewage: The University of the South
  4. Tufts University
  5. Carleton College
  6. Oberlin College
  7. Centre College
  8. Elon University
  9. Washington College

The initial part of the day began with team building and creating culture,  moments became more competitive as teams battled during College Jeopardy.  Jeopardy served as a foundation for learning as Admission officers began sharing insights about their school and the Admissions process in general.  


Couple of takeaways…

“Finish the Drill.”  Even if it states the essay is optional, complete it.

“Your story matters, stories show personality and voice.”

“Liberal Arts schools teach you, How to Think not what to Think”

So in reality it is the summer leading into your senior year of high school.  You are part of the MAP 2016 program.  You are surrounding by a host of adults who are vested in your future success.  How will you use this weekend to set the tone for an amazing College search.


Connections, Education, Facilitation, Reflection

Come Together For Change

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”  Henry Ford



Being able to experience learning outside of your school’s four walls seems like standard practice for me.  I think it should be required professional development for all teachers to extend their learning.  Each year as a member of MVPS, I have been privileged enough to attend various forms of Professional Development.  My first year, it was the Stanford d.School where I was engulfed by Design Thinking.  The following summer witnessed me walking through the big city of Exeter, New Hampshire as I learned the Harkness Method.  Recently, I traveled through the trails of Boulder Colorado and landed at Traverse 16.  



Traverse ranks as one of my most meaningful learning experiences.  Couple of reasons why, each session was an experience.  Over the course of 2 ½ days I may have been spoken at for roughly an hour.  Each experience was designed to get participates actively involved in the process.  Sessions were three hours long but the time was so well planned it seemed so much shorter.  I went to a session, received the overview of the session and went on an excursion to apply or obtain the learning.  The final piece of the experience were the people.  Traverse is limited to 100 participants so it is a real intimate setting.  I felt like I came in contact with every participate.  More importantly, I felt I made true connections with 20 or more people at this unique conference.


Some BIG IDEAS I was able to take away from this conference.  There are so many educators working to change the state of education.  The processes that we use may vary from Project Based Learning, Expeditionary Learning, Design Thinking, Big Picture Learning, and the list goes on; ultimately we want our students to have authentic and meaningful learning experiences.  Another take away, I was reminded of the need to get students journaling on a consistent basis.  I wonder how many great ideas I missed the past few years because of not allowing space and time for students to write.  My thoughts around the best learning experiences come outside of the classroom, as we interviewed people on Pearl Street and as Watershed teachers shared their many expeditions.  


Since Traverse is a production put together by the Watershed School I was able to connect with many of the amazing Watershed faculty members.  Team members shared resources and gave me new ideas.  They recharged my battery after a long exciting school year.  They shared the well and refilled my bucket which will have a direct impact on the upcoming Humanities Course. Students will now journal everyday and I hope we will redesign the course to include resilience as a major theme.

The long-term impact of Traverse 16 may not be realized for many years.  It seems that conversations are taking place to solidify a partnership between MVIFI and the Watershed School.  With very similar mindsets it could set in motion a means to inspire and impact the next generation of educators and students.  For me I plan to stay connected to the new members of my tribe and figure out how to grow meaningful relationships.


Have you had a meaningful Professional Development? What made it meaningful?

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.