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 ( 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.

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

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, 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?

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?