On the power of assemblage

When Is the last time you told a friend, colleague, or student: “I’ll be your audience”?

Last Monday, the third #teacherbookclub chat (Via Twitter) hosted the extraordinary co-author of Launch, John Spencer.

If you are in education and you have yet to check out Spencer’s ‘Sketchy Videos,’ be prepared to be amazed:

In John Spencer’s post “Ten Things Pixar Can Teach Us About Creativity” he reminds us that creativity is not the end goal, rather, creativity is a byproduct of healthy communities of learners who prioritize relationships above outcomes:

People are more important than ideas. There was a great quote here, “Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas . . . too many of us think of ideas as being singular, as if they float in the ether , fully formed and independent of the people who wrestle with them. Ideas, though, are not singular. They are forged through tens of thousands of decisions, often made by dozens of people.” This has a few big implications. First, it means trust and relationships are more important than the products we make. Second, it means we need to be okay to abandon ideas without taking things personally. Finally, it means our success in generating ideas does not define who we are as people.

JD Hancock Relationship
JD Hancock


Spencer’s musings on the trust we need to precede ‘creativity’ continues in his book (prioritize it on your summer to-read list):

“If we want students to hit a place of creative flow, we need to give them time to experience this phase. We must allow them to be excruciatingly slow. There’s no shortcut. They can’t bypass the necessary learning and discovery, trial and error. They simply need more time to work through it.”

A week ago, one of my amazing grade 9 students had a day off from school.  With all the open space of a day off campus she could have done just about anything.  Instead of binging on Netflix, she hit that place of creative flow.  All on her own. Check out her amazing project in the making here:

You can read all about the project to be here. Please consider leaving your comments, or connecting her with other students who might ignite other ideas too.

In many ways, that student followed Spencer’s Launch Cycle.  Perhaps she’d even agree with another quote from #LaunchBook:

“There’s power in problem-solving and experimenting and taking things from questions to ideas to authentic products that you launch to the world. Something happens in students when they define themselves as makers and inventors and creators.”

I’ve been thinking about the students and colleagues I’ve known who have been ‘prone to Launch.’  They all share one common trait:  they have a network who will support them by being a member of their audience.

Being someone’s audience comes in all shapes and sizes.  You can comment on their post, quote their tweet adding your ‘yes, and…’ thoughts, ask them to tell you more, connect them with someone who can take their work further, invite them into your network, or just listen.

“Just Listen.”

Sarah Horrigan Listen
Sarah Horrigan

How often do we underestimate the power of listening?

It is one of the most effective ways to make someone feel valued.  Think of the people you’ve most loved working with, I bet they made you feel heard.  The most inspired administrators I’ve had the privilege to work with are all stellar listeners.

As another academic year comes to an end, I propose a goal for all you gearing up to set brand new goals: make any five members of your community feel heard, for the entire year.  What if this goal applied to all stakeholders of your school? How might that feed into other goals?

I’m reading two books at the moment which are proving to be very helpful if you want to unpack that goal:

The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations Into Breakthroughs

by Marcia Reynolds


While I am incredibly excited to listen to brand new colleagues and students at my soon to be next school, I must say, I am every bit as excited to hear from the creator of the Firesaur, to find out how her project evolves.  I’m also excited to hear from members of the #EagleEd squad, and play audience from afar to hear about what they do with blogging, Davos, service learning, and more.
As a goodbye and thank you, I leave with a blogpost (also by Spencer) as a parting gift.  I hope my students and colleagues continue to foster the power of positive relationships and embrace what Spencer calls ‘The Food Truck Mindset”:
Food trucks often allow a chef to continue to improve on his or her craft by learning through making. You figure out if it works by sending it to a real audience. Part of why food trucks can experiment so well is that they are moving through the design cycle faster than a typical restaurant. They are able to test things out to a real audience and see if it works. Schools can easily get bogged down by meetings where they are planning about planning. But if they take this “ship earlier” approach, they can test things, modify them, and then create a new iteration faster. Innovation often looks small and humble at first. But good ideas have a way of spreading when people are able to see it in action.

Happy Making this Summer!

Kind Regards,


Takashi .M Thank you !!
Takashi .M
Thank you !!

Thank you Flickr for the amazing Creative Commons Images!

JD Hancock


Sarah Horrigan


Just Ask.

#Teacherbookclub just enjoyed its second online chat, featuring the man behind #InnovatorsMindset: George Couros. I’ve long been a a fan of his work, if there is one blog out there that educators need to make time for, it is “The Principal of Change.”  His book empowers educators everywhere to take action, and to see themselves as capable (if not responsible) for shaping the culture of their school, one conversation at a time:

The least innovative organizations often seem to surround themselves with like-minded people. Innovation often comes from conflict and disagreement, not in an adversarial way but in a way that promotes divergent thinking.”

I’ll come right out and say it: George Couros is one of my heroes.

He believes in the power of education.  More importantly he doesn’t think we need a program or a politician or an omniscient power to ‘fix’ schools.  He thinks teachers and students are already doing amazing things, and through our networks, our passions are starting a transformation in the world of education. He reminds us to see the best in ourselves, and the very best in our students:

“Think about it: we have the world at our fingertips, the ability to connect and create with people around the globe through so many different mediums. Yet what do most schools focus on when talking about technology? “Cyberbullying” and “digital safety.” … We are spending so much time telling our students about what they can’t do that we have lost focus on what we can do .”

potential futures demand we champion positivity in one another.

Thomas Hawk Tomorrow's Possibilities
Thomas Hawk
Tomorrow’s Possibilities


When we talk about ‘resources’ at schools, we need to audit our attitude and actions.  Those are resources too. Couros pushes us to take action and develop our #InnovatorsMindset one risk at a time:





“When students come to school, we continually tell them, “You need to share!”…Educators would all benefit if we decided to take our own advice. One way we can do that is through blogs. If you’re thinking, “I’m not a writer,” consider this: every opportunity to share with others on a global scale makes you think more deeply about what it is that you are sharing in the first place.”


You are what you share.

I wanted to share my George Couros fandom with the world, so, I did.  When I reached out to George Couros through Twitter, I doubted he would have time to sift through his some 117K followers and find my request, but, he did…within the hour.

If you doubt the power of Twitter, think about this for a minute: one Tweet from Central Switzerland made its way to a pretty busy, incredibly popular person across an ocean, and a plan was put into motion that same day.  As a result, Couros shared his advice, wisdom, and inspiration with educators from 15 different countries….on a Monday.

If you need inspiration, just ask.

Here are a few of the highlights from our hour last night, you can visit the entire chat here.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 15.24.09

There’s a reason 192 people retweeted this: those two powerful words we need more of in schools: “What If….”

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 15.26.13

Three educators, three countries, one message: make people feel valued.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 15.30.29

Reflect, create, share. (Repeat).

The #InnovatorsMindset is not something your school can buy.  It is something you make together, mend together, celebrate together.

I came across this incredible series of animated movements yesterday.  In light of last night’s chat, I want to thank George Couros, and let him know I appreciate the conductor he is in my animated movement of an academic year.













Thank you Flickr!

Thomas Hawk

Tomorrow’s Possibilities

That Kindling Moment

In my Learning2 Talk this April, one idea I wanted to share was the notion of seeing the school year as a campfire. In keeping with this vision, I wanted teachers to see themselves as kindling bearers rather than feeling perpetually pressured to be torch bearers.  Often schools have ideas needing just a bit more fuel, sometimes our fire needs a touch more tinder.

webhamster Campfire

It is easy to get lost in our own goals year after year.  It is important for the culture of our schools to look out for dimming flames. We should seek opportunities to be the spark that other ideas need.  I recently found the phenomenal blog of Katie Martin. In her post “Culture is Everything,” she drives this idea home. If you’ve been lucky to have worked at a school where the culture is a motivating force, you’ll quickly agree with what Martin has to say about the efforts we need to take in grooming the culture of our shared campus.

We know that kids (and adults) learn better when learning has an authentic purpose, subjects are integrated, and the learner has agency and choice in the process.  Because of this, project-based learning is BIG right now and rightly so.  You might wonder–Is there professional learning to support PBL? Are there programs that provide resources? Are there models that teachers can see and use? The answer to all of these questions is yes. Yes, you can provide all of these things and support teachers in the process to develop great projects, and you should, but it’s not enough.

I have seen some amazing examples of how project-based learning changes how kids learn in school when educators embrace integrated, authentic ways of learning in school but I have also seen these ideal methods added on to traditional schooling that rarely changes how kids learn. If the culture doesn’t foster creativity, risk-taking and innovation, project-based learning (or any transformative initiative) can easily become another thing added on a teacher’s plate. In education we tend to focus on the programs, procedures and policies. When, in reality, the culture is what will truly empower teachers to make a meaningful impact on student outcomes.

What if you saw every week as yet another opportunity to shape the culture at your school?

What would you do? With whom would you want to sculpt?

Whether you see it that way or not, the reality is, week after week we are all doing something to define the culture we work and live in.

Last week, one of my colleagues, Valerie, took action.  Today, I am so incredibly thrilled to be hosting a second chat via #TeacherBookClub.  Our esteemed guest, George Couros, is going to join us on Twitter to share some of the wisdom behind his incredible book. Valerie (a budding innovator herself), really took to what Couros has to say in his text.  So much so, that she created a beautiful visual notes poster capturing some of her favorite key ideas:

At our Friday staff meeting, Valerie stood up, referenced her poster and advocated for attending the Twitter chat.  But that’s not the most amazing thing she did.  The action she took which was a ‘cultural shift’ a-ha moment happened next.  Valerie said, “If you want to learn about Twitter you can ask…” and she pointed to a lovely sampling of colleagues around the room.  She advocated for advocates.

“Leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.” – Tom Peters

When we take the time to connect educators with other educators, when we show that a shared vision is coming into focus through our collective lenses, we are making our culture palpable.

Juan Salmoral Feeling
Juan Salmoral


What Valerie did in that #kindling moment was rev the engine Seth Godin describes in his post: The possibility of optimism (the optimism of possibility)

As soon as we realize that there is a difference between right now and what might happen next, we can move ourselves to the posture of possibility, to the self-fulfilling engine of optimism.

Which #kindling moment made the culture at your school palpable this month?

The quest for better questions.

“If you learn how to think, you can take what you’ve learned and adapt it to multiple situations.”

– Mike vaughan

“We all have a very different peRspective of what growth means.”

– Mike vaughan

Vaughan’s TEDx talk will resonate with educators everywhere.  Regardless of your school, subject focus, or time spent in a classroom, you know that every teacher thinks about getting better at the art of educating others. Vaughan identifies ‘good question asking,’ as one of the essential skills for top performing teachers.  He makes a great point by reminding us that this applies both to the questions we ask ourselves, as well as the questions we ask others.

How do we ask better questions?

Matthias Ripp Any Questions?
Matthias Ripp
Any Questions?


I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Two great ‘learning experiences,’ have been a part of this provocation.  Recently I read the book Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time by Bob Tschannen-Moran, Megan Tschannen-Moran.

The book focuses on sparking insight through a regular regime of story-swaps between colleagues:

“When coaches and teachers communicate what they are working on with others, the systems and structures in schools shift into alignment. When coaches and teachers share the stories of their design experiments, including details as to how things went, what worked well, and what things were helpful to them, the news begins to spread. Such stories can have a huge influence on school environments.”

That reading was a great compliment to this week’s #TeacherBookClub chat with Bill and Ochan Powell as we unpacked their work Teacher Self-Supervision: Why teacher evaluation has failed and what we can do about it.

Here are a few of the tweets which spoke the most to me:


What if we started our next meeting with these three questions?

  1. Which narrative portraying a teacher has most shaped who you want to be as a teacher? This could be a story told in a film, as an anecdote, or in a book.

  2. What story from this academic year best defines the culture of our school?

  3. Which experiences have allowed you to trust your own judgement in the classroom? Which experiences have made you rethink your judgement?

Make the time to wonder:

Taking the time to be more curious about our colleagues is an act of kindness and respect. Why is it that we leave it off the agenda? How can we prioritize the art of conversation? Can we offer provocations meant to inspire story-shares? Can we learn more about ourselves by connecting with others? Isn’t that why we come together at schools rather than work from home five days a week?

What is the one best question a colleague has asked you This year?

teppistella Ninjette's rear view mirror
Ninjette’s rear view mirror



Thank you, Flickr, for your bank of Creative Commons Images:

Matthias Ripp

Any Questions?


Ninjette’s rear view mirror