NAIS Annual Conference 2017 Reflection

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-4-14-34-pmA few final thoughts from the NAIS Annual Conference.

  1. As a white man, I was challenged to think from the perspective of the other through Onaje X. O. Woodbine’s talk about race and Jennifer Bryan’s talk on Gender and Sexuality Diversity in Pre-K-12.
  2. Sir Ken Robinson provided a definition of a personalized, child centered education: At its core, education is about the relationship between teacher and student. This relationship is the core of empowering learners. I was also pushed on the personalized learning  and disruptive innovation front by Ryan Aldrich and Mark Kushner from Tahoe Expedition Academy (CA); Michael Horn from the Christensen Institute; and Colleen Broderick from AltSchool.
  3. Connections: NAIS is about connecting with old colleagues and meeting new ones. I was able to reconnect with a few mentors who taught me to be a better teacher, administrator, and parent and to thank them for their support and caring through the years. I also took time to make new connections with innovative educators to help push me as a leader and learner. Lastly, I worked on creating mentorship relationships with developing teachers and leaders in schools.

Pushing myself — Deepening my understanding of the other — And connecting to reflect on my past and where I’m going to challenge myself in the future. These were the themes of my learning during the NAIS Annual Conference.

What did you learn?


Onaje X.O. Woodbine — Black Men, Sports, and School

This morning, Onaje X.O. Woodbine, a philosophy and religious studies teacher at Phillips Academy and the author of Black Gods of the Asphalt spoke about his experience of being a black basketball player at Yale and deciding to leave the team to concentrate on his studies. He read the letter his coach wrote to him after he left which accused him of ruining opportunities for other black athletes in the future. This type of generalizing one black man’s actions on all black men is racism at play and many white people are not even conscious of it. There were a number of other explicitly racist comments in the letter.  It was demoralizing.

Onaje then spoke about his study of basketball in the Boston neighborhood where he grew up.  He described the flow state and the safety that black men found when on the basketball court. He shared stories of how basketball tournaments were named after so many young men who were killed, and the impact of this trauma. He had two performers act out vignettes from his book.

He ended the talk with a few powerful quotes:

  • The pedagogical imperative of school: we must provide the most truthful portrait of reality
  • Black students are not muscle and flesh. They are stories and they want their stories to be told
  • ‘We got next’ to do the work of discovery and racial healing
  • ‘We got next’ to take down the artificial boundaries that prevent racial healing

If you identify as white and are angry or frustrated with this post, I encourage you to do some reading. Check out this post. We are a country that has a deep history of oppression and brutality against black and brown people and we must own that history to begin to heal this divide.

Thanks NAIS for a great opening speaker who challenged the audience to feel the terror of black youth live with each day.

What did you take away from this talk?




NAIS AC 2017 Prep and Preview

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-3-03-37-pmThe NAIS Annual Conference 2017 is in Baltimore, MD and the theme is: Make Your Mission Matter: From Vision to Values. With 6000 participants, NAIS pulls big keynote speakers and great presenters from around the world. My recommendation is to attend all of the keynotes which include Onaje X.O. Woodbine, Susan Cain, Sir Ken Robinson and Brene Brown. There are so many sessions to choose from. I encourage you decide what your learning goals for the conference are and then take a look at the program.
Connecting with people: For me, one of the most important parts of conference going is to connect with old friends and make new ones. Here are a few ways to do that at the #NAISAC 2017:
  • Wednesday, 3/1 at 5:00pm: First time at the conference? Attend the First-Time Attendees Reception
  • Thursday, 3/2 from 4:30 – 6:00: Welcome Reception in the NAIS Expo
  • In the Expo Hall, stop by the NAIS Makerspace or the NAIS Learning Lab to find colleagues or take a break.
  • Twitter: Follow the hashtag: #NAISAC to see what people are saying.

How do you navigate the NAIS Annual Conference? Add your ideas in the comments below.

Looking forward to seeing you at NAIS AC 2017!

AltSchool East Village — Reinventing Education

I recently started as founding Head of School at AltSchool East Village. AltSchool has eight lab schools that are focused on personalized, whole-child education — building agency and independence in children through project based learning. AltSchool is a startup that has 50 educators and 50 engineers on staff. We are building technology to superpower teachers by connecting them with great teaching practices — leveraging the network effect.

Here’s a recent story in which I appeared:

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The Takeaway Book Club: ‘Between the World and Me’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I recently took part in a book club conversation on WNYC’s The Takeaway about ‘Between the World and Me‘ by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Here’s the audio:
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I have learned a great deal about the history of race in the United States over the past few years by participating in the CARLE Institute and Undoing Racism. I have also worked with colleagues and friends to speak more openly about race and how it negatively impacts both people of color and whites. Seeing the privilege I have as a white man and learning to work against oppressive racial systems has become an important part of me. ‘Between the World and Me’ provides a perspective that is difficult to read, but important for people who identify as white to hear.

I’m thankful to Abel Bartley and Anita Romero Warren for being so open and honest during this conversation and to The Takeaway for selecting me to participate on this panel.

What are you learning about your racial and cultural identity? How do you keep this critical topic at the forefront of the work you are doing?

Summer 2015 Reading

It’s summer, and that means summer reading.  I have done much of my reading this summer through audio books, as I listen while doing chores — painting rooms, doing dishes, etc.  Two themes for this summer: Race and Adolescence.


Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.  Irving does a compelling job of describing her racial awakening. Her stories of growing up in a white household that didn’t speak about race resonate with me. The questions at the end of each chapter are great opportunities to reflect alone or with friends.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates describes his growing up and coming of age in Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York City in this book written to his 15 year old son. A powerful perspective that I’ll write more about.

Takeaways:  We need to be be having conversations and race in the United States. The culture of silence needs to end. As a white person, I don’t have to engage in this conversation, but if I don’t, I’ll be leaving my children and students a world that is worse off than it is now.


The Teenage Brain, A Neuroscientists Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt. A thorough description of current adolescent brain research and it’s implications for parents.

Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence by Laurence Steinberg. Sternberg similarly describes current adolescent brain research an adds a number of chapters with concrete recommendations for parents and educators, specifically targeting recommendations for adding physical activities and mindfulness activities to improve self-discipline for adolescents.

Takeaways: Adolescents is a period of great brain growth (brain plasticity). The more we provide positive reinforcements for intellectual pursuits, physical activities and self-discipline, along with clear boundaries in places where adolescents can get into trouble, the more positive development we will see in adolescents in society.

What are you reading?  Where are you stretching yourself?

What I’m Reading. What are you Reading?

I am interested in the conversation about where education needs to be in 5, 10, and 20 years.

Below are a few of the books I’m accumulating for summer reading.  What else would you recommend?

Daring Greatly — Brene Brown — Definitely check out her TEDx Talk too.  Brown tackles vulnerability and shame. Her work has changed the way I approach leadership  teaching, and my family.  Engaging your family, colleagues, students from alongside and working to see what they see and feel what they feel.

The Secrets of Happy Families — A great book on parenting and being a better parent in our intensely competitive and over scheduled world.

Creating Innovators — Tony Wagner — What we should be doing/thinking about in education to prepare our students for their futures.

If you’d like to discuss what books you are recommending and how you are helping your faculty look towards the future, please let me know.