A Year of Wonder: The Neuroscience of Empathy

If a person wishes to wonder deeply about the world, which ingredient is more important – the person, or the world?

Until recently, our answer was clearly the latter.

For the great majority of our time on this planet, human beings have viewed the world almost entirely through the prism of “we,” not “me.” As foragers, we lived in unquestioning obedience to the unknowable marvels of the natural world. And in the earliest civilizations, we lived to serve the needs of our Gods in Heaven – and then, later on, their hand-chosen emissaries on Earth.

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Categories: Learning

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This will completely blow your mind

It has nothing to do with education — and I still don’t really get it. But I love that Einstein predicted it a century ago (!), and that now we know that it’s true.

Categories: News of the Weird


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This is what every student could look like (and be)

Here’s the thing about me: I love schools. And I’m in them all the time. Lots of them, all over the country. So it’s safe to say that I am as aware as just about anyone what is out there when it comes to American educational options.

And yet here’s the other thing: I’m constantly hearing about new places doing great work — new to me, at least, because the folks there have been doing their thing for a long time — and whose approach to learning is precisely the sort of thing we should be hearing a lot more about.

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Categories: Equity, Learning

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This is what Kindergarten looks like in its ideal form

Imagine what a place like this is capable of unleashing in the mind of a child.

Imagine what places like this are capable of unleashing in the mind of every adult.

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Categories: Design & Space

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This is how you move a school from crisis to calm

St. George’s School in England was a failing school — filled with children who were struggling in their lives and whose school was a reflection of that chaotic state of being.

Today, it’s one of the top 2% nationally. If you wonder how such a change could be brought about, take a look at this video (26 min long), and see what you think about the ways in which its educators transformed the teaching and learning climate at their school.

St George’s – From Crisis To Calm from Chuck Peters on Vimeo.

Categories: Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change

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A Year of Wonder

I admit: I’m the type of person who sees every New Year as a chance to reboot, revisit and refresh.

And this year, 2016, I want to try and sustain a yearlong exploration of wonder.

Part of the reason for that is pretty straightforward: on January 1, I officially became a partner in a global design studio that helps communities reimagine learning at the intersection of space, culture and story.

Our name? WONDER, By Design.

But part of it is also a desire to wrestle with some questions my colleagues and I want to understand more deeply:

If wonder is to learning as carbon is to life, then what are the neurochemical underpinnings of wonder itself?
In what ways does our capacity for wonder help explain what is most essential to what shapes and drives us as human beings?
What blocks our ability to wonder widely about the world? What gets us unblocked?
You can imagine my excitement, then, when I saw that the Renwick Gallery, a century-old museum in Washington, D.C. once described as the “American Louvre,” had recently undergone its own reboot – a literal, massive, two-year renovation – and was reintroducing itself to the public by having its first new exhibit transform the entire building into an immersive, multisensory work of art.

The inaugural exhibit’s name? WONDER.

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Categories: Learning, Voice

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Across the Country, a New Type of Partnership Between Charters and Districts Emerges  

Increasingly, I’m hearing a question that drives me crazy: “Are you for or against charter schools?”

There can only be one legitimate answer to that question: It depends.

Are you speaking of the situation in Michigan, in which four out of five charter school operators are for-profit entities? Or the overall tendency for charters to be even more segregated than their public school neighbors? Or the reluctance by some charter leaders to hold themselves to the same standards of transparency and openness as traditional public schools?

If so, thumbs down.

But if you’re talking about places like Baltimore, where all charter school teachers are unionized (and the charters themselves are almost all locally conceived and teacher-led), or if you’re pointing to the growing movement among some charters to intentionally enroll and serve integrated student bodies – by way of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools – the picture takes a very different shape.

And then there’s what’s happening with Summit Basecamp – a new sort of partnership between charters and traditional public schools that may very well offer the best evidence so far of what Al Shanker first called for back in 1988, when he imagined a new kind of school in which teachers could experiment with different ways of reaching students, and then inject that wisdom back throughout the public school system.

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Categories: Equity, Leadership, Learning

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As Fifty States Reimagine Education Policy, Four Are Ready to Offer Guidance

What makes a mind come alive?

How can one community impact every child?

What do schools need to be changing from, and to?

And how can states set the conditions for lasting change?

In theory, these questions have always mattered. In reality, they are about to matter a lot more now that the United States Congress is poised to reauthorize its central education policy for the first time in thirteen years – and usher in an era of state authority on everything from school accountability to teacher education policies.

Now that the balance of power is shifting back towards the states, what should they do with it?

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Categories: Assessment, Equity, Leadership, Learning, Teacher Quality

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Why We Need To Kill Our Darlings

Every writer knows what it means to “kill your darlings.”

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership

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This is why we need to take teacher salaries seriously

It comes courtesy of my friends at the Teacher Salary Project (on whose advisory board I sit). And it should break your heart.

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Categories: Learning, Teacher Quality

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