Tag Archives: best questions

What does it mean to be prepared?

I just spent three days at a wonderful independent school in Columbia, South Carolina. The students there are the types of young people you want to meet and hand over the keys of the world to — smart, thoughtful, and generous of spirit. They’re also the kind of community that is asking all the right questions.

I was most struck by a billboard they commissioned, shortly after their most recent graduation, in which the class of 2014 throws their mortarboards into the air, and the image is accompanied by a single word: PREPARED.

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Categories: Learning

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Open House Do’s and Don’ts

It’s that time of year again: when parents across the country — but particularly parents in major American cities — prepare to schedule a flurry of open houses in a frantic search for the best school for their child.

It happened to me a year ago; between January and March I visited more than 20 schools in search of the best place for my 3-year-old. Even though I’ve been working in schools my whole adult life, it was a daunting, disorienting experience. I can only imagine what it feels like for parents who haven’t stepped foot in a school since their own high school graduation.

To help ease the anxiety of my fellow parents, here are a few essential rules of the road: three questions to ask, and three things to look for.

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Categories: Parenting

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Best Questions

Just because.

Ask them, answer them, share them. If you have a favorite, tweet it along with the hashtag #bestquestions. If you have one that isn’t here, add it. And if you want to see what happened when a whole community asked these questions of themselves and each other — and then co-created a public portrait series, check out “Who Am I in This Picture?”

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Categories: Learning


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Hey Parents – It’s Time to Stop Playing Favorites

The other night over dinner, hours after my mother-in-law had returned home to New York, I casually asked my son Leo: “What was your favorite part of the weekend?”

As I watched him stare blankly back at me, struggling to find an answer, I found myself wishing I could have a parental do-over. Why do we ask children this question so often? Would it make a difference if we asked it a different way?

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Categories: Learning, Parenting

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The Many Faces of Thea

It wasn’t until the end of her tragically short life that Thea Leopolous first discovered the depth of her talent as an artist.

A buoyant, beautiful girl with dark eyebrows and sharp brown eyes, Thea spent her childhood believing the experts who first told her, back in third grade, she was unworthy of acceptance to the local program for “gifted and talented” children. Since then, Thea had struggled in her coursework and felt uninspired by a stream of classes that focused too much on academics, and not enough on other forms of learning, like the arts.

Then, in her junior year of high school, she produced a finger-painted portrait of B.B. King and removed any doubt of whether or not she was talented. Soon after, her capacity to excel in every area of her life changed dramatically. She had discovered a new source of confidence and calm. She had found her path.

A few months later, she was killed by a drunk driver.

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Categories: Assessment, Leadership, Learning

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The Three Most Important Questions in Education

It’s graduation season again – yet nobody seems to be celebrating.

On college campuses, graduates are entering an economy in which the stable career paths of yesteryear are disappearing – and the specialized job opportunities of tomorrow have yet to appear. And in communities across the country, parents and young people are left wondering what exactly those past four years of high school were in service of – and how much, if any, truly transformational learning occurred.

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Categories: Learning

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Calling Bill Maher

After reading Michelle Rhee’s surprisingly casual dismissal of cheating allegations in DC’s public school system, I’ve decided we need to do something drastic if we want to shake ourselves out of this surreal set of conversations about school reform.

We need Bill Maher to make a documentary about education. Perhaps we can even take a cue from his first film, Religulous, and call this one “Edu-buh-cation.” Or “Stoopid.” Or “The Bee-Eater.”

Oh, wait, that one’s taken.

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Categories: Learning

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What’s Your Declaration of Education?

Those pesky EduCon folks are at it again.

Earlier this year, I wrote about a small, networked, eclectic tribe of educators who attended a conference at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, and who, with great energy and determination, pledged their shared commitment to bring about a different type of public school system by agreeing to the following core values:

1. Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members.
2. Our schools must be about co-creating — together with our students — the 21st Century Citizen.
3. Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around.
4. Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate and collaborate.
5. Learning can — and must — be networked.

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Categories: Democracy, Leadership, Learning, Organizational Change

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It’s the Relationships, Stupid . . .

I’m spending my days observing the two-week summer session of the Inspired Teaching Institute, a yearlong professional development program from Center for Inspired Teaching, a remarkable organization that prepares and supports DC teachers. The institute, described as “a 100% physical, intellectual, and emotional process through which teachers explore the art of teaching in an energetic and safe environment,” is taking place each day in the wrestling room of a DC high school in a leafy green neighborhood of Washington, DC.

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Categories: Learning, Teacher Quality

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Education Innovation in the Slums of Rio

Charles Leadbeater, a researcher at the UK firm Demos, spoke recently at TED about his search for radical new forms of education. What he found was remarkable innovation in the slums of Rio and Kibera, where some of the world’s poorest kids are finding transformative new ways to learn. Among Leadbeater’s chief insights? Focus on […]

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Categories: Learning, Organizational Change

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