Wired for Play

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19th, 2017 by dkerr

So ​I’m currently reading this amazing book titled, The Importance of Being Little,  by Erika Christakis, and I literally cannot put it down. An outstanding educator, leader and friend of mine, Paola Pereira lent it to me after I saw her carrying it around last week, and it’s one of those books that makes you sad as you get closer to the end because you truly hope that it goes on and on forever…you’ve all read books like this I’m sure. Anyway, there is one chapter in particular that has resonated deeply with me, and has got me thinking again about something that I’ve been passionate about since I first stepped into a classroom many years ago….the paramount importance of play in the lives of our children. 

 

Christakis puts it beautifully at the end of the chapter by suggesting that as educators, “we should do our best to get out of young children’s way as much as possible to let them draw their own conclusions about how the world does and doesn’t work. A reinvigorated play habitat is just the place for this”… I love that! The idea of getting out of children’s way is something that can be difficult for us as educators I know, and giving up the reigns can often be a struggle as we do our best to “teach” our kids. That said, it’s probably the biggest gift that we can give as educators to all of our students, regardless of how old they are…unstructured play, trial and error learning, and the incorporation of the natural world often leads to the beauty of that serendipitous learning that we’ve all seen in our students at some point or another. It makes me wonder why we tend to get further and further away from this approach to learning as the students move up in grades, and as traditional educational models continue to hang on by their fangs. 

 

It’s not just kids though, as adults we are guilty, I think, of losing that love of play as we grow up and “mature”, but I’m here to tell you that this is not a good thing for us or for our kids. I wrote a blog post just over five years ago that speaks to this, and I’d like to share it again because I believe it’s worth repeating. Think about how playful you are in your own lives these days, and how much you try to inspire this in the lives of your students…I bet there are improvements that we all can make, regardless of what grade you teach, to bring the idea of play more to the forefront of your day to day experiences with kids. Here’s a piece from that older post…

 

Last week, I watched kids playing tag, cops and robbers, hopscotch and hide and seek, not to mention all the great games of soccer and basketball and football where kids were pretending to be their favorite players from their favorite teams. I saw kids jumping in puddles and playing rock, paper, scissors, and every single one of them was smiling, free, and completely engaged. I started to wonder why as adults we don’t play more together? I thought about how maybe it’s actually the kids who’ve really got it right, and how maybe it’s time for us as educators to let the kids teach us an important lesson for once. Then I thought about the times in my life when I’m the happiest and it occurred to me that it’s when I’m playing. Either playing soccer with my boy, or dolls or moms and dads with my girl, or when I’m out for a run just letting my imagination and that dreamy state of mind take over. I also thought about the best teachers that I’ve ever had in my life and it struck me that it was the ones who played with us as students. The teachers who found ways to bring “play” into the classrooms, and the ones who found time to incorporate “play” into their lessons…..and the ones were out on the field at recess throwing footballs and playing horse. The teachers who hadn’t lost their inner child, and who knew the importance of having fun like a kid.

 

I’m not really sure when “play” becomes immature, irresponsible, or un-cool in the minds of most adults but I think it’s time to take “play” more seriously. I think most of us tend to get saddled with the seriousness of work, and paying the bills, and the responsibility that we have to ourselves, our students, and our own kids…….and I think it’s the wrong approach. I think that finding time to play may just be one of the most important things that we can do as adults. I think it will make us better educators, better mentors, better colleagues, and better parents. Like balance, finding time to play in your life is hard, and maybe something that you haven’t put as a priority of late. I guess I’m asking you all this week to think about how much you play with your students throughout the school day, and how much time you set aside in your own lives to escape like those kids on the playground…….it might just change your life for the better.

 

Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be playful with our kids and good to each other!

 

 

Quote of the Week –

The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression! – Stuart Brown

 

 

Great TED Talks on the Importance of Play – (watch these)

http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital

http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_on_creativity_and_play

http://www.ted.com/talks/takaharu_tezuka_the_best_kindergarten_you_ve_ever_seen

http://www.ted.com/talks/charlie_todd_the_shared_experience_of_absurdity

http://www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids
Interesting Articles –

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1987/03/the-importance-of-play/305129/

http://www.playengland.org.uk/about-us/why-play-is-important/

https://www.education.com/reference/article/importance-play–social-emotional/

https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/feb/27/play-education-creative-learning-teachers-schools

http://www.naeyc.org/play

Students At The Helm

Posted in Uncategorized on March 5th, 2017 by dkerr

So we have been spending a lot of time and energy of late finding ways to inspire our students to lead their own learning. It’s been a true passion of ours as a school over the past few years honestly, to break out of the traditional model of education, and to come up with programs, units, assessments, structures and spaces that are conducive to putting our students at the helm…and it’s been very exciting. I have to be honest though, this change in mindset, curriculum, and approach takes a great deal of planning, and time, and commitment, but I’m happy to say that things are finally starting to stick around here.

 

I took a casual walk around the school last Friday morning just to see what I could see, and in many ways I was inspired by what I saw…here are few things that stood out for me, and a few examples of how students across our grade levels are starting to take ownership of their education, and how teachers are there as mentors and facilitators…

 

  • A 7th grade social studies class all becoming entrepreneurs, working on their sustainable entrepreneurial projects, trying to create small businesses that will help raise money for Earthquake victims on the coast. A transdisciplinary unit written in partnership with our 11th grade economics classes. 
  • Our GIN (Global Issues Network) students putting the finishing touches on their projects that they are about to showcase in Panama next week at the regional conference (Gender Equality, Reduced Inequalities, and Climate Change). Student inspired projects that have affected local change in our community. 
  • Students working through the design cycle in our Middle School Design Technology class and Maker Space, finding solutions to the question, “How can we make our school and community better?” Empathizing, ideating, and prototyping
  • A 4th grade class of kids sharing passion/inspiration project ideas that they will showcase at our next Inspiration Project morning on March 17th for our community. These projects have taken the place of traditional homework in our upper elementary grades, and have truly inspired our kids to bring their passions to life in any way, shape, or form
  • Grade 1 classes reflecting on their Friday morning PYP assembly, where they took on the role of student environmentalists, looking critically at how we can reduce our food waste at school, our use of plants around campus to protect animal life, how we can use our resources (water and electricity) more efficiently…they presented fantastic solutions that will make our campus a greener, more environmentally friendly space for all of us
  • Our Life Skills class working behind the scenes to grow their Sweet Morning Charities business, which supports a local charity focused on children with Down Syndrome…researching sustainable coffee growers, training High School and Middle School student volunteers, updating inventory, and modeling a true entrepreneurial spirit
Anyway, what I noticed more than anything was the shift that has happened with our students and teachers all across our school…less direct teacher instruction, more authentic questioning from kids, and ultimately, more engaged, curious, and thoughtful students really looking for ways to lead their learning, and to connect this learning to relevant, real life situations and problems. Like I said, we’ve done a lot of work in this area lately, bringing in Suzie Boss to help us with our PBL (Project Based Learning) journey, digging deep into the Design Thinking model, looking for ways to inspire an Entrepreneurial spirit in our students, thinking critically about how to best use technology to inspire student learning, and writing curriculum that breaks down the traditional, stand alone subject specific approach, and brings cross curricular standards together with an eye on affecting sustainable change in our local community…all good.
I know this isn’t really ground breaking stuff, as many fantastic schools around the world have been doing amazing things in this regard for a while now, but for us, it’s a celebration. I feel like we have just scratched the surface of what’s possible, but we have momentum and passion on our side…and that’s a great start. Keep up the outstanding work everyone and feel empowered to go even deeper. There’s nothing more important that you can do as an educator than to let our students take the helm. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week…

School can be a torture or an instrument of inspiration – Higgins and Dolva

 

 

Fun and Inspiring Videos –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1K2jdjLhbo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7bJR3yu1G4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnzCGNnU_WM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6QuYiY1EJg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKBb_2wn-i0

 

 

Interesting Articles –

http://www.ed.ac.uk/staff/teaching-matters/features/let-students-lead-their-learning

http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/using-technology-help-students-lead-learning/
http://www.upworthy.com/students-have-designed-an-amazing-new-afterlife-for-our-leftover-coffee-grounds?c=fea

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/10/what-happens-when-students-control-their-own-education/381828/

 

 

Great Websites –

https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl

http://www.aeseducation.com/blog/2015/05/entrepreneurship-lesson-plans

https://www.bizworld.org/

https://haas.berkeley.edu/businessacademy/middle-school/

http://www.entre-ed.org/teacher-classroom-resources/

How Do We Spend Our Time?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 20th, 2017 by dkerr

So over the last seven years, almost all of my posts have been directed specifically toward educators about topics related to education. This week however, I’m going to widen the scope a little bit and direct this message toward anyone with a beating pulse. You see, over the past few weeks, three separate things have happened that have brought me back once again to a very important question that we should all be constantly asking ourselves…how are we spending our very limited time on this earth? The three things were…four people very close to me lost members of their family (one lost a father, one a mother, one a husband, and another an uncle)…my beautiful boy Max turned 12…and a decent percentage of families failed to show up for their child’s goal conference because they were too busy to attend. I want to unpack each of these in order to make a point that is worth thinking about I believe, and in an attempt to get us all to look closely at how we are choosing to spend our days.

 

 

First of all, to the four people who lost their loved ones…I’m deeply sorry for your loss. The news of these passings got me thinking hard about how fragile, and short, and random life can be, and how it can change in the blink of an eye without warning. It put my perceived troubles and my trivial worries into perspective, and woke me up again to what’s really important in life…living each gift of a day to the fullest, and spending time with the ones that you love. It’s very easy to take the time that we have on this earth and with each other for granted, and we often get so caught up with issues that in the grand scheme of things don’t really matter at all.

 

 

We get so busy with work and deadlines and that race to nowhere that we miss out on the opportunities to really connect with what really matters…we go weeks without talking to the people that we love who are far away, we don’t stop and say thank you to the people in our lives who have inspired us to be better, we fail to stop and look at the beauty of our world that is all around us all the time, and we don’t take enough time for ourselves to reflect, to count our blessings, to smile, and to be happy. The universal truth is that nobody knows how much time they have left, and it goes by in what seems like a heartbeat…so my question to you is…how are you spending your days?

 

 

I bet if we really look closely at it, there are some changes that we all can make to bring what’s really important in our lives more into focus…Think about that this week and do three things…connect or reconnect with someone who would love to hear from you…think of a person in your life who deserves a “thank you” for making your life better and tell them…and take some time each day this week for yourself. Notice the beauty around you, count your blessings, be grateful, and slow down. Life speeds all of us by it’s true, and there’s no going back, which brings me to my 12 year old boy Max…where did that time go?

 

 

I cannot believe that my little boy is almost a teenager. For those of you with kids you know how quickly it goes. Man, I still think of him as that little baby who would sit on my knee and cuddle me for hours. In many ways he will always be that little boy, and it’s sad for me to watch him grow up so fast. He wants more and more to spend time with his friends, and with his iPad, and I find myself having to fight for his attention. I find that the older he gets the easier it is for days to go by without really connecting with him, and I fear that it’s going to start getting even harder. Many of my friends who have kids who are now grown up and moved out implore me to make the time to connect each and every day with my kids. Set up time to go for walks, or play sports, or read together, or go for drives around the neighborhood, or whatever. Ensure that not a day goes by without having that special time with your child or children because it’s gone before you know it.

 

 

As adults life gets busy, and we tend to make our days busier than they need to be, and it is very, very easy to go days and weeks without really connecting with your kids, or your spouse for that matter…don’t let that happen. A good friend of mine, Scott Miller, told me that the most important thing that you can do as your kids hit the teenage years is to make your house, THE house…the house where all the kids hang out. He said the best investment you can make is in a hot tub, so that all the friends of your son or daughter will want to come over. It doesn’t have to be a hot tub, but I get his point. If you have kids and you’re reading this, connect with your children each and every day because soon they’ll be grown up and moved out and you’ll be desperate for that weekly Skype call to keep up with their lives. I’m scared to death of that and I’m going to hang on for dear life. I can’t slow it down I know but I can savor each and every day I have with them…and that’s what I’m going to do. Happy birthday Max…you’re still my little boy and you always will be.

 

 

Finally, we had our student goal conferences last week where each student presented to their parents around the goals that they set at the beginning of the year. It was truly a day of celebration, as the students talked about their growth and their success and their learning that has happened over the past 5 months or so. I loved seeing the kids present as I walked in and out of classrooms, and I loved seeing the pride on the parents faces and the sense of accomplishment that was pouring out of the kids. It was a great day all around. That said, there were quite a few parents who didn’t make the time to attend the conference for whatever reason. My response to that is…really?

 

 

As parents, there is NOTHING more important then making time for our kids. Whether it’s attending a goals conference and engaging in their education, or making time to watch their basketball or soccer game, or doing whatever it takes to see their play or recital or concert…that’s what parenting is. Making the time for your children should be held up above anything else in life in my opinion, and if our lives are too busy as adults to make that happen then we need to look closely at why that is.

 

 

I know that I can make changes in my life to get better at this and I’m committing to it today. Getting back to my two earlier points, life goes by too fast and it can be over before you know it…we need to be there for our kids and be a part of their lives. It’s easy to make excuses and we all do it but that doesn’t make it okay. Eating dinners together, going on trips together, reading together, playing together, and being present for the things that are important to THEM…that’s our responsibility and that’s what matters. I guess with all that said, my challenge to all of us is to look critically this week at how we are spending our days and how we are prioritizing our lives. I know there are things that I need to do differently and I’m excited to make those changes. Ultimately, if we’re fortunate enough to live long lives, we don’t want to look back and have regrets. No one wants to be looking back wishing that they had spent more time with their kids or with the people that they loved…no body wants to look back and regret how much time they spent on things that really didn’t matter at all. Life is an amazing gift that we all need to embrace each and every day…let’s do that.

 

 

Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other. I’ll be sharing this message with my entire parent community and if you agree with the sentiment then feel free to pass it along. It’s a message that I think we can all take to heart.

 

 

Quote of the Week…

The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision –

Helen Keller

 

 

Great TED Talk – Isaac Lidsky

http://www.ted.com/talks/isaac_lidsky_what_reality_are_you_creating_for_yourself

 

Interesting Articles – 

https://www.powerofpositivity.com/life-regrets-people/

http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/831061/5-reasons-family-time-rocks
http://www.economist.com/news/christmas-specials/21636612-time-poverty-problem-partly-perception-and-partly-distribution-why

https://www.aha-now.com/why-family-time-is-important/

http://houston.cbslocal.com/2011/10/26/the-importance-of-family-bonding-time/

 

Inspiring Videos – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSY7tGRs_Hs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD8tjhVO1Tc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-xScLIevw0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wfbY3i4FY0

Kids and Sport

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29th, 2017 by dkerr
        So last night was the closing ceremony of the CAISSA boys basketball and girls soccer championships hosted by Academia Cotopaxi. It was a wonderful event, and a true celebration of our student athletes from all across the region. The tournament began on Thursday morning, and I have to say that watching our students compete over the next 3 days was truly inspiring, and it got me thinking critically about the importance of kids and sport. I have long been an advocate of youth sports, and having been a coach for almost 30 years I have seen first hand the incredible benefits that sport can bring to a young person’s life both physically and psychologically. I decided to dig deep over the past two days into the extensive research around the many advantages that sport can bring to a young person’s life, and it was fantastic to see so much evidence that clearly supports my bias. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of benefits that sport can bring to a child’s life and development, all of which won’t come as a surprise to any of you I’m sure…
1. Increased self esteem and self confidence
2. Learning how to fail and how to deal with loss
3. Learning about fair play and teamwork
4. The obvious health benefits that comes along with regular exercise
5. Improved mood and memory
6. Development of trust and reliance on others
7. Decreased chances of youth depression
8. Learning how to give and receive help
9. Teamwork skills and increased sense of belonging and community
10. Decreased chances of alcohol and drug abuse
        With all that in mind, I have to say that one of the coolest things that I witnessed over weekend, that is not on that list, was the connections and friendships that kids made with the players from the other teams. We had two social events during the tournament, and watching our students laugh, share, and connect with the other players was a thing of beauty. To me, that’s the real power of tournaments like these…the camaraderie and relationships that are formed that in many cases will end up lasting a lifetime. I also want to share how impressed I was with the coaches, who have spent countless hours of their own time mentoring their players. Good coaching is just like good teaching in my opinion…it’s about developing relationships with your players/students, learning how each player/student responds to feedback, differentiating for the many unique personalities on your team or in your classroom, and building that level of trust so each young person feels supported, safe, respected, challenged and loved…Good coaches are good teachers, and in many ways become second mothers and fathers to their players…true role models and mentors who can shape a young person’s life in positive and profound ways! For all you coaches out there, I want to thank you for influencing your players’ lives for the better.
        Anyway, I went to sleep last night feeling very good about what I saw over the weekend, and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved for putting on such a wonderful event for our community. It’s a lot of work to put one of these things together, and I’m proud of our school and our team…particularly our Athletic Director, Juan Jose Fuentes! Okay, I’m off for a long run on this sunny Sunday morning because as we all know, the benefits of sport and exercise aren’t just for young people…even middle-aged guys like me still love that runner’s high that comes with the release of endorphins…Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn – O. Fred Donaldson
 
Inspiring Videos and Talks – 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmFQqjMF_f0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBSVZdTQmDs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orVIPr25ivo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeiXrvqeyFU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7akw_RyADzA
Interesting Articles/Websites – 
https://www.aspenprojectplay.org/the-facts
http://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-health-benefits-youth-sports/
https://uqsport.com.au/article/10-psychological-and-social-benefits-of-sport-for-kids
http://www.athleticscholarships.net/benefits-risks-youth-sport.htm
http://www.letsplay.com/get-inspired/why-play-important/7-benefits-team-sports#.WI3q6rYrK1s

What to Read in 2017

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16th, 2017 by dkerr

       So last year around this time I shared a post titled, “Let’s Read”, which talked about the importance of carving out some time in our busy lives to settle into a good book…not just a fiction novel, but an inspiring non-fiction piece that would hopefully help us move forward as professionals, educators, leaders and as people throughout the year. Well, I’m happy to say that just last week I finished reading the final book from that 2016 list, and I’m ready to share my 2017 suggestions with you all.

 

       I’m really excited to order these in the next couple of weeks, and my goal is to finish them all in the upcoming calendar year. I’m encouraging you to take a few minutes this week to look through these titles, and to order one (or five) that resonate with you…or, do your own search and share those titles with me so I can add them to this preliminary list. The suggestions below revolve around the themes of education, leadership, creativity, innovation and culture building, with an overarching focus on becoming a better person for our world through a few small and simple life changes. Anyway, happy reading in 2017, and please let me know if you have a suggestion or two of your own so I can add it to my shopping cart…a good book can be transformative in so many ways, so please make the time…I promise you it will be time well spent. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body – Richard Steele

The Power of the Other – Henry Cloud

Originals – Adam Grant

Together Is Better – Simon Sinek

Wired to Create – Scott Kaufman

Creative Schools – Ken Robinson

Resisting Happiness – Matthew Kelly

Focus – Daniel Goleman

The Gratitude Diaries – Janice Kaplan

Rising Strong – Brene Brown

The Telomere Effect – Elizabeth Blackburn

Make Peace With Your Mind – Mark Coleman

The Art of Authenticity – Karissa Thacker

Eat More Ice Cream – Michael Bret Hood

Connection Culture – Michael Lee Stallard

The Coaching Habit – Michael Bungay Stanier

The Book of Joy – Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

The Year Ahead

Posted in Uncategorized on January 9th, 2017 by dkerr
        So we’re back to school after our holiday break, and we’re a week into a brand new year, and I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple of days about an experience that I had during our vacation that has hit me like a fist to the jaw…an experience that has me thinking about what’s really important in our lives as educators (and as human beings), and what is the real purpose and the top priority that we have when we step in front of young people each and every day.
        It was the day after Christmas and we were driving in the early morning to the airport to begin the second leg of our holiday. I was in the front seat of the taxi, with a bag between my legs full of gifts that we had all just recently opened the day before, and I was thinking about how terribly uncomfortable I was when we pulled up to a red light. I looked out my window to an empty lot across the street and saw a beat up and run down homeless shelter that was put together with cardboard boxes and pieces of wood and plastic bags…it had a few shopping carts parked outside and clothes hanging from a makeshift laundry line, and to me it was truly a sad and depressing sight. When I looked closer however, and a little to the left of the shelter, I saw a tiny Charlie Brown Christmas tree that was propped up with rocks…it was decorated with a few cans and some red ribbon, and underneath it was a little soccer ball that was made out of rubber bands or something like that…all of a sudden a boy about 10 years old came sprinting out of the shelter, along with his scraggly old dog, and he raced for the tree and the ball and started playing around like he was in the World Cup. He was laughing and smiling and full of joy and very much feeling the joy of Christmas. A few seconds later his father came out stretching and yelling to the boy to kick the ball his way, and they began playing. Just as the light turned green, I saw the father pick up the boy and grab him in a big bear hug and kiss him just like I do to my kids…all of a sudden I wasn’t all that uncomfortable anymore with my bag full of presents cramping my legs.
        For the rest of the ride to the airport I starting thinking about how truly privileged I am, and how I could be doing so much more to give back to those less fortunate. I remember just before that red light I was wondering if my kids had received enough gifts for Christmas, and how maybe I should buy them a few more things when we landed at our next destination…wow, talk about a wake up call. I haven’t been able to get that little boy’s smiling face out of my head for the last few weeks, and it’s driven me to think about the real “education” that we should be imparting to our very privileged international school students…our first responsibility is NOT to make them better students, it’s to make them better people! 
         Our job is to teach them that they are in a position to be able to change our world for the better, and that giving back is not a choice, but a responsibility. Our job is to help them find their purpose as young people so that when they become adults they are living meaningful lives with an eye on impacting change. Our job is to get them into not the “best” colleges but the “right” colleges, that will allow them to find this purpose and meaning. Our job is to get them to understand that the decisions that they make and the actions that they take should be not only about what’s best for themselves, but also about what’s best for others. Our job is to get our kids to see and understand how everything that they are learning has a purpose…a purpose which ultimately relates to them becoming successful citizens who make a positive contribution to our world. Our job is get our young students to see their privilege, and to use it as a tool for good for others, not just selfishly. Our job is to make our kids struggle and fall and make mistakes and to feel uncomfortable…this will help them become resilient and strong willed and able to make courageous decisions as the grow older…and now. Our job is to teach our kids right from wrong, and to teach them about integrity and character and honesty and the power of a smile and a kind word. Our job is to NOT make better students, it’s to make better people.
        Thinking about the year ahead, I’m wondering about all of this…I’m looking not only at my life and how I can do more, I’m wondering about how we can do more with our kids, so they grow into the people that we need them to be for our world. We all need to recognize how privileged we are, and we need to use this privilege to create a better future for generations to come. We also need to stop and think about all of our “first world problems” that we often complain about, and recognize this year that joy is in the little things in life, and that happiness can be found in a loving relationship, a rubber band soccer ball and a scraggly old dog…it’s about love and finding ways to making other people’s lives better through our daily actions…it’s about all of us giving back and teaching our students to do the same. Happy New Year everyone, and I’m challenging us all to make this the year of giving back, and using our power as educators to teach our kids what’s really important in their lives…being their best self for others…not for themselves. Have a great week and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Simon Sinek – Millennials (Every Educator Needs to Watch This)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MC2X-LRbkE
 
Interesting Talk (Pop Tech – Amanda Ripley)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-42hks_qvf0
Watch these Videos – 
http://www.southernliving.com/culture/bitty-and-beaus-coffee-shop-video?xid=sl_socialflow_facebook
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWhBYfl67H4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9nCOMl4W98&index=63&list=PLotzEBRQdc0eX6sErNJED9JuHzJ1vcIu_
 
Related Articles –
http://newinternetorder.com/giving-back-to-the-community/
http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/wellness_articles.asp?id=1122
https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/08/18/how-a-bigger-purpose-can-motivate-students-to-learn/
https://www.edutopia.org/blog/awe-helping-students-develop-purpose-vicki-zakrzewski
http://www.kenneymyers.com/blog/18-of-the-best-blogs-for-helping-kids-find-their-passion/

Unplug for the Holidays!

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11th, 2016 by dkerr

So the holiday break is agonizingly close, and I know that we are all excited about the opportunity to rest, relax, recharge, and to reflect on the last 4 and a half months of school. It’s been a long run to this point for sure, but thinking back I’m really proud of how much we’ve accomplished for our kids and for our community. We’ve grown together, we’ve learned together and learned from each other, and we’ve become a really tight group of educators focused on doing what’s right for our students. The first semester is often times the most challenging, as we implement and consolidate new initiatives…we get to know the new students and our new colleagues…we figure out and manage change, and we give all of ourselves as professionals to set the stage for a successful year…and all of that is exhausting.

 

I see the upcoming holiday as a tremendous opportunity for all of us to re-set, to re-boot, and to re-focus, and to turn our attention to the second half of the year. With that in mind, I want to challenge you all to really take time for yourselves over the next few weeks, and to find ways to connect with the people that you love, with nature, and with your surrounding environment. Essentially, I’m challenging us all to unplug for the holidays, and to give our reliance on technology a much needed break. I’m challenging us all to put down the phones, and the iPads, and to go out for a hike, or a swim, or a run, or to lunch and dinner with friends and family without needing to post or record or take a selfie or be tempted to stare at your screen.

 

I know we talk all the time about how our students are addicted to technology, and how they are disengaged because of the love of their screens, but I’m not sure we are any better as adults. I know that I spend too much time checking my phone or surfing the net, and sometimes I find myself missing out on opportunities to connect with my kids, or my wife, or with other people, or with the beauty of our natural world. I’m making a commitment this holiday to leave my computer behind, and to find joy in what’s really important in my opinion…the connections that we make with others…face to face. I’m excited to travel, and to explore, and to play, and not feel the need to document or record every single experience. I’m sure that I’ll check my email once a day just to check in, but other than that I’m out…and I encourage you all to do the same. I’ve included some interesting articles, and some powerful videos which bring to life the importance of unplugging for even just a little while. Think about how much time you stare at a screen each and every day…think about how many times you are doing it with another person right next to you…at dinner or in bed or when you’re traveling. Instead, let’s read real books, and write in journals, and have deep and meaningful conversations while staring at the stars. The beauty of our world is breathtaking, and like I mentioned in last week’s post, the beauty of other people is even better…take the time to take it all in!

 

I want to wish you all a safe and amazing holiday! I want to wish you all a magical and life changing 2017, and I can’t wait to hear about the adventures that you’re all about to have. Happy holidays and Happy New Year everyone. Thank you for making my 2016 so incredible, and here’s to an even better year to come. We have 4 and a half days left before we head off, so spread the holiday cheer, smile a little brighter and laugh a little louder and hug a little harder…I’m in the holiday spirit and I’m asking you all to join me…have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.        

 
 

Quote of the week…
Life is what happens between Wifi signals – Unknown

Interesting Articles –

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/unplug-please/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/unplugging-from-technology/
http://greatist.com/happiness/unplugging-social-media-email
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/7-unexpected-benefits-of-unplugging-from-technology.html
http://embracingsimpleblog.com/6-reasons-you-need-to-unplug-from-technology/
Powerful Videos –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OINa46HeWg8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7dLU6fk9QY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRl8EIhrQjQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM_smbQAYv4
 

‘Auld Lang Syne’ Lyrics – Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?
And days of auld lang syne, my dear,
And days of auld lang syne.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?

We twa hae run aboot the braes
And pu’d the gowans fine.
We’ve wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
Sin’ auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin’ auld lang syne,
We’ve wandered mony a weary foot,
Sin’ auld ang syne.

We twa hae sported i’ the burn,
From morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.
Sin’ auld lang syne, my dear,
Sin’ auld lang syne.
But seas between us braid hae roared
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And ther’s a hand, my trusty friend,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine;
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

People are Beautiful

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5th, 2016 by dkerr
So I have spent the last six weeks or so traveling around the world interviewing at amazing schools, trying hard to find that perfect long term fit for my family and career. It’s been an inspiring, exhausting, and exhilarating experience, and probably the best professional development that I’ve had in a very long time. I have touched down in many countries, I have seen many faces, and I have met so many incredible people along the way, and the one enduring take away that has resonated deeply with me throughout it all is that wherever you go in the world…people are beautiful!
We’re living in an interesting time in our world these days, and it’s very easy to get stuck on all of the negative aspects of life that seem to bombard us at every turn. From terrorist attacks, to natural disasters, to election results, to refugees and war, and to everything in between, it can be hard to focus on all that is amazing and beautiful in our lives and world. It’s also hard to slow down enough, and to look closely enough, to see all that is beautiful in the people that we interact with every day…the little things…like noticing a smile or a random act of kindness or a kind word, and being open and present enough to let something that small inspire our days.
I feel like I have seen the very best of people over the last several weeks, and I have been inspired and touched by all of the people who went out of their way to help me, to get to know me, to listen to me, and to put me at ease. I’m not just talking about the people in the schools that I visited, although they were all beautiful and inspiring in their own right, but the strangers that I met that had no stake in being kind to me…the strangers I met who helped me with my luggage, and with directions, and with some unsolicited advice and recommendations. The taxi drivers and ticket agents and shop workers and everyone else I met who were just going about their daily lives, but who still managed to smile at me, and talk to me, and to ask about my life…The world is bursting with beauty and beautiful people, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see this so authentically over the past month and a half all over the world…
So, with the holidays coming quickly, and the end of the long semester right around the corner, I want to challenge us all to reconnect with the beauty of our world, and the beautiful people that we come in contact with each and every day. Notice the smiles, and the kind words, and look hard to notice what makes each person so special and unique…and be kind and your best selves for others. People are filled with goodness and light so take the time to see what makes them shine…I promise it will make your day and fill your heart with joy. Oh yeah, in case you are wondering, I won the lottery and landed at the American School of Paris! It’s been a long six weeks but some of the best experiences in my life…thank you to everyone that has been beautiful to me along the way…I’ve noticed it. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
A life lived for others, is the only life worth living – Albert Einstein
 

Beautiful People – Aasha Thakkar

 

I’m thankful for
the beautiful people
in the world
like you.

Beautiful faces are
those that wear
a friendly smile
that say, “I care.”

Beautiful eyes are
those that show,
the kindness and warmth
that glows below.

Beautiful lips utter
kindly words
that show the soul
like the songs of birds.

Beautiful people
touch and bless;
they inspire hope
and happiness.

You will always be,
beautiful to me. 

 

Beautiful Videos – Please take the time to watch this week! – 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkSPAHeqd8Y
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aW8BDgLpZkI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME9PmSZedB4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZTm-iYUpm4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jAC3FFXUgY
Inspiring Articles/Websites – 
https://payitforwardday.com/inspire-me/inspiring-articles/
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/the-science-of-paying-it-forward.html?_r=0
http://globalnews.ca/tag/pay-it-forward/
http://www.laudable.com/article/31032224/16-photos-that-capture-the-beauty-of-the-human-spirit
http://www.payitforwardfoundation.org/

Embracing Regret

Posted in Uncategorized on November 14th, 2016 by dkerr
        So I’ve been going through the interview process a lot lately, both as a candidate and as a recruiter, and one of the questions that keeps coming up has to do with the idea of mistake making and regret. It’s a good question honestly, as it gets you to reflect critically on your approach to failure, and whether or not your past has impacted your present in a positive or negative way. Mistakes and regrets can be framed very differently I think depending on your mindset…they can be opportunities for growth and action, or they can be a hinderance and debilitating both personally and professionally…it’s all in how you respond, and how your frame the experience.
        Because of these recent interviews I’ve been thinking deeply about this, and it’s given me the chance to look back on how I’ve reacted to the many mistakes that I’ve made, and how the regrets in my life have impacted who I am as a person and as a leader. I’ve come to realize that the more you embrace your failures, the more you grow and the more you learn. It’s the mistakes in your life that shape who you are, and as long as you open your mind, reflect, and do better the next time around, your mistakes, regrets and failures can ultimately become the most powerful opportunities that you have in your life.
        Luckily, I don’t have many true regrets in my life but I certainly have a few. One of them, which I still think about on a regular basis, has shaped who I am as a leader in a very profound way. You see, almost ten years ago, during my first year as an administrator, I had the opportunity to advocate for a student who needed my support. This student was being bullied by a teacher and needed me to stand up for them. The relationship was negatively impacting this student’s ability to be successful in school, and it warranted a hard conversation and some quick action from me…but as it turned out, I lacked the educational courage to do what I needed to do. I’m not proud of that experience, and it haunts me to this day, but looking back on it, it may just be the most important leadership lesson that I’ve ever learned. From that moment on, every time that I have been faced with a hard conversation, or a difficult decision, I think of that kid…and the conversation becomes easier. Because of that one incident, that regret, I no longer lack the courage that is needed to be a true student advocate, and ultimately, dealing with difficult situations has become a strength of mine…it’s all about learning, growing, and becoming better…and seeing a regret, or a mistake as an opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
        I’ve since reached out to that student, and we talked through the incident from both our perspectives, and I apologized for not being there when they needed me. Our relationship is stronger now than it was and they have forgiven me, which is the next key ingredient to growing and becoming better…forgiveness. People will make mistakes, and it is easy to hold grudges or to judge, and to let it affect you in unhealthy ways. The way to move forward, and to truly own your life is to forgive, and to let it go. I know it’s hard but it’s freeing for both parties. I’ve made a practice of forgiving in my life, and I’ve learned to say what it is that I need to say to people. One of the biggest forms of regret are the things that go unsaid. The times in your life when you didn’t thank someone when they deserved your appreciation, or when you didn’t tell someone you loved them enough, or when you held your tongue when you really should of spoken your truth. Well, it’s not too late…
        I’m asking you all this week to do two things…First, think of a person or persons in your life who deserve to hear from you…either a “thank you”, or an “I love you” or an “I’m sorry”… say what you need to say and get it off your chest…don’t wait for it to become a regret down the road. Secondly, think of someone who has wronged you in some way and forgive them…move on. I guarantee that it will be freeing and it will ease our mind in many ways. Let things go that are bringing negative energy into your life and take control. For my part, I’m off to write a couple of emails to people who need to hear from me and I’m excited about it. I hope that you will take some time this week to do the same. Mistakes, failures and regrets don’t have to be negative experiences…they can be framed as opportunities for growth and powerful learnings…embrace them…hold them close to your chest, and do better. It’s all about your mindset and approach. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week…

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind – C.S. Lewis

 

 

Interesting Articles/Websites –

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/curious/201008/5-key-things-weve-learned-about-regret

http://www.womenunlimitedworldwide.com/how-to-move-on-from-regret/

http://thinksimplenow.com/wisdom/how-to-deal-with-regret/

http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/why-its-perfectly-okay-to-have-regrets/

http://www.spirituallivingforbusypeople.com/embrace-regret

 

Great TED Talk – Embracing Regret (Kathryn Schulz)

https://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_don_t_regret_regret

 

Inspiring Videos – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxyxywShewI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t186tlhjvMk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghk-nDJB3Tk

http://www.upworthy.com/this-school-replaced-detention-with-meditation-the-results-are-stunning?c=tpstream

AASSA GIN Conference 2016

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23rd, 2016 by dkerr

So we just finished hosting the AASSA regional GIN conference at our school, and it was 3 days of amazing! To see student leaders from all over South America come together to dream, plan, educate, and collaborate was one of the most inspiring things that I have ever been a part of, and I’m super sad that it’s over. An event like this will transform our community in powerful and profound ways, and I couldn’t be more excited to continue the work that began with our students over 6 months ago. I am so proud of our kids, and our faculty and staff, and of our parent community for bringing this weekend of change to life, and because of the passion and hard work of all involved, we will never be the same…changed for the better.

 

It began on Thursday morning with our entire elementary school out in the courtyard welcoming the visiting schools…they held up their beautiful signs, they sang and danced and cheered, and the kids from 7 different countries poured off of the buses smiling and energized and excited to begin the conference. From that moment on the event just kept getting better and better as the students showcased their incredible projects, shared their passions, collaborated together, and built strong and lasting relationships that will last a lifetime.

 

There were several inspiring and thought provoking keynote presentations, many student led workshops, art projects, a coastal earthquake relief project, daily film festivals, and so much more. The incredible thing about all of it was that it was entirely student led, and watching it unfold made my heart want to burst. It never ceases to amaze me what young people can do when they are allowed to lead their own learning, and to find ways to bring their passions to life. It really made me wonder why we don’t do more of this in schools, and it made me think about how we can turn the last 3 days into an approach that lasts throughout the year.

 

I have to admit that when we agreed to take this event on back in May of last year I was feeling pretty nervous. Pulling off an event like this takes so much work from so many people, and it really brings to life what a community is made of. Well, the lesson I learned yet again is that when you empower your students to lead, they step up in remarkable ways and they can accomplish almost anything. With our students leading the way, and with the leadership of one of the best educators on the planet, Andrea Stadler, keeping it all together along the way, the conference was a tremendous success. It did just what we hoped it would do, which is to change our school and community in immeasurable ways, and to move us in a direction that leads to service, sustainability, student agency, innovation and change.

 

I cannot wait to see the kids tomorrow and to reflect on the past several days. Now it’s time to dig even deeper into our projects, and to use this conference as a jumping off point for many exciting initiatives. Thank you to Linda and Ashley Sills (Directors of GIN) for their support and confidence in us, and thank you to everyone involved…what an amazing 3 days at Academia Cotopaxi. If you are keen to see some pictures and videos from the conference, check out #ACGIN or #learnincommunity, or my twitter feed @DanKerr1. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

 

Quote of the Week…

It is pointless to complain about the problems of the world as long as we continue contributing to them – Auliq Ice

 

Interesting Articles/Websites – 

http://www.nytimes.com/topic/subject/global-warming-climate-change

http://www.livescience.com/topics/global-warming

https://ssir.org/articles/category/global_issues

https://www.stuvoice.org/

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/sammamish-2-including-student-voice-bill-palmer

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/five-strategies-more-voice-choice-students-rebecca-alber

 

 

Inspirational Videos – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCsrWoC2oDg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koSf4TJ_Dno

https://vimeo.com/25563376
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z2i3EnauOU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXBdL7B3hq0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUBJN3QGh2Q