Thank you Academia Cotopaxi

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12th, 2017 by dkerr
Well, here we are with only one week left of school…so crazy! I’m sitting here drinking coffee on this gorgeous Sunday morning in Quito, and I’m reflecting back on the last 3 years feeling very, very proud and a lot sad. There is so much that I’m going to miss about my time here, and to be honest I’ve never been to a more amazing, diverse, and stunningly beautiful country as Ecuador. This experience has been life changing for me and for my family, and it’s given us more than we could have possibly asked for. We’ve had such incredible adventures over the years, not only in Ecuador but all across South America, and we’re changed for the better in so many profound ways. Like I said, there is so much that I’m going to miss about my life here, but truthfully, there is one thing that I will miss more than all of the rest of it combined…and that’s you.
There is no way that I am going to be able to convey my gratitude appropriately in this post. I have said this before many times, and I’ll say it again now…I have never in my life worked with such an inspiring group of people and educators, and I’m sure that I’ll spend the rest of my career chasing what we’ve built here together as a faculty. Your commitment to kids, your passion for education, your thirst for adventure, and your work hard-play hard approach to life inspires me to no end. You have given me so much joy over the years, and you’ve filled my heart with so much love. I’ll never be able to re-pay you for all that you’ve given to me and to my family. You’ve embraced my two children, Max and Gabby, like they were your own, and you’ve given them the best 3 years of their lives…they’ve enjoyed every minute of this experience and like me, they don’t want Friday to come so quickly. I want to apologize in advance if I get too emotional as Friday speeds our way, but it’s hard to leave the people that you love, and it’s hard to say goodbye. That’s life though isn’t it…people come and go along this journey though life and all you can do is take what you can. You get inspired, you grow and learn, you fill up your heart, and you are changed for the better, always.
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for making me better in every way. I’m a better leader, a better father, a better educator, and ultimately, I’m a better person because of you. Thank you for all that you continue to give to our students…they are becoming the people we want for our world because they have you in their lives. Thank you for your hard work and commitment to the journey that AC is on…you are giving our kids the school and the education that they truly deserve. Thank you for how good you are to each other, and how deeply you care about developing such strong and positive relationships. Thank you for your energy, and for your smiles, and for your trust…thank you for all of it!
I want to also wish you all a safe, fun, relaxing, and adventurous summer holiday…so well deserved. For those of you moving on to new schools or new careers or new chapters in your lives, all the best. I am sending you my love, and all of my positive thoughts and energy as you go through this transition. For those of you coming back for another year or more, please keep the momentum that we’ve created together here alive and well…we’ve accomplished so much as a team but as you know, there is work left to do. I will leave this place at the end of next week with nothing but love and gratitude, and with a true sense of a purpose fulfilled…who could possible ask for more than that.
Finally, It’s certainly not lost on me how special this group of people is that we have on faculty, and what an immense gift that I’ve been given to have had this opportunity to share this time with each of you. So, let’s make these last 4 and a half days our best so far, and please make sure that you find the time to say what you need to say to each other before we head off for the break. It’s been quite a year, and we need to celebrate this week with our kids and with each other…remember, there’s no such thing as too many hugs! Thank you Ecuador and thank you Academia Cotopaxi…you will be in my heart forever.
Love, Dan ūüôā

Quote of the Week...
What do I want to take home from my summer vacation? Time. 
The wonderful luxury of being at rest. The days when you shut down 
the mental machinery that keeps life on track and let life simply wander. 
The days when you stop planning, analyzing, thinking and just are.
Summer is my period of grace.

Soul Pancake - Give of Yourself this Summer (Thank you for all that you'e given me)
A Something in a Summer's Day
By Emily Dickinson

A something in a summer's Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away
Which solemnizes me.

A something in a summer's noon -
A depth - an Azure - a perfume -
Transcending ecstasy.

And still within a summer's night
A something so transporting bright
I clap my hands to see -

Then veil my too inspecting face
Lets such a subtle - shimmering grace
Flutter too far for me -

The wizard fingers never rest -
The purple brook within the breast
Still chafes it narrow bed -

Still rears the East her amber Flag -
Guides still the sun along the Crag
His Caravan of Red -

So looking on - the night - the morn
Conclude the wonder gay -
And I meet, coming thro' the dews
Another summer's Day!

Middle School – The Beautiful Struggle

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5th, 2017 by dkerr

So I’m down to the last two weeks of being a Middle School Principal, and as it draws to an end I find myself getting really, really sad…and feeling very, very grateful. It’s been an amazing seven year run for me, across two very different schools and communities, in two different countries and in two different continents, and if I’m being honest, it’s been the best seven years of my life so far. There’s something about the Middle School experience that is not for everyone. It’s challenging in many ways, and it takes a special kind of educator who can find their passion dealing with this age group of kids, but you know what, it’s so immeasurably rewarding and it changes your life for the better.

If I think of all the grade levels in a traditional school environment as a burning flame, I see the Middle School years as that bright blue part right smack in the center‚Ķthe core‚Ķthe place where it burns the hottest, the place that shapes and molds, and the place that transforms the overall identity of the fire. I like to call Middle School the beautiful struggle, because in many ways it is very much a struggle for kids, as they try to figure out life and their place in it…but with each struggle and with each stumble and eventually with each success, there is always incredible beauty!

From the sweet innocence of the 6th grade class, who come to Middle School so excited, and scared, and hopeful, and nervous, and who still think it‚Äôs okay to go on playdates and to cry when they get hurt, to the confusing and formative 7th Grade class who learn so much about their changing bodies, and hormones, and how to fit in and make friends, and about who they are starting to become as people, to the desperate to be adult 8th grade class who want so much to be given independence and autonomy, but still silently scream out for boundaries and guidance‚Ķhow can you not love this beautiful struggle? All the awkwardness, all the mistakes, all the tears and heartache, and all the relentless hope, it truly makes my heart want to burst! Their search for themselves is so wide open and honest and pure, and it draws me in day after day after day…and it makes me smile.

The best part of my day is watching them all come off of the buses first thing in the morning ready to start again. They walk past me smiling, sleepy, and eager to learn about life, hoping to be noticed and inspired and validated by the ones who matter the most‚Ķtheir peers. I watch them, I joke with them, I try and set a good example for them, and I love them…I have grown to understand their struggle. If you ask anyone about their Middle School years you always get a passionate response. Some people loved Middle School and some people hated it, but everyone remembers it intensely. That first crush, the hopeful first kiss, all those risks that were taken that either fell flat or successfully catapulted you ahead with relief‚Ķconstantly failing forward, and growing, and doing things you wish you hadn‚Äôt done…Middle School changes you, and it sets the tone for the rest of your life.

For some people these are the best years of their lives and for some these are the worst, and for me it’s beautiful to watch it all unfold. I love Middle School and I love Middle School kids, and I’m inviting you all this week to go out of your way to watch them, and to marvel at them, and to be inspired by what they’re going through. We need to praise them, and set high expectations for them, and embrace those daily (hourly) teachable moments, and we need to hold them accountable. We need to encourage them to take risks and to make mistakes and when they do, we need to take the time to watch them learn and learn and grow and grow.

Being a Middle School Principal has been one of the most inspiring experiences of my life because I got to live vicariously through them all, and I got to feel that burn that comes from being right at the center of the flame…everyday. Middle School kids make me feel alive, and I’m honored to have been such a major part of their journey over the past seven years. It’s a struggle for sure, but there’s no better place to be than right in that flaming blue core…where life burns the brightest.

Next year I begin a new chapter in my life as a Lower School Director, and I couldn’t be more excited. With this will come a very different kind of beauty, and days filled with constant joy, innocence, and belly laughs before the school day even begins. I’m absolutely thrilled to be going down this road, as I’ve felt the pull down to the lower grades for a few years now…it’s honestly where I now want to be. That said, there will always be something about the Middle School that has a huge piece of my heart, and as the final two weeks come to a roaring end, I want to say thank you. Thank you Middle School for all that you’ve given to me, and for all that I’ve become because of your burning flame. I’ve loved every moment of this beautiful struggle, and I’m all the better for it…in every possible way.
Quote of the Week…
It takes courage to grow up to become who you really are – E.E. Cummings

Let’s Celebrate!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28th, 2017 by dkerr

So here we are with only¬†three weeks left of school, and I have to say that it’s easily¬†one of my favorite times of the year. Not because summer is right around the corner and because¬†the holiday season is in sight,¬†but because it’s the time of the year when we get to celebrate all that we’ve accomplished as a school. The next few weeks are all about celebrations, and in my opinion it’s a beautiful thing to see…we celebrate our students at graduation and moving on ceremonies, we celebrate academic achievement at our academic¬†award ceremonies, we have our athletic awards night and our major year-end award assembly where we celebrate kids in so¬†many areas beyond athletics and academics,¬†and we celebrate in smaller, more individual ways with year-end MAP scores, positive¬†student directed feedback from teachers, and portfolio reflections around goal completion. So much goes into a successful year as you know, and I love that we are constantly looking for ways to celebrate our kids, and purposely¬†sending them off on their holidays with a true sense and feeling¬†of accomplishment…like I mentioned,¬†it’s a great time of the year!


All that said, I know that for teachers these next three weeks can be stressful and overwhelming, and often times we can get so caught up in all that’s going on that we forget to slow down, reflect, and find time to celebrate ourselves. All of these student¬†accomplishments don’t happen without dedicated, committed, and passionate educators, and as we speed toward that final Friday, I want to make sure that our teachers…YOU… are celebrated for all that you’ve given to our community. I know that we have a few upcoming¬†celebrations planned to recognize¬†years of service,¬†departing teachers, and one final happy hour where we can toast each other to an amazing year completed, but before all of that I want to publicly¬†say thank you to each and every one of you for your outstanding work here at AC.¬†


I see how you go above and beyond in so many ways…I see how many hours you put in beyond the regular school day to ensure that our kids are getting the education that they deserve…I see the tremendous effort that you put in to developing strong relationships with our students and with each other, and I see how our school has literally¬†been transformed because¬†of who you are as people…I want to celebrate you! I feel an immense sense of pride when I think about all that we’ve accomplished¬†as a team, and how far we’ve come as a school because of your amazing contributions. I had a chance to reflect last week during a couple of¬†long plane rides, and honestly, it’s staggering to think about how far we’ve come throughout my time here…it’s a fact that most, if not all of the transformative work across our school¬†would not have been completed or successful if it wasn’t for who you are as educators…absolutely¬†incredible.¬†


The biggest piece for me however, has been the unwavering positive¬†attitude that you’ve come to school with each and every day. Throughout the good times and the struggles it has been your inspiring¬†attitudes that have impressed me the most. You always frame every initiative, every decision,¬†and every minute of the day around what is best for our students, and that for me is my biggest celebration¬†of you…attitude is everything, and you’ve inspired me every day with yours…thank you. Here is one of my favorite poems, which speaks to who you are as a faculty…never giving up, always trying to make things better, and forever framing a situation through a positive lens. Enjoy the next three weeks everyone and please take the time to celebrate each other along the way…it’s been quite a year!¬†


The Greatest ‚Äď By Don Schlitz


Little boy in a baseball hat,

Stands in the field with his ball and bat

Says, “I am the greatest player of them all”
Puts his bat on his shoulder and he tosses up his ball.
And the ball goes up and the ball comes down,
Swings his bat all the way around
the world so still you can hear the sound; the baseball falls to the ground.

Now the little boy doesn’t say a word, picks up his ball he is undeterred.
Says, “I am the greatest that there has ever been”
And he grits his teeth and he tries again.
And the ball goes up and the ball comes down,
Swings his bat all the way around
the world so still you can hear the sound; the baseball falls to the ground.

He makes no excuses he shows no fear
He just closes his eyes and listens to the cheers.
Little boy he adjusts his hat, picks up his ball, stares at his bat
Says, “I am the greatest when the game is on the line”
And he gives his all one last time.
And the ball goes up and the moon so bright
Swings his bat with all his might
the world’s as still as still can be, the baseball falls
and that’s strike three.

Now it’s suppertime and his momma calls,
little boy starts home with his bat and ball.
Says, “I am the greatest, that is a fact,
but even I didn’t know I could pitch like that!”


Quote of the Week…

Never suppress a generous thought – Camilla E. Kimball


TED Talks –


Interesting Articles –

Leaving Well

Posted in Uncategorized on May 15th, 2017 by dkerr

So I was going through the end of the year event calendar this morning over coffee, and I honestly¬†can’t believe¬†that we’re so close to the finish…how did the school¬†year¬†speed by so fast? I also can’t believe how much we still have left to do before we send the kids off to their summer holiday. The last month of the year is always tricky in my opinion, as we struggle to connect¬†the excitement and promise¬†of summer with the pressure and anxiety of finishing strong and leaving well. It’s hard when we see the finish line in the distance, to not get distracted or complacent as all of¬†the emotions of the last five weeks begin to set in. I wrote a post several years ago that I like to send out every year around this time, as a challenge and¬†reminder to all of us that the next four weeks might just be the most important weeks of the year. Tomorrow we officially begin the homestretch, and we all need to be at our best. Beginning today, we all need to commit¬†to finishing strong and to¬†leaving well. Here’s the message again, and please, please take it to heart…

As we stare down the last month of school, I want to challenge us all to re-commit to our students, their learning, and to each other,¬†and to dig deep to finish what we started. I’m challenging us all to LEAVE WELL. You see, sometimes when schools and educators aren‚Äôt careful, there can be a tendency to take the foot off the gas so to speak when speeding toward the end of the year. It can become very easy to let complacency creep in, and to ease off on the work, the effort, and the attention to student learning. Losing focus and looking ahead to next year and to¬†new adventures can quickly turn what has been a wonderful year into a disappointing end result simply because the finish wasn‚Äôt strong and the goals weren‚Äôt seen through to completion. In my opinion, we‚Äôve put ourselves in a great position to end the year on a high, and to be able to look back on the year with an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment. It‚Äôs an exciting time of the year I know, and the kids are happy and smiling…we all have one eye focused on our summer adventures, and we can see the finish line on the horizon…I‚Äôm asking you however, to not lose sight of the importance of what‚Äôs still left to do.

Finally, I‚Äôm asking you all to pay careful attention to our beautiful kids¬†over the next several weeks. Many of them are navigating the rough emotional road that leads to saying goodbye to their friends, saying goodbye to a school that they love, and saying goodbye to the identities that they‚Äôve forged during their time with us here at AC. It‚Äôs also very easy for all our kids to get caught up in the promise of summertime fun, and to get distracted from the goal at hand, which is to work hard right up until the end, and to set themselves up to move on with confidence, pride, and with the right mindset. Talk to your kids…ask them how they are feeling…give them extra support if you see them veering off track, and be the amazing role models and mentors that they‚Äôve come to expect. Don‚Äôt let them off the hook, and go above and beyond (even though you‚Äôre tired) to make the final four or five weeks their best of the year. Starting the year strong is so, so important as you all know, but it‚Äôs comparatively easy compared to the challenges of May and¬†June.¬†Finishing the year strong is where the rubber hits the road in my opinion, and it‚Äôs here that all¬†master teachers and school wide leaders worth their salt show their mettle.

For those of us moving on to new adventures, like me,¬†remember that we‚Äôre only ever as good as our last exit‚Ķ‚Ķ.and for those of us returning, know that students remember the educators that we are in June‚Ķ let‚Äôs make sure they remember the best of what we have to offer. The last few weeks are going to speed by everyone so please commit to making them count. Let‚Äôs all feel great about what we‚Äôve accomplished so far this year…it‚Äôs been amazing…but we‚Äôre not done yet! Finish strong, leave well, and wrap up the year with a beautiful bow…Happy Mother’s day to all you amazing Mother’s out there as well…you certainly deserve more than just a day! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.


Quote of the week…

If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a brand new hello – Pablo Coelho



TED Talks to watch this week…Happy Mother’s Day!



Leaving Well Articles –¬†

Thanks for the Compliment

Posted in Uncategorized on May 8th, 2017 by dkerr

‚ÄčSo a¬†couple of days ago I was welcoming the kids off of the school¬†buses, like I always do to start the day, when a little girl walked up to me and gave me a beautiful and heartfelt compliment. She wasn’t fishing for one herself, and she wanted absolutely nothing in return, it was just an¬†authentic¬†gesture that was inspired by an experience that we had both¬†shared together¬†just¬†a few days earlier…and you know what, it absolutely made my day! It made me instantly think of that great Mark Twain quote, “I can live for two months on a good compliment”, and to be honest, I haven’t stopped smiling since. It got me thinking about the power of compliments, and how if given with true¬†sincerity¬†and at the right moment in¬†time, they can totally¬†be day changing…maybe even life changing.¬†


I came across some interesting¬†research¬†out there which¬†suggests¬†that to our brain,¬†receiving¬†a compliment is as much a social reward as being given money. This journal article also suggests that using compliments is an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during any form of¬†rehabilitation, and finally¬†how compliments can actually¬†be an integral component of cementing a person’s¬†skill development. This is not surprising to me at all, as I’ve seen it first hand with my students and with¬†my own two children. I also know the positive and immediate boost that I receive when someone compliments me on something.The thing is, it’s easy to go days or even weeks without either giving or receiving one, so I think it’s time that we all¬†start making compliment giving a priority throughout our daily routines.¬†


We can all do a better job at not only finding¬†opportunities¬†to sincerely¬†compliment the people that we come across each and every day, but also at how we receive a compliment when it’s given. It’s hard for some¬†of us to take a compliment without becoming uncomfortable, uneasy, or even cynical about¬†someone’s intent…it’s hard¬†to just¬†stand there and smile, accept it, and say a simple thank you, even if it is the best and most appropriate response.¬†


I found another interesting article by¬†Eric M. Roberts, which lays out six important reasons why we should all begin to compliment more. Here they are…

  • Compliments encourage others who are struggling
  • A compliments can truly be all that stands between someone being successful or giving up
  • Compliments help people learn new tasks
  • Compliments¬†strengthen¬†and soften¬†relationships
  • Compliments increase our circle of influence
  • Compliments¬†help you become less cynical


Like me, Roberts recognizes that most people are pretty stingy with the giving of unsolicited¬†compliments, even when we¬†know that they are a powerful and positive experience for both parties. Anyway, I’m not sure that the compliment that I received from that little girl will last me for two months, but it’s going on four days now¬†and I’m still thinking about it…that’s pretty darn¬†powerful. I want to challenge us all over the next few weeks, as we speed toward the end of the year, to purposely look for¬†opportunities¬†to make someone’s day with a compliment. Be sincere, genuine, and authentic in your delivery, and be gracious and thankful if you happen to¬†receive¬†one for¬†yourself, which I know you all deserve. I’ll be spreading them around as well, and I’m excited to see the smiles. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.¬†



Quote of the Week…

If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it! – Ruthie Lindsey



Great Articles –



Inspiring Videos –

Developing Entrepreneurs

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23rd, 2017 by dkerr

So this past Friday afternoon I felt honored to be one of the 5 judges in our own Middle School¬†version of¬†Shark Tank. This episode showcased many of our 7th grade students¬†presenting their sustainable entrepreneurial projects to their classmates,¬†as the culminating assessment for their most recent social studies/economics¬†unit…and it was truly inspiring for all of us.


The unit was the brainchild of three of the most outstanding educators that I have ever had the privilege of working with (Justin Muenker, Nick Sprague, and Brian Voeller), who together looked to introduce our kids to the power and opportunity of entrepreneurship. They were also simultaneously searching for ways to help Ecuadorian families on the coast, who have continued to struggle over a year after the devastating earthquake which ravaged many of their communities.


The unit was a tremendous success, and the best part about it for me was seeing the students so engaged and passionate about finding ways impact positive social¬†change for people in need. They were leading their own learning in very powerful ways, and collaborating not just with their Middle School¬†teammates, but with their¬†High School mentors and with local businesses and organizations as well. It was real world learning at it’s finest, and it was an excellent¬†example of how¬†young people can be empowered to change our world for the better when given the opportunity.


Entrepreneurship teaches our kids to think critically and ambitiously, and it builds the collaborative and¬†communicative skills that they will need as they graduate from High School¬†“Innovation Ready”. Pulitzer Prize winning author,¬†Thomas Friedman, believes that entrepreneurship education benefits our young students because it teachers kids to think outside the box, and it nurtures unconventional talents and skills…and I totally¬†agree. This unit has us all thinking about ways that we can continue to¬†transform our traditional approach to curriculum writing, and to leverage our students’ creativity, ingenuity, and imagination. We want to put the¬†learning in their hands, and be educational¬†facilitators as they innovatively find ways to positively¬†change our world.


I really enjoyed my role as judge at this event honestly, and as I looked out into the audience, and tweeted out the engaged looks on their faces, I was struck by how proud I am of our teachers…education is changing rapidly and so are we, and it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of. Have a wonderful week ahead, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.


Quote of the Week…

The best way to predict the future is to create it! – Peter Drucker


Great TED Talks РEntrepreneurship


Interesting Articles –¬†


Inspiring things –¬†

School Accreditation

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2nd, 2017 by dkerr

So after a long, long journey as a school,¬†and a lot of hard work, the day is finally here…the visiting¬†accreditation team arrived on Friday night! This is my third time through the accreditation process, with three different schools and in three different countries, and I have to say that with¬†each time it feels really¬†good to get to this point. Going through the accreditation process as a school, regardless of the organization that you choose, is an exercise that should be embraced as an opportunity to grow and to better yourselves as a community. An opportunity to look critically at the educational experience that you are providing for your students, and most importantly, to authentically dig deep into whether or not you are actually “walking the walk”, and living up to what you claim to be for the outside world. This process helps schools to look in the mirror so to speak, and to find ways to get better as an organization so that ultimately, student learning in maximized.



It can be a nerve wracking and humbling experience at times I know, to¬†have an external set (or several sets)¬†of eyes pouring through your¬†school policies, curriculum documents, adopted programs, and all the rest, and once the team arrives on campus you want everything to go perfectly. You want them to see what you see as community members, who live the experience each and every day…happy and engaged students, dedicated and caring teachers, solid and researched based educational programs at work, and authentic learning opportunities for kids at every turn. It’s only natural to be a little nervous and hopeful that these things shine through, and you know what, they will, because here’s the thing…good schools are a lot harder on themselves then any accreditation team will ever be.



Good schools don’t wait five or ten years for the accreditation cycle to roll around to¬†evaluate themselves, they do it each and every day…in every meeting, in every classroom visit, in every¬†interaction with students. Good schools are constantly looking in the mirror, finding ways to improve every aspect of the student experience, and they already know where they need to go. More than anything, an accreditation visit will hopefully¬†just consolidate what you already know as a school, and at the end of the day, it will be a true¬†celebration of your hard work and your¬†dedication to constant improvement.



I’m really looking forward to this week because I know that¬†we are a very good school, and I know that the best parts of our environment will shine through for our guests. I’m excited about getting their feedback,¬†and partnering with them to set goals for institutional self improvement…it’s always, always a great exercise to have an external team come in and look at your school, and it shouldn’t be something that schools fear or dread or shy away from. The accreditation process should be embraced, and looked on as an opportunity to do better. They are not here to catch us out or to find fault…they are here to partner with us to improve, and what good¬†school doesn’t want that? Without this external set of eyes, it will be very difficult to get to where we need to go, which at the end of the day is at a place where good turns to great. After this long journey as a team, I can already see that we’re well on our way.



I want to thank everyone involved in this process over the past couple of years, especially Shannon Sacher and Mark Russo for leading us so professionally…we were always in good hands with you. Enjoy the week and the experience everyone, and get ready to celebrate on Friday…you all deserve a huge celebration.



Great TED Talks –


Fun Videos to Start Your Day-

Wired for Play

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19th, 2017 by dkerr

So¬†‚ÄčI’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‚Äôt play more together? I thought about how maybe it‚Äôs actually the kids who‚Äôve really got it right, and how maybe it‚Äôs 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‚Äôm the happiest and it occurred to me that it‚Äôs when I‚Äôm playing. Either playing soccer with my boy, or dolls or moms and dads with my girl, or when I‚Äôm 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‚Äôve 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 ‚Äúplay‚ÄĚ into the classrooms, and the ones who found time to incorporate ‚Äúplay‚ÄĚ into their lessons…..and the ones were out on the field at recess throwing footballs and playing horse. The teachers who hadn‚Äôt lost their inner child, and who knew the importance of having fun like a kid.


I‚Äôm not really sure when ‚Äúplay‚ÄĚ becomes immature, irresponsible, or un-cool in the minds of most adults but I think it‚Äôs time to take ‚Äúplay‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôt put as a priority of late. I guess I‚Äôm 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 Р(watch these)
Interesting Articles ––social-emotional/

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 –



Interesting Articles –



Great Websites –

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


Interesting Articles –¬†


Inspiring Videos –¬†