Mother’s Day Follow-up

by Rick on May 16, 2017

After the dinner and the pie and the hugs and smiles, Mother’s Day reminded me of something important: “chocolate chip cookies and a comfy bed.” Read More…


Could creating a life be the purpose of school?

Could creating a life be the purpose of school? Why not? When it is, everything works right. When schools have other ends in mind, they get discipline problems, dropouts and lower performance.

By the end of September, seventh grader Kaden was sending himself to the In School Suspension room. “The teacher hates me. What’s the point? I’ll just come here and save us both the trouble.”

What would the world be like if the 55 million young people in our k-12 schools acted as if school were a place to practice making decisions, a place for creating yourself rather than a place for following directions and waiting patiently for the teacher to fill up your brain with information? What if whole schools were places where


You Matter

The minute I appeared in the front hall of Kugayama School the receptionist got up from behind his desk, opened the glass door of the administrative offices and came out to greet me with a smile, a bow and “Ohayoo gozaimasu.” The feeling that I mattered was inescapable. All day long, this same message was communicated to me at least a hundred times by everyone in many ways. From the first bow to the last goodbye the people in this large Japanese school made me feel that I mattered. Read More…


What if “epistemology” were written on the whiteboard on the first day of school, and referred to every day after that? What if “To know how you know what you think you know” were universally understood as the point of a curriculum? What if every test required not just knowing, but articulating how you know? What if discussing your epistemology with others were built into the conversation all day long? Is anything more important these days?


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Ten Truths Most People Don’t Know

by Rick on January 11, 2017

Surprising Truths

  1. Africa is larger than you think.
  2. Poverty in the world has dramatically declined in the past 20 years.
  3. Human beings have become less violent.
  4. Children are born with empathy and wired to want to help others.
  5. No such thing as a purely rational decision.
  6. People are getting smarter.
  7. In fact, almost everything getting better than you think.
  8. Add your favorite in the comments so we can get to 10.

How Do You Know What You Know?

  1. Africa has as many acres as Europe, China, India, Japan, and the contiguous 48 States all put together. Read More…


Looking Back and Being New

by Rick on December 29, 2016

What are the Disciplines for When Discipline Fails? Sometimes kids seem to think they were brought into this world to educate us rather than the other way round. 

  • Marty DutcherIt seems that in relationship-building, listening (that is, not talking!) is a real engagement challenge, as I keep learning over and over.
  • Dee Franz: I just picked up a copy of “The Listening Life” We all need to embrace listening more in this world full of distractions!!!!

Empathy, Education and a True Growth Mindset The human brain was designed to generalize. Turning infinitely complex reality into a useful simplicity has had great survival value for our species. But this great strength is also an equally great disability. These generalizations are always distortions of reality, and in education, especially, they are often worse than useless.

  • Tracy Kirkham: So, to all of those parents out there whose kids are being diagnosed and categorized and pathologized, I say: Fight it with all you have. Everybody’s bike looks different, but we all learn to ride.
  • Peter Ackerly: I don’t want him or her to let go of his mindset — that’s my job.

Who Are the Great Leaders? Happiness and success requires that we stop looking for leadership in others, and start leading our lives.

  • John S Green: Such a heart warming story. I have begun to ‘hug’ the ones who I had been critical of—positive connection is much easier and effective than negative coercion.
  • Gary Gruber: If others would take this illustration to heart and do what you did in everyday encounters, the world would be a much more beautiful, peaceful and enjoyable place to be, for everyone. Thank you!
  • Jon Madian: What if God had been a Systems Thinker rather than a Hierarchy kind of “thought leader” back in Garden of Eden days. How different Adam and Eve’s experience could have been.
  • Shanti ElliottBEAUTIFUL! Thanks for this heart-opening story, Rick!
  • Matilda Giampietroall of us being ourselves as the way to move the world forward.
  • Larry Arnstein: I’m not exactly a leader of men, but for this moment, I felt like one.
  • Lauren: one of the best moments of leadership I have to date, and will always remember, is my baby brother pushing a bully that was teasing me. He was four, I was seven.
  • Allan Stern: I turned to the mom and said, “This was a great teachable moment, and you handled it perfectly. Your daughter has learned a life-long lesson really well.” She just beamed.

Leadership Opportunities in a Climate of Fear To live happy, successful lives, we would do well see a climate of fear as a leadership opportunity.

  • Mark Crosley: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein
  • Bobby Richman: The opportunity to be a leader and be human made me happy and made me feel whole. Biggest bang for half a buck I’ve had in a long time.
  • Jonathan Lovell: It would be difficult indeed to face the rage-filled faces at THOSE Trump rallies with the innocent question “What’s wrong?”

Diagnosis Can Blind Us to Leadership Opportunities A diagnosis can blind us to the very thing that would lead to a great moment.

  • Iseult Catherine O’Brien: Nowadays, they might be reported to a Child Welfare Department, but almost thirty years ago, Feargal was allowed to find his unique voice in his own time.
  • Christine Drew: I would think that before fourth grade is too early to tell much except in profound cases. and…once labelled…always so. A self fulfilling prophecy that we could do without in some / many cases.
  • Mark Herman: The irony is that he is a magnet among his peers – the go to guy, often with the right answer, the means to settle disputes, rouse the team and more. He simply displays his strengths in other ways.
  • Paul Greenwood: the best thing we can do is observe, embrace, and enjoy the journey, all the while maintaining faith that, as they learn to find their way in the world, experience may be the best teacher.

Thank You for Criticizing If we want to make something good, do anything well, or have good relationships, we have to get good at criticizing.

The Soul of Creativity This inner voice of the soul is aware of all the data including what we have been avoiding, ignoring or denying.

  • Ginna: There are multiple realities available to us always.
  • Ray Erickson: Change Your Mind, Change Your Life.
  • Patricia Latham: learning to accept my wrongnesses and learning how to lean into pain have been a life changing experiences for me. Life became a lot richer and more fulfilling then.
  • Marshall: This places even more emphasis on your good work to get every lifespan started with tools, joy and wisdom.
  • Karen Levesque: Numbers are just one piece of information in a complex puzzle, but we are too often ready to dismiss what they may have to tell us.
  • Claudia: owning up to our mistakes and extending grace to others, and supporting our children to do the same
  • Bob Conway: Resisting other mindsets is a more subtle and socially acceptable way of sticking to our own, while arrogance provokes a counter-reaction that further undermines our position.

How Should Adults Interfere with Child’s Play? When adults fear for their children’s future success, they tend to see play as a frivolous waste of time.

  • Lisa Sunbury Gerber: I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to interfere with a child’s play.

Should You Use Playskool Blocks in Your Classroom? Don’t underestimate kids. They are scientists. When schools ignore this, they compromise brain development.

  • Sally Morris I have made many a cairn on the shores of several Oregon rivers. Great fun and learning there!

The Myth of Self Acceptance Collaborate. Create. Contribute, and stop chasing after self acceptance.

  • Laura Flores Shaw: Yes, yes, and yes!
  • Donna Volpitta: “self-esteem” is not a gift you can give–it needs to be earned because it is a neurochemical response to hard work.
  •  Kerry Parker: “…a neurochemical response to hard work”…I like that very much!
  •  Maren Schmidt: True self-esteem comes from the confidence gained by having skills to express yourself and to help other people.
  • Mary Anderson: Sometimes it helps just to ask is this adult work or is this something a child can do?
  • Ariadne Brill: a focus on involving children meaningfully can turn things around.
  • Katie McClendon: Focusing on individual interest helps grow a strong sense of self without it seeming like a task to change oneself.
  • Tanya: Ponder on the good things. Have a purpose.
  • Nan Renzi: Indeed!
  • Doing Good Together™: contribution matters for us all at any age.

Mantra for Educators: High Responsibility Low Control Believing in each student’s unique genius can give us the courage to allow our kids to take on the challenges they need in order to take responsibility in an uncertain world.

How Will Education Reform? Education Reform won’t succeed until schools do what computers can’t.

  • Bobby Richman: Well said, Rick!
  • Coach Miike Nwoke: curious why you omitted character as a 4th c
  • Marilyn Price-Mitchell For the most part, they are activities that lead to the development of the 8 compass abilities, aren’t they?
  • Jim Ackerly: Software can’t give reasoned opinions, only respond with fact-based filtered results programmed by someone who is probably not a teacher. Teachers can.

Are Charter Schools the Answer to Education Reform? What lessons could we learn from them and/or from how Finland did Education Reform? What lessons could we apply to the situations that each of us has the power to change?

Are We Unraveling? Sources of the Rising Rage. The culture of school systems, traditional and charter alike, are still not preparing our young people to be creative, collaborative, contributors to the economy and to society.

  • Christopher Duncan: Someone like the New York Times needs to print it as an op-ed. Truly.
  • Rumsey Young: your face the music attitude is always refreshing, bold, provocative, and brave.
  • You are one honest uncompromising dude.
  • Susie Lewis: As long as policy views living wages as not important, and business owners, and corporations will employ people at the lowest possible wages, just looking at education’s challenges is myopic .
  • Douglas Hazelrigg: This, of course, should be done, MUST be done, on a district-by-district basis, and not as the result of yet another centrally planned scheme.
  • George Girton: Not one of the jobs I’ve held in my adult life even existed when I was in college, let alone middle school.

Social Anxiety? Get Smart, not Mad School is best as a laboratory for turning conflicts into collaborations and to grow their anti-bullying repertoire so that friends never become enemies. To make America greater, we all have to get better at this.

  • Rick Armstrong: “What’s the trouble?” asked the teacher. “She called me diurnal,” Sophia explained. Soon calm was restored, and the teacher walked away, maintaining a straight face until he turns a corner and cracks up!

Learning Language, Math, & Science Concepts Through Play “If we can make children love intellectual effort,” Susan Blow wrote, “we shall prolong habits of study beyond school years.”

Can Your Genius Make Conflict Creative? let your genius join the conflict and Change the Game.

  • Pamela Swallow: you and Bruce handled things superbly

Environmental Education: Children and Chickens and Snails! Oh, My! Some relationships need to be given time. A professional knows how to forgive. 

  • Rico: Awesome.. Thanks for the article Rick!

Let’s Not Do This Again: All Eyes on School Culture The choice before us tomorrow is not so rational as it is cultural, and school culture bears the lion’s share of the responsibility.

  • Harry Matthews: Monolingualism is a serious American failing
  • Dena Dickinson: Nice
  • Sheryl Morris: Sadly that “rear guard” has longer tentacles and staying power than many of us care to imagine.

Hillary Clinton Won? Let’s Be Accurate One important bit of advice I haven’t heard yet: be accurate.

  • Bill Gravitt This is what can happen when you live in a republic, rather than a democracy.

A Dynamic Mind; Not a Growth Mindset don’t “engender” a growth mindset in children. Instead: create the conditions — like wear a pink shirt or something — in which children grow the dynamic mind they came to school with in the first place.

  • Larryalobo: If children are as flexible we think they are, then a school wide and consistent mindset of growth should be able to affect them. My guess is it is a haphazard patch of inconsistencies in schools that is also a problem – some teachers have a growth mindset, others don’t, some try to incorporate it into their classes, others don’t, some are good at it, others are not, some can handle a change in classroom culture, others can’t.
  • Steven C. Haas: I have become an ardent believer that when teaching/learning situations are approached with an open mind, there is no problem with the “growth mindset”

National Take Your Enemy to Lunch Day: Keystone of Democracy Comfort with conflict is at the core of a culture that prepares young people for leading creative, effective and graceful lives in a democracy.

  • Brian Hicks: There seems to be something of a debate going on among people ‘on the left’ about what to think about trump voters – whether to give any of them the benefit of the doubt, essentially. But your thoughts here seem to me the only helpful direction for us to go in.

Why Just Once a Year?



Why Just Once a Year?

by Rick on December 19, 2016

On December 25th 102 years ago German and Allied soldiers crossed no man’s land, exchanged gifts, wished each other Merry Christmas, sang together and made peace.

The high command got anxious that the brotherhood that was forming would compromise the war effort and issued orders to make sure it never happened again. It didn’t.

But what if brotherhood had won out? What if the spirit of Christmas lasted all year? Why not?


Last week on the flight from Washington to Boston, Ginna was reeling from the shock that America had elected a misogynistic, racist, egotistical demagogue for president. She decided to turn to her seatmate and ask, “Who did you vote for?” Comfort with conflict is at the core of a culture that prepares young people for leading creative, effective and graceful lives in a democracy.


A Dynamic Mind; Not a Growth Mindset

by Rick on November 29, 2016

The antidote for a “fixed mindset” is not a “growth mindset,” but a mind on a mission.

One morning ten years ago a kindergarten teacher named John walked into his class wearing a pink shirt. There had been an outbreak of students saying a certain toy or activity was “just for boys” or “just for girls.” He had decided it was time for some lessons on gender equity. When the students entered class, one of the boys asked with hesitation, “Is that a… pink shirt?” “Yes. Why?” John responded. “Really?” the boy started to cringe his face and smirk. “Yes, pink,” said John. Read More…


Hillary Won. No, she didn’t! Yes, she did! Come on, people, let’s be accurate.

The airwaves are already filled with advice about how to help our young people through this divisive moment in American history. One important bit of advice I haven’t heard yet: be accurate. Read More…