Bonus Episode 12 – Megan Chen, author of Finding Tiger and Zack Jones, Director of Dual School

In this bonus episode we are speaking with Megan Chen, author of Finding Tiger and Zack Jones, Director at Dual School.

Megan is a young learner who followed her passion and published a children’s book titled Finding Tiger. The book targets the problems of implicit bias and stereotyping. Megan is very interested in creating innovative solutions to problems and entrepreneurship!  Megan also started the entrepreneurship club at her school.

Zack is Director at Dual School, a supplement to the existing education system. The school delivers an elite learning opportunity to students from public, private and charter schools in New Castle County, DE. A graduate of Horn Entrepreneurship at University of Delaware, Zack is the author of The World Changer’s Handbook: A Young Person’s Guide to Creating an Impactful Life. He’s passionate about helping young people activate their potential by taking action on their ideas.

This is what we talked about:

  1. Tell us about the Dual School model and the kinds of opportunities it offers young people.
  2. Megan…teell us how you got connected to Dual School and how your work there ended up in your first published book, Finding Tiger.
  3. Tell us about the process of writing and designing the book. How did you go about choosing the subject and designing the process. What were the best high point moments and what were some of the challenges that you had to overcome?
  4. Zack….What are some other projects happening at Dual School? How are they impacting the community?  
  5. Megan and Zack….what advice would you give to school leaders working to shift the school experience toward learner-centered?
  6. Before we invite you to share what is next for you, let’s hear your answers to our lightning response questions:
    • Who is one expert our listener’s should connect with to learn more about co-designing more real world, entrepreneurial opportunities for learners in school?
    • If you were recommending one book to our listeners, what would it be?
    • What online site/resource/person do you learn from regularly?
  7. What’s next for each of you? What are you working on that you’d like to share?

Resources

Bonus Episode 11 – 9 Billion Schools Interview with Dick Thomas and Lauren Della Bella

In this bonus episode, we are speaking with Dick Thomas and Lauren Della Bella – coauthors of 9 Billion Schools – Why the World Needs Lifelong Personalized Learning for All.

Dick Thomas is vice president of architecture for SHP, a nationally recognized architecture firm focused on learning spaces of all kinds. Celebrating over 20 years of practice with the firm, Dick’s education portfolio reflects a wide spectrum of facility planning and design solutions. Dick has participated on long-range planning committees, assisted with curriculum strategy panels and developed strategic standards. As a former member of a future-oriented innovation board for a major technology company, he has a keen interest in how technology can facilitate the rapidly changing approaches to learning in all its manifestations. His first co-written book, 9 Billion Schools: Why the World Needs Personalized, Lifelong Learning for All, examines the importance of reimagining the worldwide approach towards education and learning in light of an expanding population and an increasingly rapid development of technology.

Lauren Della Bella is president of SHP, a nationally recognized architecture firm focused on learning spaces of all kinds. She is the first woman to lead the firm in its 100-plus-year history. Lauren spearheaded the development of SHP’s highly regarded community-engagement process, and launched Insite Magazine, an award-winning publication dedicated to innovative design ideas and industry success stories. Under her leadership the firm has become an authority on sustainability and 21st-century educational design. Her passion for design, education and planning is evidenced in her leadership roles in several industry groups. She currently serves as president of the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati and an executive board member of the Design Futures Council.

This is what we talked about:

  1. Let’s begin with a personal story about how you got connected to the need for personalized learning for all.
  2. You share about your book, “Every single person on Earth should be considered a school unto him- or herself. That’s because, for maximum human flourishing, learning should be a highly personalized experience that lasts an entire lifetime.” Tell us what you mean by this?
  3.  In section one, you share the foundations for the 9 billions schools movement. What is the why and the how?
  4. In section two, you highlight the first 20% of life and talk about national parks, early innovation, collaboration, and play. Share with us a couple of you ideas from this section with our listeners.
  5. In section 3, you focus on the remaining 80% of life. We made connections to our Profile of a Graduate in this section. We need to be able to think together, and practice curiosity and empathy.  Why is this important to the 9 billion schools movement?
  6. Before we invite you to share what is next for you, let’s hear your ideas about our lightning response questions:
    • Who is one expert our listener’s should connect with to learn more about lifelong personalized learning?
    • If you were recommending one book to our listeners, what would it be?
    • What online site/resource/person do you learn from regularly?
  7. What’s next for you? What are you working on that you’d like to share?

Resources

Bonus Episode 10 – KnowledgeWorks Forecast 5.0 Interview with Jason Swanson

In this bonus episode of Shift Your Paradigm, we are speaking with Jason Swanson, Director of Strategic Foresight at KnowledgeWorks. In his role, he gets to explore the future of learning, helping stakeholders translate future insights into forward thinking visions for transforming education. In his work, Jason has explored how trends and developments such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, augmented and virtual reality might impact learning today and into the future.

He has authored dozens of articles and forecasts including the future of work and readiness, the future of credentials, the expansion and diversification of educator roles and the creation of learning ecosystems.

In this episode, we talked about the following questions:

      1. How did you got connected to strategic foresight,  KnowledgeWorks  and the development of the forecasts.
      2.  Let’s dive into the new Forecast 5.0: Navigating the Future of Learning. What’s the why behind the forecast…why should school leaders and communities organize conversations around this work?
      3. At the core of the document, you identify five drivers of change. Tell us about the drivers and how you arrived at these particular five.
      4. The forecast also includes provocations. What is the purpose of the provocations and how are they organized in the forecast?
      5. You also developed three audience-specific discussion guides for: District, school and classroom leaders, Higher education administrators, faculty and staff, and Education thought leaders and changemakers. How can these stakeholders use the guides to organize their next steps after reading the forecast?
      6. With the forecast in mind, what does the future look like for learner-centered education?
      7. Before we invite you to share what is next for you, let’s hear your ideas related to our lightning response questions:
        • Who is one expert our listener’s should connect with to learn more about strategic foresight, either in or outside of the K12 domain?
        • If you were recommending one book to our listeners, what would it be?
        • What online site/resource/person do you learn from regularly?

Resources

Learner-center leaders lead with empathy, listening to stakeholders.

In Episode 45, we had a conversation with Joe Erpelding, Principal at Design39Campus in San Diego, CA, and two learners, Sydney Huber and Riya Anand.

Key Competency

Learner-center leaders lead with empathy, listening to stakeholders. As Principal of Design39Campus, Joe is constantly listening to stakeholders. This is a big part of the design process to empathize with stakeholders in supporting change. It is also critical in supporting correction when change does not go as planned.

Takeaways

What does teaching and learning look like at Design39Campus? Design39Campus is located within a public school district. The goal of Design39Campus is to create learners who are life-ready thought leaders elevating humanity and, thus, creating an impact for others.

We started by asking the learners what it was like to learn in this learning environment. They shared students get creative freedom, and can work wherever they choose – outside, office, collaborative spaces. Students work on impact projects and collaborate with many other organizations. After a certain period of time students choose Explorations and Deep Dives thus applying the core knowledge from content classes to areas of passion, specifically in science and engineering. This allows students the freedom to be curious about many topics.

Why did you choose Design39 Campus instead of your home school? Learners reflect they had the opportunity to see the evolution of the campus as it was being developed. They noticed the differences right away. Instead of the standard library and classrooms, there are collaborative spaces and outside workspaces. They utilize principles of design thinking, and the projects are different. Learners feel very free academically.

Joe has been principal for four years The initial principal was released for 2 years and 5 teachers were released for one year to investigate and research the possibilities of designing a school from the ground up. They visited other sites and employers. There were 17 different design process opportunities for parents to connect.

Joe shared he had to “re-route his whole firmware” about education. Joe doesn’t have an office and teaches a class two times a year to continue to understand what the design learning process looks like.

What is an Impact project? The teacher assigned a simple writing assignment that turned into an event. Students reached out to companies that they admired. Sydney shared about her work on a beach clean up in San Diego. She talked about the process of creating an event and how it moved quickly and easily. The organization sent $2000 worth of bracelets. Instead of selling the bracelets, Sydney gave the bracelet as a token of appreciation to the volunteers who helped with the clean up process. The team cleaned up about 40 pounds of trash at the beach.

Reeya shared her process for developing a NPFH application. She pitched the idea to every teacher so they could understand their perspective. The learners also had the opportunity to visit Disney for a leadership experience. In that experience, they learned about the 4Cs and how to apply them into their mission.

What is an impact project? Anything that can impact the community in a positive way. Examples include a clothing drive, canned food drive, etc. Basically it is your perspective on a problem and how you want to fix it. The projects are passion-driven. Sydney shared she is passionate about the environment and how it connects to her Oceans Impact project. Students need to think globally and act locally. It starts small.

What is the role of the LED – Learning Experience Designer – in the impact projects? A teacher is someone who is guiding students. He/she has to have the courage to let the students take the reins sometimes. “The LED is there to show me where to look, but not what to see. They don’t tell me what, when and how to do it. Instead they offer support and guide me.”

At the heart of their guiding principles at Design39Campus is design thinking. Design39Campus has 8 guiding principles. Creative confidence, growth mindset, collaboration, opportunity to connect globally and act locally, etc. Teachers may not integrate all 8 principles, but they are intentional about technology integration, planning for creation, etc. The principles are a structure to remember that learning is complex, and it allows teachers to be designers throughout the process.

The learners reflected on seeing the principles in action. Reeya reflected she really needed growth mindset when working on her robotics project. Having a growth mindset means you are willing to grow from mistakes. Sydney used a lot of guiding principles during her projects. She couldn’t get enough of working with her peers and teachers – collaboration. She also developed creative confidence to get up and talk about her project as a guest on another podcast. Guiding principles permeate the culture. Learners reflect on the principles as they complete projects and learning experiences.

The school created a schematic about the knowledge, skills, and dispositions, a dramatic piece of the evolution of Design39Campus. Without this, they may not be as successful in the learner-centered environment. Learners need the skills to avoid frustration when communicating their message. Without the dispositions, they could end up with apathy.

How is leadership different in a the learner-centered environment? Joe filled up 3-4 notebooks at the start of his principalship. He did a lot of listening The first year was not easy. One hundred and fifty kids left the school. Twelve teachers left, and Joe needed to hire more. The school wasn’t meeting the expectations, and he needed to learn more by listening. The context was what mattered. He had to give people grace to be good with what they were currently doing. He asked them, what is your 10% to move forward?

Leaders need to be vulnerable and bring teams together to have input. There is now a distributive leadership model, and making decisions was super complex. The team had to come to an agreement on decision-making and collaboration. This environment needs everyone to be invested. It’s a little messy but it is the best work you can do because you are doing it with others.

How do you enroll people in this movement? Joe reflects the best way to  enroll others is with tours and tours – both outside and inside the school. They called it Project Beep Beep! The team hopped on buses and toured other schools, resulting in ideation coming out of that space. Touring internally is also important, and the school hosts over 150 tours each year. They are now re-investing in parents. He asks them to notice. Before, we would have tour guides, but now we just ask parents to “tour in”. Ask any learner what they are working on and understand where they are in the journey.

Finally, think about your priorities. What is driving the system? Design39Campus is a learner-centered lab school. They want their learners to be life-ready thought leaders who are curious and inquisitive. It is not about GPA or how many AP courses. Instead, what is your impact?

There are 150 tours per year at Design39Campus to learn about what is going on at Design39Campus. With so many micro-successes and major successes, they need to develop a culture of sharing. They are touring each others building, taking Instructional walkthroughs, and connecting to learn from each other in the various campuses.

\What advice would you give to others who are making the shift to a learner-centered environment. First, you need adaptability. In Disney, the students learned Walt Disney was shut down so many times. Not everything will be perfect. You have to be willing to work through it as a leader and a learner. When working on impact projects, students experience productive struggle. Perseverance is always important to answer his/her question. Information has to be clear and not false. Sydney persevered through getting over her presentation challenges. She shared how she has grown out of her shell. Joe shares the learning environment is amplifying opportunities and providing grace to make mistakes is critical. As the principal, Joe realizes ultimately, you have to launch. If you wait, you are delaying the time you are going to make mistakes. Instead, shorten the time period, launch, iterate, and make it the next best version.

Connections to our Practice

  • Our high school is also a NPFH, and some of our learners have had the chance to participate.
  • Staff know their superpowers and how they can best support work. Our teachers and leaders have had a chance to uncover their superpowers.  Should we revisit and celebrate?
  • Do all of our learners have opportunities to impact locally and think globally?

Questions Based on Our Practice

  • Do our teachers show students where to go or what to see?
  • How does the role of teacher need to evolve?
  • Do our teachers, leaders, and learners have time to collaborate?
  • Do we link everything back to our Profile of a Graduate and Learning Beliefs?
  • Are we “rerouting our firmware”?

Next Steps for Us

  • We need to make some site visits and figure out how to take staff on a Project Beep Beep!
  • How can we tour each other’s buildings?

Episode 045: Design39Campus Interview with Joe Erpelding, Principal; Sydney Huber and Riya Anand, Learners

In this episode, we had a conversation with Joe Erpelding, Principal at Design39Campus in San Diego, CA, and two learners, Sydney Huber and Riya Anand. You may recall that we featured Design39Campus, a learner-centered lab school, on an earlier episode of the podcast. During our conversation, we learned about the eight guiding principles at the heart of the Design39Campus experience. Sydney and Riya provided us a glimpse into these guiding principles, sharing various learning experiences. Joe shared the kinds of leadership qualities necessary to lead a learner-centered environment including vulnerability and creating a culture of sharing.

The learning environment of Design39Campus provides an ideal environment for student-centered, flexible learning experiences. On a mission to “change the way we do schools,” Design39Campus provides a unique approach to personalized learning that is human-centered and empathy-fueled.

As a result of our conversation, we are thinking about this question:

  • What learner-centered aspects of Design39 Campus  might you apply in your school or district?

Resources

Bonus Episode 09 – Trailblazers Magazine – Interview with Anya Smith-Roman and Abigail Emerson

In this Bonus Episode of Shift Your Paradigm, we are speaking with Anya Smith-Roman and Abigail Emerson, founders of Trailblazers Magazine, a magazine driven and written by students about the education transformation movement.

Anya is a 2017 graduate of the Innovation Diploma and currently a second-year student at Georgia Institute for Technology studying to become a social entrepreneur with a major in Business and certificate in Social Psychology. Since high school, she has been striving to forward the Education Transformation Movement by networking with thought leaders around the world, speaking and coaching at education conferences, and being a pioneer of innovative learner-centered education practices. She is driven by the goal to have student voice at the forefront of the Education Transformation Movement. Anya dreams of a future where “school” consists of students working side-by-side with business leaders to design for pressing issues in the world.

Abigail is a creator looking for new ways to solve problems. She is an Innovations Diploma and Mount Vernon Presbyterian School 2018 graduate and freshman at NC State studying Industrial Design. Always keeping a positive outlook on situations, her favorite pastime is giving out high-fives and telling puns and jokes. Abigail strives to inspire and empower other students to believe that they can make a change now and don’t have to wait until they’re “older” and “wiser” to start.

Resources shared during our conversation

Learner-centered leaders know change permeates the whole system

In Episode 44 we spoke with Dr. Cory Steiner, superintendent in the Northern Cass School District in North Dakota. We learned about the audacious goals and vision, driven by their Profile of a Graduate, that are focused on creating a learner-centered school district. Northern Cass School District is a public school district located in Hunter, ND. It has 635 learners in grades PK-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 15 to 1.

Takeaways

Northern Cass has adopted audacious goals – including moving to a competency-based model by 2020. They offer big school opportunties in their small school system of 635 learners. They took  6-8 months to work with educators and learners on a 3-year transition which will eliminate grade levels, offer credit for learning beyond the day,  rethinking grading, and making sure kids move at a pace which works best for them.

Significant planning is in process to make this happen. They started several years ago with the Teacher Leadership Academy. Professional learning is a key compenent in this work. The District partnered with a local university to provide a masters degree aligned to the District’s vision. Administrators partnered with professors to teach courses related to District content. The school considered a school within a school model, but decided they wanted to do more for all learners.

Community engagement has been critical – using a personalized learning team (including learners) and a parent group. Engaging parents and community members in conversations around potential concerns (transcripts, credits, etc.) has helped build the vision and understanding while addressing various pieces.

Northern Cass recently developed a Portrait of a Graduate to guide this work- identifying eight areas (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, leadership, growth mindset, organization, accountability, and self-reflection.)  Every conversation focuses on how the work will support students being choice-ready to leave their school with the discreet skills and dispositions. Next year, the school will use the first 10 days at elementary and 6 days at the secondary level to directly teach the skills through activities designed to help students better understand the skills and ideas in the Portrait of a Graduate.  The POG is the guided pathway to getting to personalized learning.

Along the way, there have been high points and challenges. Cory shared about his Jaguar Academy – a school within a school – and how it really focused on pace.  Students quickly completed required courses and then moved to passion courses and internships. He reflected his kids are ready to own their own learning, and sometimes the adults need to get out of the way.  

The majority of the staff has embraced the idea of learner-centered, and believes they are doing the right things for their learners. Learner-centered is what is right, even though it is a heavy, heavy lift. Some educators have struggled with this change because the school district has to build its own system.  At times, there is stress because you have to build the system as you go and you don’t know what it will look like until you start doing it.  Also, there is always more work to do… revamp the curriculum, build in a learning management system, etc.  

Cory reflected on site visits to gain new ideas. While visiting and viewing these other learning environments, the educators could see what is possible. He knows Northern Cass’ learners are as capable as all other learners. He realized that the district has not given ownership to the learners. He realizes they have to do a better job of teaching the skills to the learners. While they have learned significantly from other districts such as Lindsay Unified and Harrisburg, Northern Cass has had to design its own original system.  Everyone’s context is different.  

Agency is at the core of this work. What does it look like in Northern Cass? How have the adults embraced the agency? Cory shared the teachers need to give up their control and know that it is going “to be ok.”  Controls such as tests, retests, etc. can be given up, and it will still be ok. Teachers are starting to let go some of those controls.

How have you as a superintendent reshaped the control? Cory has full trust that the people in the district will do what is right for their learners. He knows his staff truly care about the learners. The educators want their learners to have their best day every day. He trusts that teachers will work at a pace that works best for them. When teachers are not doing what it is needed, they may need more resources or time. Additionally, he has had to rethink his role in professional learning, reflecting on the best way to involve his own voice. Using teacher leaders for direct instruction on programs/initiatives and allowing time for professional conversation is often more important than leading the professional development.

Leaders need to be empathetic. We need to honor the work that our teachers do, and celebrate our successes. Leaders also need to focus on their why. What is your why and how does it drive your work every day and in every conversation? The why needs to become more than the a mission or vision.

Leaders need to find a medium area to let their runners run, and ensure every one makes an effort.

Leaders also need to be willing to fail. If you are going to try to do this work, you have to be willing to take the risks to do what is right for kids.  Don’t make excuses for doing what is right for kids.  People who are struggling in this system are people who don’t live in this system.

What advice would you give?  Stop waiting for things to be perfect before you start. Be willing to take small steps instead of waiting. Leaders also need to find a way to give up the excuse of not being able to afford it. Provide opportunities for teachers to see other people doing the work. When teachers believe it, they will do it. Let your runners go, and figure out what you need to do to support everybody else. The change permeates the whole system – teachers, leaders, clerical support, and parents.

To flip the system, we need to create agency throughout the entire system. Sometimes we may feel personal frustration, and we have to slow down and be empathetic. Trust and empathy are critical throughout the change process.  When we feel stress, it is important to have the conversation, be vulnerable and empathetic, and seek solutions.

Connections to our Practice

  • We have worked to build our Profile of a Graduate and learning beliefs.
  • We have provided two years to build a shared understanding – with runners and teachers who need more time.
  • We have developed a school-within-a-school model in our middle school.

Questions Based on Our Practice

  • Does everyone understand our why statement?
  • How do we surface parent concerns?
  • How do we create action groups which include diverse stakeholders including learners?
  • Do our adults have agency?
  • Are our adults able and willing to give up control?
  • How can we better understand how others feel?

Next Steps for Us

  • Talk with leadership team about venues for feedback. How can we truly partner with parents?
  • How can we organize some more site visits?

Episode 044: Northern Cass School District (ND) Interview with Dr. Cory Steiner

In this episode we are speaking with Dr. Cory Steiner, superintendent in the Northern Cass School District in North Dakota. We learned about the audacious goals and vision, driven by their Profile of a Graduate, that are focused on creating a learner-centered school district. Northern Cass School District is a public school district located in Hunter, ND. It has 635 learners in grades PK-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 15 to 1. As a result of recent legislation in the state of North Dakota, and thoughtful strategic planning, the entire Northern Cass School District will move to a competency-based education model by 2020. 

As a result of our conversation, here are two questions we are thinking about.

  1. What inspires you about the Northern Cass vision for 2020?
  2. What might be if your organization placed greater focus on agency and empathy, up and down the system?

Resources

Bonus Episode 08 – Advocacy for Learner-Centered Education – Interview with Joe Cirasuolo

In this  Bonus Episode, we are speaking with Joe Cirasuolo, former Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) about learner-centered education and the role of states.

In this episode, we talked about the following:

  1. Let’s start the conversation with a personal story about how you got connected to CAPSS and the work of developing these visionary resources for Connecticut.
  2. Let’s talk first about the white paper – A Look to the Future: Personalized Learning in Connecticut, in which you have four defined parts – creating the urgency for change, defining personalized learning, examining personalized learning elements, and identifying policies that hinder personalization.  We were fascinated by the policy barriers and suggestions. Can you share some of the ideas in that section with our listeners?
  3. In NextEd: Next Steps: A Vision and a Plan for Transforming Connecticut’s Education System, problems with Connecticut’s education are highlighted and  core recommendations for change are made. Share a few high-impact students-centered approaches which can be leveraged to transform education.
  4. For leaders who want to dig a little deeper into the core recommendations, they can review the Summary of Proposals white paper. Talk to us about the meaning behind this white paper.

Resources

Learner-centered leaders place the agency in the hands of the learner and transform their learning environments

In Episode 43, we learned about an innovative learning environment – North Star Teens in Hadley, MA. with Kenneth Danford and a 15 year old learner – Nolan Saito.

Key Competency

Learner-centered leaders place the agency in the hands of the learner and transform their learning environments.

Takeaways

Norh Star is not a school – instead it is a learning environment. Most teens do choose to go onto college after attending North Star.

Adults offer classes and students decide whether or not to attend. There is significant 1:1 time, and opportunities are provided for teens to control how they spend their time, while some classes may look like a typical school in which an adult is teaching in the front of the room. In addition to participating in North Star, many of the teens are homeschooled.  

Nolan reflected that a major difference between North Star and school is that students set their own pace. He can study what really interests him at the pace he needs to go in order to absorb what he needs to absorb. Nolan participates in tutorials to cover math, learn Spanish and cover science. He does school work online with Khan Academy and reads books to learn.  

For many of the North Star teens, their learning is fluid, and there is not a clear line between what counts for North Star and what counts for homeschool. Students under 16 are homeschooled.  The structure allows for pursuit of motivation and passion and complying with state requirements.

North Star has about 60 learners and serves local teens in western Massachusetts. There are other sites – Princeton, upstate NewYork, Leesberg VA, etc. – serving local teens through the Liberated Learners Network.

How does North Star represent a learner-centered environment? North Star was born out of shifting tables from requiring students to complete specific learning experiences to inviting students to participate in learning activities. Ken and his colleague wanted to get rid of the assignments which were created by the teachers and required of learners. Instead, they wanted to put the control in the hands of the learner.

North Star supports learners with all of their passions. For example, Nolan is a dancer who practices 3 hours a day. He has always gotten up early to practice violin before school. Attending a traditional school makes it difficult to pursue these passions.

Community and people who volunteer to teach at North Star are diverse. Nolan participates in a class on Tuesdays called Essential Shelter. It focuses on architectural history. He participates in a Monday class – Guitar, Spanish, making boats. Other classes include math, making bread, making lunch, and how to listen to classical music. North Star also has a band, a theater group, and even debate class. Nolan reflects that students can think about a class, and it will appear. Students participate in the classes only if they are interested. 

What are some leadership competencies which are needed to lead in this type of a learning environment? Ken first identifies the leader needs to treat the small program like a business. Funding, keeping the doors open, is a challenge.  This is true for other small non-profits. Leaders need to have a team ready to tackle the challenges of starting this small business. Don’t underestimate the seriousness and need of a team to start a small business.

Ken shares you have to be willing to take “no” for answer. You might create a class and students have no interest in participating. You have to be able to accept the “no, thank you!” If that is going to frustrate you, then this isn’t for you.

When Ken can suspend his judgement and agenda, the good stuff – respecting kids, watching them blossom and challenge themselves, make friends, etc happens! Ken’s job is to make sure North Star is a safe place for the learners. He is not in charge of making sure Nolan learns fractions or the periodic table.

No one gets turned away for financial reasons. Many families get a fee reduction if needed.  Ken then works with the team to raise that money through special events and fundraisers.

The biggest piece of advice Nolan offers to other learners or educators is to not be afraid of what you don’t know. Nolan has a cousin who was considering homeschooling, but he had reasons why this wouldn’t work for him. For example, he thought he wouldn’t be able to go to college. Nolan argues homeschooled learners can go to college. Fear of the unknown can hold people back from leaving school and broadening their mindset in a different learning environment. Short answer – Don’t be afraid!

Ken shared you need to trust yourself, and everything counts. Ken doesn’t propose everyone leave traditional school. Instead, he hopes that everyone knows they could leave traditional school, and North Star would be there to support them. He offers he attended traditional school, his kids attended traditional school, and many North Star siblings attend traditional school. If school is working, great. If it isn’t working for you, there is another way.

What is next for Nolan? He anticipates taking the GED test, and eventually attending college, although he is not sure when he will go to college. He has goals and knows he wants to stay connected to the arts in the future.

Learner-centered leaders release agency, transform their schools, and create new options!

Connections to our Practice

  • We have an online academy – which does allow students flexibility in terms of time for completing course work. Students could participate in athletics in the morning, and complete their online work in the afternoon. In this case, we are still controlling the content.

Questions Based on Our Practice

  • How do we listen to our learners and create opportunities based on their interests?
  • How often do we take no for an answer?
  • How can students earn credit for outside learning?

Next Steps for Us

  • Engage in conversation with the learners to talk about their learning experiences.