Please Share My Passion For Education!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Why I Deserve to Lose!

When you assume....................

I have had a blast taking part in the #30secondtake show that principal Brad Gustafson, @GustafsonBrad on Twitter, has worked hard to get going.  The show offers a four minute video cast featuring a "Digital Duel" between two people involved in education.  I am honored to have been chosen to partake in this challenge and was even lucky enough to earn a couple of wins against very passionate and knowledgeable opponents who had great answers.

Check out this week's #30secondtake at

This week, however, the video responses were posted and I immediately knew that I deserved to lose.  The question was:

What does "best practice" look like in today's classrooms?

When I saw the question, I immediately knew what I would say.  Instantly, a talk that I had watched by Malcolm Gladwell came to mind.  In this talk he discusses a story about how studies were done to find the perfect "spaghetti sauce", the perfect "Pepsi" flavor, and other examples.  The studies concluded that there is NOT a "perfect" example of any of these products, because not everyone has the same taste preferences.  This is the reason that we now see a wide range of spaghetti sauces and Pepsi products on the market. In the pursuit of the "PERFECT" product, they realized that this was like "looking for a black cat in a dark room, when there isn't even a cat in the room" Stuart Firestein says in his book Ignorance.

This seemed to be a perfect metaphor to the issues that exist in education and its quest to find the "PERFECT WAY TO TEACH STUDENTS".  There isn't a perfect way to teach students, because every student is different!  There are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.  Their are students who aspire to attend Ivy League Universities and others who will struggle to graduate from high school.  Yet, most teachers will hand these students all the same worksheets, give them the same tests, and give them the same standardized feedback.  In the quest to find the perfect way to teach, the education system is unfortunately forgetting to embrace diversity and, in the meantime, letting a lot of kids slip through the cracks.

......... everything that I said, however, assumes that students are even BEING EDUCATED.  In other words, you cannot find the "best way" to do something, if that something doesn't even exist.

Example.  What are the most important things to have in order to enjoy a Saturday?  I would immediately mention family, friends, and nice weather (because that is what I enjoy); however, this isn't the correct answer.  There are things FAR more important than this, including oxygen, water, and other things biologically required for us to even be alive.  Well, duh.  Most people would assume that these things were there.....and they would be correct in assuming that because oxygen, water, and the biological requirements to live ARE usually there.

In education things are different, though.  In his answer to the original question on #30secondtake, Vice Principal John Fritzky (@JohnFritzky) explains that ENGAGEMENT, FEEDBACK, and REFLECTION are absolutely essential to "best practice" in education. THEY ARE!


The second I heard his response I realized what I had done.  I assumed that these three elements were present.....My point was to illustrate that we must engage students in different ways, give feedback in different ways, and allow students different types of reflection.  I assumed that these three elements were there, as if they were the oxygen and water in my metaphor.

The reason that one cannot assume this, however, is because these (unlike oxygen and water) are unfortunately NOT always there.  In fact, I would argue that right now these three elements should be on the endangered list in most classrooms.

Engagement - walk around the hallways of a school once and look inside.  In a high percentage of the classrooms you will see students sitting in rows of desks writing down irrelevant information as the teacher lectures them about all of the "stuff they know".  Sit and Get.  You will likely see kids fidgeting, sleeping, and looking very bored (and I don't blame them).  

Feedback - in my opinion, the feedback that is given in schools is a JOKE.  Most classrooms involve giving letters, percentages, and points.  What do these really tell a student?  Grades are not feedback.  Grades are measures of compliance.  School, which should be the ultimate place for learning, would ideally have a culture in which everyone is trying to learn as much as they can.  The purpose for being there would certainly be "TOO LEARN".  This is not the case.  Questions such as "how many points do I need to get an A?"..... "Is this going to be graded?"........"Is this going to be on the test?" are not students asking for feedback to their learning.....they are students playing a gigantic game called school that we have unfortunately trained them to play.  Students deserve REAL FEEDBACK.  They deserve discussions, one-on-one conversations, and personalized reports.

Reflection - Most students, especially ones with high GPA's will never take any risks in school.  We have created a culture that is afraid to fail....because that may mean that they receive a poor grade which they cannot recover from.  I don't blame them.  It isn't there fault.  This culture, however, is nothing like the real-world and certainly doesn't create innovative and confident students who are ready to take on the challenges of the real world.  Instead of an emphasis on memorization, we should be emphasizing the PROCESS.  In order to learn from the process....what worked and what didn't work, students need to REFLECT.  Success is accomplished by the formula of.....try, fail, adjust, try again, fail again, adjust again, try again, fail again, adjust again, try again, fail again, adjust again....... and then hopefully succeed.  We need to teach students how to reflect upon their learning, their insight, and their experiences in order to educate them.

In conclusion, John Fritzky has the correct answer.  My answer is pertinent in a fantasy world, and will be the next step, but right now is NOT a good time to assume that education has the basic level needs being met.  In most instances, it does not.  In way too many classrooms, education is suffocating.  Education is drying up and dehydrating.  We are operating under an outdated model that has not been changed for over 125 years.  My vote goes to John.

Thank you John for reminding us to consider the fundamental needs that are required for education to take place.  I wish that this would serve as a wake up call to many, but unfortunately most teachers and principals who need that memo are probably not connected via technology.  Maybe we need to start more "in school" discussions.  Now it is time for everyone to start doing CPR to resuscitate education.  Then, and only then, will personalizing education and differentiating make sense.  Then, and only then, will students be receiving the education they deserve.  Ready.  Set.  Go.

Shame on me.  I assumed.....and you know what they say about assuming!

Oliver Schinkten
Education Reform Leader least trying hard to be one!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Teaching Compassion: We Were Watching You

Teaching Compassion:  We Were Watching You

Three of the biggest influences in my life are my dad, mom, and sister.  We have always been there for each other and have believed in one another.  If there is one thing that I have learned in the past four years of raising my own children, it is that I need to say THANK YOU to my parents more often!  Although raising children is probably the most rewarding experience in my life, it can be very stressful at times!
My dad, sister, and I (apparently learning to shave!)

When I was growing up, my dad was always passionate about doing nice things for people who were less fortunate.  This included people dealing with disease, injuries, unemployment, lack of money, etc...  My dad took part in donating to many charities and trying to nice things for people around him.  He would always talk to my sister and I about understanding things from other people's perspectives.  He constantly had us thinking about how other people felt.  Now, reflecting back on my life, I am so glad that I was taught this very important perspective early on.  It has helped me to understand much of the inequality and struggle in the world and to feel a social obligation to help.  

One of the coolest things that my dad would always do, is to find a couple families that were really struggling around Christmas time.  He would then spend a fairly large amount of money on really nice presents for the kids in the family (and often the adults).  He would wrap them up and put them in a bag and deliver them to their house at a time when nobody was there.  The strangest thing is that he would never tell anybody about this.  My sister and I witnessed it several times, because we were naturally with him, but it wasn't something he boasted about or even spoke to other people about.  A couple years after moving out of the house, I asked if he had still done this.  He said that he had.  Even after we left, he continued to do this for families, now with nobody ever knowing that he did it.  I understand that a "selfish" motive can be traced back to anything, and that he probably received some self-satisfaction for helping others from this, but these random acts of kindness, along with many others were never meant to "brand himself".  They were never meant to show that he was doing his "duty" or fulfilling an obligation.  They were never to brag and show others how nice he was.  Nobody ever knew he was doing it.  He really didn't talk to my sister and I much about it.

Dad.  We were watching, though.  Whether it as intentional or not, you helped my sister and I develop a strong passion to help others and put ourselves in other people's perspectives and that may be the greatest gift I ever received in my life.  I am certain that I was not born with this compassion or empathy, but I learned it from you!  This is the reason that I stand so strong on my commitment to improving education:

1.  I genuinely want to help every student that is sitting in school receiving an irrelevant education with an opportunity to take ownership in their learning, become empowered, and change the world.

2.  I know that compassion can be learned.  You proved it to me.  I have now tried to instill this in many students and believe, with all my heart, that I have been successful.  I have been paying it forward and plan to continue with all of my might.

My dad and I at a Packer game at Lambeau Field

Education Reform - how does this story relate to education reform?

I am extremely passionate about education reform and trying to help make school a more relevant experience for students.  I believe that we need to take emphasis off of the rote memorization of facts and place a higher emphasis on 21st Century Skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, & creativity) and on technology.  Right now I feel that our education system is failing to prepare students for the real world.

I also believe, PASSIONATELY, that we need to educate students to be PEOPLE.  I am so tired of hearing college and career readiness as if we are the minor leagues for the Universities.  What about preparing students for life?  Instead of placing such a strong emphasis on college & career readiness, what about taking some time to get students ready for facing the quickly changing world in front of them with regard to relationships, friendships, stress, becoming self advocates at the store, doctor, or conversations they will be in?  What about preparing them to be home-owners, parents, spouses, and members of the community?  The statistics are getting scary.  The divorce rate, the dropout rate, the teen suicide rates, the unemployed numbers seem to point to a society of people who are not prepared to deal with real life.

As I continue to push hard for education reform, one thing that I believe strongly in, is teaching integrity, character, and compassion.  I believe in finding the time for students to find their passion and ways in which they can use this to help make a positive impact and change the world.  In doing so, we teach compassion.  I have heard the argument over and over that compassion and integrity cannot be taught,   I DISAGREE.  My dad helped me to realize that compassion and integrity can most definitely be learned.

First of all, the current generation of students is one of the most incredible generations of students ever, regarding compassion.  Study after study has found this generation to be very thoughtful and compassionate and to believe that they and the community around them has a social obligation to "do good".  Two years ago I co-founded a high school program called Communities in which we had students for three hours, teaching them science, social studies, literacy, and leadership.  They were engaged in hands-on, real-life, relevant projects that they worked on with community experts, within the community, in order to make the community a better place.  When we empowered students to make a difference, they became highly engaged in their learning.  They took ownership in their own learning and development.  They became passionate about making a difference in the world.  I watched as these experiences fueled students to want to learn more, help more, and be part of changing the world.  

Sitting these students down in rows, lecturing to them as they take notes, having them do worksheets, make Styrofoam ball models, follow the recipes of canned labs, read material they strongly dislike, and take standardized tests as their assessments, is catastrophic and should be stopped.  There is a generation of students eager to learn, eager to help people, eager to become engaged and change the world.  We cannot waste their valuable time in an outdated education system that is not willing to change.  It is selfish, it is irresponsible, and it is unethical.  Help stop this.  Please. 

Call me crazy, but I do feel that if you agree with me, that you have a moral obligation to do something about it.  To sit back and not take action makes you an accomplice in one of the biggest crimes of the 21st Century.

In the meantime, I recommend that you read some blogs from some very compassionate educators that can undoubtedly make anyone a better person.  I believe that every time I read one of their posts I become a better person.  Check out:

There are so many more, that I hate to stop here.  I will write about more in future posts.  In the meantime, help the next generation change the world.  They need your help.  They deserve it!

Oliver Schinkten
Education Reform Leader least trying hard to be one!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Gift of ComPassion

The Gift of Compassion

Compassion goes a long way to bring people together in ways that break down borders, barriers, hearts of stone and steel. True compassion is a feeling that one has for another person, circumstance or situation. It is genuine care and concern. It is being sensitive and tender and it brings out the best in humanity.

Compassion is not something we hoard up or save for a rainy day when the world has gone awry. Compassion is a daily way of living. It is seeing each person as unique, never seen before individuals, honoring their journey and their story.  

believe in me.jpg

Compassion says I SEE YOU.

It doesn’t just mean that I see you with my eyes, but it means, I see you and your spirit with my heart.  It is saying to the universe, open the eyes of my heart so that I can see this person better that I might serve them well.

Compassion says I BELIEVE IN YOU.

It doesn’t just mean when the students are telling me stories during our morning meeting or in the hallway, but it means that I believe in you, in your gifts and talents that I know are in you. I will do my best throughout the year to not only sow seeds into your learning journey and into your life that are unique to you, but to also help you grow and when the time comes for harvest, your storehouse will be full because you will know that to me, you mattered.  I think you can do it. My greatest task is to give you amazing opportunities to show the world what you are made of!


It doesn’t mean I am here for me. I am here for you. I am here to help you find the tools you will need to do what you want to do. It means I am here to make sure that even your basic needs are met if that is what I need to do. It means that I choose to go above and beyond. Whether that is putting your hair in a fancy hairdo when you come to school with your hairbrush and clips, or finding resources for you when your house burnt down or knowing that you are a huge fan of superheroes and by golly, I found a game at a garage sale and thought of you.  It means that when you are crying because your grandma is sick during our math time together, I will stop and listen and I will even give you a hug and ask you if it is okay with you if I pray for you in my heart. Compassion is the way I say your name and honor you and your learning. It is the way I respect you and your spirit when issues arise.

In the end, it is important to live a life consumed with compassion: to see them, to believe in them and to give of yourself for the greater good. It is the open mind and the generous spirit that will bring the greatest change. A quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi is this:  “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

Your time to say YES, is now it is up to you to do something.

Kimberly Hurd Horst, Education Professional
Isanti, MN United States of America

I am so honored to have one of my favorite educators and bloggers, Kimberly Hurd Horst, guest post on the ComPassion Based Learning blog. Kimberly is one of the most compassionate people I have connected with via social media and someone that I look up to for inspiration and advice. For more inspiration, please check out her Seeds For Learning blog.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are You Part of This? If So, Help!

"Sometimes you have to preach to the choir in order to keep them singing"

Please see this article through to the "Call of Action"
We need to unite!!!

Education has not changed for over 100 years, but I believe we are in the midst of an EDUCATION REVOLUTION.  Joining Twitter, Google +, and other social media websites has been such a great experience for me over the past year.  I have become part of a LARGE and PASSIONATE PLN that seems dedicated to help make education:
  • More relevant
  • More 21st Century
  • More engaging
  • More about building integrity, character, and people instead of just "college & career ready" robots
  • More about learning, then points earning
  • More about the process than the end result
  • More about innovation and creativity
  • More about technology 
  • More about learning how to learn
  • Etc............

Sometimes I get so caught up in reading material from my PLN and sharing ideas with members of my PLN, that I forget that MAJOR change has not really happened yet!  This scares me because although education has "almost changed" many times, it has remained the same for way too long.  We need education reform!  All the pieces of the puzzle seem to be there.  The concepts are completely logical, but there is still resistance.  I am constantly trying to determine why there is resistance to change.  Is it because of laziness, fear of change, politics, too many uninformed educators, or simply a large number of people that disagree that this transformation is necessary.  

No matter what the reason is, we need to work together as a PLN.  Is it worth preaching to the choir about these issues?  Absolutely!  Sometimes, as the quote above states, you need to preach to the choir to keep them singing.  More importantly, though, we need to share our stories, perspectives, and logical wording in order to be better equipped to have these difficult discussions with other teachers, administrators, parents, community members, etc...

ALSO, I really think that we need to unite and build a stronger case.  I am serious.  We are creating some wonderful momentum on social media, but we need this to enter the mainstream more.

I am a passionate lifelong learner and lately I have been studying SEO, or search engine optimization.  I am fascinated with all things technology and I am obsessed with trying to figure out more and more about Google.  A couple of the most important concepts in technology and business today are:

  1. SEO - Search Engine Optimization
  2. Keywords

To make a very long story short, Google (Yahoo, Bing, etc...) have web crawler programs that search the complete internet and try to create a list of the best possible resources that they can for whatever people might type into a search engine.  They want to ensure that when you type something such as "education reform" into a search engine, that you get high quality results.  Having your website, your ideas, your page come up on the first page of searches is CRITICAL!  If it isn't on the first page, it most likely will not be seen.  This is where KEYWORDS come into play.  Are you using the proper keywords?  Are you including the correct words in your articles, article titles, and in your tags?  This all leads to Search Engine Optimization which takes all of this one step further.  In SEO, there are a couple things that the search engines are really looking for:

1.  Do you write consistent high quality content
2.  Do you use proper keywords that will help you be found 
3.  How credible and connected are you?  (more on this in the CALL TO ACTION)


I really believe that we need to start helping one another more.  Besides having more conversations with other educators, parents, community members, and administrators as well as transforming our own classrooms, we need to start promoting one another.  We are not competing against each other, in fact we are on the same team.  We need to find a way to have our articles about logical school improvement, reform, and change come up when anyone does Google searches for words such as:

1.  Education
2.  Education Reform
3.  School
4.  Learning
5.  21st Century Skills

How can you do this?  One of the most important factors in helping your SEO is by having people link your material to their websites.  The more links that you have pointing to your website, the more credible it is.  When we write posts, send tweets, create websites, etc... we should work together to share the plethora of goodness that our PLN contributes.  The result will be an increased SEO plan for our entire PLN, which will mean more exposure and visibility to more people. 

We have the momentum rolling within the social media forums, but it is time to branch out and gain more momentum so that we can push for change.  Students deserve it.

One thing you cannot do is "scam" the search engines.  They are way too brilliant for this.  If you accept an offer to pay someone to post your link on the "100 websites" they own, you will eventually be caught and punished by having your page rankings and visibility disappear.  I am not talking about any scamming.  I am talking about good old fashioned "spreading the love".  I think this will have two big advantages:

1.  We will increase our entire PLN's SEO and visibility on the internet.
2.  We will introduce people to wonderful resources they did not know existed.

I am going to conclude by leading by example.  I am 100% serious when I say the following statements, so I do not know why I do not say things like this more.  It feels good, and helps the cause.  Here I go:

***  If you do not already read everything that Jon Harper writes (vice-principal from Maryland), I highly suggest that you do.  He is a magnificent writer, with passionate and inspiring stories that make it obvious he cares more about kids than he does about test scores.  His blog is located at:  Do yourself a favor and follow him.

***  Do you follow Starr Sackstein?  If you want knowledge, work ethic, and inspiration.  Check out here blog.  I have learned more from her than I did from earning my Masters' Degree.

***  I am assuming you know about Jerry Blumengarten's (cybraryman) plethora of goodness located at:  This is his list of educational resources and websites.  It is perhaps the most valuable site on the internet for educators.  If you do not visit it frequently, begin doing so!

***  Do you follow@casas_jimmy ( on Twitter, who is +Jimmy Casas  on Google+ +Jimmy Casas on Google +?  If not, you should.  He is a phenomenal principal and a MAJOR source of inspiration and motivation.  I promise that if you follow Jimmy, you will be become a better person.  Also, check out his blog at:

*** Do you watch the Bedley Brothers education podcast?  You should.  They are two of the nicest people I have met and have a terrific, thought-provoking education video podcast with great guests.  A link to their past podcasts are is  Otherwise, follow them on Twitter @BedleyBros ( to find out about upcoming shows.

***  Have you read "Teach Like A Pirate" by Dave Burgess (@burgess_dave)?  I am assuming that everyone has, but if by chance you are one of the last 100 educators to read it, check him out on  Sometimes he dresses strangely, but he is an awesome source of passion, creativity, and rapport-building.

Order this book now if you have not already:

Do you know about stars like:
Joy Kirr:
Crystal Labbe: Miss Humblebee Academy -
Walter Duncan: or

I could literally include over 100 more sensational people in my PLN that have influence me and made me a better educator and a better person.  I will include more throughout my posts, tweets, etc...  It only helps our message grow, which leads to change, which leads to better education.

I WANT TO HELP!  Please let me know when you have great material I can help promote.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do.  It has become a moral imperative for me to help assist change in education!

Oliver Schinkten

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Disney Effect -Jon Harper

The following is a guest post by my favorite blogger on the internet, Jon Harper (@jonharper70bd on Twitter).  Jon is a vice-principal in Maryland.  If you do not already follow Jon's blog on a regular basis, please consider it, as you will not be disappointed.  Jon's stories and reflections provide many thought-provoking questions and a ton of inspiration!  

Jon's Blog is located at:
Bailey & Derek's Daddy - My Thoughts on Education and Leadership:

The Disney Effect

I've come to the realization that Disney may, in some ways, be hurting our kids.
How dare you?
That's blasphemy!
Before you have me arrested, let me explain.
Many of our children, mine included, spend a lot of time watching The Disney Channel and movies produced by Disney. And they are amazing! They are funny. They are engaging. They teach us life lessons. But what they don't do is mirror real life.
And I think that can be dangerous. Especially when kids have been on the Disney drip for many years.
Herein I think lies the problem. Like almost all good television shows or movies, Disney always starts off with a problem. Then there is some struggle-time, and finally the problem is solved. Now, Disney has its characters go through some difficult times. Simba losing his father in Lion King, Marlin searching for his son in Finding Nemo and most recently Anna and her sister Elsa disconnecting for a period of time.
But it always works out!
While I realize that this is meant to inspire kids and teach them to never give up, I believe it may in fact be having the opposite effect.
What are kids to think when they strive for something, like all Disney characters, but yet fall short? They are failures? They can’t reach their dreams? That only Disney has the power to make dreams come true?
Disney Junior’s signature song is in fact;

I worry that our kids are growing up scared to take chances. Scared to make mistakes.
As Oliver Schinkten wrote in his piece 3 Quote Reflections-Topic: Failure:

“If you never fail, you have failed.”

I am not suggesting that Disney all of the sudden start making deep, dark and depressing television shows and movies. And I don’t want our kids to grow up thinking, like in video games; everything in life can be solved by always hitting the reset button. To be quite honest, I don’t really know what to suggest.
Is it possible to have a balance of the two? Can some shows and some movies have main characters that don’t always win, that are not always successful? Would anyone watch them? Or would kids return to the happy endings to get their next “hit” of success?

We have created kids that are so scared to make a mistake that they don’t even reach anymore. Or if they do reach it is not with any attempt to succeed. They reach with T-Rex arms so that when they fail it was as if they had no chance to begin with.

Furthermore, this upcoming generation has shown in surveys that they feel it is their duty to do "social good" and contribute meaningfully to society. But are they confident enough and do they feel empowered enough to take the next step?  This is where we must step in. We must let them know that they might not always get what they reach for. And that’s okay because eventually they will, and it will empower others to do the same.

As much as we want kids to think of others first and perform selfless acts of generosity, we must realize that this will not occur until they are able to believe in themselves. Right now many kids do not believe in themselves because they continue to use television and movies as their measuring sticks. They realize that they will never measure up to these standards. So they stop even trying. It is our job to remind them that what they are watching is fiction. It is our job to let them know that it is okay to fail and that when they do we will be right there to give them a hand up.
If we can begin to help students feel better about themselves they will in turn be able to dream big. Our kids will stop singing Disney’s, “When You Wish Upon A Star” and will start belting Coldplay’s, “Cause you’re a sky, cause you’re a sky full of stars.And when they do they will include others in their dreams.

When this happens, and it will, we will have a front row seat to possibly the most compassionate students the world has ever seen!  

-Jon Harper

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Coolest Thing I Have Ever Seen.

The Coolest Thing I Have Ever Seen

As an educator that is passionate about education, passionate about altruism, passionate about preparing students for the real world, passionate about empowering students, and passionate about helping create a better future,  I have often wondered what I need to do to help these dreams come true.

Finally, after about 10 years, I feel that I understand how to help make this happen.

I experienced Kindergarten through High School, probably in much the same format all of us (including our grandparents) did.  I went to college and they "taught me how to teach kids".  They taught me about classroom discipline models, best practices, etc...  I earned my Masters' Degree in Education in the same manner. It all seemed simple; follow the formula that has worked forever and all will be great.  After 10 years of teaching, though, I didn't feel like all was great.

I decided to use some introspect and value my own beliefs instead of conforming to the "Status Quo".  I found that I had some strong values and beliefs that I was not acting upon:

1.  People can develop empathy.  I think that learning "perspective" is difficult.  It is tough for anyone to truly envision themselves in someone else's shoes.  I do think, however, that this is something that can be learned and developed.

2.  People can learn altruism.  I think that when someone develops empathy and a sense of perspective, they will naturally become more altruistic.  The problem, however, is that students often do not understand how to act upon their altruistic mindset.  I think it should be the schools that help them to find issues in the world and direct ways they can take action that they believe in.

3.  Kids are AWESOME.  I think that our society drastically underestimates kids.  I really think that they are more intelligent, creative, passionate, and capable than we give them credit for being.  Our only way of "measuring" this (as if it needs to be measured) is to see how good they are doing in school.  Unfortunately this is not a great reflection of their awesomeness.  Our educational system has tunnel vision.  It is concerned with one type of intelligence, which we call IQ, and cares more about conformity than compassion.

4.  If kids are awesome, we need to EMPOWER them.  Honestly.  Empower them.  I look back at the worksheets, Styrofoam models, "hypothetical" problems and projects that I have had the students do over the years.  They all end up in the garbage.  They do not help the world become a better place.  They do not empower students to be altruistic "game-changers".  Why can't we let our students use their passions, skills, talents, creativity, and drive to change the world during the school day?  If we would adopt this philosophy, I guarantee we would see an enormous amount of positive change in the world including innovation, cures to things we cannot figure out, and a brighter future.

5.  I am not an expert in everything that students are passionate about.  OH NO!!!! A couple years back it hit me that I am not even an expert in the subjects I am teaching.  My main topic is Life Science or Biology.  I teach every unit in this and, essentially, I am "jack of all trades..... master of none".  There are real experts out there that dedicate their life work to a much more focused area of study.  I started to wonder whether I was an expert in anything.  .......I am.

6.  I am an expert in Learning.  I am an expert in caring about students futures.  I am a LIFELONG LEARNER.  I think it is possible I like learning as much as anyone on the planet.  I do not claim to know everything (or even very much for that matter), but I love to learn new things.  

7.  I need to teach students to LEARN.  Aha.  I don't need to teach students biology.  In fact the fine details about the Kreb's Cycle, mitosis, and phospholipid bilayers will not have any impact on about 99.99% of the students' lives.  If I can help them LEARN HOW TO LEARN and how to access a plethora of information via the internet, I will essentially have taught them EVERYTHING (including Biology).

8.  I need to stop being the SAGE on the STAGE.  I cannot sit and stand in front of these kids every day and tell them what they should think is important, the style they should learn in, the information I know and why I know it, etc....  

9.  I need to be the GUIDE by THEIR SIDE.  They do not need a dictator.  Many of them do not need a strong commanding leader.  They need a new type of leader.  They need someone that will:  
Sit by their side and help them to learn anything and everything they want to learn.  
Help them brainstorm ways to learn better.
Help them brainstorm ways they can apply their learning
Lobby for them.
Bring in experts for them to connect with
Find ways for them to get out into the community
Get them "hands-on" experience
Inspire them to be passionate
Inspire them to be compassionate
Inspire them to be Lifelong Learners
Inspire them to be ALTRUISTIC CITIZENS

10.  I need to TRUST students more.  Help them develop integrity.  Help them change the world.

What do you think?  What do you believe?  Search inside yourself.  What do you value?  How can you incorporate this into making education more effective and the world a better place?

I titled this post "The Coolest Thing That I Have Ever Seen" because over the past two years, I have seen this all in action.  I have seen children change the world, during the school day.  I have been part of a program that has partnered with over 100 community partners and provide opportunities for our students.

The coolest project that I have seen develop is the ChangeXChange.

Over the years I have had many students that wanted to go ABOVE & BEYOND, but school never provided those opportunities for them.  I, unfortunately, will admit that we didn't seem to concerned about them because they had a "98%" in our class (whatever that means).....and they were not a distraction.

This year I had a couple students approach me about their desire to CHANGE THE WORLD.  They had the opportunity to be altruistic leaders in some projects in our program, but they wanted to do more.  They told me that they believe there are millions of students around the world that want to do the same, but do not have the opportunity or the attention to do so.  They wanted to unite and create a group that would give these students a voice and empower them to change the world.

They have put in 100's of extra hours to develop a student leadership group.  They called it the ChangeXchange.  They brought to my attention that with the improvements in technology: Google Documents, Skype, Zoom, Hangouts, Gmail, Blogs, Social Media, etc......that there are no borders or boundaries to students connecting.  The work that these students, Danielle and Lauren, have put in, and their unselfish desire to help other people and change the world, has inspired me to be a better person and to truly believe that if given autonomy & guidance, students can change the world!

These students have created social media accounts, a blog,website, etc. & want to put their dream in action. They want to unite student leaders from around the world, collaborate with them, change the world with them, and help them be recognized for their AWESOMENESS.

Now they need these members to unite.  They already have students from several states.  They also have students form Canada, and Hong Kong that have united.  Their goal is NOT a simple one.  They want to unite thousands of students around the world that wants to change the world.

That is outrageous.
They are only kids.
That is crazy.
This would change the world.

I have 100% faith that they can do it.

I have 100% faith that they will do it.

My job.......  be the "guide by the side".  Let them lead.  Clear obstacles from their path.  Help connect them with more students, teachers, leaders, change-agents, experts.

Your job.  Please, please, please..... help these students change the world.  They do not want the credit for starting it....they just want the dream to happen.  Can you introduce motivated students to this opportunity, can you provide expertise, can you help break down walls and clear obstacles, can you offer advice, can you give feedback.  

The group is currently looking for 9th - 11th grade students who want to go above and beyond and help change the world.  The hope is that this group will then add middle school students (and hopefully elementary school students) who they can mentor and collaborate with.

There are no obligations for students that join.  It is not meant to be and added stress as we know everyone is busy.  It is a stress-free way for students to connect, share their stories, share their ideas, ask for help, and collaborate to change the world.

If you know of a good candidate, want to help out, or want to check it out..... visit:

Twitter = @21xchange
Facebook =


Oliver Schinkten
"I Love Learning"

Friday, April 25, 2014

Rethink Rules


Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something.   

                                                                                                - Thomas Edison

Rules! Rules! Rules!  Personally I do not like rules.  I feel that they are a weak authoritarian method of demanding compliance.  This, in my opinion, should be the opposite purpose of "school".  I believe that we will accomplish a lot more if we have discussions with our students and explain the "expectations" that we have for our classroom, our community, our integrity.  I believe that students should be included in the conversation about expectations.  They should have the right to give suggestions.  More importantly, they should understand why these expectations exist.  If a teacher wants to have a "RULE" in their classroom about something, they should explain to the students why that rule is important.  I do not think that "because I said so" is a logical reason for the enforcement of a rule.  If a teacher does not allow cell phones in their classroom, that is fine (sort of), as long as there is a thought out logical reason why this is the situation.  The students may have counterarguments, which if given in a safe environment and done respectfully, they should be able to express.  In the end, the decision is the teacher's, because they have responsibility for the class and should have given a great explanation as to the reasoning for the rule.

I allow cell phones in my classroom.  I understand that there are negatives to cell phones, but I want students to figure out how to avoid these negatives.  I have had many times in the past couple years in which students have been texting while I, or another student, was engaged in a discussion with the class.  Every time I have kindly asked them to put their phone away, and said:

"The reason you do not text while someone is talking isn't because IT IS A do not text while someone is talking because IT IS RUDE!"

We are teaching kids.  There are many times in which they fully understand that something is not appropriate, but sometimes I think it is the "rules" that bring out the bad behaviors.

I read a study in the book INFLUENCE by Robert Cialdini (which is one of the best books I have ever read).  In the book they tell the story of a daycare that was continuously having customers that would be late in picking up their children.  They were supposed to get them by 5:00, but many people would often be late.  The day care brainstormed some solutions and decided to make a RULE.  They said that if you pick up your child late, there would be an additional FEE that you would have to pay.  This way, they figured that people would realize they will lose money if they are late and will stop from being late.  NOPE.  The opposite happened.  More people were late.  Why?  The reasoning, which has been tested in other situations, is that this situation gave them a very clear "punishment" for being late.  Now, they had to pay a fee, which made everything between the daycare and the parent "Okay" again.  When parents had this option, they did not have to feel guilty about letting "real people" down by not following the expectations.  When they were late, there was no guilty conscience, they were dealt with according to the rules.

Students are making the same decisions.  What if I do text.  For Mr. Jones that might be bad because he will take it away.  For Mr.Thompson that might be okay, because he will just ask us to put it away again (for the 50th time) and that isn't that big of a deal.  If you have rules, with consequences, expect people to weigh the pros and cons and decide whether or not to do it.  Maybe if you make the punishments bad enough (or the rewards big enough) students will all comply.....but what happens when these rules are not in place in the real world.  In the real world you can carry a cell phone, go to the bathroom when you need to, wear a hat, etc....  I hear so many older people say that young adults and kids have "no respect" these days. If not at home, where would they have learned this respect?

Allow students to have integrity.  Explain to students the importance of integrity and honesty.  Hang up a poster that says:

If you have integrity, nothing else matters.  If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters.

Have weekly discussions about the importance of integrity and "doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do".  Explain to students that when they are disrespectful, dishonest, or unethical, they lost integrity and that will not play out very well in the real world.
It takes a while, but if you plant the right seeds, they grow into beautiful trees.

Again, I have had many times that students have been disrespectful.  I have had students text while I was talking, show up late for class too often, abuse bathroom privileges, etc.... but these have provided countless teachable moments for me to talk with these people about integrity, trust, and respect.  In my opinion, these are the most important lessons and topics that we can teach students (even more important than mitosis, the Calvin Cycle, the Pythagorean theorem, the geography of Canada, and Grapes of Wrath).  Not every student will comply, but hopefully it starts to sink in.  It is unfortunate that we have to go through such important times and development without the most important asset of all:  Wisdom.  By allowing students to fail, adjust, fail, adjust, fail, adjust.....we are helping them develop that necessary wisdom in a low-risk and controlled environment.  Over time they will learn about why "fair is not always equal" and why it is important to develop and sustain honesty and integrity.

Maybe they should add honesty and integrity and character as "standards" in our schools before they disappear.  

Said the teacher, ironically, right after complaining to another teacher that students have no integrity these days and that our school does not have enough technology.

"...knowledge without integrity, is dangerous and dreadful."
-Samuel Johnson


Oliver Schinkten
Twitter:  @schink10
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