ThinkThankThunk

Dealing with the fear of being a boring teacher.

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A Legislative Limerick

There once was a midwestern state With school funding up for debate the teachers all feared for their jobs and got weird while innovation was pushed off the plate.

deep field
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These Misconceptions Are Keeping School in the 1960’s

I have to admit that I’m livid right now. Not at the so-called education professionals that constantly call into question the validity of Iowa BIG despite having no experience doing anything other than academia. No. I’m angry because the system of schools is based on fear—fear from parents that without the repetitive yet ineffective experience of…

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Why I Have a Great Boss

The following letter was sent by my boss, Associate Superintendent Trace Pickering to all 1,200 teachers in my school district. This is how leaders start transformative conversations: They make their position clear, they explain “what they do all day,” and they make it really clear that challenging tacit assumptions is everyone’s job. This letter is…

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The Things Iowa BIG Wonders

I’ve been reading a lot of human evolution and sociology books and papers in order to increase the base of fundamental research for some of the emergent design principals behind BIG. A few assumptions that we make have always sat well with me, but they have always seemed a bit too because-we-think-so: Questions of community size…

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mind blown
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Time, Space, and Assessment

In the words of my fellow Iowa BIG faculty, “We are no longer bound by time and space.” For me, this has always been true, but it’s finally been honored as a part of my work day! I’d like to take some time to unpack what may be the most ridiculous comment I’ve ever believed…

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Iowa BIG is Change Today

I’m going to see Seth Godin speak this afternoon at Iowa City’s Entrefest, and I have to admit that I feel inspired to be a change agent today; it’s been hard to maintain that lately. Running Iowa BIG has sapped nearly every ounce of energy I’ve been able to cleave from Lucky Charms and coffee…

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I Have to Take a Second Job to Support my Teaching Habit: Thanks #ialegis

I am the headmaster of Iowa BIG, one of the most progressive public school programs in Iowa and in the Nation. We were featured speakers at SXSW and at the PioneerBasecamp Policy Summit in DC, in just the last month. I make the salary of every other 7th-year teacher in my district, with some added…

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Just to be clear, Teaching Math is a Tire Fire Right Now

When a student comes to me and says she can’t concentrate on her projects because of how she’s doing in another one of her classes, I tend to feel a violent ambivalence. When someone is asked to prove that two trigonometric expressions are equal by using arcane identities, especially when this someone is a barely…

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Mu of Zero

What happens when you get to the bottom of a slippery slope? You end up attempting to optimize a system that has no high point. It began simply: someone, somewhere, said that they knew a few things that they were sure everyone needed to know, probably on East Coast around 1910. The list grew exponentially….

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That Study Never Happened

She picked back up flippantly, as if she hadn’t known that I was a physics teacher, “…and then we did this thing, you know, with like a, turning balance thing, and I have to use some equation, and, oh, I’m screwed, something with period or time.” I immediately flew into whiteboard mode, “Like this?!” I drew…

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