Sadly, a major reason I didn’t get this blog started sooner was that I couldn’t decide on a name. Even though it goes against Rule #1 of Sam Shah’s advice on how to enter the teacher blog-o-sphere, I’ve thought about dozens of names and I’ve loved exactly 0 of them. While that was admittedly not the best use of my time, thinking through the various contenders helped me understand what I wanted to do, and discussing that now should actually offer decent insight into who I am, what I believe in, what this blog is about, and so on. So, here are the contenders:
Nothing Works – an expression I picked up recently from Henri Piccioto at a workshop. It’s a caution against the belief in silver bullets (or at least that was my interpretation of it). A teacher can get great results using groupwork or lecturing or using computers or Khan Academy or anything really. That doesn’t mean any of these things “work” per say. Or that they “don’t work.” There are no silver bullets, and searching for things that “work” can blind us to what we can learn from different students and educators and their choices. While I like the framing, I think it sounds a little too cynical to be a permanent blog title.
Silicon Valley Classroom or The Lean Classroom – The charter organization I work for has every element of a Silicon Valley startup. We embrace technology in all its glory, and we have started saying things like “Yes AND, the user feedback/data indicate that it’s time to iterate/ideate/pivot/persevere on X component of our minimum viable product.” The Lean Startup by Eric Reis – a Silicon Valley staple – is practically required reading. I sip the Kool-Aid on this stuff about 90% of the time; most of the Lean Startup principles make sense and seem to compose a disciplined, logical approach to innovation, which is badly needed in education. I have a feeling that the application of Lean Startup principles to my classroom and school will be a frequent topic in this blog. But not the only topic. For that reason, I don’t want the “Silicon Valley approach to education” to define my blog.
[Insert Technology Here] – I love technology, both in my everyday life and in my teaching practice. Since my first year of teaching, I’ve been seeking out ways to use technology in the classroom to improve the learning outcomes for my students. But, similar to the above, although technology and its use in my school will come up a lot, technology is not the main thrust of the blog.
Mistakes: Expected, Respected, Inspected – a phrase that was popular in my teacher education program at Stanford. I believe in it, I get my kids to believe in it, and I believe that the underlying growth mindset is perhaps the single most important thing I can teach my kids. I just don’t love it as the name of a blog.
The Limit Does Not Exist – my work as a teacher has come under an extraordinary set of circumstances, including but not limited to: the truly amazing and inspiring people I work with, the technological resources my school has given teachers and students, the partnerships with other organizations and institutions (like Khan Academy and Stanford), and likely the most important circumstances: when and where I’m teaching (in Silicon Valley, at a time when the nation is finally interested in if/how the Internet will revolutionize education). Problems that have plagued educators for decades are perhaps now solvable; limitations and constraints to the classroom are beginning to disappear. With the experience, opportunity and circumstances I have knocking on my classroom door, I hope that I will make the most of it and break the mold. The limit does not exist. Bonus points for the math pun. Couldn’t decide whether the Mean Girls reference was bonus points or negative points, but it does add a dash of comedy to what will otherwise be a blog about mostly un-comedic things, and that I appreciate. So I’m going with it for now! Likely to change.
7/22/14 update: Changing the name, as I suspected I might. No one could find me on Google, and the blog’s purpose was a tad opaque. Now I hope it’s crystal clear.