A High School “Back to School Night” Speech
Presented to Parents at Louisville High School
by Rachel Thinnes on August 26, 2015
Guest Post by Rachel Thinnes
I must admit, as a parent, I hate back to school nights. I find them extremely anxiety-inducing: finding my way from class to class, keeping track of new paperwork and schedules, and the scariest part of all, listening to 7 different teachers, summarize in a nutshell everything that my less-than–stellar-student-of-a-son is expected to accomplish in the next 9 months.
Usually before I even leave the campus, I find myself texting my son with a barrage of reprimands, disguised as questions. “Where is that form I’m supposed to sign?” “Why didn’t you tell me you needed a 2 pocket folder, a 3 ring binder, a 4 color pen, a 5subject notebook?” “Have you even started that research project that’s due in 3 months?”
Once home, the nagging continues about how important this year is going to be because next year is coming and college is coming right after that, and did he do anything besides eat Top Ramen and browse the internet all night?…
Reflections & Resources from #EquityExchangeSTL
St. Louis, Missouri | July 26-31, 2015
At the end of “The Equity Exchange” in Saint Louis, participants in this week-long forum for experienced diversity practitioners and school leaders from public and private schools across the country gathered in a circle, to affirm the solidarity they’d created across their differences before heading their separate ways. Andy Abbott, Head of School at John Burroughs School, affirmed Daniel Harris’s vision for this brave space, some two years beforehand, with the wry irony and emotional transparency he’d bravely brought to his participation all week. He explained that Daniel had come to him to run this idea by him long ago — that Daniel was going to get a design team together from public and private schools across the country; that he was going to invite seasoned diversity practitioners from independent schools, and veteran public school and district leaders into dialogue about systemic educational equity; that we would recruit officials from the U.S.…
A process post and provocation
The core of what we do is create community, because
without community nothing else has any meaning.
Last week, I enjoyed a full week of dialogue and design thinking sessions with teachers in a new school leadership position, during which we had the rare opportunity, as someone once described it, “to take the time it takes to take the time” to ask deep, purposeful, and collaborative questions about the explicit commitments to deeper learning AND social justice we want to express in our middle school’s mission and vision, educational program, and learning community. I capitalize ‘AND’ because it so often seems, as I’ve frequently opined before, that many schools have frequent and important conversations about transformative curriculum, teaching practice, and assessment — and many schools engage in purposeful dialogue about diversity, inclusion, cultural competence, and public purpose – but in those schools where both conversations take place, they tend to be convened in separate rooms, scheduled at different times, and to involve different people.…
How much closer to home do these issues have to hit
before people engage as they must?
Last week I reflected on my transformative experience of the NPE conference in Chicago, and shared some vexing questions about “the racialized dynamics not only of reform, but of our growing resistance.” I drew inspiration from Jesse Hagopian and Rita Greene’s vital provocation to understand the intersections and catalyze the solidarity of the #BlackLivesMatter and #OptOut movements. As Jesse Hagopian put it bluntly and brilliantly, “we have to fight to completely redefine what the purpose of education is.” And, as he asked, “Could you imagine the power we’d have if these two movements found common cause?”
[Please read Jesse Hagopian’s post about the #BlackStudentLivesMatter session at the NPE conference, watch the video of his presentation with Rita Greene, and listen to the brilliant questions, comments, and dialogue featuring Jose Vilson, Monty Neill, Diane Ravitch, and a series of brilliant and courageous teachers of color during the Q&A that followed the session.]
Last week Jose Vilson also represented his experience of the racialized dynamics of resistance to reform in a post reflecting on the NPE conference and its impact — “Raisins Exploding in the Sun” — that you should be sure to read and to consider if you missed it.…
Reflections on the second national conference of the Network for Public Education in Chicago [NOTE: This post was followed by “NPE Engages As It Must: The Statement on #BaltimoreUprising“]
Sisters and brothers,
Don’t settle for the okey-doke.
- Karen Lewis
An unanticipated houseguest — my wife and I have named him ‘Flula’ [see inset] — will inevitably keep these reflections from being as thorough as I might like. And with that brevity will inevitably come a lack of subtlety, nuance, and detail these thoughts might well deserve.
Nevertheless: I’ve just returned from a most extraordinary gathering: the second national conference of the Network for Public Education. This year’s meeting was situated in Chicago — ironically, and no doubt purposefully, the ‘scene of the crime’ for so many dimensions of neoliberal education reform as the site of the Chicago School of Economics; a laboratory for the privatization of the public sector; the testing grounds for punitive student, teacher, and school accountability policies; and the launching pad for the careers of such influential education ‘reformers’ as our current Secretary of Education.…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: APRIL 1, 2015
Center for 22nd Century Education
to Transform Education as We Knew It
LOS ANGELES, CA., April 1, 2015 — A group of education thought leaders and venture philanthropists today launched the Center for 22nd Century Education (C22E) with a mission “to transform education as we know it into education as we knew it.” Recognizing the trajectory of prevailing neoliberal education reform in the United States — schools without buildings, students without teachers, learning without questioning, graduates without jobs, and capitalism without democracy — C22E seeks more effectively and aggressively “to reconcile the state of our nation’s school system with the theoretical prospects of our grandchildren’s children’s futures.”
A prominent education thought leader who declined to be identified, but plans to participate in C22E’s projected initial stock offering, said that “C22E is absolutely brilliant.…
Resources from #NAISAC workshop
As I wrote in a recent post, I was excited to join Gene Batiste (former NAIS VP for Equity & Justice, current E.D. of Independent Education in Washington, DC) and Rosetta Lee (teacher and professional outreach specialist from Seattle Girls’ School) to foster dialogue about “Cultural Competence as Educational-Relational Thinking: Bridging Learning and Community” at the NAIS Annual Conference. The three of us provided a brief account of the work we’ve been doing with Alison Park and Steven Jones to connect conversations about diversity, inclusion, and social justice in our learning communities to the core commitments of deeper learning in our educational programs, then shared the feedback we harvested from participants at the recent NAIS People of Color Conference on the intersections between cultural competence and “the four Cs” of deeper learning.…
Reposted from PubPriBridge.net
#PubPriBridge cofounders Peter Gow, Laura Robertson, and Chris Thinnes were grateful to be joined by SCDS Head of School Dr. Brad Weaver to facilitate a #PubPriBridge-inspired session at the Private Schools with Public Purpose conference in San Francisco.
More information about the #PSPP15 session is available here; slides outlining the framework of our presentation, and our provocations for dialogue with participants, are embedded below (or at http://bit.ly/PSPP-Pres).
- – -
You can follow Chris Thinnes on Twitter at @ChrisThinnes…
If education changed like this, learning would be
something we would not just need, but want —
and curiosity would have no limits…
– Riley W.
In a recent post, I shared how Deborah Meier’s work and a variety of recent experiences have led me to ask, “What if K-12 Education Were More Like Preschool?” and to pose a variety of related questions:
What do we know about children that we have neglected to honor in our commitments to traditional notions of academic excellence? What parts of this collective knowledge must we recapture and reintegrate? How might we draw on early learning practices to enrich students’ social, academic, and ethical development in K-12 schools in the years to come?
Shortly after that post, I was excited to learn from Dave Ostroff that he’d invited 9th grade students in the Tad Bird Honors College at All Saints Episcopal School to consider that post as a provocation for further inquiry, dialogue, and discovery about their learning — in conjunction with learning walks through the school’s early childhood learning center.…
I am excited to collaborate with two great teams in workshops at the upcoming NAIS Annual Conference in Boston. In each case, we are hoping to provoke dialogue and catalyze action in areas that matter dearly to each of us — but to learn as much from the experience and insight of participants, as we may hope to share from our own points of view.
On Friday, February 27th at 11:30 a.m. in Room 312, I will join Gene Batiste (former NAIS VP for Equity & Justice, current E.D. of Independent Education in Washington, DC) and Rosetta Lee (teacher and professional outreach specialist from Seattle Girls’ School) to foster dialogue about “Cultural Competence as Educational-Relational Thinking: Bridging Learning and Community.” The three of us will briefly represent the work we’ve been doing with Alison Park and Steven Jones to connect conversations about diversity, inclusion, and social justice in our learning communities to the core commitments of deeper learning in our educational programs, then harvest feedback from participants at the recent NAIS People of Color Conference to catalyze further dialogue among NAIS Annual Conference participants in small and highly interactive groups.…
It was an honor and a privilege to spend most of the last week at the NAIS People of Color Conference in Indianapolis — convening with members of “Call to Action” for dialogue with NAIS senior leadership, co-facilitating White affinity group sessions, co-hosting a workshop on “Cultural Competence as Educational-Relational Thinking,” co-presenting at PoCCSpeaks on “Educational-Relational Thinking and the Future of Public-Private Partnerships,” collaborating with teammates on each of these projects, and connecting with past colleagues, supportive mentors, and dear friends from across the country.
Lots of ‘co-‘ words in that last line, right? I think I learned more about the urgency, complexity, and benefit of collaboration across difference — and practiced more, and struggled more, and discovered more about it — than I have in quite some time. The conceptual framework of two of these workshops featured Rinaldi’s notion of educational-relational thinking, which rests in part on the conviction that “the interaction between cultures is not only a political issue, but above all a cultural and cognitive issue.” Recent, grim reminders in recent weeks of abject injustice entrenched in our legal system, and a national outpouring of outrage and repudiation of that injustice, confirm that the interaction between cultures extends to legal, ethical, and profoundly moral issues as well — arguably the most pressing issues of our time in history.…
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, after all, if high school
students were as deeply absorbed in their ‘work’
as five-year-olds are in their play?
– Deborah Meier
The other day, a colleague and I preparing for a conference workshop gave ourselves some time to ask ourselves a number of the 30,000-foot questions we rarely take the time to ask. I found myself fascinated by how rarely in our national dialogue about K-12 school reform – dominated by a myopic, nostalgic, and restrictive construct of “college readiness” entrenched by federal education policy and public education debate — we ever dare to pose critical questions about learning theory or teaching practice in college settings; just what K-12 schools are preparing children to accomplish in college; just what colleges are doing to attend to the demonstrated learning needs of their students; or exactly what relevance much of college learning brings to bear either on the developmental needs of young adults enrolled in college, their discovery of joy and purpose, or their fitness for engagement in a democratic society.…
I am grateful to Michael Brosnan for his invitation to contribute to the Fall 2014 issue of Independent School magazine. The following is a repost of my article as it recently appeared in print, with fantastic illustrations by Kelly Schykulski. You can find a print-friendly .pdf version here.
Citation: Thinnes, C. (2014). Educational-relational thinking and the future of public-private partnerships. Independent School, 74 (1), pp. 96-102.
and the Future of Public-Private Partnerships
We must not forget how closely the school is connected
to the society in which it is situated.
— Carla Rinaldi
For several years, our independent schools have been exploring their “public purpose” through a variety of initiatives, many of which focus on what independent schools can provide to underfunded public schools.…
Living in Dialogue | Hosted by Anthony Cody
Reimagining Education ‘Accountability':
Asking the Right Questions
Anthony Cody asserted in a recent essay that “for far too long educators have accepted the flagellations of one accountability system after another, and time has come to say ‘enough’,” and framed much of the prevailing debate about high-stakes testing and accountability policy as “a monumental distraction” and “a shell game.” The urgency of his driving question — “Do we need a new accountability system for our schools?” — got me thinking. Anthony generously invited and posted my response on Living in Dialogue:
- – -
You can follow Chris Thinnes on Twitter at @ChrisThinnes…
NOTE: Some folks may be familiar with #PubPriBridge, a twitter chat on alternating Mondays (5:30pm PT/8:30pm ET) that helps to build bridges across difference between educators in both public and independent/private schools. Further information and resources about #PubPriBridge are available at PubPriBridge.net, including archives of past chats.
Earlier this week, #PubPriBridge set aside a planned discussion on school change in order to create space for urgent conversation about social justice and our schools, following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson – and Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, John Crawford, and Eric Garner in other cities. Beforehand, #PubPriBridge co-founders Peter Gow and Laura Robertson, our colleague Theresa Collins, and I brainstormed a series of questions to invite reflection and dialogue on the topic “After #Ferguson: Fostering Honest Conversations about Justice and Injustice in Our Schools.”
After the chat, we received some feedback from folks suggesting that some of these questions might be helpful to fostering ‘live’ conversations back at school – to encourage individual reflection, to inspire discussions with colleagues, to anchor semi-structured faculty/staff meetings, or to facilitate conversations with students in class — especially for folks who may not have returned to school just yet, and who may be searching for basic ideas to foster such conversation and reflection.…
On one channel a pundit argues that the safety risk of revealing the officer’s name outweighs the public’s claims to transparency; on another, a local politician urges calm, and an open mind, as the investigations continue. One commentator explains that such investigations are more complex than we might think, and that the public ought not jump to conclusions; a reporter indicates that unconfirmed reports suggest the officer may have been injured in ‘the incident.’ One reporter suggests witnesses noticed there may have been a struggle that preceded the shooting; another wonders if the officer may have mistaken Michael Brown’s upraised arms of surrender as aggression, or his panicked retreat as resistance.
Need I mention that it’s White folks who’ve told me that I ought to think this way for now?…
It has been a while since I posted on this blog — most recently because of my commitments to the Redlands Summer Institute for Social Justice and NAIS’s “Call to Action”, but primarily since I’ve waded neck-deep into learning with new colleagues in LMU’s EdD Cohort 11. This made me think it would be a shame to disconnect my learning and sharing in this space from my inquiry and research in my doctoral studies. So I decided that, once in a while, I’ll share the kind of thinking I’ve been exploring in the Educational Leadership for Social Justice program at LMU…
The timelessness and timeliness of Antonia Darder’s (2002) exhortation in Reinventing Paulo Freire: A Pedagogy of Love is perhaps most succinctly captured in Peter McLaren’s claim that “the consolidation of neo-liberal educational policies demands not only vigorous and ongoing engagement with Freire’s work, but also a reinvention of Freire in the context of current debates” (p.…
Recently I shared the announcement that this fifteenth year at my school was my last, and my discovery of what was probably already obvious to you:
It’s the web of personal and professional relationships I’ve developed with these close colleagues in recent years — much more so than the ‘learning’ and the ‘teaching’ and the ‘leadership’ one might be tempted artificially to disaggregate from the relationships that make them possible — that I will miss the most.
Several days ago, I knew I’d be meeting with the division’s faculty for the last time in my position, and figured I probably ought to have something to say. So I wrote something down. Here are excerpts from my comments in that last meeting, right before they let me take an #OscarSelfie that will continue to make me smile in the months and years to come.…
When Alison Park, Rosetta Lee, and I realized that the theme for this year’s “Summer Institute on Leadership for Educational Justice” at the University of Redlands would be Common Core: Academic Contexts, Complex Texts, Close Reading, Assessment, and More, we realized this could be an excellent opportunity both to press an urgent case for the centrality of cultural competency in students’ literacy learning, and to dive more deeply into our team’s research and collaboration (along with Gene Batiste and Steven Jones) on the ‘Cultural Competency Toolkit’ we’re developing to share with schools. We were excited to hear today that our proposal has been accepted for presentation on July 8th.
I’ve included the details of our proposal below — not only to share our intended approach, but to invite your input with regard to any resources or perspectives you think it would be helpful for us to consider.…
In today’s surreal experiment in inclusive leadership, I tried to facilitate a meeting with teachers I’ve been supervising for several years, in order to collect and share their input with the search committee that will appoint my successor. This past Friday, you see, the teachers and the rest of our school’s community received a notice that this fifteenth year at the school will be my last. The notice explained I will be incorporating CFEE as an independent entity and serving as its Executive Director, while laying the groundwork for a variety of potential transitions in the years to come by pursuing an EdD in Educational Leadership for Social Justice at LMU.
In any case, it was a little too soon after the public revelation of this news, and therefore a little too emotionally complex for me, at least, to be particularly effective in supporting such a discussion.…
The Court ends the debate over race-sensitive
admissions policies in Michigan in a manner
that contravenes constitutional protections
long recognized in our precedents.
The problem now is, how are you going
to save yourselves?
When Proposition 209 reared its ugly head in California almost twenty years ago, threatening to end the consideration of race and ethnicity as a factor in California university admissions, I was pursuing a PhD in English at UCLA — busily researching race, ‘otherness,’ and trauma in English and American literature, and teaching introductory comp and lit classes anchored to similar themes. Without having to discuss it much we — those of us, to intimate Baldwin’s prophetic call, who were “relatively conscious” and who believed we “must, like lovers, insist on, or create, the consciousness of the others” — knew it was time to close the books and cancel classes; that enough was enough.…
Chris.Thinnes.me is the personal blog of an independent school educator and public school parent. My opinions should not be associated with any institution or organization with which I am affiliated.
SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG BY EMAIL
Popular Posts This Month
- 13 Years of Dress Rehearsal?
- “The Root, Stem, Leaves, & Fruit of American Education” [Part 3]
- What Always Seems Missing in ’21st Century Learning’ Frameworks
- White Patience, Privilege, and Michael Brown’s Murder: A Process Post
- An Open Letter to the NAIS Board re: John Chubb’s Appointment
- What if K-12 Education Were More Like Preschool?
- “All Hands on Deck:” Pub & Pri Ed Leaders in Solidarity for Systemic Equity at #EquityExchangeSTL
- “Plant the Seeds that One Day Will Grow” (Farewell Comments to Colleagues)
- Opting Out of High-Stakes Testing: Our Family’s Decision
- Center for 22nd Century Education to Transform Education as We Knew It
- “If These Two Movements Found Common Cause” (Initial Reflections on #NPEChicago #NPE2015)
- 45 Minutes, 28 Teachers, 76 Questions: Creating an Environment & Climate Conducive to Learning
- “Engagement, Respect & Reciprocity in Public-Private School Partnerships” (#EdCampLA #errppp)
- More Questions Still for the NAIS Board (#naispres)
- “The Root, Stem, Leaves, & Fruit of American Education” [Part 4]
COMPLETE INDEX OF POSTS
RECENT TWEETS FROM @ChrisThinnes
@getwhatugive Crucial and compelling Qs! *And* let's ask same Qs of higher ed's responsiveness to diversities and intersections of identity.
Thank @getwhatugive for asking these great Qs about the uncritically accepted construct of "college readiness"... https://t.co/dAvTxTJNCG
RT @bluesandstuff: Very significantly - and repeatedly, and tragically. https://t.co/oPf3UhkApI
"By putting emphasis on learning for the measurable we are actually restricting people’s potential..." @norinrad10: https://t.co/eDGcdLjzhz
"Teachers & schools need to move past our need for control... to provide stus with deeper learning opportunities..." https://t.co/ON2IXLO8xE
"Understanding the Feedback Process" from HS #idiploma student @PinyaBananas: http://t.co/g30brpclu9 (TY @boadams1) http://t.co/eoIOZpZF4G
"The goal of knowledge & the goal of service are the same; those who fail to see this are blind" Krishna HT Easwaran http://t.co/5BgobuLGzm
45 mins ago
- @getwhatugive Crucial and compelling Qs! *And* let's ask same Qs of higher ed's responsiveness to diversities and intersections of identity.
Chris Thinnes on Instagram