JTG-Continually Relevant

john taylor gatto

John Taylor Gatto, was a creative, a thinker, a visionary, and a whistle-blower who challenged us to examine our current academic paradigm.  He passed away last week at the age of 82.  His legacy and spirit live on in his works, including many books, articles, and speeches.

For this week’s class we read the thought-provoking essay titled, The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher.  Although it was originally published in 1991, the themes he discusses are still concerning 27 years later.  Why is that?  In fact, it feels like things have only gotten worse.  Additionally, why do his thoughts feel so controversial and how come so many people have a hard time discussing his points?  JTG coats his lessons in sarcasm, yet they are no easier to swallow.

His writings hit me deeply for a number of reasons, mostly related to feelings of helplessness and hopefulness, and to move out of that space, I find it helpful to dig a little deeper.  By starting to ask “why” things are the way they are, and sitting with the questions, I may be able to help move toward a solution.


Below is an intriguing, animated video where John Taylor Gatto dives deeper into the Six Purposes of Modern Schooling, which ultimately result in teachers teaching the “Six Lessons” we read about for our class.

What about you?  What questions are you sitting with after reading the article and/or watching the video?

More on JTG’s life and his work can be found on his website.


Will I be as Good as Julie Waage?

“Is she really a new principal?”  

“She seems so confident for a newbie.”

“Will I be as good as her when I first start out as an administrator of one kind or another?”

“Did she just say that she just shows up at a student’s house without announcing that she’d be coming over…to convince the family that their child is welcome back even though that child has been known to cause trouble. Wow!  That’s pretty bold. Will I be that bold?”

Those were the few questions that were running through my head as she spoke.

I’ve really learned a  lot from Julie Waage in such a short period of time.  I kept hearing the words, “vision” and “values” repeatedly as she spoke.  She took the time to get to know the history and values of the school’s community.  Her school has been around a long time and several generations have attended there as well.  Her school has long-held tradition she had come to appreciate and value. I feel like I’m starting to get an “a-ha” moment with mission, vision, values and goals.  Not only can they drive the school, they can drive you to the right school (that is, if you know what your visions and values are).

I was impressed that she met with every staff and community members of her building and  asked each one three basic questions: “Who are you? What are you greatest hopes/expectations for the next year? What are some of your fears?”  As a current teacher, I know I would’ve been thankful that someone would take the time to get to know me. I’d imagine that it would make them feel valued, respected and hopeful.

But…yes, but…all that takes time and energy.  I can see the value of taking the time to make everyone feel like they have meaning within the school.  I can see how it must make a family feel to be told that their child is welcome back and will be given a chance to improve.  I can’t help but wonder if I’d be able to accomplish as much as she has in such a short period of time.

What were your takeaways after listening to Julie Waage talk?  Did she make you feel fear that, perhaps, you may not be a good as her?  Or, did she make you feel, “Well, if she can do it, so can I?” Do share, I’d love to know what thoughts were swimming around in your head.


Know your school and the value of a question.

This week our readings explored different types of data and school measurements for the purpose of school improvement. As we really begin to delve into our module 1, I want to highlight not the obvious importance of a question, but the consequence of what an intentional question drives. In other words, a good question can yield some interesting data and maybe even some conclusions. However, a great question will yield data leading to other questions! Which begins a cycle of research, thought, conclusions and a rich picture of information.

Victoria Bernhardt’s “Multiple Measures” article highlights the intersection of four key measurements. Her examples of questions which intersect the four key measurements drive her data collection. I completely agree with her approach and think we should consider purchasing some books as a resources for our class.

I have been working closely with a group at my school to develop a new mission and vision. We use guiding questions to lead us into conversation. We’ve been using a timeline framework to drive our questions.

What our school looks like in 2021? Questions for the Future (May 28, 2021)

 What does outstanding, “signature” student success and engagement look and sound like?

 What does outstanding, “signature” instruction and interaction look and sound like?

 How are students being prepared for their life long journey?

In what ways do adults collaborate, think and learn together?

  How do our programs and communities engage and intersect?

What dispositions (behaviors/values) stand out around the school?

Questions for how we got to the Future (from Sept. 2018- May 2021)

What specifically was developed or changed to achieve signature student success?

What specifically was developed or changed to achieve signature instruction and engagement?

What specifically was developed or changed to achieve our most effective collaboration?

How did it improve…What practices and areas of focus did we prioritize?

What does our school look like today (September 14, 2018).

What makes us good?

What initiatives, programs and designs drive our practice?

What are our students greatest strengths and attributes?

What are our most instructional practices?

How does our community thrive?

These questions lead us to more authentic/specific questions pertaining to our program. Which in turn lead to some really great conversations about our mission and vision work. I have shared a short comics called  A day at the park It’s a cute comic discussing the value of questions vs answers. In a fluid field like education, where the only constant is change, it is my belief that we must always be questioning every aspect of our system, community and self to try to improve.



Deliberately Developmental?

In reading the last 2 articles for this week (Class 5: 9/27/18) one thing that kept coming up for me is a wonder about the importance of staff culture and context to really make change happen via continuous improvement from data analysis. To me it seems like culture would be really important and that key characteristics of that culture would need to include transparency, trust and collaboration (along with vision and action)

  • transparency: we’ve got to put it all out there, no un-discuss-ables, or elephants in the room
  • trust: so that we are each really open to see what is there in the data even about ourselves and are open to critique without getting defensive.
  • collaboration: because the work of change and improvement is too big to do alone.
  • (vision: we have to know why we’re digging in deep and doing hard work)
  • (action: we have to do something based on the analysis, otherwise trust will be eroded)

This reminded me of a book I read recently called An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Development Organization.  (You can find a shorter summary here.) This book speaks to the benefits of an organization-wide orientation toward continuous improvement of each individual–as person and professional–as a core element of the work of the organization.  Not an add-on or a nice-to-have but inseparable from the “real” work of the organization.

My biggest wonder so far about our orientation or mindsets as leaders is whether our focus should be on the development of staff as our primary mission in service of a shared vision of positive outcomes for students.  Is that the norm with principals? How would that cascade throughout the system? Would it lead to achievement of the vision? Spoiler alert: The book above suggests yes.  I’m really curious about what it would look like in schools.


Know Yourself

Greetings Jeffco 11!

Last week, we delved into several educational philosophies and school leadership models.  After letting ALL of the information you have gathered about your own philosophy and your own leadership model sit with you for a few days, how are you feeling now?  Do you have a better understanding of your beliefs? Does something fester within you that you can’t quite wrap your head around? Have you formulated more questions about this process?

Please share your thoughts with the team!

Beyond Test Scores

By coincidence, right now I’m reading the book Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality. Its by Jack Schneider who wrote What to know before using school ratings tools from real estate companies  which we were asked to read for this week (Class 5, 9/27/18).  I though you might like to see what the model he recommends for creating a better measure of school quality.  IMG_3864

I’m still working my way through it. I’m just getting into the part where he talks about how to actually collect this data, which is key!

Clinical Practice: Your best hopes. Your worst fears.

Hi All,

As part of my co-facilitation this past week, I was going to do an activity where we discuss our hopes and fears around our clinical practice. Our blog is a great place for us to share this information, too. During this process, be vulnerable in sharing your hopes and fears.  Also, post supportive feedback to others in the forms of resources, personal insight, positive thoughts and suggestions, or anything else!

I’ll go first…

My hope is simply that I am successful and that I learn many lessons along the way.

My worst fear is coming up with my project.  I put A LOT of pressure on myself to come up with ideas that are ground breaking and will change the world of education as we know it.  So far, I’ve got nothing!

Now your turn!


Clinical Practice…how do we set ourselves up for success?

Good day JeffCo 11,

During this week’s class we discussed the articles that referenced the 10,000 hours it takes to be a master of ones craft (or not). One thing that came to mind as I was reading the articles was this…what if those 10,000 hours were spent developing the wrong habits? Coming from a baseball background, I kept thinking about a player in the batting cage doing 10,000 swings. Maybe those first 500-1000 swings are just getting used to the weight of the bat and learning some basic mechanics of hitting. These swings may be very cookie cutter and robotic and not have a lot personalized traits to them. As the player starts to develop their own swing (leadership style/calling), they may put in 1000, 2000, 5000 swings in a manner that feels right and comfortable to them only to find out that their swing can’t hit a curve ball (a likely scenario/hardship they will have to mediate has escaped their scrutiny until now). Now how many more swings do they have to make to not only unlearn their previous swing and remove all the bad habits, but to also now develop a new swing that can fix what they were missing previously?

As we start our clinical practice journey I have the following questions:

How can we best design our clinical practice hours to ready us for as many scenarios/situations as possible?

Is there a way we can minimize having to go back and “relearn” or is it an inevitable part of our leadership journey that we have to find our way by making mistakes so that we can learn from those mistakes?

How do we effectively work with our mentors to set up a relationship where it is okay to fail in a low-stakes situation before we have to do it on our own as an administrator?