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Elliot's TGIF (1/4/2019)

From El – “Are you with me now?” AJ Ryder

I wrote this TYBO TGIF fifteen years ago. Most of it I could have written yesterday. This TGIF goes along with my slotted time for our BPL staff meeting. There is a great deal here to absorb about how to do the work we are doing. Neither children or schools come with instruction books. For those of you who were not around Martha was our Managing Director and, in that role, ran the day to day of BPL.


When the flight is not high the fall is not heavy.” Chinese proverb

Our phone conference with the Gates Foundation made us realize that at best we still need to hit the foundation trail to raise more money to do the work we set out to do. Our design is more difficult in every aspect of the work we do than nay other one and yet the funding is not commensurate. Our work has always been at the cusp of innovation in education and will continue in that vein. The good news is that we are getting close to bringing in some funds from foundations but we still are focused on finding a ‘family friend’ ready to support Big Picture’s work. Dennis and I will be out meeting with anyone and everyone we can find. Our board meeting will be focused around fund raising and Martha has put us in touch with a group, The Development Guild that helps organizations figure out how to get the supports they need.


Nothing I do can’t be done by a ten year –old … with fifteen years of practice.” - magician Henry Blackstone, Jr.

The consulting retreat next week is about getting practice right in schools out there. Many times, it is not the expert but someone who has less experience and more patience. How do coaches work with staff and bring in staff closer to having similar experiences to the people just starting out as advisors or starting a school? Our magician friend, Henry Blackstone has tacit knowledge that is so a part of him, he may find it hard to explain exactly what he does. What is the role of the coach and how do they do support new school staff? These are some of the dilemmas we need to tackle at the coach’s retreat.


A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.” Greek Proverb

It’s always great to come together for a Big Picture retreat a couple of times a year and look at our work not in the day to day but over the long haul and into the future. Now that we are spread out so far and there are so many of us how do we make decisions? The time for some joking and fun is in order - to be both serious and playful. Martha has put together a great agenda


To do good work, one must first have good tools.” Chinese proverb

Every year when schools start and I go around, the biggest issues are political and personnel. These are two areas where we don’t spend enough time in TYBO training and they are the two that principals must deal with almost immediately. Both are very difficult to get a feel for unless you are confronted with the issues yourself. They both take lots of time away from getting the structure and the culture of the school going. What are the tools and the practice we need to put in place to get TYBO’s a better handle on these issues?


You will learn something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never know from masters.” Saint Bernard

My visit to Shenandoah was great. When I go to schools now I’m out on LTIs most of the time. I get a chance to meet 1:1 with students and staff this way. In Shenandoah, I went out with Chris in the van on his journey. Advisors at Shenandoah can make 80 mile runs on their LTI visits. Things are quite spread out. It gives everyone a chance to talk and see things you wouldn’t normally see. On the road, Chris pointed me in the direction of a group of Zonkeys. These animals are the product of a cross between a zebra and a donkey. Why this is done I haven’t a clue but there they were.

One of my first stops with Chris was Cory’s LTI at his father’s garage. This was a place where Formula One cars are built from scratch. It is a place where the tacit knowledge is handed down within a context of caring about the entire community the garage serves. It is a family business that is growing and expanding. Another student, Dustin was at PC Sense a start-up computer company. The owner of the company, Bruce and student couldn’t have been matched up any better. Their personalities and interests were in sync. In both LTI visits Chris, the advisor asked great probing questions of students and mentors and students asked some amazing questions as well that were working their way into their projects. I also went to a ranch that works with children who have cerebral palsy and other physical challenges. This is similar to the place where a number of our Met students had done their LTI’s in Rehoboth. Once again, the people and the workplace had amazing passion for what they do. There was an 80+ year old cowboy here who was the rodeo champion of the world in the 1940’s and 1950’s. What an incredible man to be around and learn about life and horses from. There was also Lanyais’ LTI at the Chamber of Commerce in Placerville. This place is the beehive of the ‘city.’ The connections to every business person, tourist and developer were amazing. The time Justine, the mentor took with our student was what we want to happen. Her time at the LTI project set up meeting showed how high her expectations were for our student beyond the walls of a school. Lanyais was excited about being there because of the responsibility and interest she has in doing this work. The variation of each student’s interests coupled with high expectations is handled through the LTI process like no other practice in education.


The commonality of all of our schools and so highly visible at Shenandoah was the staff’s corps despite. The willingness to stand up, be strong and fight. It is a place where people are willing to fight the right fight for students and how they learn.


Next week it will be great to be back in Providence. My time is completely booked with retreats and meetings. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.


Enjoy the weekend!