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  • Elliot Washor

Elliot Washor: “Are you with me now?” 2.26.21

Students are pulling teachers along

~Kamilah Adviser at Beyond the Box a BPL school in Barbados

BPLiving is taking off. The social media is blasting out. Students are driving all of the content and talking across schools with one another. The work is real and they are passionate about it. In the coming weeks testimonials from students about BPLiving will be coming out. This week Odyssey students did another great webinar. Maria’s Advisory Survey on Odyssey’s wellness revealed something I didn’t expect. The biggest issue for students was getting enough sleep. Sleep is a big one. These students are on to something. In a Ted Talk I listened to this week that Sonn brought to my attention, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel pointed out that “Sleep deprivation is an epidemic. We need 8-10 hours of sleep a night.” How are you doing?

In his TGIF Paul Hudak who works with the students at Odyssey on their BPLiving webinar shared a way that every student while at their homes could bring the school into the home. What a great way to develop life long ways of having fun and staying healthy. Below is what they are doing.

“This next week we will be sampling microgreens that all 140 10th-graders planted at home in their bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, balconies, etc. I'm guessing for my next TGIF I should have some pretty hilarious screenshots of the looks on students faces from sampling broccoli, sunflower, cress, cilantro and radish sprouts!"

Kurt Holland, one of our Harbor Freight Fellows coordinators has been extremely busy this year making all sorts of connections to all sorts of ports up and down both coasts and on rivers in between. By next year, we should have a real good set of places where Harbor Freight Fellows will be in full implementation mode doing all sorts of trades on the waterfront. From Seattle down to Los Angeles and San Diego and from Providence to Charleston and more, Kurt has covered the waterfront.

A video of one of our Harbor Freight Fellows was featured in the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools newsletter. Over the past few weeks, our communications teams have started working together to create a buzz around our collective work.

My talk with HF Fellow James from Oakland left me with a great line. When Charlie and I asked James if, he would think about being a mentor to someone in the future, his answer was only if, he really had the understanding of the work and can impart it. James is taking mentoring very seriously. As seriously as it should be taken.

Phrase of the week: Systematic unpreparedness - “I don’t understand how so many people are without power for so long,” said Diana Gomez.

It’s one thing to be unprepared for a situation you have no control over. It is quite another to be unprepared when you believe you have prepared. From the BP pipeline to Katrina to COVID to the Texas Blackout, we seem to think and give the illusion that we are prepared but time again we are proven wrong. In schools there are so many protocols and regulations but look what happened with COVID.

How do we get young people out to solve problems and manage uncertainty? What tools and disciplines do they need to work in a world filled with uncertainty? That’s the kind of places for learning we need so we have systematic preparedness. Prevention sure beats intervention and preparation for intervention sure beats dealing with the aftermath.

Case in point:

There are 34,576 private schools in the United States, serving 5.7 million PK-12 students. Private schools account for 25 percent of the nation's schools and enroll 10 percent of all PK-12 students. Many of these schools remained open during COVID. At private schools, students socialized, moved, ate and learned in a place. And, these children and these schools can easily opt out of standardized state testing. But, in public schools the federal government has mandated testing. To his credit, out-going NYC Chancellor Carranza took a bold stand and told parents they could opt out. His reasoning was he did not want to further traumatize students and their parents. Instead of standardized summative testing, former Chancellor Carranza proposed formative testing that teachers could easily get a reading and a real feel for where their students are at and how they can work with them. This is one big issue worth watching as an indicator of the next four years.

"But life has a way of making the foreseeable that which never happens and the unforeseeable that which your life becomes.” Everett Hitch

At the same time I was writing this TGIF, a new Chancellor was named. Meisha Ross Porter is now the new Chancellor of NYC. She is someone many of us know quite well. Meisha was a Deeper Learning Equity Fellow. The conditions of COVID make being head of the largest school district in the US, a tough spot to be in but Meisha is a lifelong NYC educator with the chops to do the work in a very difficult leadership position. She is the first Black woman and the first Chancellor in a long time to be selected from within the NYC system. We know her commitment to her community and her politics well. I’m glad she was the choice. Much congratulations.

Talk Story with Kapua - Namahana School

Kapua Chandler and I have been working together along with many others on all aspects of Namahana School. I’ve invited Kapua to do a webinar for all interested this Wednesday at 10 Pacific to begin to understand how BPL gets translated into a Hawaiian context. Let me know if you can be there.


Gearing up for talks this week to prep for announcing B-Unbound and getting the pilot going. More to come….

College Unbound

Went to College Unbound’s graduation today. One of my son Michael’s close friends, Nic Xifaras and musician buddies was in the graduation class. It was great to be part of. Also, saw BPL board member Melanie Tavares in the audience. The graduates had loads to say about how CU changed their lives.

Be Well!


Elliot Washor

Co-founder of Big Picture Learning

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