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  • Elliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF "Are you with me now?" 7.23.21

“Are you with me now?” AJ Ryder

This year, there was a nice pace to Big Bang online and offline. Thanks to Sonn’s sensational frontline work and the team for doing such incredible work in the many flubs and foibles that Zoom can create. One thing that helped this year, was putting out the schedule with direct links of the events to our personal calendars. That took so much of the pressure off about what was going on. There was a nice balance to Advisory time, Plenaries and Leaving to Learn’s. For me, the best part of Big Bang was being with Sonn, Carlos, Karla, Brenna, David, Anthonette on a daily basis and seeing Isary and Melissa drop-by to join us.

We got together for dinner every night and did our Leaving to Learn at Marin Luther King Promenade where the Say Their Names outdoor exhibit is taking place.

What a difference being in-person makes. You can’t replace it. I’m very much looking forward to next year when we are all get together.

At Big Bang:

  • Loved the Puzzle Pieces discussion with Danique and Timothy on Hip Hop Ed.

  • My 1:1’s were great. I met people I didn’t know with great ideas for doing new things in and outside of schools.

  • Loved seeing the 2nd floor outdoor garden space and Live celebration at Fannie Lou. I remember what it looked like 25+ years ago when Fannie Lou first opened.

As I mentioned before Big Bang started in last week’s TGIF with: We are always at a crossroads in our work. Do we go as we know or do we know as we go? We make the road by walking. What are our next steps on the road after Big Bang? Personally, there’s lots of follow-up around B-Unbound, BPLiving Harbor Freight Fellows, The IBPLC, Project InSight, the k-8 work and The thriving international community.

Are you WITH a student or is a student WITH you? Both are student-centered. Are they both student-driven?

Maddie, a Harbor Freight Fellow and recent graduate of the Met in Providence spoke during Student Highlight and HFFI times. At one talk, she was asked about how she moves through the world and makes these incredible connections to her next steps, her response was always say, “YES!” This response reminded me of another Harbor Freight Fellow we will film this Fall, Ashley Magnus. When asked a similar question about work, she responded, “Always make yourself indispensable.”

These responses from both Maddie and Ashley go along with Maddie telling everyone that one thing she learned by being on board ships is the expression Semper Gumby - “Always be Flexible.” Things happen and you have to muddle through.

In her talk Maddie also referenced first attending Classical, the admissions school in Providence and leaving for many reasons including the lack of hands-on experience. This reminded me that so many parents and students act, as if the school that is the admissions school is the right school for students who pass the admissions test. Well, it wasn’t for Maddie and it isn’t for almost all the others. It is just that this way of thinking about power and prestige for both students and parents is an extremely false narrative of who is gifted, talented and smart? At Big Picture, we created schools and advisories that are heterogeneously grouped but when districts use sorting mechanisms that create schools that are for Gifted and Talented and IB what happens? Do districts really think that a written test can measure who is smart? That’s crazy talk. With traditional measures, you can’t measure what matters. Does this sort of sorting create inequities or resolve them?


Two days ago, the new Kennedy Center Honorees in the Arts were chosen. Once again, I was reminded that our book, Leaving To Learn starts out at this Kennedy Center gala because so many of the awardees did not make it through school. This year Awardees Berry Gordy – left high school, Joni Mitchell finished a semester at college and barely finished high school, Beth Midler did 3 three semesters at college and Justino Diaz went to a conservatory. Schools have a difficult time holding students who are the most talented and ready to show it. This is the reason for Big Picture Schools and B-Unbound to engage through interests and meaning.


In the midst of Big Bang, there is always lots of other things happening. Here’s a few things from the week.

I spoke with Kimberly Camp originally from Camden, NJ and now in Collingswood, NJ the next town over, Kimberly makes incredible dolls – soft dolls, ceramic, porcelain, clay all sorts of dolls but that not really or only what she does. Her dolls are powerful one-of-a-kind dolls that evoke culture, science, and self. Kimberly and I discussed working with our students in Camden and Phillie. She is amazing. Another part of her work has been as curator and ED at museums. In one article, Kimberly discusses the idea of “nepantla” from a Nahuatl word that means to be in the middle of something, in the thick of it, and has come to stand for a kind of in-betweenness.

I’m always going to make the case for the crafts as legitimate meaningful work in our schools. You can teach so much of everything through craft. We are scheduling a follow-up meeting with some of our NJ people.

I was on a call with Viv and Tony Smith re: THE IBPLC and New Measures. Tony’s work in innovation is “elimination of bias and creation of opportunity.”

A really nice article about the accomplishments of Odyssey STEM Academy in Ed Week:

Marsha-Gail, Brian and I continued on the production of the lyric video for Whack! and the creation a website and on-going database around Whack! as well.

Talks continue with Stephen Small and ISSI on BPLiving in the Bay Area and beyond.

Word came back that the work of our students at The Met and a conversation I was part of with Brian re: Providence School Resource Officers concluded in their elimination with funds going towards social workers in schools. This is a conversation twenty+ years in.

I was a on Zoom with Paula Daniels on the Power for Procurement to avoid background deals and nepotism around the billions of dollars spent by schools, districts and agencies Example: $13 billion budget for food in schools. How do we increase local purchasing that includes fair labor? What are the negative impacts to health, environment and livelihood by not serving nutritious and sustainable foods?

Next week, Anthonette and I are up in San Clemente with Pam setting up B-Unbound there. Then off to Pittsburgh and Newport, RI for more set ups.

Be Well!


Elliot Washor Co-founder of Big Picture Learning

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1 Comment

Doug Stowe
Doug Stowe
Jul 28, 2021

Congratulations to all for having navigated through a difficult year.

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