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  • Elliot Washor

Elliot's TGIF "Are you with me now?" 8.27.21

The Nose Knows – Jimmy Durante – “Your data sheet is not going to smell it.”

This weekend, I got together with friends I have known for 69 years. Yep. We knew one another before we could talk. As it turned out, mostly everyone was interested in what I was up to but frankly, what they were doing was just as interesting. Two of these friends were brothers, 14 months apart. One was a trauma surgeon at Daytona Hospital and now has a practice working specifically on wounds that are hard to heal. The other went into commercial refrigeration and knows this work inside and out from fixing and repairing to the business.

It appears that what they do for a living couldn’t be further apart but what does this work have in common? What does healing wounds and fixing refrigerators and freezers have in common? It turns out quite a bit. When I started talking to Steve about his medical practice and how he learned about trauma surgery and healing wounds, he revealed that he is a practitioner first and foremost. He’s not a researcher or a policymaker and is proud that he has a practice. He’s hands-on. Reviewing computer data is secondary. Taking The History of a patient and doing a thorough physical exam comes first. He told me that being a practitioner, “it is better to be thorough than brilliant.” A line I’m going to spend time thinking about. An interesting thing, when his brother Robbie overheard him talk about being thorough, he chimed in and agreed, the same is true in his line of work. But, that wasn’t the big revelation. The big eye-opener came when Steve told me he smells the wounds as part of the diagnosis and treatments. Different infections smell differently. Once again Robbie chimed in, “I smell the oil from the compressor.” They both agreed this important diagnosis is learned in the field, not in a book or classroom. You can’t smell this stuff in a book. It takes time to get good at it and know what the smells mean and what to do next. The next day, I went on a few calls with Jerry and Hector, buddies who do commercial refrigeration. When people see Jerry or Hector come into their store to fix their freezers for a moment, they are the happiest people on the planet. It is rare to watch grown-ups cry over ice cream but when your entire stock is in danger of melting because the freezer’s compressor goes on the fritz, the tears start rolling. At these moments, both Jerry and Hector are invaluable and are treated in the highest regard. They turn those tears into tears of joy. It is sad to say that in all of this work, there aren’t people learning the ropes or the tricks of the trades this way anymore, and furthermore, it is hard to find people going into these fields because they just don’t know about them. Charlie Mojo always reminds us, “If our instruments were only as good as our eyes….”


Big Picture Highline Thanks to Jeff Petty, I got invited to the ‘first day back’ for staff at Big Picture Highline (near Seattle). I have a long history with this school from its start-up to many graduations to the state level role it has and still plays around developing student assessment systems. Jeff asked a few of us from BPL to try and be at the first day because they chose to adopt the mission of BPL as their own. I made it to the meeting with Danique who started out with: Did you say, we are activists? Who are activists? A darn good prompt. After our short spot, the staff broke up into face-to-face groups to do a text-based discussion. We joined online. I was ‘moved’ to the next room and overheard someone say, “I’ll put Elliot here on the table.” What can I say?


Every year we do a very comprehensive evaluation of Harbor Freight Fellows. This year, Scott Boldt has produced an incredible evaluation of this work. The focus was on the mentor/Fellow relationship and what gives Fellows, workers, teachers meaning in their lives. The report has lit reviews, stories and integrated the qualitative and quantitative data. This is the kind of paper that needs to get out in the world in loads of ways. Getting the people who can make the splash to move it forward is key here. I’ll be sharing the eval here when it is ready next week. In the coming year, HFF will be focused on how industry, schools, foundations and youth development organizations share costs for HFF as well as take on the program and the assessments around interest, practice, relationships or to use another frame: agency, moving toward mastery and connections. While in Brooklyn, I met up with Casey live and in-person for the first time. We took a long walk around the Greenpoint neighborhood looking for Pierce to make a cameo but she was nowhere to be found. On our walk Casey mentioned how we should be making connections across BPL work that is happening in different parts of the country that is very similar. This prompted our Wednesday Meeting to be about how LALTL and HTH can share. We also spent time moving BPLiving and B-Unbound closer together around a major issue now highlighted by COVID – how we continue to develop work around both prevention and well-being/mental health. Two great conversations that led to actual changes in how we work. Finally, after telling I everyone on Wednesday that I also met up with Mark Mitton in BKLYN, they wanted to follow-up on the conversation Mark had with me about Social Impact Bonds. We will invite Mark to our next meeting.


Today David shared all this data generated by ImBlaze through a platform called Tableau. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I was blown away by the data generated by this program. It has implications for all of our work in HFF, Project InSight, and B-Unbound. Lots going on with BPLiving. We have a meeting coming up today with the Hewlett Foundation about making all materials that students are generating part of their Open Ed Resources. We are probably the only group where the students are generating the content and making the changes in their schools, families and communities using prevention as way to have healthy lifestyles. Yesterday, Isary, Andrew Coburn, Angel, a student in Andrew’s Advisory and I presented to The Met Providence Advisors. Hands down there was great interest in using advisory, learning plans and Who Am I Projects through BPLiving. Once again, health and well-being are civil rights. Institutions knowingly and unknowingly design a school day that is counterproductive to doing well mentally, physically and emotionally and yet, EXPECTATIONS are about academic high performance. What’s wrong with this picture? Be Well


Elliot Washor

Co-founder of Big Picture Learning

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