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  • Elliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF "Are you with me now?" 04.1.22

My photos are moving from the Hollywood Squares of Zoomland to Face to Face and that’s a sign of change. Every picture tells a story.

Here’s Yuri Cavero from one of our schools in Peru who was visiting NYC and on short notice Jeff Palladino graciously agreed to host him at Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom School. Hosting visitors is certainly time and labor intensive, but it is some of the most rewarding PD and eventful experiences there are for staff and students. At a site visit anything can happen at any moment. You notice things differently. You are doing and reflecting at the same time – a different ‘zone of assessing.’ How can you measure all that is going on at a visit that matters to everyone involved? You can’t quantify it but the richness is there. It certainly makes an ordinary day feel extraordinary. It certainly makes you feel the juice is worth the squeeze. Visits like this one reminds everyone how special and important our work really is and how visits grow, stretch us and lead to enduring relationships.

That’s me in the front row center with my ukulele in my right hand with some of my friends from the Deeper Learning conference. It was quite a reunion at the 8th Deeper Learning Conference. BPL was well represented doing work around ImBlaze, B-U and BPLiving. All our Deep Dives and workshop participants were engaged and wanted to move forward to do work back in their communities. The way I judge whether a workshop is successful is if what is done is taken back and used. This is certainly happening with the work done by Anthonette and David. Fingers-crossed that for the next 6 months, people will be seeing one another at conferences who they haven’t seen now in years. This was the case at Deeper Learning. It was great to have lots of 1:1 walks and talks with Ken Kaye and Deb Pariezk to name a few. Also, had lots of impromptu talks with old friends like Roman Stearns, Randy Scherer, Tony Simmons, David Ellis, Elise Burden and John Cahalin.

Here’s another photo from the conference with me and Cynthia Nambo. I hadn’t seen Cynthia in 19 years. We knew that because last time I saw Cynthia she was nursing her now 19-year-old son. Cynthia and her husband Alfredo started one of our schools in Chicago. It was a fantastic school that had the stomachs of Chicago bureaucrats in knots as they reached for bottles of Maalox to settle them down. It was a school with a 92% graduation rate. A 93% attendance rate and 92% of students being accepted to college. So, what did Chicago Pubic Schools do? Instead of creating more, they closed it because they couldn’t understand it. I could write a book about my time in Chicago and one day I will “Let it all hang out.” Child is the Father to the Man Sam Seidel did the keynote at Deeper Learning with Anjel Newmann Executive Director of AS220 in Providence and also a graduate of College Unbound. It was a great keynote for Deeper Learning because it was really about work almost completely done by youth outside of school. I loved it. During Sam’s delivery, I was quite surprised and honored at the references Sam made to our relationship and the impact it had on him. Sam made mention that I made a correction to the Rigor, Relevance and Relationships phrase when I told many a group, the phrase and the work starts with Relationships, not Rigor. Another one was when I told Sam that “Ninety percent of what they tell you, you can’t do, you can do.” Sam recently got married and I spent time with his partner Sunnana Chand, who is at TFA leading their Innovation Lab. To continue on this conference jag, next week, there is a large contingent coming to the San Diego Met from the ASU GSV Conference and at the same time another group hosted by the LEGO Foundation. This is one site visit that is taking a great deal of coordination. Andrew, Chris, Karla, Carlos, Robert and I were all part of the logistics and will be doing the facilitation along with Bo Stjerne Thomsen from LEGO. There are multiple reasons for the visit. ASU participants want to understand the bigger picture of a whole school design that has been around for decades and the LEGO group is looking at how whole school design impacts assessment through a lens of equity. “Just one more thing” Columbo On a call this morning with Dennis, he said, wait up, “I have to take care of overflowing urinals.” I’m making this reference because at the conference quite a few younger leaders came over to me and one of their gripes was doing so much detail work that they don’t have time for other things. I told them when you do that work it is a sign that you have a good community. Dennis and I always do the little things that everyone else does. The last thing I mentioned to them was a story I was told by another teacher my age in the transition years of going from the decades of the ‘60’s to the 70’s. One of his Brooklyn students wrote this: “Everyone is talking about dancing in the streets with their shoes off but who’s gonna clean-up the dog shit and the broken glass?” All of us. Notes from the field“Goes to show you don’t ever know….” Here’s an email from Pam Roy’s brother-in-law Bryan “Hope you are doing well. Wanted to relay to you a story. On my drive today I was listening to a comedy podcast on Sirius Radio with a comedians Tom Papa and Fortune Feimster They were interviewing an actress, producer…. named Lennon Parham who is married to a person named Javier Guzman. She explained her husband was in education and with Big Picture Learning. She was very complimentary and excited to explain the benefits of Big Picture Learning. Just thought I would let you know, as I am sure you are well aware, the word continues to spread in very different ways” Our meetings on the 311 CERTIFICATION are great. This week the proposal went out for this work. Our partnership with the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters and SkillSmart will make this work happen. We are all in agreement that we can get younger youth involved in pre-apprenticeship programs earlier on. The time has come for initiatives like this one and I’m glad we are part of it.


Next week, Danique and I will be meeting with NYC Office of School Health with the CEO and Assistant Commissioner for Health around BPLiving.

Today is the playful day. The Fool’s Day. Foolin’ around. Be well!


Elliot Washor

Co-Founder of Big Picture Learning

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