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  • Elliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF "Are you with me now?" 9.03.21

Excerpt from Doug Stowe’s new book – The Wisdom of Our Hands – Crafting a Life “We see stuff and want it if it promises to make things easy for us or give us faster, more accurate work and require less effort and thought. We like smart tools that alleviate the need to become smart ourselves. This is certainly true of our digital age. We love smart programs and smart devices, failing to note that we become less smart and more dependent on what lies outside our own mental grasp.”

Doug’s notion of becoming less smart has now invaded baseball. An umpire behind the plate is now calling out the balls and strikes delivered to his earpiece with a robot making the calls. The controversy in baseball and beyond is huge. Already too many don’t trust the judgments of people and want to rely on robots and algorithms to make difficult choices. This applies to medicine, law, education, and more. The IBPLC is putting the judgment of teachers and students back into the equation.

As the article points out: “But what you’re measuring matters. Accuracy is not the same thing as enjoyment. We watch baseball to kill time, not to maximize it.”


The topic of our Wednesday meeting was how to mesh all of our work closer together in CA and beyond. Project InSight and Harbor Freight Fellows are now part of the Navigator Community of B-Unbound. Wherever anyone from these initiatives goes, we are presenting each other’s work. Next week, Mark Mitton is joining for a conversation on: what Social Impact Bonds are doing and how they are changing the education landscape. Let me know if you want to join. My call with Joe Youcha from Building To Teach connected HFF to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and their pre-apprenticeship programs from Portland, ME to Alexandria, VA as well as in the Midwest in Minneapolis/ST Paul to Milwaukee. Given these past few weeks of raging storms it becomes very apparent how needed skilled-trades people will be in recovery efforts from climate change be it from floods or fires. This has not gone by unnoticed by our efforts in figuring out how to elevate the trades.


BPLiving Take Off

Isary and Andrea have done great work getting the word out about BPLiving. Here’s part of an email from Kristy Glen at Union.

“During the first week of school (all half days), our students participated in hour long rotations. One of those rotations was an introduction to BP Living, and by the end of the hour, they were given a hard copy of the "Change in Me" doc to choose/create a goal for themselves. We are covering a common wall with those goals for everyone to see, connect, and reflect. I'm super excited to kick off the Sept Measure and challenges next week.”


Can we measure what matters? This past weekend KSDS in San Diego celebrated what would have been Charlie Parker’s 101St birthday with a full weekend venue of the brilliance of Charlie Parker’s music and anecdotes. One story from Dizzy Gillespie about Charlie Parker had Norman Granz starting a session telling the small ensemble, “You can do anything you want to do but not anything you’ve already done.” I love this saying for all of BPL as a way to stay fresh. B-Unbound is a great example. In many ways, it is Big Picture without a school. A story that Joe Youcha told me about Charlie Parker was on Parker’s tardiness. It turns out that a younger drummer Philly Joe Jones showed up late for a session, something that Jones never did but this time Parker was on time and reprimanded Jones for coming late. Jones responded, “You always show up late.” Parker went to Jones’ drum set and tapped out a very difficult rhythm on the snare. Then simultaneously, added another equally difficult rhythm on the tom-tom and finally, another on the bass drum playing all three rhythms at the same time. He looked at Jones and said, “When you can do that, you can come late too!” We could spend hours discussing Leadership Jazz. One point of this story is that it is so difficult to assess just how good someone really is. In trying to capture what matters through our assessments, how do we not lose the richness and spontaneity of the moment? This quote from William James sets up what this issue continues to be for all of us. "There is in the living act of perception always something that glimmers and twinkles and will not be caught, and for which reflection comes too late.”William James This week on a call with Anne Stanton, Executive Director of Linked Learning, she raised assessment issues we face in schools. How do you measure? What measures do you use? When do you measure? In some simplistic as well as in some complicated ways we have tackled this with ImBlaze when we get mentors to weigh-in in real-time at the workplace. The IBPLC has also gone further than anything I’ve seen to set real world standards with students driving the work. One of the many things I keep coming back to is that in order to assess well our assessments must be as high in quality as what we are assessing? This is a difficult challenge. One way to do high quality assessment is in song. For decades, I’ve listened to Aaron Neville cover Randy Newman’s song Louisiana 1927. The song had a resurgence when Aaron Neville performed it 16 years ago at the Relief Concert for Katrina. If you take a listen, you will hear and feel the history of what a hurricane can do and there’s no way your eyes won’t swell. Putting idea to song and playing it is a key way to assess. It puts the language, heart and soul together in one place, all at once. For me, Louisiana 1927 is surely the song I can’t stop hearing this week and as William James states just words can’t capture the assessment enough but Aaron Neville’s singing certainly raises the bar. Here it is Louisiana 1927. Louisiana 1927 What Has Happened Down Here Is The Wind Have Changed Clouds Roll In From The North And It Started To Rain Rained Real Hard And Rained For A Real Long Time Six Feet Of Water In The Streets Of Evangeline The River Rose All Day The River Rose All Night Some People Got Lost In The Flood Some People Got Away Alright The River Have Busted Through Cleared Down To Plaquemines Six Feet Of Water In The Streets Of Evangelne Louisiana, Louisiana They're Tryin' To Wash Us Away They're Tryin' To Wash Us Away Louisiana, Louisiana They're Tryin' To Wash Us Away They're Tryin' To Wash Us Away President Coolidge Came Down In A Railroad Train With A Little Fat Man With A Note-Pad In His Hand The President Say, "Little Fat Man Isn't It A Shame What The River Has Done. Be well!


Elliot Washor

Co-founder of Big Picture Learning

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