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April 6, 2021

Saturday… Really!? Saturday?

Asking a teacher to do anything teaching related on a Saturday is just as terrifying as being at the wrong end of a firing squad. How can we do this and expect educators to attend? These thoughts, and many others, were racing through my head as I logged off the Skype call with the team planning an upcoming Teacher2Teacher Engag(ED) Exchange Event in Washington, D.C.

But you DID come out on a cold damp winter day. You came from within the city of Washington, from Maryland, and from Virginia. You traveled down from Philadelphia… and even from Mississippi. You came!

Here’s how I started the day: “Too many times I hear people talking about thinking outside the box. But when did we stop thinking inside the box?”

I love to take current teaching vernacular and twist it around to get people thinking. It always gets my students thinking.

“I like to think of the box as my classroom, and Design Thinking puts that very thinking back into the box and into the student experience,” I said. “The box keeps us grounded in where our students are and allows us to dream of where we want to take them. Better yet, where we want them to take themselves. If we lose sight of the box, it’s easy to lose sight of our and their dreams.”

How Does Empathy Impact Learning? 

Drawing by Jamie Ewing

And so the day began. Patrick Washington of Beats, Rhymes, and Life, helped us hit the ground running with his amazing beat poetry. We soon engaged in a salon-style chat with some of the best and brightest minds in Design Thinking. I wanted to take them all home so we could sit around for hours and hours and just talk. We were running late, but no one wanted to stop. Student voice was even represented by a college freshman who felt his learning was forever changed because one of his teachers integrated Design Thinking into the classroom. Talk about empathy? Yes, please! Talk about improvisation? Yes, please! Talk about all the things we teachers REALLY do in a day? Yes siree, Bob!

It could have all stopped there, as my head was jam packed, but we were only halfway through the day. And at that point, there had not been a single mention of clock hours, PD, or what you’ll need for testing or evaluations.

The quick walk to the Paris Ballroom gave us a little breather to rest our minds, but the voices were abuzz with talk about everything that had been said so far. The grand ballroom was filled with the smell of great food — lunchtime. And from the looks of it, wine time, too! Wait… a teacher event with wine? AH… now I get the Saturday thing.

While we all gathered to eat, we were introduced to the astoundingly charming Caroline Payson, Director of Education at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. We were presented some very basic brown paper lunch bags with stuff in them. When I say stuff, that’s exactly what was in each bag: random things with no rhyme or reason. And a slip of paper with a design challenge. Plates started getting moved out of the way, bags were emptied, and talk turned to the challenge. Even the wine glasses were moved out of the way, so you know it was a good task at hand.

And then it happened: Golden Silence, that beautiful moment when teachers become students.

Saturday Design Thinking? Yes, please!

We don’t do this enough.

“Go! Move! Today is Y(our) Day!” These words, spoken by Patrick Washington, set the tone for the whole day and ignited a fire under me to jump in feet first on Monday with my class. I’m not sure which I’m more excited about: continuing with Design Thinking with my students or hearing from everyone on how they’re bringing Design Thinking back to their students, schools, and districts.

Today is OUR day to be that fire under our students!


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