S2: E10: Self-Directed Education w/ Abrome (Antonio Buehler)

Abrome is a self-directed, year-long school located in Austin, Texas. With a focus on intentional community and deep dives into goals, interesting, passions, and happiness - Abrome seeks to create remarkable children without an intentional focus on college or career preparation. Instead, Abrome adopts the philosophy that students will learn through play, experimentation, and creation - students will seek out their own interests and lead their own lives.

Joining us from Abrome is Antonio Buehler - who founded the school. Antonio is heavily against the standardization of education. Before starting Abrome, Antonio worked as an admissions consultant for those seeking entry to top colleges and MBA programs, as well as a middle and high school teacher at an alternative school in Austin. Prior to that, he worked in the finance industry and the military. Furthermore, Antonio founded the Peaceful Streets Project - an organization aiming to change institutionalized criminal justice towards non-violence - and has served in a plethora of service projects.

I wanted to invite Antonio to talk about his views on self-directed education, whether or not public schools are in the best interests of students, and what, if anything, public schools can change to adopt a child-focused approach.

Antonio and I discuss the pitfalls of traditional education and the characteristics, plus benefits, of self-directed education. We also discuss the philosophical differences between progressive schools (as a term) vs. self-directed schools. Namely, progressive schools tend to have teachers who mentor and guide - and have elements of self-directed learning, but a hierarchy still exists where teachers respond to and lead students. In a self-directed school, all decisions are made by students, with teachers there to assist.

At the Human Restoration Project, we believe there are benefits to both systems. We emphasize progressive education as we see it as a natural remedy to traditional public schools, but fully support efforts to promote and build self-directed learning centers. As long as students are choosing to attend either type of school - doing what's in their best interest - children will have a fantastic experience.

S2: E9: The "Savior Complex" and Teachers

In today's discussion, Michael and I sit down to discuss the "savior complex" and how it negatively impacts educators. The "savior complex" refers to those who believe their goal in life is to "save others" and paint themselves as a near god-like figure. We iterated on it in the podcast, but we want to make sure to emphasize that we're not stating that teachers aren't important, or that they don't deserve more respect - however, we need to draw a distinctive line somewhere.

Throughout the discussion, Michael and I routinely bring up critical pedagogy as described by Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the OppressedIn this (admittedly tough) read, Freire describes how the relationships between teacher and student are flawed in traditional society. Coining the "banking model" - Freire states that students are seen as vaults ready to be filled with knowledge, rather than human beings with an array of experiences and knowledge already. This notion reinforces the issue with the "savior complex" - by teachers emphasizing their role as heroes, they may undervalue the students who should be at the center of the classroom.

We also referenced What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali many times.

S2: E8: Rebuilding Mathematics Education w/ Sunil Singh

Sunil Singh was a high school math and physics teacher for 19 years. Before he quit teaching in the classroom in 2013, he had taught everything from basic math for junior students to IB math for honors-level students. He has worked in a socioeconomically challenging environment of an inner-city school in Toronto and at the prestigious International School of Lausanne in Switzerland. His vast experience teaching math in every setting imaginable has helped him become a leader in creative math education in North America. Since 2005, he has given over 50 workshops on kindergarten to grade 12 mathematics at various locations—math conferences, faculties of education, and even the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In addition to having been a regular contributor to the New York Times “Numberplay” section, Singh works full time as a math consultant for Scolab, a digital math resource company in Montreal, Canada. As well, he travels all over North America as a speaker and promoting Family Math Nights in local communities. He is an integral component of the Global Math Project, and his ambassador designation is helping him communicate the beauty and happiness of mathematics throughout the world. He is the author of Pi of Life: The Hidden Happiness of Mathematics, and his next book, Math Recess, a co-writing endeavor with kindred math spirit, Chris Brownell, will be out in Spring 2019.

This podcast is roughly divided into two parts - the first on current issues in mathematics, the second on what change looks like and its implementation.

Sunil and I spoke about a lot that personally resonated with me. One factor I wasn't expecting were Sunil's opinions on a shift to personal finance from Algebra I and other similar shifts in "relevant math." To me, this was a no-brainer - utilize applied math skills instead of our traditional building blocks. However, Sunil noted that not only are these concepts simple - they don't necessarily reform the issues we currently have. His analogy: instead of rearranging the room of a house, implode it. This shifted my thinking on this concept. Math is much more than I give it credit for - and a math curriculum housed (partly) around justice, love, and happiness seems otherworldly. It's hard to comprehend in a culture that's so logistically focused on math - especially in the classroom. However, I believe Sunil's argument is well-stated.

Near the end of the talk, we highlighted one of the most important notions - can real change happen? How can we make a change now? We offered starting points: "find your tribe" on social media or in your building, try new things and be open to innovation, and fight. If you know what's best practice - you know the culture of your school - and you fight for change, but nothing is done even after organizing and preaching best practice? Then perhaps you're at the wrong place. Seek out a school that embraces what's best for children - a place where your voice is heard. They're out there in increasing numbers. Change in education is more than complaining, it's about taking action.

Sunil advised that all math teachers (or educators in general) watch Dan Finkle's "Five Principles of Extraordinary Math Teaching."


S2: E7: What's going on in elementary? w/ Dr. Rob Furman

Today, we're joined by Rob Furman. Dr. Rob is a progressive activist who advocates through speaking engagements, contributing for the educationalist blog of the Huffington Post, as well as writing for the Ed Tech Review. Furthermore, he is an ISTE best-selling author with his book, The Future Ready Challenge: Improve Student Outcomes in 18 Weeks. Dr. Rob is an elementary school principal at South Park Elementary Center in Pennsylvania.

The future of education is impossible to predict, and sadly most schools have reinforced more standards based on the 19th century rather than embrace new practice. What makes students ready for the future? Soft skills. Responsibility, self-direction, creativity, leadership, collaboration - all of these will be present no matter what situation they're presented with. It's not necessarily even coding that will be preparatory - most coding jobs will be replaced by advanced AI. That's not to say we shouldn't offer coding classes - however - to state this as a solution to the "future ready problem" is short-sighted.

A huge element of embracing progressive education and understand the need for change is knowing one's history. Traditional education has taken quite a route towards here, and shockingly very little has changed.

S2: E6: Let Students Love Reading Again w/ Jarred Amato (Project LIT Community)

We're delighted to be joined by Jarred Amato, founder of the Project LIT Community. Jarred is a high school English teacher at Maplewood High School in Nashville, TN. Jarred is committed to solving the issue of “book deserts” - schools and communities that lack readily-accessible literature, especially in high-poverty urban neighborhoods. In doing so, he has founded Project LIT (or Libraries in The) Community - to implement, design, form, sustain, and spread reading in his local community. Since then, Jarred has worked to spread Project LIT to other neighborhoods - reaching over 230 chapters in 38 states. You can sign up to join Jarred in Nashville on June 16th for the inaugural Project LIT Summit or connect with the organization on Twitter @ProjectLITComm.

You can seek out more information and become involved in Project LIT via their application form and promotional video.

Jarred recommends the organization/webstore FirstBook for building a classroom library, which offers educators books at incredibly low rates. For grant funding proposals, the Junior Library Guild has compiled a solid list. Furthermore, DonorsChoose is a fantastic resource for crowdsourcing resources. Building a library of great works that students want to read cannot be understated. The best way to promote literacy is not by forcing it or drilling importance - it must be discovered as worth it. To do so, allow students choice, a wide selection, and ample amounts of time to read.

At multiple points in this podcast, we mentioned the educator Kelly Gallagher. Gallagher is an expert in literacy studies and teaching, and has written a plethora of articles and books on the matter. We recommend the book, Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About ItIf you have time, consider checking it out this summer at the library - it's a fairly short, easy read on why (and how) we need to promote literacy in schools.


S2: E5: Passion and Drive w/ Dave Burgess

In this podcast, we're joined by Dave Burgess. Dave is a prolific educator who has written Teach Like a Pirate, co-written P is for Pirate, and has transformed his works into the organization Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. - which focuses on inspiring educators through motivational public speaking and workshops, as well as a publishing company of various popular education books such as The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros or Alice Keeler or Matt Miller - so on and so forth. Likely if you've been involved in a Twitter PLN or seen the education section of Barnes and Noble, you've seen an element of Dave's work.

Dave and I discuss a fundamental job of educators: inspiring students to learn. Dave is no doubt inspirational himself - constantly preaching an obviously passionate notion of delivering creative, thoughtful lessons to students. A huge question I had going into this was: how do we create passionate, inspired lessons in an outdated system? Dave and I discuss this topic at length and talk about how banding together is so important in the modern world.

Oftentimes, we fall into a rut of apathy or "slacktivism" when our passion and drive slowly dies out if confronted consistently with negativity. It's not that teachers don't care about kids - almost all teachers go into education with this goal - however, their flames have diminished after years of boring PD, top-down hierarchical standards, and silenced voices. Teachers must band together and demand change. It's easy to rant about problems - but without action this just diminishes the flame further of those who cannot see a way towards change. The more that understand the why behind their practice - those who embrace best practice and fight systemic change in a positive manner - the more that will join them. This movement is the purpose of the Human Restoration Project: we must bring humanity back to education - change the systemic issues!

It is our hope through these podcasts, our blogs, and resources that we can offer some inkling of progress towards a national (or even global) movement towards progressive education. A movement that challenges systems, inspires educators, and brings everyone together to "defeat" those who earn to make a profit or begrudgingly take the easy way out.

S2: E4: Adopting Progressive Ed. w/ Alfie Kohn

We're excited and honored to speak with renowned educator Alfie Kohn surrounding his views on progressive education and what steps educators can take to implement his ideas. We spoke about the ideology surrounding Kohn's views on grading and standardized testing, among others: its relevance to today's world and why it's needed.

Kohn has authored an extensive amount of articles on the importance of progressive practice, including his collection of works The Myth of the Spoiled Child, Feel-Bad Education, Schooling Beyond Measure, Punished by Rewards, The Homework Myth, and more. Kohn is well known for his views on eliminating competition such as grading in schools, eliminating standardized testing, emphasizing the removal of automatic (expected) rewards for positive behavior, and truly having a relevant, authentic caring system that focuses on education over content cramming.

You can find Kohn's works on his website, featuring articles, videos, blogs, audiobooks, and more (many for free!). We highly encourage any educator not familiar with Kohn's work to read his collections of works and dig deeper into his lectures on YouTube or via his website.

S2: E3: What School Could Be w/ Ted Dintersmith

Ted Dintersmith is an accomplished entrepreneur - from serving as a top venture capitalist and running an incredibly successful business, to working in our government as an analyst and representative to the United Nations - as well as being an advocate for innovative education. Dintersmith offers a profound, visionary look at changing educational practice to be applicable, relevant, and creative and is well known for co-producing and co-writing Most Likely to Succeed as well as his latest book, What School Could Be.

Dintersmith, in our view, has written a fantastic piece of work that covers all elements of - and most importantly exemplifies - progressive education with What School Could Be. You can read an extensive review on our blog. You can read more about Ted Dintersmith on his website.

If you've read the book and want to discuss more (or just to see what all the fuss is about!) check out #EdCoChat 's upcoming book talk on Twitter on May 10th at 9:30PM EDT.

Also, check out the accompanying video from What School Could Be surrounding (and entitled) The Future of Work. For more information on the exponential growth of AI (and its potential impact on education) check out AlphaGo - the story of a robot that could defeat the world's best Go players.

S2 Highlight: The Importance of Relationships w/ Monte Syrie

In this podcast, Monte Syrie joins us to talk about building relationships with our students. Monte operates a daily educational reflective blog at letschangeeducation.com, serves as an adjunct professor of education at Eastern Washington University, and is a high school English teacher and department chair at Cheney High School in Cheney, Washington.

One frustrating notion of relationship building amongst the educational community, to us, is a vivid focus on tips and tricks to make students like you. "I do this and my students love me!" Frankly, we feel that relationship building shouldn't be something one needs to read a book over - it's just being human. It's odd that we would need to second-guess the importance of connecting to another person on a human-level.

However, there's no denying that many aspects of school dehumanize us. Students are pitted against each other to become the best, and our goal is to produce students to reach "the best." Their value, by the state, is determined by a number in a short window of an outdated testing model. As teachers, we're expected to constantly display data (and the state testing standard we're utilizing) at all times. None of these norms, which are the target of the majority of PD at most schools, sound like we're teaching humans.

Instead, our school system emphasizes a prison-like system for management. Stay in line or be placed in isolation (or have to stay longer in a "learning environment"), stay quiet and still for long periods of time, listen to whatever is being told to you - even if it has no applicability, relevance, or interest to you. Restorative justice aims to solve these ailes through reflective thinking and talking to the aggressor to try to solve the root of their problems - but there's no denying that school itself lends itself to the problem.

If you have the opportunity to take the "#ShadowaStudent Challenge" (or have already) - walk through a student's shoes. You'll find that it's difficult, taxing, and oftentimes...boring. I remember going through this process and being almost asleep - not because I knew everything (in fact, I knew almost nothing outside of social studies as I'm a History major and never use much else in my life from high school), but because everything was so authoritarian and disinteresting. Listening to someone talk for hours on end, doing meaningless group work that goes nowhere, or being forced into gruelling assignments with strict due dates made me quite happy to return to being a teacher - whose profession is well-regarded as being underpaid, undervalued, and overworked.

Perhaps from empathy, you'll begin to understand why some students act out and not seek positive relationships. You're essentially forcing students to "eat their peas and carrots" when you tax them with memorization and non-relevance. Frankly, if I were to return to high school now, I'm sure that I wouldn't last long - I'd lash out. For the better (I guess?), most students aren't aware of how terrible of a position they're in. Hopefully with more educational movements, more and more students will demand a better, progressive education - to stand with progressive educators as we seek out change.


S2: E1: Experiential Learning w/ Mindy Ahrens

In this podcast, we speak to Mindy Ahrens about project-based learning. Mindy is a middle school teacher at Design 39 in San Diego. She also co-runs hackingelementary.com - a website devoted to explaining and sharing “Design Thinking” in order to transform the way we currently look at modern education, and is the author of Reading Deeply: Building Motivation and Authentic Purpose for Reading. Furthermore, Mindy operates as a project-based learning instructional designer/coach - bringing experiential learning to schools everywhere.

We want to ensure that people are not dismayed or "put off" by the idea of project-based learning as "yet another" buzzword in the education community. The Human Restoration Project defines PBL as learning by doing, with reflection thrown in. This is the same definition of experiential learning as proposed by John Dewey roughly one hundred years ago. Sadly, many teachers become disillusioned with a plethora of acronyms and buzzwords that they may not be willing to (or will not accept) new concepts. We wrote about this recently.

Elon Musk recently released a memo to the entire Tesla staff that stated:

"Don't use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software, or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don't want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla."

Often, teachers get caught up in debating what things are instead of figuring out why things are - as in, we're concerned about how our school is going to define and use PBL, instead of recognizing that PBL, at its core, is learning by doing - and it doesn't necessarily matter the specific implementation of it. That is not to say we can't debate best practice along the way - however, we need to ensure that we actually start practicing.

Experiential learning (or PBL) has only one hardlined definition to us: it is learning while doing not learning then doing. To put this into perspective, learning then doing would be giving a student a book each year over playing the piano, then expecting them after graduating to be an expert at playing piano. Instead, we should be teaching students to play piano by doing it. And of course, we can give them regular lessons along the way. PBL does not imply anything about giving everything else up. It's just that those regular lessons now have meaning as they relate to something actually done.

S1: EP4: Revitalizing the Whole Student w/ Annick Rauch

Annick Rauch joins us to talk about how to grow, maintain, and nourish our students' emotional intelligence, plus tackle potential pitfalls. We speak about Canada's school system, as well as what progressive practices school systems should embrace.

Annick Rauch is a 1st and 2nd multiage French immersion teacher at Ecole Sage Creek School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She maintains an active blog, where she speaks adamantly on new innovative practices in education, embracing the growth mindset, and making waves in educational change.

S1: E3: Promoting Literacy in Education w/ Molly Ness

Dr. Molly Ness joins us to talk about encouraging literacy in schools. What are the best practices to promote reading in and outside of the classroom? What should school reformers and progressive thinkers do to invigorate reading?

Molly Ness is a literacy expert, a reading clinician, a researcher and author, and a teacher educator. She holds a doctorate in Reading Education from the University of Virginia. Her research on reading comprehension instruction, student-generated questions, and teachers' instructional decisions has been published in national and international peer-reviewed journals. Her most recent book Think Big with Think Alouds was published in 2018 by Corwin Press. For the past twelve years, Dr. Ness has worked as a teacher educator and doctoral mentor at Fordham University in New York City. You can find her work via her website.

*Since recording this episode, we have made all of our materials free - check them out!


S1: EP1: Introduction: Things Fall Apart/the Human Restoration Project

In this episode, we introduce the point of our podcast, as well as our greater vision for education – talking about our journey towards establishing this movement and where we will go from here.

We hope you join us in a movement towards enlightening students, teachers, parents, and the greater community through progressive education.