Season 2, Episode 1: Mindy Ahrens

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Michael Payne 0:09

Hey, welcome back to Things Fall Apart podcast here at the Human Restoration Project. I am Michael.

Chris McNutt 0:16

And I'm Chris.

Michael Payne 0:17

Actually, Chris going to talk about the changes we've recently made.

Chris McNutt 0:20

Sure, so we've decided that it probably is in our best interest, instead of walling off everything that we're doing, and not sharing it with everyone, we're going to a more NPR style model. So instead of having people pay for everything that we're doing, we want to make sure as many people as possible are able to have these resources that really do help make your classroom more student focused, and just help spread progressive education. So now we're going on a pure Patron model, which means that if you sign up on Patreon, you can get some stuff early. You can get some shout outs on the podcast, you can get some nice little extra things and know that you're helping restore humanity to students, and we'll give you everything for free. We completely redesigned our website.

Michael Payne 1:03

The mission of Human Restoration Project is so important to us, the notion of reforming or revolutionizing what traditional education should be. And getting that into the hands of as many educators and administrators and parents as possible, is vastly more important than the income that it could be making. That's the purpose for that as well.

Chris McNutt 1:25

But still give us money on Patreon because we need it. Even if it's $1 a month. That's only $12 a year. I don't think that's too bad, but a lot of people do it that lets us make a lot more stuff.

Michael Payne 1:37

In the true NPR model, Human Restoration Project is made possible by viewers like you.

Chris McNutt 1:45

So a special shout out to a couple of our patrons, Matt Laughlin and Jenny Lucas, thank you so much for your support. Today we're gonna be talking about PBL. And we're going to be joined here by an expert shortly. Michael and I use PBL in our classrooms pretty much all the time because in our opinion, it dates back to john Dewey and experiential learning, and it is really one of the core education models that helps make learning student centered and authentic.

Coming up here in May, we're going to be releasing a PBL guidebook alongside and actually already released a guide to starting your own expo night or celebration of learning, as well as curating projects in your school itself. And our goal of this PBL guidebook is basically to give you everything you would possibly need to know in order to get started doing PBL without overloading you with a ton of information. So when we were out looking at different materials and the PBL world, something that we found was first off, everybody and their brother is releasing a different type of PBL resource. And it was very difficult to navigate and find one that was both aesthetically pleasing as it was easy to navigate and figure out what was going on, but also wasn't ridiculously long, over 100 pages. Our goal with this was to make something that outlines what PBL is, how you can use it, and then just give you step by step. Fill in step number one, what would you do here? Step number two, what would you do here? In order to plan and your own "PBL of a PBL" project for your students and give you a bunch of different starting points.

Michael Payne 3:24

PBL is such a buzzword, as much as it is important, I think that just calling the idea of experiential learning project or problem based, getting the learning in the hands of the kids themselves and letting them actually experience it, instead of only learning theory or what something looks when it's not in practice. It's just it's so vastly important to make the learning experiential and make it tangible for children. So it makes sense and so they can see how the application actually works. Nowadays or in traditional education. I think one of the major issues is we forget that kids can handle so much, they really can, and they can learn without us badgering them 24/7 and most teachers schools, I think don't reinforce enough and you get this mentality of, "I am the teacher, I have to know all the answers. And I have to dole out the education."

So the idea is, of course, that PBL is merely just experiential learning, but we're going to discuss it in the notion of this acronym.

Chris McNutt 4:13

Sure, whenever we are talking about this idea of PBL, we are really just referring to experiential learning because it's something that's already existed, which is just doing and then reflecting on it to learn. PBL is probably the most widespread used term for that in the modern day. However, as one of our major goals of the Human Restoration Project, we're trying to move away from using as many buzzwords as possible, because personally, I think that puts off a lot of traditional teachers that always see a new buzzword come in and see " Oh this is a cool new thing..." We actually have at the beginning of our guide, a list just to showcase this and all the different acronyms that exist to essentially promote the exact same thing. There's project based learning, problem based Learning, place based learning, which are all PBL, then you have challenge based learning and competency based learning, which are almost the exact same thing. And then there's even things - I didn't even know what these were - I looked up different acronyms, there's also inquiry based learning.

Michael Payne 5:10

Oh, sure.

Chris McNutt 5:11

There's discovery based learning - all these are the exact same thing.

Michael Payne 5:16

Even with PBL, there's practice based learning. I've heard that too, which is more rote, doing something over and over again.

Chris McNutt 5:24

The goal with these was just basically showcase that they're all actually the exact same thing.

Michael Payne 5:27

When you focus on a disconnected term for something, or you start giving them nicknames. There's a reason why, for instance, Alfie Kohn mentions it in an article regarding growth mindset, and this is not to say that growth mindset isn't an important thing, right? It's important that people understand that intelligence can be created and drawn out and made deeper.

Chris McNutt 5:52


Michael Payne 5:52

But when you obsess over terms like PBL or growth mindset, and you ask someone, "what is growth mindset mean to you?" And you start getting these weird definitions and people saying, "Well, to me what learning is is this. To me what growth mindset is... To me what PBL is this?" Well, then everything gets discombobulated. And it doesn't make sense anymore, because now you're starting to focus primarily on, I guess the idea of the term or the idea of the buzzword. And then all of a sudden, you get this really disconnected upheaval of what PBL even is anymore? What is project based learning? Truly is it... is it 10 weeks? Is it only two weeks? Does it have to be displayed? Can it not be displayed? Does it have to involve the community? Or does it have to be something that is made permanent inside of your building? And then how much instruction time is there? No instruction time? Is there some... and the whole thing gets, you said teachers get so frustrated because it's, "Oh, here we go again. You're going to make me learn your version of something when in my eyes, it could be vastly different."

Chris McNutt 6:56

I mean, you can take it a bunch of different spans which one of the things that we wanted to include in that PBL guidebook is that there's a lot of different places where you can start, and a lot of different places you can go. It almost comes across, and I sometimes concern myself with this, as too basic. Because it is a fairly basic concept. Once you start to actually plan this thing out you're like, but what would I do's whatever you would normally do in order to make this thing. It doesn't require you to go reference a book. It's just the next step of essentially the design process.

We're essentially stating all PBL is as experiential learning as defined by John "Duty"

Michael Payne 7:32


Chris McNutt 7:34

As defined by John Dewey… about, what 120 years ago, roughly?

Michael Payne 7:40


Chris McNutt 7:41

And basically that is that you learn by doing. The only thing that that would take out from the traditional model would be it's not learning, then doing. And then reflecting on what . So PBL is you learn by making something or creating something or building something or even writing something or reading something - as long as you're making something along the way. And that could be construing thought as well, it doesn't necessarily [mean] building something. Other people consider PBL, I'm gonna make, I don't know, a circuit board run a motorcycle, it doesn't necessarily matter.

It's just instead of the content all being delivered to you, you're learning the content by doing whatever it is, that content is.

Michael Payne 8:21

What we always dive back into is, I don't know all the right answers because there are so many forms of PBL like we just mentioned. So we don't know all the right answers, but we do know the wrong one is that learning that is not based on experience, and a human being's observation, and touching and feeling, and being a part of that is incorrect.

Chris McNutt 8:40

In order to define what that is not. So what PBL is not, is the project oriented approach, which is you take a bunch of notes, you learn a bunch of stuff, you take a test, and then you put together a poster board or make a painting or something based on something you already learned. The idea is the project is not the assessment. The project is the learning. Which is experiential, experiential does not mean that you learn everything and then do it later. That would be, I always think back to I was an orchestra when I was in school, and that would be like if I spent 12 years reading books on how to play a violin, and then when I graduated from high school, I picked up a violin and expected to play it. Which sadly is what we do and pretty much all, pretty much all, outside of maybe like a few science or math things or whatever, what we do in school.

Michael Payne 9:39

So today, we are joined by Mindy Ahrens. Mindy is a middle school teacher at Design 39 in San Diego. She also co-runs,, a website that is devoted to sort of explaining and sharing design thinking in order to transform the way that we currently look at modern education. And Mindy is the author of Reading Deeply: Building Motivation and Authentic Purpose for reading. Mindy, welcome to the podcast.

Chris McNutt 10:09

Mindy, you graduated from High Tech High's graduate program. Just to get a baseline definition of what we're talking about. Can you just explain how PBL may be traditionally defined in a school versus what maybe the PBL goals of High Tech High and the Deeper Learning Initiative and really what that is and how that all works?

Mindy Ahrens 10:29

Yeah, definitely. So I've actually to add something to the context here I also do a lot of training and consulting around PBL and that's helped me even define this term more. I work with PBL consulting, and what we find at my own school now, what we find out nationwide is that people still are thinking that PBL is really just a project at the end of the learning cycle. So they are separating still the skills with the doing. So for example, we're currently in a project right now at my school with fourth and fifth graders, where what we're we're actually teaching them is nothing crazy, nothing brand new. We're working with math, we're working with geometry and measurement. We are working with floor plans with backyards. But what makes it different? So this is nothing new. This is something that many teachers have done before with math, working with floor plans, using that to teach area and perimeter, volume and maybe surface area.

But what we're doing that's different that makes it a truly project based learning experience, is that we're adding real customers from the real world to this project. So the the design groups have actually had to go out. We've helped curate a number of clients for them. I have actually one client because our backyard is has nothing in it. It's just dirt and it has a lot of issues with it. Real issues how do we...? Right now it's not usable, it's just a big slope with a bunch of dirt and weeds. So again, we've collected all of these clients, families, friends of ours that have real issues in their backyard. And the students have to go out and really get to know these families get to know their needs, figure out what geography issues they might have. So we're bringing in the science, we're bringing ecosystem learning, design thinking, having to have empathy for these families. And the math having to drop war plans or backyard landscape plans for them.

So to sum up, they are learning the skills that they need through this project, not just, "let's practice perimeter and area and then go draw floor plans.” Real learning all throughout and they have a real world connection to the outside of the classroom.

Michael Payne 12:59

Yeah, that's something that Chris and I were just talking about is how, and this drives us back to the issue with buzzwords in education and how certain buzzwords tend to scare off a lot of educators when - especially at the I've been in the game for longer than 10 or 15 years, and they hear "Oh, here comes another buzzword like PBL." But I think what's important is like you've mentioned, yeah, it's project based and lots going on, but sometimes it's not just only a project that we're making experiential, but it's maybe just the audience that's bringing in an audience. And some people I think, get scared with that as well. When you think authentic audience, and people just freaked out, "oh my god, how am I gonna get the president to come listen, or something insane?" And you're thinking, Well, no, sometimes an authentic audience is just your neighbor. Like, what does their backyard look like? And I think that can help a lot of educators who maybe aren't used to the style of learning when you say, "well, let's just break it down to its experiential, so we're putting the learning and the children's hands.

And there are just some small things you can do to create that it doesn't have to be this massive thing. Maybe you just make it a co-curricular idea. Or maybe you just bring in a neat audience that can be more realistic and you're not just doing this in a vacuum. I think that's a really awesome thing to mention.

Mindy Ahrens 14:17

Something else to add to that we are a public school. We're not a charter. We're not a private school. We are a district public school, and we have a lot of rules and regulations about how we get off campus. And really for us, it's a barrier that's very, very difficult to cross. So when we talk about authentic audience, we actually are not even necessarily going to make it to their backyard. I wish we could it would make her project way better. However, we're able to Skype or Google Hangout the families, have them take us on a tour of their backyard. We're hoping we can get out there maybe on a weekend, but to charter a bus or to pay for a school bus to go out there, and so on all the necessary paperwork months ahead of time. It's just not doable for some for some schools and for us.

So remembering that an authentic audience doesn't have to mean, you're necessarily taking kids out, although that would be ideal.

Michael Payne 15:13

I mean, if you can get them there, obviously, but that really answers the why are we learning this? Why am I doing this?

Mindy Ahrens 15:18

We just introduce the customers and the kids are already - so these are fourth and fifth graders - the learners are already so engaged. They're so excited to create these backyards. And these are people that most of them know, some of them are families of the students in our class or teachers at our school. We also have one area in our school that will be designing for. So they're already bought in. They're so excited. They already have all these plans. We almost have to slow them down. Like hanging on for the ride.

Chris McNutt 15:50

Yeah, I was gonna say a lot of people argue, "Well, why would I use PBL?" Outside of just obviously you learn that content way more when it's applicable because you care about what you're learning. There's an obvious inquiry and reflection and engagement that comes with PBL. A word that you used earlier that I really like is what you gain from PBL that you would never gain from traditional coursework, which was empathy. Or just like these the soft skills that you gain from engaging with real people. Because I mean, at the end of the day, a classroom is still a place where you're expected to take a bunch of kids put them in a room together, who don't necessarily know each other, and basically get them to eat their peas and carrots, and they have to like it. And that's that's really what you're doing.

But if you can make this stuff engaging, if you can make everything actually real, you get all these awesome, I guess, human components that come along with it. And that empathy piece is really interesting and cool to me that comes out of PBL.

Mindy Ahrens 16:49

I that was actually one more thing I was going to bring up is just how, yes, the project based learning experiences are teaching the standards. Yes, we're learning math. Yes, we're learning science. We're learning how to write well and communicate. And that's actually the easy part. To be quite frank, that part is easy through this project. They've already gotten a good handle on what the state would tell us we need to teach them with geometry and measurement. Now, the hardest part of this project right now that we're struggling with and having to really think through is around collaboration.

They're in groups of four, and holy moly, having to hone their communication skills, their problem solving skills, their listening skills.

Michael Payne 17:37


Mindy Ahrens 17:38

The area we've actually focused on even more than math, because they got the math fairly quickly.

Chris McNutt 17:43

Yeah, I mean, that makes a lot of sense. Michael and I also teach at a public high school, and we do a lot of that type of learning as well. And what's shocking to us is, I mean, let little at the elementary school level, take a high school student who's never ever been exposed to real authentic group learning and expect them to communicate with each other and be empathetic towards each other. Sadly, the majority of them don't really seem to have those skills, they don't actually know how to work through a disagreement or how to fail well or understand that it's normal to not always succeed or not always get your way. Which is something that I think most people think of when they think of that, they think of someone who's in third grade, someone who's an elementary school student, they're mad because they didn't get what they wanted.

Mindy Ahrens 18:28

Some adults. I mean, a lot of adults struggle with that as well.

Michael Payne 18:34

Yeah, man. The more you think about that, so it's true, and it makes absolute sense. I think I wrote about this somewhere recently, but that idea that almost, I'd say all learning in school, especially traditional school, or the Prussian model is this. It's all individualized, even the group work in a lot of ways. It's still going to get an individual grade, right? So the group itself, all a student usually has to do is come to you and say like, "well, this group isn't doing this or my teammate, and I'm doing all the work. And I don't want to get a "C" because they're not doing it." And so as a teacher, and then the parents come in, and eventually you're like, "Okay, you get this grade, you get this grade." And so the group experience still then turns into an individualized experience.

And then as you get older, like you just mentioned, how many adults still to this day, will go to their boss or go to somebody and say, like, "the group's not working, I'm doing my part they aren't." Still having never learned that ideal sense of what it means to work with a group of people I guess.

Mindy Ahrens 19:38

Well and why would we think that we need to teach reading writing math, plus science or study skills, and not teach creative competence, communication, complex problem solving collaboration? Why would we think we don't need to teach those?. Of course, you need to teach those skills just as much as we need to teach the the typical academic standards I think.

Chris McNutt 20:00

The human restoration project, we believe that a gigantic component of the learning process is discovery, inquiry, reflection, normalizing failure, all these things that we're talking about. And all of this stuff does require a fairly ample devotion of time. And I'm sure someone who's listening is going to go, "Well, there's absolutely no way I could do everything and still be able to teach all this stuff and basically, quote unquote, "slow down." Now, I, I don't think either of us believe that, this idea of slowing down is a bad thing. I think we do need to slow down in education, we're going to quickly. However, we also don't believe that teachers need to necessarily reach every single standard. We think that you'll actually learn way more. A common thing that I talk about, I mean to my boss all the time, because this comes up every now and then. We get average test scores, but we believe that if I teach, to use a fairly high number, if we teach 50% of the standards really well, students will actually learn more than if we covered 100% of the standards not so well.

So basically, this is going to be a two fold question. Do you believe that PBL and a standards based education are consistent with one another? And the second question would be, how could you convince your peers or even yourself that PBL is best practice and would be worth cutting back on...what would be direct instruction time?

Mindy Ahrens 21:23

Well, I have to say that when I plan a project based learning experience, I do start generally with standards I start with, okay, what is the math either or language arts or writing whatever you're going for at that time. what should they be learning up this grade level? Then I take into account where are my kids? Because let's be honest, just because they're in fifth grade doesn't mean they're all at sixth grade level. That's never going to happen as much as we say, in our nation. "Let's make sure everyone's "no child left behind." And let's make sure they're all at the same level" That's human nature. You're never going to have 30 robots who are at the executive level in your class.

So I do start with you what is on the standards that would be appropriate for fitting into this project? Again and take into account where are my students? What are their needs? And I also agree that you're never going to fit in all the standards. But a friend of mine, I don't have evidence to back this up, I need to look up the study, but a friend of mine, Judy [Cara Ang], and that I teach with - close friend. She told me that she found a stat one time that if you taught every single thing on on the state standards, you would end up teaching it for 22 years. So come on - we're never going to make it - we're never going to be able to do it all anyway.

Michael Payne 22:47


Mindy Ahrens 22:48

So I do think it is a combination of using the standards and knowing that you can't cover it all. And I do use direct instruction. I don't use direct instruction a lot. But when there's something where I really just feel like, I need to talk to a small group for this little chunk of time. Maybe I'm seeing that no matter what different strategies we've tried, these five or 10 students just are not seeing the difference between area and perimeter. There might be a time where I pull those 10 kids, do a little mini lesson, and then push them back into the project. And they go back to more experiential learning.

Chris McNutt 23:28

Yeah, I think that brings up a really great point. We were talking before we called you about this idea that, we get bogged down all the time and starting PBL because we're so concerned with defining what PBL is or how to do PBL, that we forget the core principles of PBL can be vastly modified. So you can still obviously as you just said, do direct instruction. But the difference is, is that if it's during PBL, it's authentic direct instruction.

Mindy Ahrens 23:55


Chris McNutt 23:55

A lot of times teachers will be, "Okay, I didn't hit standard number 23 today, I better do a lesson for 90 minutes and just throw it all out them really quick, just to say I did it." And then if you ask the kids even a couple of weeks later, what did we talk about? They're just gonna be like...I don't know. Whereas if it was something that redirected them or taught them more about what they were currently doing, of course, they're going to know what that is because they use whatever it is that we told them. They used it in the real world.

And another important thing to recognize, I think, is this idea of defining how do you start PBL? How do you use it? As long as you understand the core principles, at the end of the day, students are going to gain a lot from it. So you said towards the beginning there you start with the standards, then you build the project around it. Personally, I start with the project then build the standards into it. So it doesn't really matter the way that you get it going, as long as students are just actually experiencing real, real consistent knowledge that they're applying.

Mindy Ahrens 24:50

I agree. And, and I think it depends. There's some times where I'll start with the gosh, there's a whole here in this learning space. Boy, we really need to think about how can we make sure they're really solid in geometry, let's say. And so I'll start with that idea to plan a project. And like you, there's other times where, gosh, there's this exciting thing going on. And let's build a project around that. And then we pull in the standard. So it can be vice versa.

Michael Payne 25:20

Something that I thought was so important that I wanted to... when you have what you said fifth grade, so any grade where it's, you're assuming that, okay, "it's first day of class, you're on fifth grade, that means you've hit every single fourth and third and second first grade standard. So I can just move on as normal." It's very absurd to think that, especially when you combine that with the idea of a grade. It's like, well, if I know for a fact that they are grades, and I know that they are all different, and that I assess them and what I'm supposed to do as a teacher, if I were to follow every single federal or state guideline is I give you a grade based on the assessment that I made about your learning over a standard. That might be an ABCD or F and then you're going to go to this next year, even if you got a D or a C, you're going to go to that next year... which really, truly should be a saying you didn't comprehend the previous year. But I'm going to pretend you did and teach it to you just the same as I would to a person who received a higher grade. Or whatever you want to call it by the way, you can say mastery or proficiency or whatever you want to call it.

Mindy Ahrens 26:23

Well, how can you even group up, let's say all of the science learning in a year and tag it with a C or tag it with an A? Or even to say even I know you guys are going towards, like mastery learning and so are we, competency based?. And how can you even - I struggle with that a little bit too, because how can you even say you've truly mastered something - just mastered multiplication? Well, that means you've mastered one digit by one digit. Does that mean you've mastered the whole entire concept of multiplication? How do you say that?

Michael Payne 26:47

You can't.

Chris McNutt 27:02

That's very interesting that you mentioned that, because Michael and I actually don't really believe in mastery learning. Even though our school does have mastery learning, we personally both don't believe in grades. And no matter how you try to twist this thing, mastery based learning, which is basically the idea that you have to, quote unquote, "be a master of something before you move on." The good thing about mastery based learning is that the idea is you can resubmit, whatever it is that you do, you can redo things in order to get your grade up. But at the end of the day, you're still getting a grade. For us, mastery just means "A" work. So you're just taking an A and putting an M instead, you're not really changing the idea of assessment.

And assessment, that is where we run into the problem. We would rather just give feedback to students and then they improve from their feedback without any knowledge of - the second thing, you add that in the second that you sort of have problems.

Michael Payne 27:52

That goes back to the idea that no one's in the same place. And if you can let us student as far as ungrading or getting rid of the idea of a letter grade even if it's a mastery idea. But instead of feedback, you then start understanding that students can actually be in charge of where they are weak. Because I don't know how many times I've taught classes, especially in the past, where you're reinforcing maybe a creating a solid thesis statement or something very generic. And that's that regard of a standard. And you could probably, least guess that 30% of the students in that classroom, don't need to know that, but you're still hitting it as if they do, as opposed to letting them say, "Hey, I do know that. Here are the places where I'm weak, and I'm going to work on these things."

And then you create this sort of idea of, well, I can't now just give grades out, I have to sort of look at just feedback in general.

Mindy Ahrens 28:44

One, so our school is going towards this and we're early in the game. So we are definitely are looking at what what other people are doing to try to find some answers. But one of our biggest challenges and I appreciate competency based in this way, is communicating to parents. So we constantly are having the question of - but is my child where they should be? How do I know where they should be? Which opens up its own can of worms. But what does that even mean where they should be?

But what I think they're also saying it's just, gosh, what do they know? What do they not know? What are the next steps? So what we've found, we've been creating something called a growth guide or a competency based, a chart where it shows... And we co assess with the students on this. And so their voice is definitely on the chart with where they think they are. We do a lot of work around looking at high quality models, and what does it mean to be competent in this skill? I don't think it's the perfect answer, but it at least helps to communicate what the standards are saying what is the skill look like in practice, what are the next steps.

So it helps the kids think about, "Okay, where can I go next?" It helps parents understand where they can go next. And I agree what you're saying that it's still, "Are you ever competent at this? Have you mastered this?" But it is a communication tool. It's been helpful in that sense.

Michael Payne 30:17

That the peer communication is really interesting and very huge. Chris actually started - and you can explain that more Chris - but he was using the conferences as a sort of template for the grade itself, because when you really think about it, too, it's, the parents should be able to say, let me see what the work my kid is doing. Let's look at it together. And then the parent can sort of gauge, "Well, here's the stuff I see. So when I'm looking at this work that's actually better than I've ever seen, or what I've seen them do so much better in the long run." I know Chris was using that. That was this this semester. Weren't you Chris?

Chris McNutt 30:53

Yeah. So basically, I just... it's very basic. I just sent a letter home at the very beginning of school year explaining that there aren't any grades outside of a check in halfway through a parent teacher conferences, and a final one at the end. And in a perfect world, there wouldn't be any at all. But in terms of the public school policy we got, we can't get away from that. So far. So two grades for a semester, and invited them to come in at parent teacher conferences, we sent multiple things home to basically evaluate their student.

And these evaluations are not turning in all of your work. And , here's all the grades that they got. And here's what they did. Instead, they have goals in terms of like being creative or developing teamwork skills or reflecting on what they're doing. And there were examples given but really, they could do whatever they wanted to in order to hit those goals. So you basically have 10 minutes to explain to your parent and to me as the instructor, essentially, how have you expressed your creativity this semester, how you expressed your communicative ability, and it what's shocking is - and it's it shouldn't be shocking - but students typically produce much better work in that fashion than they ever would if you just want to give them something to do. Because they can do essentially whatever they want. And they're doing these projects in the class, which cater to those learning goals without directly saying like, "well, the way that you're going to reflect is you're going to complete a reflection every single week, and it's gonna be doing it in this project and etc. etc."

Instead, you're just thinking about what you're doing as you're doing it, which is the whole cornerstone of experiential learning, which is reflecting on what you're doing.

Mindy Ahrens 32:33

Absolutely. We've been going the same way, putting the burden of proof, if you will, on the students, how are you going to show that you understand this? How are you going to show growth in this area, and that could be the habits of mind the so called soft skills or that could be academically as well. And what we find is that they generally go so much deeper than if we would have just given him any assessment even a performance assessment because that still have its own parameters. But if you just say show me what you understand about area and perimeter or whatever it is, or show me that you understand how to write a narrative piece. They go so far above and beyond. It's amazing.

My own daughter actually goes to High Tech High. And she's at now a junior in high school. She's been going there since she was in sixth grade. And that's something that I noticed with her. She was always what you would think of as the teachers dream, . Typical student she loves to learn, always showed up was always one of those, those kids that can easily get an A. And when we moved over to High Tech High, she realized that they weren't just going to let her stop at the A or what you would consider an A, at the top boundary of a project or an assignment. And so she learned that wherever she was, they would just keep pushing her past it. Keep opening it up to, "alright, well, how much further can you go? How much more can you revise this?" And so she had to really learn that, "Wow, there is no easy A. You just keep going and going."

And so when we open up projects and we open up assignments, and put that burden of proof on the kids, boy, they go much deeper than where we even thought they could ever go.

Chris McNutt 34:27

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Michael Payne 34:58

So as a just a high school teacher at a school that models - tries as hard as we can to model - a sort of experiential learning while still being beholden to the public standards. I think one of the most double edged sword or double edged aspects of that is how incredible the experiential learning can be where you take the classic, I hate to call them, like you've said, I guess a teacher's favorite student, which is one that is normally very compliant. They are always in attendance. they don't mind that it's compulsory. And they will give you the exact information that you require or request, but usually lack that creative, bizarre mindset. And when you get these students that have been in a traditional model where that was always the best thing in the world, and then they're at your front door their freshman year when they're 15 years old, or 14 years old, and they've just come from eight, maybe more years of that style of education. Oh man, it is so difficult to rewire their brain.

And when you start asking them how do you want to learn this? Or what do you think is important to you? And how can you answer this question? Or if they say, "I'm really bad at writing an essay." Well, what can you do to build on that strength? Or if they say, "I'm really bad at getting negative feedback." What can you do? That's like... Chris and I face this dilemma every day where students have sort of shut down, and they don't know how to respond to that. That idea of, "wait you want me to engage in the learning and you want me to like, dig into this? I can't wait to see if coming through the middle school and maybe it's starting at sixth grade would help that process. I imagine it would, I guess.

Mindy Ahrens 36:44

We had that same conversation at our school when we opened. So we're at PK, so the little guys 4 and 5 year olds, up to eighth grade, so we're a PK-8 and when we opened four years ago, we started with PK five, fifth grade, I think 5th or 6th, I can't remember which one we started with. But we had the exact same conversation when those fifth or sixth graders came in, we almost had to unschool them. We had to teach them how to think for themselves and, and be responsible for their own learning. And it was a process and I think, any age, you're saying ninth grade, any age that you make this shift, you're going to have to go back to basics. even if it's in college, I have the same conversation with college professors around freshmen coming into college and how they have to do the same thing sometimes on school them, depending on the philosophy of the professor, how to think for themselves. Well you think about college and college is, is not going to help you with your time management and help you communicate with the professor. So that you have to have those skills, a lot more progressive education skills than people think and talk about. So yeah, it is a process of going back to basics and teaching them how to, again think for themselves, communicate for themselves and take responsibility for their learning.

Chris McNutt 38:12

That makes me think of, one thing that's always made me feel a lot better about this is, a couple of months ago, I visited, I was in Chicago and I went to this Montessori school, and I was talking with the principal. And they're a PK through eight school. And essentially, I asked what happens when someone transfers into a Montessori School is experiential, it's those things, ideas, what happens when someone transfers in like seventh or eighth grade? Or their equivalent of seventh or the eighth grade? And he basically said, "well, that year's just the gross year."

Nothing really... they don't hit the same exact standards that they have, as everyone else would have the exact same grade level because they have to get used to just being able to walk around. let alone engage in any learning. So I just feel for us being ninth grade teachers at a school where, in the past everyone's transfer at ninth grade, first semester, like the first half of the year, is that gross time period where it's just have to just deal with all the issues. Putting out fires all the time. The kids are learning a lot, but it can be quite taxing.

Michael Payne 39:19

Yeah, absolutely.

Mindy Ahrens 39:20

Go slow, go slow to go fast, right?

Michael Payne 39:25

Yeah. That is very true. It's rewiring those brains and it sometimes I get really nervous that you're getting into high school and you're thinking that a lot of this learning is starting to, and I don't mean the the fact that they can't learn more, but the way that you believe learning should happen, becomes so much more ingrained when you're hitting that 14, 15, 16. But if you could hit that at that fifth grade level, where it's like, well, obviously I'd love to hit that at the first grade level early as you can as the idea of: This is what learning can look like it's up to you. Sort of thing, Letting first graders figure it out.

So to redirect this for a second, I do want to bring up your design thinking really quick while we're talking about PBL. And I'm curious, you mentioned design thinking, I know the website you have is Hacking Elementary, it seems that you mentioned quite often as the notion of, and I'm putting that in quotes, "design thinking." So I'm curious, especially for those listening. how would you define design thinking as maybe similar or different than PBL? Or in other words, if you were to define PBL, and then define design thinking, are they two different things? Or is design thinking really just a method of completing PBL?

Mindy Ahrens 40:45

Yeah, that's a great question that a lot of people are asking I think right now. I see project based learning experiences as almost an overarching umbrella. And I see design thinking as one way to structure a project based learning experience. So our school was actually built using the design thinking process. So the design thinking process starts with empathy. You go out you go into a situation you listen you ask questions you interview you watch you observe, you figure out what's going on with the with some situation So for us it was listening to the community listening to students listening to teachers that were in our local community where we are about to, to build a school and hearing what were their dreams for their for learning what is learning? What do they want learning to look like, feel like, sound like?

Then we also researched how my education needs to change now, going into the future. And we took all of that information together. We started to prototype. So our school we consider it's a large public school, but we consider it a prototype. So every year, we're getting more feedback again, listening to the community. Trying things and prototyping. So that's how we think of it with our school. Teachers use design thinking in order to plan experiences. So we are constantly again, having empathy for our students what are they saying? What do they need? What are their academic challenges? What are their social emotional challenges? How can we design experiences for the group that we have currently? And then, a third stand on this is that we teach design thinking to kids, we don't use it every time. So we don't use project based learning experiences all the time. It's adapting to what is needed at that moment. So sometimes our projects will take on the structure of design thinking. So our current one Backyard Crashers, that I was talking about the beginning of our time together.

Our Backyard Crashers is a project based learning unit with a design thinking structure. So they've had to, or they will be as we move into this project, working through the empathy step, listening to the customer, listening to their user, observing, finding out what's going on with the backyard and nature and the ecosystem, so finding out all of the information that they need, listening to their family that has the backyard and their needs. And then defining the need, designing for the user, getting feedback from the user and then redesigning, and that's the process in theory. We would love to have them go out and actually do the work from the backyard. And that's not going to be reasonable for us at this time.

So they'll be presenting the backyard plan to the families in a more formal way. So back to your question. Again, I see design thinking as just one possible inquiry structure for a project based learning unit and I know the buzz on the street right now is that design thinking is about engineering. And it's about maybe even flexible seating, which it's not. It can be a way to design something, that's a product that might connect to the engineering design process, but it's much more empathy based. So you're really thinking about the human center needs and designing based on those.

Chris McNutt 44:27

One thing I want to bring up really quick from what you said that intrigued me was this idea of the prototype. And I feel like that's the major issue that we're facing right now with traditional schools, which is traditional schools are not prototypes in any way, shape, or form. In any other field ever, you're constantly reevaluating, in order to make everything better every single year. You get your new smartphones or your new TV shows or whatever that are designed to be better than anything else before it, which is the reason why people constantly go out and purchase that new product. But in the education world, because there's not really -I don't want to get into like a, like a school choice or like voucher system type thing here - but there's not like really competition in school. No one's really holding each other, like the make the best possible project in most communities.

So as a result, they've just stagnated because everyone's just, "well, that's the way it was when I grew up. And that's just what we're going to keep doing. Because that's the simplest for me to understand. Because that's the thing that's always happened. That's the way that most teaching books are written. That's the way that teacher training programs work." And it isn't unless you have a coach yourself, or someone who's a design expert to come in and lreally walk people through the process in order to see that it's really not as complex as one thinks.

Michael Payne 45:48

Right. And it's funny actually, when you talk about it that way, it's almost the same idea of having your students as teachers, you have to teach them how to rethink what learning is, and slow down to speed up. But I feel in reality, a lot of teachers coming fresh out of their instructional program whether through their whatever college they've attended... a lot of times, I think teachers, I'm sure you may have seen this as well at your school, but you have people that apply you, you have to at least wonder, has your teaching philosophy... because as you're reading it, I mean, I see it - when you see a lot of these applications, I just have to think to myself: "Oh, yeah, that's exactly what I remember learning going through my the master's program" Or whatever you went through, and then having to unlearn a lot of that stuff. So I feel like even a lot of our higher ed. teacher schools or teacher trainings are very similar to the way we teach our kids and having to retrain a teacher to even think differently about what education can be and whether their philosophy is something that they thought about and written, or is this just exactly what you learned from the textbooks that we've been using to teach teachers for decades as well. Hitting the exact same ideas.

Mindy Ahrens 47:07

Well direct instruction. I mean, obviously, there's a lot of different models out there. And that's nothing new. But direct instruction is definitely the leading way that we've been discussing teaching for years and years and years. And I think that leads to the idea of the conversation has been around teaching for so many years, not around learning, right, and the learners role in, in the process which they're learning. I know I've actually been teaching in a local university, and it's scary. I think there's a lot of fear. There's a lot of fear from parents. "This is my baby, don't experiment on my baby." Right? "I want to make sure they're learning. I don't want to make any mistakes." Right?

And then there's fear on the teachers part because who's really being judged with all the test scores, and the grades. the test scores going out in the newspaper that's really judging us and our, our ability to teach, not necessarily the student's ability to learn, or what's going on with the learner. So there's a lot of fear. And it feels good, I think on the teacher's part to be, "okay I taught area and perimeter, I can check it off the box if they didn't learn sorry I taught it."

It feels you can back yourself up at any parent meeting. "Well, I taught it!" But if we shift, again the responsibility, not that teachers of course don't play a role in this. However, if we shift it to is the learner learning? That's definitely a different conversation and how might we be flexible in our in our learning experiences that we are providing so that the learner will learn versus the teacher will teach?

Chris McNutt 48:55

Yeah, I agree with you 100%, often whenever we propose PBL in our own professional development that we give to schools or even just at our own school, it's met a lot of times - I'm sure it's in your case as well - it's met by resistance by teachers who feel like planning PBL and the rollout of all these different initiatives surrounding it. It's just a lot of work. As in it's going to take all day, every plan, to plan PBL and I have to change everything. And I had to give up all my time now to plan these projects. Do you agree with that sentiment? Or what would you tell someone who believes that?

Mindy Ahrens 49:29

I think I agree that it takes more time than teaching out of a textbook, because there's usually a script for you there. So you have a little planning but you don't really have to think up what you're going to teach necessarily. So I do think it takes more time. And I think it's valuable time. And I think that if you are planning the skeleton of a project, but then allowing for voice and choice within it, you're actually putting some responsible on your students, which takes away some of your planning time by saying, "you all show me how you now understand area - going back to the same example - area and perimeter,"

Then you're not planning a test, you're not planning an assessment. So it's it is a balance. We're lucky enough where our school and I think High Tech High is the same. We value that planning time so much that we every single day, we have an hour in the morning where teachers come before students get there and got solid collaboration time. So no students, no meetings, that is time for us to plan now we share students with each other so it's even more valuable because we all have to be on the same page. But I know High Tech High is the same way, they purposely plan for their PD project tunings and looking at student work protocols. A lot of their PD is is focused on creating really high quality project based learning experiences versus filling time with all these other initiatives. So yes I think it takes more time.

Chris McNutt 51:13

I agree with you. I will say, as someone who has transitioned, when I first started teaching, I was very much a traditional educator, in the first couple of years because I had no idea what I was doing. And the more and more I got integrated with this idea of experiential learning, I will say I feel like it's a lot more work to start off, as in playing the whole project, getting all the...

Michael Payne 51:34


Chris McNutt 51:37

But once it gets into the school year, I feel like I do more work at school, in terms of working with students, which is what you're supposed to be doing anyway. I solve a lot more problems and put out a lot more fires. I'm in the building. When I leave school, I actually feel like I have less planning because I already set forth all that motion. I'm just thinking about maybe some a few things I might need to throw in the next day, but it's pretty much all happening at school. It's almost like flipped classroom for teachers, as in. when I'm at home, I'm just thinking about, what things we might do that day.

As opposed to grading everything that would happen that day. I'm just grading at school in terms of grading, I mean, assessing. I'm figuring out, what's going well, what isn't going well, and redirecting from there. I actually find it de-stressing, which I don't know if that's a common sentiment or not, but I personally feel that way.

Mindy Ahrens 52:33

Yeah, as I'm listening to what you're saying. You're right. I was thinking about the planning piece. And I think to plan it takes more time than traditional planning, but you're right, it's a lot of the front loading to plan it and get all the pieces together and then the day to day, I agree is a lot less. Shoot, there's something else I was gonna say about that. Well I'll think of it.

Michael Payne 52:59

If you want to I'll just - yeah, this is in the same vein I think - maybe you'll think of it with this as well - for teachers especially to I find that there's always the the memes that are out there regarding "what a teacher really does." And it's just them looking extremely miserable at home with the stat mounds of paperwork that are insurmountable. And I feel authentic PBL - the buzzword. It's nice, but I want to say authentic experiential learning. If you give that to children, there's a lot of front loading you're going out to the community, to put it in your exact terms, you have that empathy point first, where you're gauging ,your gauging what is needed or what is, what problems could be assessed in the real world. And then from there, once you've unleashed it on your students, I can really come home and not have that sense of dread and fear that I'm going to spend the next four hours creating all these exit slips and bell ringers and every other piece of assessment I had to give. Instead, it's just me thinking, what a cool day, I wonder what so and so's going to do tomorrow when I'm in the building?

And I don't know, it makes me happier to be a teacher, despite what many might think as just, "oh, that PBL, all that work. Well the impotis is on the kids.

Mindy Ahrens 54:20

Sorry, that's exactly you exactly reminded me what I was going to say. It's actually fun, which sometimes people feel is a bad word and education. Heaven forbid the kids have fun. And the teacher actually is having fun. I mean, we, we talked about being in the trenches and teaching sometimes as this negative thing. And it's my switch. So I've also started in traditional education. I've been teaching for just about 20 years now. And I am having so much fun teaching now because we're in this cool project together and you're right, when I get home we use a platform called Seesaw to post our learning.

So as students are learning and creating their proof of learning, they're always posting on Seesaw. And it's so fun to go on there. And see. So, for example, we can write proposed letters for [sic] them, it's so cute.

And they were these, these very formal, but yet persuasive letters that they had wanted to read them. They weren't boring essays that I had to give a grade to you were saying, they were so cute, and they made me laugh. And I was sending screenshots to my co teacher, "look at this one!" it was so much more fun than traditional teaching.

Michael Payne 55:46

And I feel that's something that you will you just said it, but I feel that's a set of sentiment amongst all educators. Is that a fact I can distinctly remember I was in a meeting years ago regarding the content of what STEM schools need to provide for higher education and what colleges are expecting. And there was a person in there who actually I'll never forget this. It was - it's a haunting image - of a much older gentleman, probably in his late 60s, maybe even early 70s, he said, "Whoever said school was supposed to be fun?"

It was amazing. Because you're thinking, this is exactly why Chris and I wanted to develop this project and get these teachers together and these resources together is because of these people like that, who are so oriented in this traditional Prussian model, without understanding or even letting the understanding exist in the ether of their thought processes of what school could be. That you would actually say "whoever said school is supposed to be fun? No one did it's supposed to be a very hard place of rigor and academic honesty and everything else." And, and it's just like, man, that's crazy. Like, that's exactly what is wrong with this model is that we have people that are in charge of education, who actually believe things like a room of laughing children...

And that's what kills me the most is when it's all said and done, when you punctuate the sentence at the end of the day, they're children. And for you even more so, you have these little tiny children and you can hold five per hand because their hands are so small and they're each grabbing a finger and, and you look at how precious they are. An I have my first child on the way right now. And when you think about, you have your own kids, and you're imagining, are you teaching your classroom as if they were 25 of your children? And if you're not, what would you do differently?

It just blows my mind that you would think that it has to be a miserable experience or it's not education. I just I don't know, it's a really, it hurts to think that teachers think they're supposed to be miserable. And students think they're supposed to be miserable. And if you're having fun, you must be wasting time. It's truly gut wrenching. Yeah, it really is. It's a gut wrenching.

Mindy Ahrens 58:19

I think at the core, my teaching partner and I team teach. And one of the things that we just truly, truly believe in our core is that we really at the, at the bottom of everything, we just want kids to love learning, right? Isn't that why we all went into education to see that light bulb go on and just to see them dig in and love the process of learning and if they love learning, they're going to be successful?

Michael Payne 58:48

Yeah, that's so right. I mean, I can honestly say, why would most people get into education? It's usually for one of two reasons, like you said, as either that light bulb or the idea that I like learning something much that I want to seep my life into it I want to sink myself into learning more every day. Because I just love the processes and I fear the other reason is that people get caught up in their content and don't know what else to do they just teach instead. But either way, that's that's the whole point is let's re-humanize that process. So to keep our selves adhered to time, I'm going to ask you this final question, as much as it'd be great to keep talking forever, obviously.

So what we're going to do that this this question here, there, hopefully maybe you can sneak in a little bit of your, the ideas of your Integrated Learning Time and the deep dives, things like that. So without right now there being an immediate and fast change in education the wheels turn very slowly, a change from standardized testing. A change from parents who believe, "this is what I grew up with ,the traditional model. This is what I know." It's the same with administration that feels pressured. So without there being a fast change away from that toward something that is more progressive, filled with project based learning, experiential learning and empathy. Because we know this probably won't happen tomorrow. What are some steps that you believe that most educators, most schools, most parents, even administrators can start taking to engage this, this this progressive movement or this change?

Mindy Ahrens 1:00:31

So if I had all the money in the world, and there was magic…I would move from these large, massive school to especially high school, to smaller, smaller schools. But not having all the money in the world, I still think we can make some changes that would also help in these areas, to make kids known, to keep kids from moving in these 60 minute blocks, and to get away from the batching system. So even if you have - so our schools large, we're a PK eight school, we have just under 1,200 kids. So we are a pretty large school comparable to some high schools.

But what we've done is we've created smaller teams on our campus. So typically an elementary school yes, you would have one teacher with maybe 30 years or so kids. We've created teams. So we have possibly two teachers teaching two groups of kids or in our middle school. The students might only see three teachers in their day or actually in their whole year. So you can build strong relationships, you have longer periods of time. With each teacher you can do the sustained inquiry that we know is what we want to do. Students learners feel known, I said they can dig in. It also allows teachers to be able to adapt to the kids needs the students needs versus just having to if you have 60 minute blocks, Holy moly, you cannot adapt to the kids as much as we wish we could, if they're just in and out in 60 minutes.

So with teachers being with similar students I know that's very hard to do in some large schools, but I know schools have created academies or created families within a school. Vista High is one of the XQ schools and they're trying to do this with their school. They're a large high school, but they're trying to make smaller families within their school. So there are ways to do this. Our school, I said, has a few teachers that teach a group of kids in the morning. Some teachers are in partners, so they're team teaching. Other teachers have maybe two or three teachers supporting two or three groups of students. Sometimes they're in flexible groups that might be leveled for that moment that day, or they, they might be more interest based grouping. So maybe they're all studying narrative writing, but maybe they're in groups according to what type of story they want to write. But say it might be a group on science fiction or another group on realistic fiction.

So that's our morning, it's more projects, more academic focus. And the afternoon we actually mix with our whole grade level span. So in the afternoon, all our fourth and fifth grade mixes up in a couple different ways we mix up for PE we call that minds in motion. So they're mixed up and they make choices on which sport or which activity they want to do, but not that day, but maybe for a six week period. Then we mix for deep dives. Those are more longer term projects where the kids already know they're interested in a topic. So they'll choose in.... sometimes they're more teacher based topics. So things that we really are excited about. And we want to work on like oceanography or coding, advanced coding, or sometimes they're based on what students want. And we'll develop a deep dive, based on what they're interested in that time tend to be more academic, we want to matter which deep dive they're in, we try to include a research component.

And then the last chunk of time is exploration. So these are shorter term. Maybe there are only 45 minutes in the day where deep dives or more like an hour and a half. The exploration is, "Hey, try something new!" So these might be sewing or ceramics or not always artsy, but it could be "hey, you've never tried coding. So you might try coding for the first time but this is just get a taste of it. See if you like it." And then sometimes those explorations move into deep dives. So again, these are mixing now with all of fourth and fifth grade and the same with K one same with second and third grade. And same with the middle school they're using things like Project Lead the Way, lots of art music is included in there.

So we really try to sometimes be ahead of the kids in our in our teaching, our guiding sometimes behind the students, sometimes on the side of the students so we try to create flexible groupings as we go through the year.

Michael Payne 1:05:38

So I just want to one clear clarifying question, so the the deep dive the exploration and the the Integrated Learning Time, that the things that definitely seem a lot less traditional, the things that you're definitely pulling out of - we don't just have math and science and English and history are those every day. Are those built into the schedule?

Mindy Ahrens 1:05:56

Yeah, are integrated learning time is every day and that tends to be with your one, two or three homeroom teachers.

Michael Payne 1:06:03


Mindy Ahrens 1:06:03

So those are you no longer projects. That's where we do for example, our backyard, backyard crashers projects. That's what we did during integrated learning time. So we integrated as many standards as we could, math, reading, writing, science and or history depending on the project. That was during integrated learning every single day from morning until lunch. In the afternoon, and me personally that time I co teach with another teacher. He has on paper, a fourth grade homeroom. I have fifth grade, but we are together in one room with an open wall. I would say 99% of our time during that morning, then in the afternoon, deep dives happen twice a week. And they are usually in eight week blocks. And those happened for about an hour and a half each each of the two days a week.

Explorations are usually about six week block. And those happen for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the grade level.

Chris McNutt 1:07:07

The gist of the matter is, the smaller the school is, the easier it is to schedule things that are not necessarily super complex, but definitely involve changing the schedule around to a point where it would be very difficult to pull off if you had hundreds of students who all had to follow the same exact schedule.

Mindy Ahrens 1:07:23

Yeah, so let me give you an example of our prototyping method. So when I was in this, I'm going to give you an example. That's kindergarten first, but you can easily jump to this being high school. So in kindergarten, first grade when I was teaching that grade level, in the first and second years of us being open, we did a model where we would switch kids between six teachers almost every hour. This is really what high school does, right? But you're doing this is K-1. So we had our reading block. We had our writing block, we had our math block, we had our project block, we had our blah, blah, blah, blah, blah all these different blocks. And then we leveled it thinking, "Okay, these are so flexible groupings, kids can move, right? But it was I have my reading group that whatever the, this letter through this letter reading group leveled." But what we realize is, we need to know the kids that were in our room, they were moving in and out, how can you develop a relationship with them, number one?

And then how can you really know that student well in an academic sense? Yes, you might know they're reading but of course, that applies the writing too. That you're separating that out into two blocks of time, and they were moving in and out so fast. We really didn't know them and we weren't able to communicate to parents well about where they were in that learning. So that's an example of just high school. You cannot move in and out so fast and really get to know them well.

Michael Payne 1:08:57

Yes, the breakneck speed is is definitely a gross aspect of much education as what can i cram? How much can I cram? How quickly can I cram it? And so I think a nice way, it's something that I think a cool thing to bring up that I think we hear often. To sort of, to sum up, that idea that you're having that your school looks at is definitely scheduling. And I think that's very important. And I think something that maybe many schools can do, or at least look at is unlike something that you said, I want to reiterate very prominently. And that is that because something is written down on paper, just because your schedule looks a certain way on paper, doesn't mean you can't play around during the day with with how the schedule works, and where kids go, and how long you keep them. And so if you create that sort of flexibility culturally with the staff and the students, then what the schedule looks like on paper isn't always as important. It just needs to look that way for whatever reason whatever the state needs requires. So I think that flexibility is very important.

Chris McNutt 1:10:01

There's a reason why most people whenever they ask something that can be changed outside of getting rid of standardized testing, the schedule is typically number one. It's like Joe Biden's line, "Don't show me what you stand for. Show me what you budget for." The same exact idea, show me your school's mission statement. Okay, now show me your schedule. Does the schedule reflect the mission statement? And oftentimes the schedule is just whatever is the exact same thing that every other school has.And that's the end of the day the schedule is so important.

Mindy Ahrens 1:10:30

Don't let your schedule dictate and don't let your location, your physical environment dictate what you do. you could partner with another teacher let's say you are an English teacher on one side of campus and there's another say ninth grade teacher, English teacher on the other side of campus, why couldn't you both share students during your same period maybe you level a group one day or maybe you connect to a math teacher and you do a project English and math together? why couldn't you? Yeah, don't let the structures limit you.

Michael Payne 1:11:06

Right? And I think we just have a lot of educators that are very afraid of that, don't understand that, maybe aren't backed by the administrators or they just feel so we feel so beholden to what the state says, how we grew up what we were taught that there's just that that deeply rooted fear. But I think it all comes back down to trying this stuff, trying experiential learning, reaching out expanding, what prototyping is a great thing that you keep the you mentioned, and, and you will see how much happier you could become as a human being and how much happier your children and your room could become for sure.

Mindy Ahrens 1:11:42

One last piece of advice. Trying to change education, it's so hard. You have to find your tribe. your tribe might be you're going to probably find some people on campus. You can find your tribe on Twitter. There's lots of people trying to break the mold, trying to do things differently. And even at my school, we are trying to change education. And it's been incredibly hard for the past four years we still feel attacked sometimes by the parents and even by other staff members at our own school because no one knows what this should look like. Find your people.

Chris McNutt 1:12:28

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