About Life

Fellow travelers…look up

They look travelled. Not like a person rolling their carry-on holding a Starbucks cup on one hand at the airport travelled, but worn down brown-leather boots travelled. The travelled whose face skin-creases’ light shaded color glows as if out from the center of the leather fold of the boots’ worn cover. Their eyes half-open, and without energy to form emotion on their tired faces. Still, they stand firm, holding on to three children all-the-while holding on to one oversized canvas shopping bag. Their luggage.

She is vigilant, looking around at her surroundings, trying to pick up as much as possible to ensure no mistakes are made as her and her family’s documents are scanned by the Homeland Security officer sit-standing between the line of waiting travelers and their turn at taking off shoes and enduring never-ending renditions of “take everything out of your pockets, take off your belt, take off your shoes, and take all electronics out of your bags and put them in a bin”. The family’s clothes look like they’ve been on them for weeks. Clean, but worn. 

He has the youngest child on his left hand, the family bag on the other, and holding on to the other two by sight alone. He is slightly shorter than his wife, but looks stronger than the more-average, and well-fed, 6’ 1” American officer scanning their documents and faces in front. He says nothing and seems to understand that his wife will tend to documents and surroundings while his role is with the family bag and the children. 

The kids are not wrestles. Odd for kids that age. One is no older than 4 years old, followed by a 6-year-old, and the oldest, a girl, is 9 or 10 years old. They are tired, quiet-excited by the adventure, and intimidated by so many people and their hectic rhythm of shoes flying into a bin and jackets coming off their bodies almost simultaneously. They are in awe.

The youngest little girl is holding a dirty stuffed bear in her arm. It used to be white, but is now the color of grey skies before it rains. There is no telling if the bear was with her from the beginning of the 23-day journey the family took from their native Costa Rica to the US-border, or if it was given to her by someone at the immigration detention center where they have spent the last month after being detained by border police on the US side of the border. 

As they deposit their sweaters and jackets into bins, she looks exhausted, not being able to keep up with the same steps other travelers are taking at different bin-belt lines. He remains vigilant, ensuring the children are within arms-length. Simultaneously, both seem to have eyes on their hands as they can take off shoes, belts and other garments from the children without taking their eyes off of the horizon, their surroundings and of the distance. As they wait for their bins to disappear into the dark tunnel of the x-ray machine, the children quietly stand near enough to feel their body-heat, and mom and dad look at uniformed people to lift a finger pointing the way to the next action step. They are ushered through a separate entry, sparing them of the dreaded body-scan “empty your pockets, stand here and put your hands up like the image in front of you” machine. Security officers must understand this family is not trying to bring anything illegal into an airplane, as they barely understand where they are to begin with.

The last I saw of them they were waiting for their bins to come out of the x-ray machine on the other side. As a plane’s take-off was now visible through a large window nearby it dawned on the middle child they were about to get on a plane, and his eyes opened wide with excitement. A tiny smile was visible as this secret was his to keep for the time being. His mother was standing next to him, looking at the same plane take off, and her eyes watered until a tear appeared and glided down her cheek.


Being public about it, for once

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Most people do not think of themselves are salespeople. As Daniel Pink points out in his book To Sell is Human, most of us are in fact in the business of selling our ideas, our image, and ourselves (selling our skill+time for salary) most of the time. Teachers, in particular, are not such great salespeople when it comes to telling their story, showing their work, and showcasing the product of their efforts.

I learned something the other day. In conversation with someone who has deep experience working with Boards, I heard something that profoundly changes the way I see how we communicate with Boards, and in a way, the public at large. I learned that Boards are usually comprised of people that (1) are powerful/influential, (2) are not educators/academics, and (3) are mostly in dark as far as the impact of the work of teachers day in and day out. As members of the senior leadership team, we can not (1) make Board members less powerful/influential or (2) turn them into educators/academics. But we can (3) shine the light on the work going on at the school so that they are not so much in the dark. I never really thought about this in this way, which is why the feedback was so profound for me.

Now I’m on a mission. To showcase the good work being done in our school. This article about the signing of a new partnership is part of that effort. More will come soon.

Educators may not make great salespeople, but if I can help it, I will shine a light on the incredible work being done in classrooms day in and day out.

Stay tuned 🙂

teach, Work

Office Cleanup / Limpiando un poco

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It was time to change what my space looks like, and how it functions. It was getting too messy, and much too distracting for my work.


Ya es tiempo de crear diferentes oportunidades para nuestros alumnos, ya que el desorden distrae demasiado.

teach, Work

A multilayered approach to supporting our learners

Misk Schools is a community of learners. By modeling a thirst for learning, we all play an integral role in our students’ education. To elevate the level and pace of learning of our students Misk Schools has created a campus environment that presents opportunities for exploration and inquiry at every turn. From embodied learning systems such as SMALLabs; immersive virtual reality experiences via Oculus Rift and Google Expeditions; experiential adventures with robotics such as Beebots and LEGO Mindstorm EV3; to enriching our Computational Thinking challenges with Parrot Mambo Drones, our campus resembles more a massive creative and invention space than it does a traditional campus as found elsewhere. Having this incredible space and offering such an array of learning opportunities and resources brings with it its own set of challenges. Mainly, that we must go the extra mile to support our teachers in ways that reflect the complexity of the tools at their disposal.   

According to Wood and Jocius (2014), as schools continue to increase available of digital resources, teachers don’t have the tools to leverage the technology for authentic and meaningful purposes. Too often, electronic devices are used to only develop basic skills. Similarly, Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, E. Sendurur and P. Sendurur (2012) found that a variety of external barriers prevents teachers from using technology in ways that align more closely with their beliefs. Those barriers are usually related to access to digital resources, which is something we do not suffer from. Another barrier identified by Ertmer, Ottenbreit-Leftwich, Sadik, E. Sendurur and P. Sendurur (2012) is support. It is in supporting our teachers where we have placed our focus on from the start.

Following are details of the various support layers in place for our teachers:

  • Digital Literacy Coordinator – To best support our teachers, and to foster a transformation of learning in the classroom, we have had a Digital Literacy Coach from the first year of operation. The position has morphed over time into the Digital Literacy Coordinator (DLC) as we added the Computational Thinking Program. The DLC’s role is paramount to supporting our teachers and ensuring digital resources are used in the most optimal way. Teachers meet with the DLC on a regular schedule for coaching sessions or to explore new ideas for integrating digital resources into their lessons. The DLC is also present during collaborative meetings to provide resources for integration.
  • Technical Support – Teachers receive support from our technology support team, to resolve any technical issue reported. Our IT support team is ready when network printing is not working to when students make their own presentations and need audio and video.
  • Professional Development – Throughout the year our teachers take advantage of continued professional development opportunities such as attending the BETT trade show and conference in London last week and/or taking part in Apple events. Through our partners we also offer a variety of online and on-campus workshops and courses throughout the year.

A unique part of our ecosystem is that teachers often have access to the creators of some of the systems we have in place, such as the Misk Schools OS mobile app and the SMALLab Learning embodied learning system. By being proximate to the creators our teachers influence the continued development of the tools we use.

Misk Schools is a unique school. In ways that often creates amazement and sometimes even disbelief when shared with colleagues from around the world, the availability of digital resources, and the support layers available to our teachers make ours a model for continue professional learning and development worthy of envy. The level of integration of digital resources our teachers bring to every lesson ensures our students‘ experience in our classrooms closely resembles their digital world outside.