Good Work: Impact at Scale

Good Work, my Sunday blog about mission-focused work, is back from a glorious summer maker break. I rebuilt a couple decks overlooking Puget Sound. Stymied by a construction problem I stopped and realized it wasn’t my lack of carpentry skills, I was facing a design problem. Teachers often feel the same way given the crazy challenges our schools throw their way. It led me to encourage EdLeaders to ask, “Am I observing a teaching problem or a design problem?
Overwhelmed?  Back at school and already buried? Have a long to-do list? In our staff huddle this week, my writing partner Carri Schneider shared some tips from Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. Useful tips included prioritizing, setting a schedule and finding a rhythm, finding productivity hacks, and having realistic expectations. The book echoes Annie Dillard, “The way you live your days is the way you live you life.”
New crew. Former Big Picture teacher and school design coach Bonnie Lathram joined the Getting Smart team in July. As a history major and PBL specialist, she has enjoyed a deeper learning dive into universal themes incorporated into Big History Project; she outlined 10 reasons you should consider using #BigHistory and she introduced me to middle school science and history teachers that make creative use of the content.
Tyler Nakatsu joined us from YouthBuild USA, a great mashup of alt ed, youth development, and CTE. Tyler doubles the dude and Coug quotient in the office and will be taking the reins of With Tyler around, you’ll see more use of multimedia including video in our channel.
Tyler, Bonnie, and some great new contributors will be launching a new blog series this month. #GenDIY will tell the stories of students charting their own course to careers.
Impact orgs. We have the good fortune to work with four dozen high impact orgs committed to innovations in learning and impact at scale.  Five high impact nonprofits I talked to this week include:

  • Team Christensen previewed a great new book on blended learning this week.
  • Andy Calkins, Next Generation Learning Challenges, explained that next gen learning environments will be blended, personalized, and competency based. We used Andy’s framework in the Smart Cities book (in stores Wednesday). Building on Andy’s work, a chat with a couple foundation execs led me to outline 30 Attributes of Next Gen Learning.
  • Carrie Irvin of Charter Board Partners hosted a Seattle breakfast on Thursday focused on recruiting and training great board members for Washington’s new charter schools.  I appreciate Carrie’s focus on excellence and equity–and the hundreds of public education advocates the CBP has trained.
  • The Literacy Design Collaborative wants to ensure that American students learn to write well. They have great free literacy units and authoring tools; a network of capable partners help schools improve writing across the curriculum.
  • New Leaders develops transformational leaders in 9 regions, 15 districts, and 100 charter schools.

As you focus on expanding your impact this fall we hope you stay connected but don’t get overwhelmed.  Find us on Twitter where we will be sharing and learning right along with you.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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