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Not the Only Way: Authentic vs. Compliant Learning

Not the Only Way: Authentic vs. Compliant Learning
“Authentic learning is not discovered in a textbook, but rather at the crossroads of contemporary societal issues and student passion.”- Aaron Duff
When I (Joshua) tell people that I am a middle school administrator, I usually get the same responses. “God bless you!” “I could never do that!” which eventually leads to, “Have schools and students changed much?”
Often, after hearing this line of questioning, I wonder how it would be to be a middle school student now.  As a middle school student, I viewed my school as an irrelevant and inapplicable entity due to the extremely monotonous exercises, which lacked an explanation of real world application. Each class was a carbon copy of the other and the classrooms, teachers and students participated in similar traditional patterns and rituals. Students were observers of a dictated, fact-based instruction, which relied heavily on the use of teacher lectures, packets and textbooks. The lessons wer…
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Guided in Mentorship

“A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future, and believe it can be obtained.” - Shawn Hitchcock
Throughout our lives, we have been guided, counseled, and advised through hardships, indecisiveness, and lack of direction.  During each stage of our education and our career, individuals such as coaches, teachers, professors, employers, pastors, or family friends have positively influenced the trajectory of our decisions. As educators, we have adopted the same practices by providing coaching, support, direction and advice with our students and staff.
1. Coaching -
Growing up as an athlete, my (Joshua’s) coaches challenged my abilities, allowed learning through mistakes, believed in my potential, and provided honest feedback. At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I had an extremely poor and disappointing soccer tryout. After the tryouts concluded, the varsity coach pulled me aside to explain that I didn’t make the cut. If I wanted to continue playing soccer, the only opti…

Waiting for a Hero

"I believe everyone has a superhero inside them waiting to be discovered." - Unknown
Throughout my childhood, I was enamored with reading comic books, watching superhero cartoons, collecting superhero action figures and dressing up to save the world from destruction. The ideas and story lines of possessing extraordinary powers to rescue others, overcoming adversity and defeating evil was a concept I relished in. My love and passion for art originated from the depths of the amazingly drawn imaginary realms of fearless vigilantes, villainous aliens, and unstoppable mutants, which I desperately tried to recreate in my sketchbooks, loose pieces of paper, or class notes.

As my interest in art grew, I began to participate in every art class I could in school, which opened my eyes to a whole new world of materials, techniques, inspiration, and history. During the beginning of my high school career, I experienced a teacher who immediately captured my attention and challenged my effo…

Mindset of a Lion

"I never lose. Either I win or I learn"- Nelson Mandela About a year ago, I discovered an inspirational quote from Nelson Mandela on Twitter, which was written on a photograph of a lion walking through long safari grass. The quote and image immediately caught my attention, as it captured important characteristics of success: strength, competitiveness, grit and a growth mindset. As I reflected on the quote, it quickly challenged my past educational experiences, prior educational struggles, and my current beliefs as an administrator. Little did I know, the quote would become the motto I use as motivation for myself, my students and my own children going forward.

As a student, my perspective of education was extremely negative as I often experienced unsuccessfulness in the established learning environment. In my adolescent view, school was a mandatory placement where the material, procedures, and system provided little value. The presented content was often detached from real w…

The Habit of Passion

"Passion makes us stronger than we are.  Love makes us better than we are.  Be passionate about the things you love." - Galen Watson
After participating in the "Kids Deserve It" video podcast, I challenged myself and others to participate in a "Passion Project," which includes creating, working on, or practicing anything that we truly love. Lately, through self-reflection, it has been apparent that my actions have revolved around daily duties and busy work instead of the things I value the most. Through the everyday routines, a question arose:

Has my energy and time been spent on improving initiatives that I believe in and are passionate about?

In review, it was apparent, my habits were constructed on managing and responding to inconsequential demands. The focus was on the immediate tasks and the operational functions of the campus instead of participating in activities of conviction and devotion. We all have responsibilities and requirements, however, our li…

The Value of Education, When the Cost is Free #KidsDeserveIt

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get” - Warren Buffett
Before my educational career, I was a graphic designer at a digital photography studio. During my time with that company, the photographer shared an interesting concept of “value” through his own experience. Early in his career, the photographer was offering free sitting fees, which he thought would be an incentive to draw business to his studio. To his surprise, he was not able to gain many clients using this strategy. After some time, he decided to create a high-end photography business, which involved a very expensive sitting fee, to indicate the true value of his talent. To the photographer’s surprise, the company saw an immediate increase in business and demand.
Similar to popular culture, designer fashions, and advertising strategists, the photographer was able to utilize the concept of expense to define and validate the worth of his product to consumers. The expense resulted in the consumer interpreting the prod…