Chewy Dewey

This quotation contains entire universes for educators, of all stripes, working in, and out of, all kinds of schools.

It is possible of course to abuse the office, and to force the activity of the young into channels which express the teacher’s purpose rather than that of the pupils. But the way to avoid this danger is not for the adult to withdraw entirely. The way is, first, for the teacher to be intelligently aware of the capacities, needs, and past experiences of those under instruction, and, secondly, to allow the suggestion made to develop into a plan and project by means of the further suggestions contributed and organized into a whole by the members of the group. The plan, in other words, is a co-operative enterprise, not a dictation. The teacher’s suggestion is not a mold for a cast-iron result but is a starting point to be developed into a plan through contributions from the experience of all engaged in the learning process. The development occurs through reciprocal give-and-take, the teacher taking but not being afraid also to give. The essential point is that the purpose grow and take shape through the process of social intelligence.

~from John Dewey’s Experience and Education via

We Need to Talk <> Make Yourself Clear

Here are two paragraphs from We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter by Celeste Headlee. I’m copying them down for three reasons: first, I want to remember them; second, I want to share them with you in the hopes that you, too, will remember them; and, third, they connect to / extend / justify some of the core messages of Make Yourself Clear. Publishing is often akin to shouting into the void. It’s nice to find echoes (even though they were present before you started).

[Consumers] in the United States return about $14 billion worth of electronics every year. But in 85 percent of those cases, there’s nothing wrong with the merchandise. The consumer just doesn’t understand how to use the device after opening the box. Sometimes weak documentation (such as an indecipherable instruction manual) is to blame; other times the culprit is insufficient “customer education,” the formal term for the casual conversations salespeople have with customers about a product.

p. 11

So much — more than electronics — depends upon those casual conversations. More specifically, so much depends upon our willingness to teach well — i.e., carefully, patiently, humanely — within such moments.

One more related, though unique point:

Computers can relay information in milliseconds, but human beings cannot and should not attempt to mimic this efficiency. Most of the time, it’s the tangents and offhand remarks that reveal the most about someone. It may take five minutes for your friend to relay a simple story about a trip to the grocery store, but it’s the pauses and the smiles and the bursts of laughter that make the story memorable. If you can’t pay attention long enough to listen to the whole thing, you’ll miss all of that.

p. 25

We call this the messy / clear paradox. It’s the recent idea that has most changed my approach to teaching, listening, and parenting.

Marketing Manifesto: 9 Planks Make a Stage

The first “book” I ever sold was a workbook for teachers to help them figure out how to leverage the tools available to them when the Internet was taking off and schools were starting to explore its presence in the lives of students and teachers. So, without intending it, almost from the day I started teaching, I’ve been thinking about and reporting on the best levers available to move learning forward in schools. I’ve been a curious teacher.

But I was not a good marketer for that first book. Or, rather, I was not a marketer — at all. The book came out, and I did nothing. I didn’t sell it. I didn’t talk about it beyond a small circle. I didn’t give speeches about it. Nothing.

For the next book, Everything But Teaching, I did a little bit more than nothing. I launched a blog (this blog) and published a few articles pointing back to the book and the blog. In the book itself, I mentioned the blog and the articles. If that feels a bit like a web, or a knot, then that’s exactly what I was aiming for. I had a vague sense that the book could become the beginning of a relationship with readers and organizations and schools. So I did my best to ensure that, as much as possible, there were threads for people to grab onto and tie themselves to if they wanted to stay connected to my work — work that, by this point, I knew I wanted to keep doing for a very long time. My “branding concept” was simple. I’m going to keep turning over rocks, I’m going to keep thinking and writing, I’m going to keep talking to interesting people and asking questions and writing down what I notice — to try to help people, schools, and organizations amplify learning.

By and large, the plan worked. Slowly. Slowly, I started to hear from readers. Slowly, I built some new relationships that were mutually beneficial. Slowly, I gained a sense of myself as a writer and thinker and even as someone who had built a small business around these activities. I recommend slowly as a pace.

With Blending Leadership, my third book, I got lucky. I started working with Reshan Richards and we became writing partners. He was building a business at the time, so he was several steps ahead of me when it came to marketing and entrepreneurialism and selling. We built a nice website, continued to blog, published more articles in more places, built up our Twitter presence, taught a course based on the book, spoke at a handful of conferences and events, and consulted at a few schools and organizations. Looking back, we earned the same rewards that I did with Everything But Teaching, but the web/knot is more organized, the scale is greater, and the effects have been exciting, surprising, and humbling.

With book four, Make Yourself Clear, I’m much more comfortable with marketing than I was when I started out as a writer. In fact, I like it and I’m even passionate about it. With one very strong caveat…

Marketing only works for me if I define it and practice it in the right way. So for me (and for Reshan) marketing has to be a story, and in particular, the story of how we’ve tried to connect our work to the work of others.

Here are our basic principles, which we refine constantly:

  1. Marketing is the story of the people and organizations that we meet as a result of our work.
  2. It’s creative and connective.
  3. It’s a work in translation, because connecting ideas requires translation, adaptation.
  4. It serves our work, but it is not self serving.
  5. It tries to be additive and generous, which means it is not empty or spammy or greedy or mindlessly repetitive. If you pay attention to our marketing, we hope you will be enriched in some way / have something new to share or do.
  6. It is not strategic so much as it is accretive; successful marketing tells us where to turn, what to do, how to proceed — next.
  7. It is built on permission and partnerships: Can we share ___ with you? Do you want to work on ___ together? Could we be better at ___ if we work together?
  8. It aims to be helpful and is only as assertive as it needs to be.
  9. It assumes that our work has given us a few planks of a stage; marketing, as we try to practice it, is the act of inviting others onto that stage.

We hope you will join us.

Lazy Blogging

I’m on Spring Break this week, so I’m okay with allowing my daily practice (of posting) to revert to a filing system of sorts, i.e., things I want to remember or save for later.

Reshan has been telling me a version of this next tweet for years:

In class, I like to call prose novels “non-graphic novels.” And I begin all discussions with the question, “Why did the author choose to tell this story only in words?”— Jarod Roselló (@jarodrosello) March 13, 2019

Bots Have Come Between Us

I’ve had to replace two small appliances since moving into my home, and I found a good, local store that carries a wide range of products. More important, the salespeople who work there work well for me because (and this won’t be a surprise to anyone who reads this blog), they are good teachers. They answer my questions, help me to see the things I’m not trained to see, and guide me to appropriate decisions by helping me to build my understanding. They are patient and conversational. Their service feels personal — the right amount of scriptedness and unscriptedness.

Appliance replacement # 1 went without a hitch. Browsing in the store (me, my wife) led to teaching (the salesperson), learning (me, my wife), a transaction (me, my wife, the store), a delivery, and use.

Appliance replacement # 2 was going without a hitch, following the same steps only enhanced by good note taking on the store’s part. They remembered us, had a record of our last transaction, and we built off of a growing bank of mutual trust.

Until the bots showed up.

After my purchase the second time, I received an automated email that asked me a question: “Can you take 30 seconds and leave us a quick review?” This was new. It then breezily suggested that “The button below makes it easy.”

While I appreciated that the review task would be easy, I didn’t appreciate the fact that the store was asking for a review before the deal had been fully complete. I replied to the email — not the suggested “easy” button — by saying as much: “let’s wait and see how the delivery turns out.” With that, I received another email that said, “Your message wasn’t delivered because the address could not be found.” I guess they only wanted me to do exactly what they wanted me to do — leave a review.

Later that night, I received a text from “Jenny the chatbot.” She confirmed my appointment, which was great. Then she promised that she would let me know once the driver was 60 minutes away from my house. Also great. I was glad to be able to rely on that hour lead-time as I planned my day.

Today, delivery day, the driver showed up without warning (breaking Jenny’s promise) with a dented appliance (making me really glad I didn’t offer a premature review).

After I spoke to a customer service agent, returned the dented appliance, and rescheduled delivery of a non-dented version, Jenny showed up on my phone again telling me that the driver was “expected to make a delivery in the next 30 minutes.” (Now she was just lying, perhaps trying to bend reality.) This text was followed almost immediately by a text that said, “Your order was delivered!” And she then asked for another rating.

Jenny the chatbot is clearly in the wrong line of work. She should be a comedy app that begins when you turn on your phone (bootup comedy). On a less light note, though, I now have to decide if I want to continue to do business with an organization that is so clearly working against the best intentions of its sales staff and its customers. I’m sure Jenny doesn’t cost as much as a human system or a really effective automated system. But there are hidden costs when you save money with intelligence that makes a previously personal transaction feel . . . artificial.

Seeing Myself Teaching

Today, as part of my school’s Professional Growth Program, I used an iPad mounted on a tripod to video myself teaching. I have only had time to watch the first seven minutes, but I have already derived a lot of benefit from watching things like my posture, my tone of voice, where I stand, and the extent to which students are focused on contributing vs. typing (i.e., head up vs. head in laptop).

A side benefit is the fact that I had to explain the presence of the camera to my every curious / squirrelly class. This led to a quick but good conversation about a lot of meta-concepts that matter to me and that I enjoy teaching but often do not, at least explicitly: the benefits of practice, the value of reflection, the importance of seeing yourself “in the act of,” and the necessity, for growth, of being self critical without being overly hard on yourself.

They think I’m a pretty good teacher. I know this because I’ve surveyed them. I like the implied lesson of the camera’s presence — even pretty good, even well rehearsed, even — or rather, especially — automatic can seek to improve. Must seek to improve.