BVP Blog: wall of facesFor those who follow me on twitter (@chiachess) I apologize for the flurry of tweets last week. Through a BVP partner and investor, the Next Generation Learning Challenges, I was a guest and co-presenter at the ASUGSV Summit, an annual convening of investors, education technology firms, and educators. With thousands of leaders from across the globe under one roof, I had a great opportunity to meet, share, connect, and be inspired.

BVP Blog: subversive slogansWhile there were “bring-backs” from my session with best-selling author and leadership guru Jim Collins, the invigorating talk by Saul Khan, and an amazing and wide-ranging panel conversation featuring DC Superintendent Kaya Henderson, it was a school tour that actually made the trip worthwhile. My Monday morning visit to High Tech High* provided a reminder of what is possible when teams of people create truly student-centered learning opportunities for students.

BVP Blog: into the worldI love school visits, and I find the conversations that I have with others on these visits often really drives my thinking in wonderful ways. Ironically, I was able to tour with a fellow Teach For America alum who actually works in Providence Schools…yes, we needed to travel thousands of miles to hang-out together on a school visit, despite having offices a few miles from each other. As we debriefed classrooms, we both found things that inspired us to reexamine some of our own work.

While there are many things that make High Tech High a great place to learn, there were two very specific lessons that I hope to bring to BVP:

BVP Blog: self portrait

These self-portraits, blending literacy and art really stood out

  • Art. At BVP we love our art as much as anyone – as evidenced by our recent art show. At High Tech High, however, I saw art permeate through the school in authentic and powerful ways that really celebrated student learning. From integration into courses to celebrations of student work throughout the facilities, art was omnipresent. While we have some art in some places currently, I am hoping that we can bring this to the next level to ensure that art lives everywhere all the time.
  • Hiring. Schools are very much a people business. Great people drive great results. Get mediocre teachers, mediocre results. The model at any great school, especially one built on innovation and student-centered learning, requires expert teachers. So, what is the secret sauce? Is it hiring? Is it training? Is it adult culture? Is it coaching and feedback? Of course, the answer is some version of all of the above and then some.

BVP Blog: hallway art pieces

BVP Blog: hallway art pieces

These hallway art pieces also jumped out at me

Ultimately, my biggest takeaway from ASUGSV is that conversations that happen on school visits are some of the most valuable professional development opportunities possible. Fortunately, there are thousands of schools within a days drive…and many open their doors whenever at no cost.

Until my next great school visit or other truly inspired moment, catch me on twitter where I regularly post, share, rant, and rave.

*Coincidentally, early in his tenure, Rhode Island Commissioner Ken Wagner hosted a viewing of the film Most Likely to Succeed. He opened the conversation with a quip along the lines of, ‘I know that this movie features a charter school, but we need to get over that. Every school can reimagine learning if we work together to make greatness happen.’