Tag Archives: Teaching Philosophy

The Good and the Best About Being an Educator … There is No Ugly Here

Note: This was originally posted a year or so ago, and was composed using voice-to-text, so apologies for goofs 

The beauty of being an educator

Photo Credit: young_einstein via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: young_einstein via Compfight cc

I spend a lot of time bashing my profession but recently have had cause to smile about my profession. Actually I always have cause to smile when I am engaged with my students. I do what I do because I love giving back and helping my students find and engage their passion.   The other day one of my students, told me that she is graduating in a couple weeks and is completely unsure of what she wants to do after college. She is getting an HR degree but when talking to her I pulled out of her that the things that she’s really passionate about and loves to learn about in practice have to do with beauty and makeup. No this is not one of my areas of expertise I know this is shocking, so I started reaching out to colleagues of mine in Chicago who may be able today introduced this young woman to people in the beauty industry. Lo and behold instantly the number of my colleagues in Chicago we’re willing and able to introduce this young woman to people in the beauty industry.I believe that this process will help to change this young woman’s career path from something that she would settle for to something that she could live for. That’s an impact. That’s why I’m here. That’s the beauty of what I do. It doesn’t usually happen in the classroom during class time. Sometimes it does, when those light bulbs pop on. But more often it happens outside the classroom, during deeper discussions about purpose, passion, and uncertainty.

Educator’s impact is outside the classroom

I have had these discussions with many students in the few years I have been teaching. I have students who have found their way, on my urgent, to Boston. They ventured out on their own because they wanted something new, something exciting, something challenging. They were willing to face uncertainty and to take full advantage of what it offers. I have other students who are working their dream jobs in the Chicago area. They did not find these jobs with a resume, a cover letter, or any other vehicle that would make them seemed like every other robot coming out of college. They found these jobs because they were willing to stand up, speak up, and take a chance that somebody would be willing to help them figure out where they wanted to go and how to get there. I was willing to help.

Educators should do more than educate

I get excited when I see students excited. I rarely see students as excited in the classroom we’re talking about class related material as when I am talking to them trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their lives.it does not take anything very special to make a dead in these young men and womens futures. it takes listening to them, asking difficult questions, supporting their fear, in their passion, and being their champion. Is that so hard? Even if it is I would argue it is the most meaningful experiences an educator can have.

The best part of being an educator, in my humble opinion, has nothing to do with education per se. it has to do with supporting our students in their search for meaning, for challenge, for security, for fun, and for the future that is fulfilling. That cannot be accomplished through traditional means of education and in a traditional formatted classroom.

My challenge to educators

I challenge all educators to change their view of what our role can be and should be in the students lives. And to think through how we can have an impact and be responsible champions for our students in their pursuit of a meaningful future.

What are you doing? What could you do better? How are you impacting your students in lasting waves? If you are not, shame on you. If you are, please share how you do that so the rest of us can learn and can be better at what we should do.


The purpose of education is . . .

Last year I did a TEDx talk at Heartland Community College about my visions for the future of education. It was a high point of my life; watching TED talks have provided me so much inspiration and to have that opportunity was incredible!  I spoke to the audience about how to change the education system so that a college experience can realize it’s intended promise to prepare students for the real world. I spoke about the generic purpose of education being to prepare young people to be responsible and productive citizens and lifelong learners. Specifically, I think the purpose of education is to help students find answers to their meaningful questions.

Thoughts on Education

I asked the attendees to answer the question “What is the purpose of education?” on a paper airplane, and at one point in the talk to send me their airplanes. Here are their answers:

Turn dreams into reality.

Foster the art of asking questions.

To inspire students to learn from on their own, and to prepare them for the world (Sam Ferrante)

To teach you how to think.

To inspire and evolve how we think.

To expand minds.

To get a better idea (Carol Hahn)

I have no idea about the education thing. . . I just want to be cool enough to live in a red house. . . and I will have a red plan also (my sidenote – my wife and I live in a red house, which is very rare in our town where all the houses are beige)

To question. To be aware. To be courageous (Carol Hahn)

To open minds, inspire creativity, and to teach us how to live in the world (Jean)

To help them discover their true potential (Alejandro Montesdeoca)

To expose people to skills and knowledge that will allow them to lead happy and productive lives (Jon Shackley)

To discover and pursue interesting questions

Improving people’s lives (George Mueller)

To teach people of all ages relevant skills and provide them with relevant knowledge. Education can be delivered via many modes! FOR FUN . . . education should not be confused with training. You wouldn’t want your kids to take a sex training class, would you? (Doug Minter)

For individuals to better themselves and build a future/career. Expand on their knowledge and better themselves as a whole (Arianna Shipley)

To educate (Antonio Montes de Oca)

Knowledge is power (Antonio Montes de Oca)

Education is a forum for new ideas seen through the lens of the ideas of others

To teach people to think

To challenge yourself and become a better asset in the world (Kali Lewis)

Give the ability to explore (Ravi K.)

People say education prepares you for the real world, when in fact education is the real world. While being educated, kids are and should be allowed to truly think and create (Kayley K.)

“So that employees can follow written instructions” So sorry for being jaded (Marcus)

To get smarter (Julie Shackley)

An opportunity to gain knowledge, build self-confidence, know who we are and increase awareness of our surroundings and our world (Linda Walter)

To advance one’s self to the benefit of one’s self and community

To provide students with the tools and creativity to go beyond their own expectations (Cecilia)

Foster all ideas in a non-judgmental setting

To bankrupt parents!

Education is to help us discover the purpose of life

To prepare a student to be successful in their future (Brent R.)

To learn to love learning (V. Sittig)

To teach how to think, question, and create (Robyn Walter)

What do you think is the purpose of education?


How Our Education System Isn’t As Bad As You Think

Our education system has been under attack recently. And for good reason. We have lost track of why an education system exists. Many voices (mine included) have spewed much venom. As is normal with soapbox issues, few of those have provided workable solutions to the education epidemic going on in our country. I am a process innovation thinker – I see things as a process, I break the process down into it’s pieces, I develop innovative improvements on those pieces, and put the process back together. I’ve spent considerable time thinking this way about our education system. I cam to an important realization the other day while thinking this through in preparation for a TEDx talk I’m giving on Saturday.


Our Education System Isn’t As Bad As We Think

Let me be clear – the No Child Left Behind, Common Core and all that nonsense is just that – nonsense. It needs to go. Those of us in the education system need to focus on students as individuals and work to prepare them to be productive citizens in the uncertain world that awaits them. We have ALOT of work to do on that level to change from the robotic, Orwellian approach that has infected our system. But the more research I do, the more I find pockets of promise – individual schools or larger units of schools doing amazing things. With this renewed promise, I think that perhaps things aren’t so bad.


I am about to sit down and read Sir Ken Robinson’s Creative Schools – can’t wait to see what gems lurk in there, and how I can further disrupt the system based on that. It came about from his ridiculous TED talk, which you need to watch if you haven’t already – here you go!


Questions, Not Answers: A Re-Framing of Education

I gave a talk at TEDxHeartlandCommunityCollege talk a year ago about creative disruption in education. This post is some of my thinking going into that talk. I reflected on my experiences in my educational journey – what impacted me and what didn’t – and on the broader purpose of education. Now the education system is built around answers. But that can’t continue.

Inquiring Minds

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Questions and Power

Why do teachers control the knowledge?

Why can students only “receive” an education inside a building?

Why are students only allowed to answer and not question?

Questions are powerful. In education, questions threaten the status quo. In a classroom, they challenge the information being shared by the “expert”. Some teachers even see questions as threatening. That is a good thing as far as I’m concerned; let the students threaten so they gain confidence and ownership over their educational experience. The classroom structure is backwards. Typically speaking, the teacher provides information on the topic of the day. The teacher is giving students answers to questions they haven’t asked. Questions they often don’t care about, to be honest. A simple tweak can make all the difference int he classroom:

Instead of teachers presenting information 1st and then inviting questions from students 2nd, try inviting questions about a topic 1st and present relevant information 2nd. Or even better – don’t provide any information, but guide them in finding their own answers.


Questions are power. In our current system, the teachers have all the power because they control (if not kill) the questioning. It’s time for a new dynamic.

Teachers – let your students ask questions, and don’t be afraid to said “I don’t know”

Students – take charge and ask your questions. Don’t lose the opportunity.


And the Purpose is . . .?

[this post originally posted around the holidays a year or two ago – but I dig it, so thought I’d repost it here]

My purpose here at Illinois State University is to spread entrepreneurship across campus. I’ve struggled to engage young women students and women business leaders in the community in the classes and programs. The more I talked to colleagues and looked into research regarding entrepreneurship, startups, and innovation, the more glaring became the gender gap. This always bothered me, but around the holidays, I decided to do something about it.

Purpose is Central

Since the holidays, I’ve been a networking tornado – blasting through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and any other outlets possible to connect with women who have experience with entrepreneurship and innovation and wouldn’t be shy about sharing their honest feedback. It has been extremely easy to get hundreds of women to spend 20 or 30 minutes chatting with me. My secret? I let them know I want to empower young women through education, and that since I’m a dude I am clueless about how to do that effectively, so I need their guidance. That vulnerability and humility and transparently sharing my purpose seals the deal. These women have all sorts of perspectives, from different industries, roles, generations, geographies, and any number of other differentiating factors. A few things are common to most of the feedback I have received.

The one thing every single woman has urged me to do is to focus on purpose

They urge me to get young women to think about their purpose (generally and specifically to any number of slices of life’s pie)

They urge me to encourage young women to own that purpose, and to share that purpose with anyone and everyone.

They urge me to facilitate young women connecting with others around their purpose.

Purpose has been on my mind lately, and I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities that presents me.

The Purpose of Education

Education needs a purpose. Administrators could be so much more effective if they focused on purpose first and outcomes second (and less on quantitative results and more on qualitative results). We as educators need to re-examine our purpose.

Why are we in this career? Research? Teaching? Service? A paycheck? Seriously think about it. I’m here to impact young people and help them uncover and get started down their desired career path.

Students could improve their experience if they explored their purpose for continuing their education. They choose to be in college, they choose which college. They make daily choices to engage with their educational experience. To what purpose? Owning that purpose would create much more impactful moments. I’ll bet that would leak into the educators’ experience and the administrators’ experience, and would begin to infect these stakeholders’ purpose.

What About You?

What’s your purpose? Think about it. I mean really think about it. Think beyond specific roles in your life (as a parent, spouse, employee, boss, leader, whatever). Think holistically. Why are you here? What, really, is your existence about? Think beyond the “what do you want you epitaph to be” sort of exercises. Dig deep. Get uncomfortable with yourself; be vulnerable. Own your purpose, whatever it is. Then live it. The world will be better for it. Your world will be brighter for it. The impact will be awesome!

I’d love to hear what your purpose is, and to help you accomplish your purpose. Share by commenting here, or by emailing me at dwinkel@ilstu.edu.


Experience Can Save Education

Experiences have been in the forefront of my mind lately.  The only thing I remember from my early schooling is field trips. I don’t remember the classrooms, the playgrounds, the teachers, the material. I don’t remember anything about the school. But I can remember some of the sights, sounds, smells, and knowledge from field trips. I remember the experiences.

We celebrate the experiences. Milestones such as weddings, births, deaths. We share experiences. Concerts, sporting events, roadtrips, hobbies. We remember experiences; I’d wager that anytime you start the sentence “Do you remember . . .?” it has to do with an experience.

Where Are the Experiences?

My son is in 3rd grade, and he has taken only one field trip. At the beginning of each year (Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, and now 3rd grade), I offered his teacher to coordinate and pay for a field trip anywhere, anytime for his entire class. Only this year did they take me up on the offer (the PTO finally saw the light of day and offered up a field trip to each grade).  I thought perhaps I wasn’t getting anywhere due to perceptions of favoritism if one class got a field trip and others didn’t. In earlier years, I offered the principal of his school to coordinate and pay for a field trip for the entire 2nd grade. I was told they couldn’t do that because it would cut into too much of the reading and writing time in the Common Core curriculum. Seriously? Seriously?!? 

After cooling off in previous years, I returned to offer to bring an experience to the students. I offered to bring an experience to my son’s class, then to the entire 2nd grade, then to the entire school. No, no, no. I don’t understand how these “educators” don’t understand the power of experience and want to bring that power to the children they’re charged with educating. I don’t understand how they don’t remember the sheer joy and wonder of a field trip. Shame on them if they do understand the power and remember the joy and actively decide to not offer their students the same power and joy.

The Experience That Is Left

So I am left to create experiences for my son. I’m happy to do it (although I’m not nearly as diligent or imaginative as I should be – I readily acknowledge my hypocrisy here!) But I growl internally because I shouldn’t have to make up for lost time – he should be having experiences during his school day. The saddest part of this is that he cannot share any experiences with his friends. He cannot digest any experiences with the classmates he’s learning with. He cannot see school as a source of the wonder and joy experiences hold. I am saddened, for my son, for all children who can’t experience learning beyond the walls of schools, and for a system that has turned its back on the power and wonder of experience.


Learning Is . . . #!%$#$!

I’m Learning, They’re Learning, We’re All Learning Together

I spend a ton of time learning with students. Let me make sure you heard me: I spend a ton of time learning with students. I’m not paying lip service here, I learn so much every semester as a new batch of my students create their own learning experiences. I talk to them at length to unearth their feelings about previous time in the education system.

Learning Has Not Been Positive

The kinds of words I hear as my students describe their previous experiences in education:

Bad Experience in Learningpointless, boring, sucks, dry, OK (with a shoulder shrug), typical, awful, irritating, flat, hollow, unproductive, false, fucked up, annoying, a waste, nonsense.


The kinds of words I don’t, but long to, hear:

2fun, invigorating, challenging, awesome, killer, fantastic, orgasmic (OK, maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch but it would be cool!), addictive, brilliant, epic (I hate that word, but the kids sure do love it), useful

Peeling the Learning Layers Back

We need to change the vocabulary.  The best way to do that is to talk to students.  Don’t let a bunch of old folks continue to develop and deliver a model of education that was meant for a society over 100 years old.  We live in the 21st century and our education system needs to reflect that.  Do administrators really understand how students today learn?  I sure as hell don’t, and I spend my time with college and high school kids, and with an 8 year old at home.  Their brains develop in a different age than anything I could have comprehended as a kid.  It’s digital.  It’s flat.  It’s magical.  It’s overload. It’s plugged in. It’s opportunistic.

How absurd, ignorant, and egotistical of those of us who design learning experiences to think we know what that experience should be for a generation of kids that we never take time to understand? Giving the students a voice can’t make it any worse! It would by nature create more relevant content, more relevant tools, more relevant experiences.  And the vocabulary would change. Instead of “yeah but” we would hear more “yes, and”.  Instead of silence in classrooms, we would hear cacophony.  Instead of defending education and learning systems, we could all focus on building them.  Together.  With students.

I’m so tired of the negativity.  Of kids counting down to the last day of the school year.  Of teachers celebrating as much as students for snow days. I want the potential of impact that I see in the students and in the system to be blatantly obvious to everyone everywhere.  Wishful thinking, perhaps.  But I do know one way to start down that road is to let the young guns have more control and put the old thoroughbreds out to pasture.


Education: A Whole New Look and Feel

Every morning I put my son on a bus literally across the street (talk about poor use of resources!) and a little piece of me dies.  The experience he has each and every day destroys his creativity, his natural curiosity, his imagination, his self-confidence, his individualism.  Need I go on?

BusOur education system is broken.  I’m not one of those who gets on a soapbox and blames others.  I don’t care whose fault it is.  No Child Left Behind.  Common Core.  The list of people and programs who have contributed is endless.  Including every parent who never spoke up.  I can’t stay silent any longer.  The system needs an overhaul.

Education as a Process

I view everything as a process.  Including any educational system, or any component within the educational system.  And any process can be split into smaller (more manageable!) parts.  With the educational system, I’m looking at teachers, administrators, students, and resources as the big building blocks.


Teachers are the foundation of education.  They should be the co-creators, the facilitators, the guides, the mentors.  They make it happen.  They have been relegated to delivering packaged content, to helping aggregate big data, to creating robots.  It really is depressing.  Just as students do, teachers need the freedom to design and create.

Create opportunities for students to love learning.  Create content delivery systems based on individual needs and capabilities.   Create a community where parents send their children to blossom, not to be crushed.  Teachers want this.  If they don’t, they’re just perpetuating the destruction of our youth.


In any process are gatekeepers.  In education, the gatekeepers are administrators.  They need to protect our school communities like they would their own children.  Not only keep them safe, but enable them, empower them, mentor them, encourage them to fail.  They need to encourage teachers to create, encourage students to experiment.  They need to enable teachers to innovate and take calculated risks, enable students to enjoy education and find their natural love of learning.  Their job is to champion and permit the transition from standardized factories to individualized laboratories.   This comes from creating cultures of student-driven learning and of curiosity and of experimentation and of fun.


Students are the heart and soul of education.  Although the heart barely beats, and the soul is certainly shattered.  Students need to regain their voice.  This means taking back control.  Education is their experience.  It is meant to help them grow, to prepare them for an uncertain future, to provide a safe place for them to experiment intellectually, socially, spiritually, athletically.

pencilEducation cannot happen without students.  Transforming our education system can happen most effectively by students believing their voice matters, building a collective voice, and reclaiming their ownership of the educational process.  Students need to be able to make things.  To code programs.  Education needs to be learning by doing.  Most importantly, education should allow and energize students to learn to learn.  Learn how to ask questions, and how to answer questions.


Resources are the least important of these building blocks.  The resources that we typically think of are so irrelevant.  Buildings that decay.  Desks that confine.  Books that are outdated.  Resources students need are easily accessible in today’s world.  Education resources should include those that allow students to self-organize, to engage, to be curious, to be motivated by their peers, to collaborate.  A computer, tablet, or some device that gets them connected.  Internet access.  Writing materials.

The New Education System

Teachers need to create.

Administrators need to protect.

Students need to love learning.

Resources are already there.

Everyone involved in education should have fun.  If you touch or are affected by education, are you having fun?  I mean really having fun?  I doubt it.  Let’s create the future of learning.  How?  Put entrepreneurs in charge.  They can transform cities.  They can transform communities.  They can build ecosystems.  They can certainly redesign education – because they are lifelong learners at their core, and they engage in learning more effectively than anyone else.  They have to.  Let’s give them education to rebuild the broken system.


Education In The Hands of Students: The Learning Contract

I’ve been tweaking the concept of learning contracts for a number of semesters now.  Thanks to some tremendous feedback from scholars must smarter than I, I think I’m almost where I want to be with it.

Education the Right Way: Learning Contracts

My take on learning contracts is that they are a contract the student makes with himself/herself.  It takes me completely out of the picture in terms of grading/assessment.  That’s a powerful statement if you think of it – to tell the student that the assessment of their learning is completely up to them.  And that it’s contractual.  It really does work (trust me!)  I’ve had students fail themselves and show up next semester.  I’ve had students give themselves a D or a C when they richly deserved it.  I have yet to need to adjust a student’s grade down.  Did you read that?  I HAVE YET TO ADJUST A STUDENT’S GRADE DOWN!! I have occasionally had to adjust grades up because students are too hard on themselves.

The Best Education Gift

Photo Credit: Matthew Kunce via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Matthew Kunce via Compfight cc

Giving students this sense of ownership is, in my opinion, the best gift an educator can give a student.  Control.  Autonomy.  So, how do I do it?

I outline the A-B-F grading plan that they must abide by.  I think the C and D grades are bullshit.  I mean, really, what is a D?  Sort of failing?  Nonsense, either you failed or you didn’t.  That’s like sort of drowning or a sort of heart attack.  And a C?  That’s mediocre.  And mediocre should not be rewarded.  It won’t be in my class.  I explain that an F means failure (they did not meet the obligations in their learning contract).  I explain that B means competency (they met a minimum bar).  I explain that A means mastery.  This, to me, means their body of work can be used by me and others as an example of the goal that should be achieved.  I want them to understand it is not just going through the motions (to me, that’s a failure), but that it is the best business experience – one that I want to share with subsequent classes as an example of what an A looks like.  Something that sets them apart, something that job interviewers want to know more about.   Something that is contagious, infectious, deliberate, and glorious.

I then provide them this form: Learning Contract Winkel.  I walk them through it:

1. the objectives are some general objectives I have set for the course.

2. They need to develop some strategies to achieve the objective, and some resources they need to be able to achieve the objective (I will give them a generic choice or two)

3. They need to decide what to assess (this takes the place of the traditional assignments).  Let them choose!!!  I promise it won’t hurt to give up this control (in fact, it’s liberating).  Again, I will give them a generic choice or two.

4. They have to figure out how to assess the work they complete.  Maybe they want me to assess it.  Maybe they want peers to assess it.  Could be objective, or subjective.  Lots of different ways to assess things!  But part of the process is they have to deliberately think about what assessment means and how to enact it – because that results in much more impactful “assignments”.  And much more tailored to the individual student, so the impact increases geometrically!

After explaining the learning contract, I have them work in small groups to fill out a learning contract.  Then the small groups share with the class what they came up with.  This way, the students are working together to give each other ideas of assignments, of assessment techniques.  They know what to do, they are capable, and they love the ownership!  Honest – let go and let them have at it.  It’s brilliant.  They listen to each other so much more than to me.

Photo Credit: gorbould via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: gorbould via Compfight cc

After sharing from groups, I tell them that each one of them must fill out a learning contract by the end of the first class.  I collect them, and deliver feedback to them by the 2nd class.  My feedback consists of pushing them further – they generally come up with vague assessment techniques, bogus assignments, etc. so I push them to think deeper, to push themselves to set the bar higher, etc.  It’s motivation I provide, really.  And permission.  They turn in a final draft in the 3rd class.  They sign it, and I keep one copy and they keep one copy.

At the end of the semester, I ask them to write a one-pager stating what grade they give themselves according to what they agreed to in their learning contract and justifying it.  I tell them they can turn in as much material as they need to for justification (but all they ever turn in is the one-pager because all throughout the semester they are basically keeping me updated so I know what’s up).

It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.  At the very beginning, we work hard to understand and put together learning contracts.  Then grading, assessment and all that interference is off the table.  They don’t think about it.  I don’t think about it.  We all focus on learning.  And doing.  And isn’t that the point?

So why don’t you give up control?  Try it one semester.  See what happens.  I promise you’ll feel better.  And so will your students.

Photo Credit: Uros Petrovic via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Uros Petrovic via Compfight cc


The Names I Get Called and Why It Matters



Crazy. Risky. Insane. Nuts. Dangerous (that’s one of my personal favorites!). Foolish. Confidently ignorant (another of my personal favorites!) I hear these words flung at me, but often more in whispers or passive aggressive comments on social media or elsewhere. I embrace these words, and understand that they are borne of ignorance. Ignorance of what I’m doing and why; those who fling them often know nothing other than what I’m doing is “different”. Ignorance of the fact that the act of educating needs updating.

Innovative. Brilliant. Inspiring. Leader. Pioneer. I obviously also embrace these words. While they are spoken much louder and more publicly, they also are often borne from ignorance. Just as those who fear change condemn what I do without truly understanding the why behind it, those who embrace change support what I do without truly understanding the why behind it.

Why Am I Doing This?

Simply put, because I must. I read an unbelievable piece by Elle Luna about The Crossroads of Should and Must. It captured perfectly the answer to the question I get so often: “why are you doing this?” Not because I should. Because I must.

Should and Must

A Broader View of Me

Allow me to digress and provide a little background. I am an educator. My profession requires me to conduct research, to engage in service for the benefit of my department and institution, and to teach. I’m at a school that claims to prize the balance of those. As you can see from Doan Winkel CV, I have been more than successful in terms of research and service. I do not value research in any way (that’s a soapbox I’ll save for another time). I love service – trying to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem here at ISU, in our local community, and beyond in the field in general. But most of my colleagues don’t really value or acknowledge the service component of my profession. That leaves us with teaching, what I believe is the most (or only in some ways) valuable component of my profession (at least in my discipline – I don’t discount research in many other disciplines, but in mine it’s basically worthless in my judgment because it doesn’t at all help us be better educators, which is the yardstick I use).

The Importance of Teaching

I believe a teacher has a bigger responsibility than delivering material, than “teaching”. My job as a teacher is to use my accumulated life experience and knowledge (and my ability to accumulate, assimilate and disseminate knowledge) to open the minds and hearts and souls and spirits of younger generations (whether they sit in my classroom or not). It’s my job to inspire. To guide. To challenge. To push back. To mentor. To inspire.


Referring back to Elle’s article, I do not see this responsibility as a “should”, but as a “must”. What’s the difference? As Elle states:

“Should is how others want us to show up in the world – how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s the vast array of expectations that others layer upon us. When we choose Should the journey is smooth, the risk is small”

“Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are along with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us. Must is what happens when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own. Because when we choose Must, we are no longer looking for inspiration out there. Instead, we are listing to our calling from within, from some luminous, mysterious place.”

Just as most of my students have done, I proceeded through my K-12 educational experience with a should mindset. I never found or thought about must. Why? Because my teacher’s didn’t; they were the “experts” and I was trained to follow their example and take their direction.

I must change that experience for as many young men and women as possible. It’s unfair for me to perpetuate that when I know how absolutely destructive it is to the hearts and minds and souls and spirits of these young men and women. That’s why I push myself to create crazy experiences – for my students and for myself. That’s why I push my colleagues to do the same. That’s why I push every day, in every way I can. Because I must. Because education should be scary – it’s the only way to encourage the sort of entrepreneurial thinking that we need to encourage in younger generations.

Make It Scary


Education should be scary for the students, so they can really understand how important it is (I don’t see that they, generally speaking, believe this anymore – they take it for granted).

Education should be scary for the teachers, so they understand the huge responsibility they have to shape the hearts and minds and souls and spirits of our future (I also don’t see that they, generally speaking, believe this anymore – they take it for granted).

The best way I have found to make it scary for students is to give them control. They don’t know what to do with this; it’s very new and unknown for them. I of course offer tremendous support and guidance for those that reach out (perhaps I need to do a better job of making this bridge in the future). Uncertainty is scary for students, because they’re used to such structure and spoon-feeding and instant gratification.

The best way I have found to make it scary for me is to walk a mile in my students’ shoes. In essence, to give up the control that I offer to them. I don’t know where the experience is going, but I’m confident I can guide it no matter where it goes (or can find the best people to help me if I’m not capable). I don’t know how my students and I will learn, but I can guarantee those who seize the opportunity will emerge transformed. They may or may not learn the skills many of my colleagues think they should. I’m not concerned with that, because they can learn just about anything with a few YouTube videos these days. They will, however, learn much about their capability. Their confidence. Their drive. Their possibility. They learn this by understand and implementing entrepreneurial thinking. I do as well, because I am not only teacher, but student. Because I gave up control. Because I made it scary (stay tuned here for some exciting plans Michael Luchies and I have!)

What About You?

What is your must as an educator? What is your must as a student? How are you making your classroom experience scary?

What About You?

What can I do to make it scarier?