Category Archives: Watch This

Are YOU Using ESPN’s E:60 Content in Your Classroom? (You Should Be.)

Call me crazy, but I am up and out of bed every Sunday morning around 5:45 AM.

My goal is to bang out as much part time work — blogging and Tweeting and writing and planning and responding to email and preparing for presentations — as possible before my wife and daughter wake up and start moving.

One of the best parts of the morning is catching ESPN’s E:60 segments on the radio as I drive to the local bagel shop for a quick bite.

Often, the segments — which are designed to “tell the best stories in sports” — leave me hopeful and smiling and with tears in my curmudgeonly eyes because they focus on the efforts of students who are using sports to overcome serious challenges and to more fully participate in their worlds.

Need an example?

Then check out the segment I heard this morning on Mikey Brannigan — a nineteen year old autistic distance runner who set state and national records while running for Northport High School in New York:

Mikey’s story is beautiful because it dispels the myth that autistic students don’t want to be social.

In reality, autistic students have the same desire to fit in even if they aren’t always sure just how to do that.  For Mikey — who was always athletic, but always confused by the rules and norms and complex interactions of team sports — long distance running became an opportunity to interact and to contribute just like his peers who didn’t have autism.

Isn’t that a message that every kid in every classroom needs to hear?  And isn’t it possible that the powerful storytelling and video production that ESPN puts into each E:60 segment might be the perfect tool for capturing attention of kids who often underestimate their peers with disabilities?

Now, not ALL E:60 segments are about school-aged kids overcoming remarkable challenges through sports.  In fact, the landing page today has a feature on LeSean McCoy — an interesting choice given his recent legal troubles.

But spend a few minutes searching through the E:60 collections on YouTube or on the ESPN website, and you will find plenty of segments worth sharing with your students, including:

Catching Kayla — the story of Kayla Montgomery, a successful long-distance runner who struggles with multiple sclerosis.

Long Shot — the story of Owen Groesser, a thirteen year old boy with Down Syndrome who was completely embraced by his middle school basketball team and community.

Different — the story of Davan Overton, a kid from a small town south of Portland, Oregon with a condition that slows both his brain and his physical development who finally found a place to belong on his high school basketball team — his “huge group of brothers.”

Amazing stuff, right?  So drop everything and figure out a way to integrate these stories into the work that you do with the kids in your school.



Related Radical Reads:

Are Our Schools Safe Spaces for Kids who are Different?

Are YOU Standing Up for Tolerance?

Lesson: Would YOU Stand up to Injustice?

Watch This: The Surprising Truth About Learning in Schools

Have you had a chance to see Will Richardson’s recent Tedx talk titled The Surprising Truth about Learning in Schools yet?  If not, watch it right now:

What resonates the most with me is Richardson’s argument that there is a very real disconnect between our beliefs about schooling and the practices that we embrace in schools.

I wrestle with that disconnect almost every single day — and it’s professionally exhausting.  As a sixth grade science teacher, I am responsible for teaching students about TONS of trivia.  So far this year, the kids in my classroom have:

  • memorized the parts of a flowering plant.
  • studied the difference between the A, B and C horizon in a soil profile.
  • learned about the basic properties of soil.
  • sorted rocks into categories including intrusive/extrusive, clastic/nonclastic and foliated/nonfoliated.
  • tried to keep hydro-, ge0- and thigmotropisms straight.

You see the problem there, don’t you?  The emphasis in each of those examples is on KNOWING, when science classes should prioritize DOING.  Instead of asking and answering interesting questions, we are racing to cover the content in the required curriculum.  My classroom prioritizes schooling, not learning — and that’s a function of the priorities set in our required curriculum.

That’s a tangible example of the disconnect that Will is describing.

If we REALLY cared about developing students who are critical thinkers who can work creatively across domains and who can solve problems collaboratively — which I believe are the RIGHT goals — then those practices would stand at the center of our classrooms and our assessments and our evaluations and observations of good teaching.

The sad truth, though, is while we are more than willing to give lip service to the notion that schools should be different, we continue to embrace traditional definitions of what “successful schools” look like in action.  No one is held accountable for creating learning spaces that facilitate higher order behaviors.  Instead, we’re held accountable for the results we produce on standardized tests.

That has to change.



Related Radical Reads:

How Testing Will Change What I Teach This Year

Is Standardized Testing Changing Me for the Worse?

Turned Into a Testing Machine


What Do Cat Herding and Data Conversations Have in Common?

A principal who I REALLY admire reached out to me recently with an interesting question.

She’s working with a group of teachers who are working to earn a degree in school administration.  In an upcoming class, she wants to get her students to think about the role that data can play in driving decision-making in schools.

“How would YOU start that conversation?” she asked.

That’s an easy one:  Regardless of audience, early conversations about using data to inform practice in schools should start with a careful study of cat herding:

(You DID watch the video, right?  If not, go back and do that now!  The rest of this post is pointless until you watch the video!)

Now at the risk of boring you with the obvious, here are three of my favorite reasons that cat herding is the perfect starting point for conversations about using data to inform practice in schools:  

Teachers — like unpredictable cats running from the herd — can take off in a thousand directions whenever we start conversations about using data to inform instruction.  Seeing dozens of cats running in dozens of directions can be a reminder that we need to slow down, focus our efforts and move as one if we are ever going to succeed.

There are literally a million different data sources that can inform our practices in schools.  If we try to chase them all, we are bound to fail — and to exhaust ourselves in the process.  That’s a lesson that is easy to learn from cat herders.

Inevitably, someone gets “scratched” when we use data to inform practice in schools.  It might be a struggling teacher who is intimidated by sharing results with their peers.  It might be the poor soul charged with facilitating a data conversation on an explosive learning team.  But scratches ARE going to happen.

It’s a great metaphor, right?

And my guess is that if you turn any room full of educators loose, they can probably come up with a ton of other similarities between data conversations and cat herding.  Better yet, my guess is that if you turn your audience loose with that metaphor, they will have a lot of fun with each other.

And THAT’s the lesson worth learning:  Using data in schools can feel pretty darn intimidating to teachers — particularly in a world where data is used to shame teachers and label schools.

Cat herding, on the other hand, is just plain funny.  Using cat herding as a starting point for data-informed decision-making in schools can get people to let their guard down and relax.





Related Radical Reads:

Numbers Never Tell the Whole Story

Is Standardized Testing Changing Me for the Worse?

Your Data Dream.  My Data Nightmare.

Tupac — Yes, THAT Tupac — on Education.

A few weeks ago, my buddy Mike Hutchinson stumbled across a pretty remarkable commentary on just what education should be from Tupac.  I’ve Tube-Chopped it down to spotlight the best parts:

 Amazing, right? 

Here’s what’s even MORE amazing:  That interview was shot in 1988.


So what’s changed in our classrooms and schools since then?  

Pretty much nothing.

We are STILL teaching algebra and German and volleyball to every kid as if they are essential to surviving in today’s world.  We are STILL ignoring more powerful topics like racism and police brutality and political doublespeak even though our students are driven to participate and passionate about changing the world around them.  And our students are STILL completely disconnected, convinced that our schools are pointless places that they are forced to go to while we are at work.

Fairyland, y’all.  



Related Radical Reads:

Problemitizing the Curriculum [SLIDE]

My Beef with the Gameification of Education

My Kids, a Cause and our Classroom Blog

Are We REALLY Trying to Engage Students?