Layers of Evolution with Maureen O’Shaughnessy
December 13, 2022
Layers of Evolution with Maureen O’Shaughnessy

The whole point of this podcast is to help education evolve into something that better serves our children. We know that today’s model doesn’t work; let’s inspire some change! I love talking to leaders about how they’re making changes and helping to grow the inspiration to beyond their own immediate circle.

This time of year, I like to take time to reflect, express gratitude, and look forward. And this week on the podcast, I’m sharing some of that with you.

As leaders, we need to grow and evolve too; change doesn’t happen if we stay where we are. That’s why I’m making a big change in 2023, and I’d love your support in continuing to move forward.

Listen in and consider your role in the evolution of education and how you can best use your gifts to continue the process.

Jump in the Conversation:

[1:08] – Reflecting on where you are through three lenses
[1:50] – Become tools for the changes you want to see
[2:09] – Maureen looking back
[2:12] – History of nudging at different possibilities
[3:55] – Waiting to be part of a solution
[5:51] – Preparing for new growth
[7:00] – My last year as Head of School
[8:30] – Breathing in the present moment
[9:32] – Dividing job into what makes more sense
[10:45] – What is our heart calling us to stop, start, do more or less of?
[12:45] – My three asks for you

Links & Resources



Maureen O’Shaughnessy 0:03
Hello fellow parents and educators. Thank you for joining me at Education Evolution, where we are disrupting the status quo in today’s learning models. We talk about present day education, what’s broken, who’s fixing it, and how. I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of education evolution, micro school coalition, and co founder of active, I consult and train with schools and leaders who are fiercely committed to changing the narrative, reimagining the education landscape, and creating learning that serves all children and prepares them to thrive. If you are new, welcome to the podcast. Please subscribe on our website to get it delivered to your inbox weekly. If you’ve been around a while, have you left a review?

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 1:08
Many of you know the outline of my journey through educational evolution. I’m feeling reflective right now. So today I want to encourage all of us to look at where we are, with three specific lens. One, a backwards glance in gratitude to an honoring of this follow time of year when trees are barren and seeds sleep beneath the ground, preparing to burst through the earth with new shoots in the spring, and three, with a forward glance accepting the possibility and challenge of growth. From this place of introspection, we can become deeper tools for the change we wish to see in education and the world. Our own evolution is a vital part of systemic evolution. Let me be vulnerable and share my own introspection with you today. With the first lens of looking back, I’ve always been seeing possibilities and impatiently nudging to make them happen. In high school, I nudged a reluctant school principal, with the help of our guidance counselor to let me create a national honor society. In college, I was allowed to be a founding member of a student led campus ministry. With this role came a deep dive into community service and a lifelong experience of receiving and sometimes giving spiritual direction and spiritual direction is being guided ever more deeply to our fullest good and deepest integrity. In my eight years of classroom teaching, I was able to create literature based reading programs, a monthly gifted experiential pullout program, and even a school within a school with a high school of over 2000 students. This program connect included for other teachers, 75 students, and a pod of portable buildings. We were catching precious students who were otherwise falling through the cracks. Community service and project based learning were successful parts of this model. Then, with the arrival of my two daughters, I returned to overseas life, making the choice for my girls to grow up in other cultures, and celebrating differences while giving back was one of the biggest joys in my life. After living in five other countries, I brought them back to the United States for high school. And when multiple models of school did not work for my girls, I knew I had to be a part of creating a solution. That solution led me to form a microscope in Seattle in 2013. I loaded it with many of the components I saw helping students thrive, smaller classes with more teachers so that learning could be relational and adjusted for each student, weekly community and service days later start times experiential weeks, including a fall camping trip and wraparound collaboration and support. This microscope lead prep is now on two campuses, and will have its ninth graduating class this spring. There are always ups and downs in community. But we have had a 100% graduation rate and have seen multiple, wonderful youth flourish in this personalized strength focused model. Then in 2019, I wrote a book to encourage others to create smaller learning communities with love and relationships as the foundation and At a TED talk on embracing the duality of school change, and I created this podcast, and I’m pleased to celebrate this 100 and 40th episode of sharing ideas to spark needed educational evolution. The accompanying LinkedIn newsletter I write reaches over 3000 subscribers each week, I am humbled. I feel so much gratitude that I have been allowed to see possibility and create options to make learning accessible and relevant for so many youth over the years. I offer deep thanks to those of you who have journeyed with me and been a part of this powerful creative process. As I look at the second lens of introspection, I am sitting in the darkness with the room lit by the lights on the Christmas tree. I am trusting that I am a seed preparing to shoot out new growth in the spring. Raised a Vatican two progressive Catholic the liturgical season of Advent is a powerful time of the year for me. These four weeks before Christmas are a time of waiting in faith and expectation. It’s a time of accepting the darkness of these shortened days. We trust that there will be new birth in our life and gifts that reveal themselves at Christmas. Whether this is metaphorical or literal, or aligned with nature doesn’t matter to me. A gift of Advent or this season of shorter days is permission to slow down and go deep. hibernating from busyness gives us room for reflection. I’m putting a few of my favorite Advent reflection and poetry books in the show notes.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 6:56
And this adventure is especially poignant. Working closely with my board. We have recently announced that this 10th year of serving as the founding director of LEED prep will be my last as a creative. I have loved teaching different grade levels every year and hopping to new schools on new continents every two or three years. Staying with this micro school this labor of love for 10 years has been an honor. It is time to pass the torch to a new leader to serve the community and help lead prep evolve on its journey. Every parent who has taught a child to ride a bike experiences the nervousness of taking off the training wheels, then running alongside the child and then releasing them. And that’s good practice for when we experienced the bittersweet release of our children moving out into the world after they finish high school. This is similar to the sense of release I feel at blessing and releasing the future of our loving lead prep learning community. Lead prep definitely feels like my third daughter, a source of sleepless nights, high hopes, and deep interactions of love. So many students, teachers and parents have gifted me with shared experiences and their trust. My gratitude is deep. And so is the challenge of letting go. So this Advent, I’ve been reflecting on the Buddhist principle of impermanence, and practicing breathing in this present moment. As someone who loves to take action and create solutions, I’m working closely with my spiritual director to stay in this present moment. Just as seasons change, our roles need to change and evolve. I’ve asked contacts in my professional communities to let any prospective Head of School candidates know about this position. The link is also posted in the show notes. Staying in the now I will not begin my exploration of a new position until well into the new year. These next six months are a time to prepare for handing off my baby. I’m looking at my position and making sure that our school is in great shape for a new leader. I’ve worked hard to solidify the systems and roles this year. This preparation also includes dividing my job. Large schools have specific people that run specific departments, startups have the founders wearing many hats. Knowing wearing so many hats is not sustainable. I’m taking the operational and business aspects of my job and creating a business manager role. I’ve hired an amazing person as our operations manager, who I’m training to become the business manager starting in July. This means As the head of school can truly be an instructional leader, the face of the school and focused on being present to students, teachers and parents, the instructional leadership will be even more important. As my beloved partner in crime. Terry, who tried to retire a few years ago, retires completely this spring. In her ninth year at LEED prep, she has been serving as our director of learning and mentoring teachers, a very important role given the changes in faculty that pandemic living have brought. The final lens of introspection is a forward glance, accepting the challenge of growth. It is healthy for each of us to look at our gifts and how we’re using them. Are we on a routine that’s not evolving our purpose or growth? Maybe it’s time to stop and listen, what is our heart calling us to stop, start, do more of do less of evolve into the new year is a wonderful time for reflection. I always do a few reflections right before January 1. Tim Ferriss past your review is one of my favorites. A link to a summary of the steps is in the show notes. This review has led me to remember how deeply I enjoyed dancing to live music with friends, and how much nature inspires me. It also reminds me that seeing possibility and acting on it is a part of my DNA. Maintaining structures and procedures is not. So my question for you. What has brought you the greatest joy? Or maybe what’s been the most mind numbing this past year? How might this information be calling you to evolve? We are all part of a greater system. When we live our lives fully continuing to grow. We help the people and systems around us grow. And we model for the youth in our life. That growth is normal, and that taking risks and trying new things is essential. This approach definitely requires stepping out in faith. After 29 years as a school leader, and over 35 years in the K 12 system. It’s time for me to evolve. I will not be in the K 12 system next year Gope I have faith that my wonderful search committee and community will find the right next leader for this labor of love microscope I have created and I deeply believe that I will be able to use my gifts in a new role moving forward.

Maureen O’Shaughnessy 12:46
In closing, I have three asks for you. One, send any potential head of school candidates the posting link in the show notes. Word of mouth is a beautiful way to get important messages out to hold my journey in your heart and envision the perfect next career opportunity coming my way. Feel free to connect me with possibilities that are out there. Our networks are one of our biggest blessings. And three, my magic wand wish for you is that you take time in this season of darkness to honor the flow of nature. This is a time of hibernation and slowing. Take time to reflect and listen deeply. Where are you called to evolve so that you are even more closely aligned with your gifts and purpose. May this time of reflection and new beginnings be a rich experience and evolution for you to happy reflecting fellow education evolution members.

Transcribed by


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