Pulling Together to Change Schools—But Keep What is Working with Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy
May 25, 2021
Pulling Together to Change Schools—But Keep What is Working with Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy

Did you know that for every forty conscious bits of information we process per second, we process 11,000 subconsciously? Think of the ripple effect that has on the human brain’s ability to process change.

Or have you ever stopped to consider how your own biases directly interfere with your ability to affect change?

I’m grateful to be a life-long learner because this spring, I have been getting schooled. Today on the podcast, I share the lessons some great minds have recently shared with me. 

I’m also very excited to announce the EdActive Collective! Our collective is filled with educational innovators focused on transforming education to a more human-centered, student-driven, real-world learning environment designed with learners at the center of every decision. 

The collective will be meeting quarterly, taking regular activism steps, and hosting an annual summit as part of an ongoing effort. Our first summit will take place June 21 through 24. Please go to EdActive Collective to sign up. Registration is live now!


Jump in the Conversation

  • [1:10] Looking back to move education forward
  • [2:29] The psychology of change and behavioral economics
  • [3:40] Polarity theory and the dangers of us vs. them thinking
  • [9:07] EdActive: Becoming a voice for change in learning
  • [12:37] Maureen’s Magic Wand: That we consistently come together to change schools into places of equity and relevant, empowering learning


Links and Resources:

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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.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  0:21  

I’m Dr. Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your host and founder of Education Evolution and the Micro School Coalition, where we are fiercely committed to changing the narrative to 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  1:09  

Hello, Education Evolution listeners. This has been my spring to get schooled first by my podcast guests, and then by behavioral economist, Molina Palmer in Episode 56. And then, as I discovered polarity theory, who I love being a lifelong learner, and boy, have I been given multiple opportunities to keep learning and evolving this spring. Now that I have a year of interviewing, and getting to know wonderful youth advocates, I see that showcasing their brilliance is just the first step. In talking with many of these innovators, we realized that we’re going to need to pull together and pool our resources to create the synergy and be the activists needed to move our schools forward to be human centered and relevant places that work for all learners. This podcast also needs to evolve to those ends. Today I want to talk about our newly formed active collective, and it’s June summit that is resulting, but first, I want to unpack two other lessons this spring has brought me in Episode 56. Molina Palmer schooled me on the psychology of change, and behavioral economics. The link to that episode is in the show notes. She did an amazing job of explaining that we all have a familiarity bias, and they herding instinct that have kept us alive for generations. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  2:50  

She also emphasized that the majority of our thought processing is done at the subconscious level. For every four conscious bits of information we process in a second, we process 11,000 subconsciously. I think many of us innovators haven’t considered how the human brain processes change. So this is an important lens that we need to use to get students, parents, educators, and business people to welcome and push for changes, changes that help all learners have access to an experience and education that makes them future ready and helps them thrive. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  3:34  

The trifecta of my learning this spring, a few weeks ago, I got to listen to a keynote speaker, talk about polarity theory, at our independent school heads spring meeting. And I realized that I had been guilty of creating the same division in my thinking of schools that I see happening in our country’s political arena. Boy, did that make me stop and think in my mind, and often in this podcast, I have created an “us versus them” thinking. It was unconscious. I was just playing to my preference. And in my mind, I wasn’t seeing a middle ground. This is ironic, since it doesn’t match my belief system, or how I coach students, especially those with autism. I have been equally guilty of having trouble seeing beyond black and white and finding that middle ground. Did I tell you this has been my spring to Get Schooled. As Lindsay Burr, CEO of Washington DC is Yarbro Group talked about how we need both and thinking to have sustainable and resilient schools. I immediately saw we also need both and thinking for schools that evolve into places of love and belonging with student driven real world learning. She explained that polarities are a chronic problem that don’t have a solution. If there’s a solution, then it’s a problem and we solve it. Hey, we need to have more math support. I hire a math teacher solved. But polarities are ongoing tensions, like how do I personalize for students in my micro school, and also create community with common experiences. So personalization and community experiences are polarities, and they’re both a part of my school. And I need to be able to see the upside of both, and maximize that and try to avoid the downsides. Of course, we always have a preference to one pole or the other, and we may not do a 50/50 balance, I have more in polarity theory. And Lindsay’s work in the show notes.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  6:10  

Lindsay gave us a four quadrant chart, and let us practice charting polarities, I chose to chart evolution and tradition in terms of our schools. She coached us that we had to use neutral terms. And that was challenging for me, as I saw how locked into my bias I had become, it was super easy to see the upside of evolutionary education. It’s engaging real world student driven holistic. But then I needed to give equal effort to listing the positives on the upside of traditional education. There’s consistency is commonly understood, we have expertise in this existing model. And there are many supports in this model, including feeding kids before school remediation, and providing after school care. Okay, that wasn’t so hard and actually felt good to think out. I mean, I’ve spent a career in education, and a lot of it has been under the roof of a traditional school. And then I looked at the downside of too much of either polarity. If we have too much evolution, and it’s all innovation, we could end up lacking structure and funding and resources. It could be chaos, outcomes could be unclear. I mean, would we even take attendance of kids are learning all over and internships and down the hallway? How would we know that our students are at school and safe. And the downside of traditional school is one that I have often overplayed as much as I have the upside of evolutionary schools. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  7:53  

Yes, the downside of traditional schools, they can be passive for students. Often they lack real world application. It can feel impersonal with every kid in the class doing the same assignment, and the pace is set and locked in. Okay, upsides and downsides of both. That’s the beauty of looking at polarities and looking at all four quadrants. Just doing this charting made me really think about how we need the upsides of both traditional and innovative education. And by looking at the polarities, instead of just at my preferred upside of innovation, and downside of tradition, I can keep the conversation including many perspectives, and get more buy in than when I’m black and white. So I have a lot more polarity practicing to do, so that I’m better at using this lens to get the wonderful results. We want schools that work for all learners. Innovation with out throwing the baby out with the bathwater. 


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  9:03  

And now the announcement I’m excited to share our wonderful group of educators that I’ve gotten to know this year, and I have formed the EdActive Collective. I’m grateful to trace Pickering of Iowa big Meg Ormiston of tech teachers, and Pam Gordon of big picture learning for diving into lead this collective with me. These last few months have been busy as we’ve been reaching out to a variety of organizations to join us in these quarterly Think Tank beatings. That will be a springboard for regular activism. It’s exciting to bring organizations and schools together to learn, collaborate, and take specific activism steps as a collective. I know I’ve felt a bit isolated in my change efforts in the past. A bonus many of our collective members are joining us and offering an EdActive Summit from June 21 through 24th. Please go to EdActivecollective.org to sign up. Registration goes live on May 24. In addition to 18 speakers who will answer questions in a live chat, roundtables and activism teams forming up are Tuesday is special on June 22, we don’t just include the youth voice. The youth are leading an intergenerational imagination day, this day is fully live. And we encourage you to invite youth to join us up for learning YouthXYouth and Heirs To Our Oceans are taking us on a journey toward what can be and forming teams to keep the momentum going. This conference is free, a labor of love. If participants can’t join us live, they can upgrade and get the recordings and extra materials. by purchasing an all access pass any profits go to the Black Youth Project.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  11:05  

So why are so many innovators giving up a part of their summer to create this summit. It’s because we all need to stretch and become a voice for change and learning. The bar foundation commissioned Gallup to do a poll to see how 1000 kids were doing in the middle of this pandemic. Gallup already has ongoing data charting the drop in student engagement from middle to high school. But this recent survey again highlights the increased lack of access for students of color, and students from low income families. We know that all students deserve full access to learning and for learning to be relevant and engaging, important change that values all humans often takes activism. This summit is a part of an ongoing effort. We looked at how inspired we’ve been at other conferences, but then how reality sucks us back into the status quo. So this is not a one time event it will be annual. And in addition, the collective will be meeting quarterly and taking regular steps in activism. We know that change is going to take ongoing and consistent effort. It’s also going to take all of you joining us and spreading the word so that we have as many voices and activists at our summit as possible. My magic wand for us and the efforts of our active collective that we consistently pull together to change schools to places of equity, and relevant empowering learning, and that we do the hard work of activism to make this change happen. Time for all of us to come together, keep what is working in schools, and innovate to create the dynamic and engaging learning our kids deserve. Thank you for being a part of the Education Evolution.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  13:13  

I know how challenging it is to make changes inside your own school or community. I’ve spent years working with schools around the world on creating learner centered programs. And it always struck me how much schools were able to get done with the right tools and guidance. If you’re ready to make changes like this in your own school, let’s talk and put together an action plan. Visit educationevolution.org/consult for a free 15 minute call. And let’s see if we’re a good fit for more work together.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  13:50  

Education Evolution listeners, you are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving. We need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  14:11  

I’d be so grateful if you’d head over to your podcast app to give a great rating and review if you found this episode valuable. Don’t wait. Please do it right now before you forget. I really appreciate it.


Maureen O’Shaughnessy  14:31  

Thank you for listening, signing off. I am Maureen O’Shaughnessy, your partner in boldly reimagining education


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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