This image has been passed around a lot w/ a desired effect of saying we don't trust teachers anymore.

Click to see original Facebook post from 95.7 KJR

Click to see original Facebook post from 95.7 KJR

There is perhaps some truth in that, but honestly, if all a teacher/school sent home to me was a single letter grade with little additional data, I would be angry too. Know how we turn the tables back around? Give parents all the data on why their kid is not meeting expectations. Instead of just a "D" show them the exact standards where they are not proficient, show them measures and examples of poor work habits, link to student work product in portfolios. Undoubtedly, some parents will still fault the school or teacher, but many, many fewer and it would go a very, very long way to restoring whatever trust has been lost in our teachers and schools (and hopefully pull back on some of these ridiculous tests). Thus, I don't think the problem in this image is what you think ... I think it is more the paper than the parents.

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AuthorJustin Bathon

My Aunt Elsie Campbell was a master quilter. During her life she quilted easily hundreds of unique quilts, each a creative artistic expression (my guess is probably around 500 - she said she had lost count). She made a quilt to celebrate most large events in life such as weddings or the birth of a new child. She was also an extremely efficient quilter and during a large part of her life she maintained a goal of completing a quilt every two weeks. Many, many people in Southern Illinois paid Elsie to add to their lives and her artwork is still on display all over beds in this part of the world. It is an impressive legacy. 

These are 40 quilts that were auctioned off this past weekend. They brought between $100-$300 each, depending on the quality, condition, and design, and many buyers came to the auction just to bid on the quilts. Of course, she also quilted pillows, wall hangings, baby quilts, and other cloth crafts. 

Elsie's quilting legacy is representative of a generation of folk-art crafts people who made art a regular part of not only their life, but of those around them as well. They brought happiness to generations, as Elsie did for us, and it is an honor for me to display Elsie's work here on this blog as a small tribute to a lifetime of work and joy for a remarkable lady. 


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AuthorJustin Bathon

Was challenged by my good friend and cousin Pedro Torres to the "10 books that have stayed with me" challenge (if it is such a thing). So, here are 10 somewhat randomly that come to mind, although as you get to the bottom of the list those are some the "best" books I've read. I'm sure I have missed a couple of important ones, but just to get 10 out there. 

 

10. Killer Angels - This was my first real "book" of substance read when I was a teenager out touring around civil war sites with my challenger, one Mr. Torres. I think it mostly sticks with me because it was first but also because it does bring back great memories on several fronts including reading in front of the fire in my parents house (although the subject matter of the book was not so great). 

 

9. Ignore Everybody - I love this little book of thoughts and sketches on the back of business cards. My buddy Scott McLeod gave me my first copy and, like him, I've made a habit of giving this book out to others whom I deem worthy. There are some others in this space, like the small books by Seth Godin

 

8. The Third Teacher - This is not really a book you read as much as consume. It will change the way you think about books and learning and spaces and design. Groundbreaking in execution moreso than content. 

 

7. Illustrated Brief History of Time - Like Pedro and so many others I'm sure, this book opened my eyes to a love of both physics and space. I've not randomly read a physics book lately, but I've read several others since this one and while I enjoy them, this is the one that sticks with me (plus, not really sold on the whole string theory concept yet). Interestingly, I listened to The Elegant Universe on the way home from Pedro's wedding in Minnesota. 

 

6. The Kite Runner - In my adult life, I am not really big on novels but this one stands out. It was just a beautifully told story and I appreciate the talent. 

 

5. The Bottom Billion - There was a phase when I was reading a lot about other parts of the world but this one stands out as memorable for me because it put concepts like poverty globally into the proper perspectives (which is probably different than you are imagining). 

 

4. The Castle by Kafka - This book with haunt me forever. It was so truthfully artistic about our societal structures and my mind finds the winding streets of the village frequently as a struggle in my government job. K? 

 

3. What Technology Wants - This book changed my relationship to the concept of "technology" and since I run a technology center ... that was sort of important. Since "technology" can sort of broadly be defined as anything that is not natural invented by humans ... it really covers a LOT of territory. 

 

2. Code is Law (and V2). This book has done more to shape my philosophy of government than any other. Once I had a great handle on all the different ways that society regulates, it really let me put the law in its proper place within society, particularly our in our quite techy world. However, the conceptual structures in this book extend far beyond. 

 

1. Long Walk to Freedom - The best book I've read in my life. Was life changing for me. It was such an honor to visit S.A. this past summer. 

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AuthorJustin Bathon
CategoriesPersonal

One thing I have learned working or studying in various aspects of the education and legal system now for decades is that what people seem to think of as "rules" are rarely that. We self-govern on the basis of these "rules" more restrictively than any actual set of statutes, regulations, policies, or procedures would ever have us comply. This self inflicted straight jacket of rules is suffocating the American education system from preschool to graduate school. It is a straight-jacket based almost entirely on norms, not laws. Tightly adhering to laws is the implementation of democracy; tightly adhering to norms is the implementation of culture. While these two obviously mix together, they have extremely different implications. Both laws and norms can be changed, usually without that much difficultly, but through different approaches. While law is typically changed from the top down, culture is typically changed from the bottom up. There is a lack of understanding, though, that the "rules" that bind the education system are mostly cultural, not legal. Thus, most people labeled as "education reformers" like to spend their time trying to change policy (without much effect) when spending time trying to change norms can be much more effective. As a result of failing to understand this distinction, we are seriously limited in our potential for actual reform across the entire education system. 

On this Leadership Day #2014, it is worth sharing this insight because it is central to what I have seen as a distinguishing variable while watching both leaders that are successful in implementing reform and those are have not been successful. When leaders that have not been successful have found themselves bound by what they perceive to be some "rule," they nearly subconsciously assume it must be a form of law and, thus, out of their hands. When leaders that have been successful face that same "rule," they assume it is only cultural unless it is proven that it is legal. Even then, they are questioning of the true nature of the legal basis (because it does matter, and there is a sliding scale of how seriously one needs to take education laws, but that is for a different post). Assuming the "rule" is cultural, though, immediately changes the reformers approach. They think bottom up, not top down. Instead of what policymakers must be involved in reform, they think what teachers or students must be involved in reform? The understanding is not "it's out of our hands" but rather "this is our decision to make together." From this initial assumption, different approaches to reform follow and there is a different likelihood of changing the actual situation for students (which is the goal, changing a law is not an end in itself as some policy-types seem to believe). This understanding between the real power behind the "rules of education" seems to be an absolutely critical component of effective transformational leadership. 

Thus, next time you find yourself stymied by a "rule" ask either yourself or your superiors to show you the law (statute, regulation, policy) that limits your ability to change in that instance. If you are asking others, do it in a friendly way, but also in a way that clearly shows your assumption is that no such law governs the situation. Once no law is found (or your superior gives up), as is likely, ask a follow up question to either yourself or your superiors of "who would we need to get on board to change this? or "what would it take to get this done?" If an answer emerges to either of those two questions, now you have a path to real reform. Make it happen and the world will be, perhaps ever so slightly, a better place for it. 

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AuthorJustin Bathon

Yesterday, the UK Board of Trustees voted to promote me (p. 14) to an Associate Professor with tenure effective on July 1. 

The sprawling UK campus, currently undergoing a billion dollars worth of redevelopment. 

The sprawling UK campus, currently undergoing a billion dollars worth of redevelopment. 

Six years ago, UK showed a great deal of faith in me by hiring a young, inexperienced professor that didn't know much of anything (honestly, that's about right). I'm happy to have fulfilled their expectations in such a way that has led UK to show even more faith in me by committing to more of a lifetime relationship. It is rewarding beyond measure to know that a public, flagship university feels so strongly about my work and what I can bring in return to the people of this great Commonwealth. I fully intend to continue to deliver on that trust and commitment. 

Thanks so much to the people of Kentucky, the administration of UK, and all my colleagues here.  Also, thanks especially to those that showed me the way: Martha, Tom, Suzanne, Lars, Brad, Rosetta, Eric, and so many more. Of course, my family had to bear the brunt of it all and they already know how I feel about them. 

It has been a journey of more than a decade of schooling, poverty, late-nights ... all with this endpoint always in mind. It occurred yesterday. It is now behind me.

With a quiet satisfaction now, life goes on.  

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AuthorJustin Bathon
CategoriesPersonal

Yesterday I was in Prestonsburg, out in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, working with Floyd County Schools, a district that has been part of our Next Generation Leadership Academy over the last year. They are laying the foundation for the launch of a very ambitious initiative, the details of which will be released over the course of the next few months, but one that will change the future of that community.  

We must have done something right ... 

We must have done something right ... 

As we were driving back through the beautiful Spring air and greening forests this new sense came over me ... the revolution has started, at least in Kentucky. Exponential changes have been triggered, the result of which will be a revolution of our formal learning system for children. Of that, I am positive.

During my time here in Kentucky, we have been on a journey to lay the foundation for this change. We have journeyed from initial conversations between major stakeholders (I still remember fondly our dinners in the basement wine cellar of Portofino's restaurant with the still very new education commissioner at the time) to now a district like the team at Floyd County blowing me away, somewhat out of the blue. Concepts like mastery learning, performance assessments, standards-based grading, project driven instruction, 1:1 schools, blended learning, and personalized learning were rarely mentioned and not systemically understood by many folks, let alone under active implementation across the state. Now, I am so deeply pleased to report that not only are these concepts being talked about across Kentucky, but these concepts are going wild. If you think of those concepts as plants, we (many of us) have been busy laying the seeds of those concepts and nurturing some plants with a great deal of care and feeding to assure they bloom. But, I am confident that we are reaching the stage now that the seeds are spreading on their own. The ideas are bigger than anything we can control at this point. What a beautiful thought ... and one that will proudly serve the children of Kentucky for generations to come (brings tears to my eyes, honestly). 

Now, the work is still mostly ahead of us. Mastering mastery learning is a far way in our future yet and it will take years of struggle to get there. Technology, while much more of it is entering schools, is still a toy and not a tool in many places. Understanding and accounting for all the implications of these changes, from assessment to course credits to higher education to how to pay for it all, will take decades of additional work. Further, our arguments over petty things will continue to frequently get in the way and we must continue to fight to overcome the massive amount of turbulence we will face along the way (as a pioneer that is joining our team would say).

An "efficient system of common schools" is a goal, laid by our fore-fathers in 1891, that we have yet to obtain for every child. It is a goal, though, to which I am confident we are now undertaking a major new step toward achieving. A new Spring has sprung in Kentucky.