2015: Did That Just Happen?

As I’m making real efforts to be more concise, I probably shouldn’t go into great detail on any part of this year-end post. Seriously: with all the notable, long-explanation-worthy moments 2015 served up, I’d finish the thing sometime in February. In short, I feel like I may have learned more and made more fulfilling professional connections/friendships this past year than I have in any other — which is saying something, as I’ve been working in education for nearly 20 years. Thanks, all, for all the wonderful debate, collaboration, sharing, and opportunities. I feel very fortunate for all that’s opened up between us in 2015, and I look forward to building on them — and making some real movement in our enterprise — in 2016 and beyond.

All that said, here’s a clipped, scattered revisit of ed-related high points, all in no particular order.


Know how I said there were things I could never recount with appropriate detail? All those I’ve met and interacted with is most certainly one. I’m too thankful for them all to skip it, but can hardly afford to go on and on and on about each example.

Let it suffice, then, to say that my book, this blog, Twitter, and researchED conferences (I attended three in all, speaking at two: NYC, London, Swindon) fairly changed my life in 2015. Through these events I met more amazing people and exchanged more valuable ideas about education than I could possibly recap. Hell, I even elbowed my way into the conversation and ended up getting named as an official supporter of Deans For Impact’s monumental Science of Learning work. Again: so glad to have met you all, can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

Here’s an alphabetical — and nowhere near complete — list of education thinkers I’m happy to have met, seen speak, had drinks/dinner with, and/or exchanged ideas with this past year (Twitter handles for names where appropriate; please excuse any memory slips/omissions!):

Katie Ashford, Greg Ashman, Tom Bennett, Christian Bokhove, Paul Bruno, Jon Brunskill, Geraldine Carter, Karin Chenoweth, Daisy Christodoulou, Lucy Crehan, Chris Curtis, David Didau, JL Dutaut, Jelmer Evers, Jo Facer, Heather Fearn, Barry Garelick, Tarjinder Gill, Lisa Hansel, Eva Hartell, Carl Hendrick, Rick Hess, Sara Hjelm, Ray Land, Joe Kirby, Joel Klein, Doug Lemov (yes, that Doug Lemov), Stuart Lock, Jack Marwood, Arthur McKee, Josie Mingay, Ezzy Moon, Dianne Murphy, James Murphy, Andrew Old, Polymathish/Optimist Prime, Mike Petrilli, Robert Pondiscio, Tom Rademacher, Ben Riley, Amanda Ripley, Nick Rose, Amanda Spielman, Chris Stewart, Phil Stock, Andy Tharby, James Theobald, John Thompson, Kamil Trzebiatowski, Summer Turner, Nick Wells, David Weston, Whatonomy, Dan Willingham, Anna Worthington

Is that a crazy list or what?! And yes, I actually met most of the people named here. Took selfies with some of them, even.

w/Daisy Christodoulou, researchED London, September 2015
Dinner w/David Didau & Sara Hjelm, London, September 2015 (also present but not pictured: David Weston, Nick Rose, Andrew Sabisky, Ezzy Moon, Eva Hartell…you get the idea!)
w/Tom Bennett, researchED NYC, May 2015

See? Crazy, right?

I was even fortunate enough to have several of the above list take time to read my book and write about it: Greg Ashman, Barry Garelick, Whatonomy, Polymathish/Optimist Prime, and Jack Marwood all put nice things in print about Education Is Upside-Down, and ed-heroes of mine (like Ben Riley, Dan Willingham, Tom Bennett, Karin Chenoweth, Daisy Christodoulou, Phil Stock, Jo Facer, and others) helped to broadcast reviews and book-related ideas with their tweets, blogs, etc. A small thing to them, probably, but each was a huge thrill for me. (To wit: I found out about the Ashman review via a Riley tweet just as I was boarding an early Monday-morning flight. Ben’s 140 characters — and Greg’s review, of course — made my whole week.)

So yeah, that was all really really cool. One of the best parts? All these great new relationships feel like the start of something, not just something to look fondly back on. Stay tuned, y’all.

Switching gears a bit to other learning…


  • Teaching Math in the 21st Century, by Barry Garelick. I’ve never taught math. My view from the periphery of the discipline (and research I did for my book), though, has fairly convinced me that the huge math gaps we’re seeing across the enterprise are due to math-instructional experts’ upside-down approaches. This from-the-ground view from a highly math-proficient professional captures crucial shortcomings in a highly readable fashion. We need more books like this one. (BONUS: follow Barry on Twitter and like his book page on Facebook, and you’ll get a regular — and entertainingly snarky — stream of research & analysis on math instruction.)
  • What if Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong, by David Didau. As Didau’s book is so briskly paced and cleverly presented, you may at times forget while reading that you’re in the middle of something so richly resourced, practically valuable, and intellectually challenging. Though we come at things a bit differently (I’m more about learning as it relates to effective institutional preparation), his book has become my go-to source for summaries of and references to vital theories of learning. And in the months since I’ve read it, I’ve gone to it often. Definitely cracked my personal top-ten of all — not just 2015 — education-related titles.
  • Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do, by Daniel Willingham. I may be Willingham’s biggest fan, so this is probably little surprise. Raising Kids Who Read, though, may be Willingham’s most enterprise-important book for its sheer practicality. Its framing of learning research and packaging of specific instructional & habit-building approaches (by readers’ stages/ages, that is) make it arguably his most classroom-applicable work. Here’s to hoping teachers load it into their bookcases, preferably in favor of unproductive, comprehension-is-a-skill-centric books like this one and this one.
  • Briefly, here are a few more ed titles that rose to the top for me in 2015, but more on policy, not practice, levels: Please Stop Helping Us by Jason Riley, Our Kids by Robert Putnam, Lessons of Hope by Joel Klein, and Teach For America Counter-Narratives: Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out by T. Jameson Brewer and Kathleen deMarrais (eds.). While each was more provocative than practically useful (Riley’s, for instance, isn’t a pure education book, per se), I’ve thought of them continually since reading, and they’ve definitely kept me more up to speed with policy issues than I might have been otherwise — a necessity in the US, where most ed commentary prioritizes policies over practices.


With so much exposure to so many ed issues, my blog-topics list grew throughout the year. I promise to chip away at it more regularly throughout 2016. Also, I am beginning to kick around ideas for book #2 (so if you know any good agents, I’d love to chat with you), and I am considering starting an organization dedicated to some particular areas of ed improvement within the next 6-12 months. Again, stay tuned!

I got off a heavy road and consulting schedule late in the year to re-join Minneapolis Public Schools, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s challenging work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m really, really enjoying it thus far, and I get much, much more time to be with this crew:


Okay, well, so much for brevity. Or attention to detail, for that matter (must run out to grab fixings for our family New Year celebration, you know). Still, I hope you had as much fun reading as I did writing. Indeed, doing so reminded me how 2015 should always stand as a year to remember fondly.


2 thoughts on “2015: Did That Just Happen?

  1. Best to you for 2016 and look forward to working with you and continuing the dialogue about education. Thanks for the mentions of my name; I’m honored to be in such good company.

    Thanks also for listing my book. If I may, there is a change in the title and location of the Amazon link: It’s now called “Confessions of a 21st Century Math Teacher” and is available at http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-21st-Century-Math-Teacher/dp/1517274451/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1441976159&sr=1-1&keywords=Confessions+of+a+21st+Century+Math+Teacher

    I’ll be working on getting it made into a major motion picture with either Sean Penn or Richard Dreyfuss playing me, and Paul Giamatti playing the principal!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s