Pair-a-Dimes 19 Josh Abrams

Description: I visited Josh Abrams at Meridian Academy with Mike Slinger and Evan Sharp, and I can’t begin to share in a brief description how many amazing quotes came out of the conversation. So I made a poster: and the full quotes are shared on the podcast page: All educators can all learn from this conversation. 

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Show Notes: [Listen Now]

Josh Abrams, Meridian Academy (Mission statement).

Mike Slinger @mikeslinger7, Evan Sharp @evansharp, Alan November @globalearner, Educon Philly, My presentation on Failure at Educon.

Josh Abrams Quotes:

Traditional schools are designed to make students risk averse, and that is a crappy goal.”

Failure is simply a process, it’s just not a problem, and our kids become revision monsters…they don’t ever hand you a paper and think that they are done.  They assume that they are going get feedback from each other, and their teachers, and that there will be more.”

We don’t have letter or number grades, we are a high school that is credit/no credit and you have to really kill yourself to get ‘no credit’. You have to not do the work and then when the teacher gives you feedback that it’s not at standards yet, you have to not do it again. We don’t want to build on crappy foundations, we don’t want juniors that don’t know the 9th grade materials so what do we do? We work towards mastery and that means redoing until you really have the understanding that you need.”

Learning is actually fun and it doesn’t need extrinsic rewards… I don’t know about you guys, but I haven’t received a grade in a very long time and it hasn’t stoped me from doing anything… The whole structure of the school is that the learning is at the heart of things. And that means longer classes, it means no bells, it means a flexible schedule, it means we meet the needs of the learner, not the needs of the bureaucracy.”

The BIG 3 Changes for All Schools:

  1. Get rid of grades: They are misleading, they don’t tell you anything useful. It changes the trust relationship and the nature of the conversation about learning.
  2. Interdisciplinary Learning: Life is interdisciplinary. It’s not just about problem solving, it’s about problem posing. Kids questions matter. Students are always working in coherent courses, with long term projects.
  3. Project Based Learning:  The best way to develop skills is to use them in the service of something more interesting than [the skills] themselves.

Let students write the the rubric. Students will hang themselves with a crazy-hard task if you just let them, give them that chance. And they won’t complain, because they did it to themselves. It wasn’t a weird teacher request, it was a reasonable expectation of each other for what makes [a good project].  So then they’ll have that rubric…. they are just setting the bar high for themselves, but they are also learning that that’s what learners and grown ups do, they figure out ahead of time, what good work looks like.

More on Rubrics:

Don’t give them the stupid grids that say good work looks like this, mediocre work looks like this… Just talk about what good work looks like. Why do we have to talk about what crappy work looks like, we are not shooting for crappy work.

My rubric is what the kid and I came up with and then “Yup”, “Nope” or “Partly”. And if it is “Nope” Or “Partly” you say what’s missing and why. If it’s “Yup”, you say what’s good about it. So developing their own self assessment is crucial because we are not going to be with them their entire life, and if they are constantly looking to us as the experts… then there is a problem. Revision, revision, revision.

On hard work:

[Many students today] don’t know what’s gratifying about hard work for it’s own sake, done collaboratively with other human beings. And almost everything worth doing in our world today is complicated, is collaborative, and is utterly frustrating on a regular basis… So what’s the value? It’s the doing, it’s the doing with others, it’s the making a difference for some people, in their lives, at some point… Our kids know that, they have worked on long projects, with other people, and discovered that what was gratifying was crazy-frustrating too.

(Click to enlarge image, or share with this link:

The History of Art Deco Travel posters example:

Parasite & Host Student Infographic:

Josh’s book recommendation: Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Thanks to Josh Abrams for taking the time to chat with us!

Josh Abrams with a Sea Perch
Mike Slinger, Evan Sharp and I at the Boston Bruins game after a day with Alan November & Josh Abrams.


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Music: Solar Flares by Silent Partner 

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