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Like a friggin phoenix

Like a Phoenix

Well hello there. You might remember me from such films as, You Used to be my Friend, Don’t Worry, my Wife Says I’m a Horrible Communicator, Too, and Wait, Who is This?. Well it’s me, eric, and like the friggin' phoenix you all know that I am deep inside my heart, here I am rising from the asses.

Well gosh, it sure has been a while. Why? Well that’s an excellent question. I have been asking myself the same question. Truthfully, without any BS, it's been tough adjusting to a mostly stay at home dad for the past 8 months. I didn’t really think it would be a huge issue for me but it turns out, in addition to forcing me to wrestle with my innermost demons (who, if you're curious, force me to do long form comedic improv - I just started sweating as I typed that), it asks from me to be good at all the things I innately suck at while letting what I always thought were my strengths grow a bit moldy and fester. Have you every wrestled with who you are and what you have to give for half a year? It's not fun, but things are looking up. I mean, here I am banging away at a "news"letter on a mechanical keyboard drinking some (quite literally) locally grown coffee like some kind of millennial hipster. If only I took more selfies.[1]

So here's the quick update. I have been doing some demo teaching and a bit of what has turned into education consulting (is that a thing? I feel like that’s a thing.)[2] and it’s been great. Being back around kids that are not my own, working with teachers and refining instructional systems, getting to be around kids that aren’t my own, helping other people with an incredibly difficult but rewarding craft, and remembering that I do, in fact, love children. That aren’t my own.

I was recently working with a group of teachers at a local school here in Kenya doing a PD on Project Based Learning and how that maps on to the International Baccalaureate PYP program. That means next to nothing to 97.4% of you that are reading this, but basically I was talking about using one idea/project to frame all the learning that is happening during a period of time. Essentially, we're giving context to what we're learning. (Why and we learning about angles in geometry? Because we're designing a tiny house for our local homeless shelter) I walked them through the launch process of a PBL that I ran when I was teaching 5th grade. Only much less successfully. It reiterates why working with kids is so amazing.[3]

To give you a bit of context, for this PBL launch I start by displaying a few images and invite students to notice things within them. This begins to engage their wonderings, which then leads to us eventually developing a "need to know" list for us to base our learning on. This PBL is about persuading local government to develop an emergency preparedness plan, where we learn how to persuade, how to calculate costs and make predictions, and how to communicate so well that they can't ignore you. The units of study are tectonic plate movement (science), persuasive writing and opinion pieces (literacy), multiplication of decimals (math), and community activism (social studies).

Screenshot 2022-03-30 at 09.48.42.png

What do you notice?

5th graders

"water flooding into a city"
"a boat out of water. on a building?"
"buildings crumbled"
"roads ruined"

What do you notice?


"I don't really like the font choice."
"It seems like the pictures aren't spaced evenly."
"It's the Japanese tsunami. I wonder which side of the road they drive on there. You know here, it took me no time to adjust to it. Actually a lot of people import their cars from Japan, so it's probably the same as here. Oh hey, have any of you eaten at the new sushi place down behind Village Market? I heard Omar's mom got sick there. But we should try it anyway because it seems like it's a place that would get good reviews. Hey let's do that for lunch. I can place the order (pulls out phone). Uber Eats says 35min. That's not bad. Bryan, what do you want?"

Me: My name's eric

T: I wasn't talking to you, I was talking to Bryan.

Me: Oh. Right. That makes more sense.

T: Well do you want anything?

Me: Just to finish this PD

T: OK. Let's do orders first. You know with sushi...

Me: No, I don't think I do know with sushi...

T: You have to order it when you're thinking about it. Otherwise... you know?

Me: So just to recap, what we noticed was that you didn't like my fonts and that the slide design isn't great. So... our next step is to wonder and create a question to answer. Er... let's see... "How can you, as a teacher, the steward of our most precious assets and their learning, actually pay attention and learn something awesome?"


T: Well you could start by changing that font.


Stay tuned next week to find out what rolls I ordered and if, like Omar's mom, I found the sushi to be a bit lacking in the cleanliness standards department. Until then, make responsible font choices.

It’s great to have you here. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

🇰🇪: Mt. Kenya is on fire. It’s pretty rough.


📖: Firewater Blues (The Dublin Trilogy, Book 6) by Caimh McDonnell

📷: Roadside at the foot of Mt. Kenya

  1. After I cool it on the pizza consumption front

  2. Google just told me that it's a thing. And did you know that you can charge money for it?!

  3. I could have instead said "what makes working with adults so annoying", but I was being nice. Adults, get your shit together.

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