In Chapter 5, we’ll move from envision personal and authentic experiences to designing them for our students. These experiences in the classroom can happen in many different ways, some of which we’ll explore in this chapter. These include social-emotional learning, cultural responsiveness, moments of awe, relevant and contextualized learning, leveraging our students’ interests, passions, and strengths, opportunities to create and design, flexibility in pace and path, and utilizing authentic feedback. My hope is that this chapter outlines practical ways to support each student as a valued individual on his/her journey.


Stop & Reflect / Study Guide Questions

  • Think of a student you’ve had who struggled because his/her basic life needs weren’t being met. How did you support him/her?

  • Tom shares some recent statistics around mental health and suicide, showing the obvious need for social-emotional learning. Without breaking confidentiality, upon reading that section, describe a child that was on your heart? What structures of support are/were in place for him/her?

  • What moments of awe occur in your classroom or school? How do the learners respond? Which ones do they remember years later?

  • In discussing relevant and contextualized learning, Tom poses the following two questions:

    • “What is the best professional learning experience that you’ve ever had and why?”

    • “What is the worst professional learning experience that you’ve ever had and why?”

    How would you answer those two questions?

  • What experiences happen in your classroom or school that are relevant and contextualized? How do you know? What would your students say?

  • Tom shares a personal analogy in how his son and daughter, Caden and Paisley, are complete opposites in so many ways. If you are a parent, can you relate? As a teacher, have you ever taught siblings who are completely different? What have these experiences taught you?

  • Where in your classroom or school are students able to follow their interests, passions, and strengths? Are these experiences the norm or the exception?

  • What does consumption look like in your classroom or school? How is this information most often built upon for deeper levels of learning to occur?

  • In what ways do you leverage technology to promote a flexible path and pace?

  • What type of real-world learning experiences occur in your classroom or school?

  • Tom describes feedback-related experiences that many of us can relate to; the checkmark at the top of the page, the “Nice work!” written after hours of work completed, etc. When is a time that this type of experience happened to you? What feelings did you have as part of the experience?

  • What types of feedback do you give your students or staff that is most meaningful? What evidence do you have?


#AuthenticEDU CallOuts

Download the callout quotes from this chapter and use them as part of your book study, team discussion, upcoming presentation, to share on social media, or in any way that can support you as an educator!

Related #LeadershipMinutes

Additional Resources to Support Your Personal & Authentic Journey

Author’s Note: The resources contained within this page are not intended to be an exhaustive list, but are intended to provide conversation starters, pre-reading/watching, and inspiration on your journey. If you have additional suggestions, please share them so that they can be included for the benefit of others.