New View EDU Episode 53: Full Transcript

Read the full transcript of Episode 53 of the NAIS New View EDU podcast, which features globally recognized writer, filmmaker, and school designer Sam Chaltain joining host Tim Fish to discuss redesigning education for the modern era. They talk about how the world has changed since our school system was designed, and what educational “sacred cows” schools need to dispense with to keep pace with the rapid evolution of society.

Tim Fish: You know, on this podcast we talk a lot about the future of education. How are we going to design the schools our students need? I often think, are we just talking about tweaks, little changes, or are we talking about a more fundamental rethink of some of the core tenets of school?

Well today we are going to dive deep into these ideas with one of my favorite educational thought leaders. Sam Chaltain: is a globally recognized writer, filmmaker, and school designer. His writings and his work has appeared in both magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. A former speechwriter for each of President Obama’s U.S. Secretaries of Education, Sam is the author or co-author of seven books. He’s also the co-producer of the PBS Documentary 180 Days: Hartsfield and co-creator of the 10-part online film series A Year at Mission Hill.

You know, I was introduced to Sam a few years ago, and we’ve had the opportunity to get together a few times for coffee. And I’ll tell you, I come away from every one of those conversations engaged and inspired. Our goal today is to invite you into one of those conversations. Buckle in—this is going to be a lot of fun.

Hey Sam, it is so good to see you. Welcome to the studio.

Sam Chaltain: Thank you, Tim. It's always good to get a little time to talk with you about big ideas.

Tim Fish: Well, that's what we're going to be doing today. And, you know, I can't begin to tell you, Sam, how many times various people on my journeys mention your name. They might be referencing your blog, the work you're doing with 180 Studio, your books, or somewhere they heard you speaking. So let's begin with you just talking about you, sort of your journey and what you're passionate about right now.

Sam Chaltain: Well, thank you. And that's so nice to hear. I guess first and foremost, I am a DC-based father of two. My sons are 10 and 14. And as an adult, I have always been working with or in a school. I started as a private school teacher in Brooklyn. Then I became a public school teacher in Manhattan. And 20 years ago, I moved to DC to direct a national network of schools. 

And since then, I've had the extreme privilege of being able to travel all over the world and bear witness to some of the most forward thinking and courageous and heart-driven educators. And I've had the chance to work with teachers and architects and filmmakers. And I would say all of that is in service of the same central goal, which is just trying to set the conditions for epiphany. Epiphany of others, epiphany of myself, and epiphany in service of better understanding the nexus between the future of learning and the future of humanity.

Tim Fish: Wow. Set the conditions for epiphany. That is a powerful statement. And you know, Sam, as I think about that, and I think about what we're trying to do as educators to set the conditions for epiphany in our schools, I often look at the structure of school.

And this is something we talk about a lot on this podcast. When I look at the structure of school and I say to myself, is the way it's structured, effectively setting those conditions for epiphany? Yes, no, maybe, where? And it brings me back to one of my favorite books of yours that you produced with your colleagues at 180 Studio called Seed and Spark. And in the first maybe 20 pages, you make this point that on about page 10 of the series, you say, “How children are taught to solve problems in school now is how they will think and solve problems out of school. That the business of schooling has become for many the unquestioned answer for how we educate our children. And it is not. Knowing what we now know, we can no longer do what we now do. To do so is educational malpractice.”

I'll tell you Sam, the first time I read that, I was like, all right, let's get to it. So Sam, I lead you with that question, with that statement, help our listeners understand what your intent was in that.

Sam Chaltain: Well, first of all, I want to give credit where credit is due. As you said, Seed and Spark is a collaborative project, and anybody can either order a hard copy of the book or download a digital version for free at If it is visually beautiful, and it is, it's because of my colleagues, Trung Le and Mary Jo Le, who designed it and made it visually beautiful. 

And that opening declaration, those are the words of the amazing educator Stephanie Pace Marshall, the longtime director of the Illinois Math and Science Academy and the author of another must read book for any educators. It's called The Power to Transform. So I think what I've learned from Stephanie and her own clarity as a long time educator and one of the most important American educators of the last 100 years, is that it no longer suffices to tinker at the edges. We have been, for a long time, perfecting our ability to succeed in a system that no longer serves our interests. 

To be fair, if we just take, let's say like the last 100, 150 years, right, when we really, when we first established a system of schooling in this country, it was a very different world and we had very different needs. We were in the midst of unprecedented waves of immigration. We had an economy that was largely fixed and known. There was a larger mission of acculturating Americans and forging a common identity.

And we were in the midst of the industrial revolution. So the primary design metaphors for that system were literally to batch and cue unprecedented numbers of young people through a system and into an economy that was largely predictable. None of that is true anymore. 

And so part of what Stephanie is getting across is, it really is malpractice to continue to apply the anachronistic thinking of previous generations to the emergent and complicated problems of today. And the good news is there are so many people, so many schools, so many communities all over the world that are already demonstrating a better, deeper way to do this work. 

You know, the futurist William Gibson is the one who said, the future is already here, it just isn't evenly distributed. And I think that's exactly right. So in a way, it's not that we have to reinvent the wheel, but we do need to understand to what we owe our greatest fidelity and recognize that
the answer to that question is going to require us to slaughter a fair number of the sacred cows of the past 100 years.

Tim Fish: What are those cows? What do we have to move from and what do we have to move to? That when you are in a school where you say, this is it. This is part of that future that is just unevenly distributed. What are the things you see when you're in one of those environments?

Sam Chaltain: Yeah. Well, so the list of sacred cows is embarrassingly long. Grouping students by the year in which they were born. Dividing learning into a discrete set of subjects. Having the school day unfold across 180 days. Having the learning experience be primarily restricted to a classroom in a specific building. Having a transcript of one's progress that is basically indecipherable to anybody about what the significance of those experiences was outside of the actual grade that was given. Grades that are given. I mean, the list goes on and on. 

And part of the reason for all of that is because in the past, I would say that the end goal of schooling was primarily, if you were to render it down to the essence, the essence would be what, right? The word what. It was content knowledge. It was, I have some information you don't, show up to this classroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 10, and I'll give it to you, and then I'll make sure that you got it.

Now, the opportunity that we have, so I mean, what I'm about to say in a way has always been true, but now we really have an opportunity to lean into its evergreen truth in our society. The focus needs to be rendered down to the essence of “who.” Who is this unique individual? What are their unique interests, passions, and potential contributions to the world and to the people they come in contact with? And how can we set conditions that help that person answer the only question that matters, right? Which is: Of all the things I can do with my one precious life, what must I do?

So maybe that involves organic chemistry…? Maybe that involves a deep understanding of the historical origins of the Vietnam War, but maybe not. And so, you know, one of the things that we talk about in Seed and Spark, and it's worth saying that the origin of that project, basically the research question we set out to answer was, What are the irreducible design principles of a thriving learning environment? Not necessarily in school, right? It could be anything. It could be a workplace. It could be an athletic team. But when real and meaningful and lasting learning is occurring, what, you know, in the same way that our DNA has been reduced to A, G, C, and T, what's the A, G, C, and T of learning?

And it's kind of silly to say now, but when we asked that question, we didn't ask it thinking it would lead us to nature. But of course it led us to nature because we've been doing this, homo sapiens have been doing this for what, 20,000 years? Mother Nature has been at it for a couple of billion. And so Seed and Spark is really the seven primary design principles of living systems, whether it's the Amazon rainforest or your neighborhood elementary school. 

And kind of the one that sits at the equator of those seven, the one that really is the straw that stirs the drink is the principle of emergence. And the idea that the best way to unfold a really magical learning experience is to do so emergently. This is what the people in Reggio Emilia, Italy, have known for the better part of 80 years. So you don't come into the school year knowing what you're going to do in November. You have an intention. You have an understanding that your primary responsibility is to foster the development and growth of those children. But whether it takes place in an exploration of the city and the idea of actually let's create a map that shows how we understand the interrelationships of our community, or if it's studying the local water supply, you don't know what that is because that answer has to evolve emergently from the children.

And that requires a very different disposition and skillset and mindset on the part of adults.That has to become the central driver of our educational efforts going forward if we're going to make any meaningful progress.

Tim Fish: What I love about this, Sam, is that we're sort of breaking away from like, OK, you know, even are we, are we merging English and history into humanities, right? Like we're going up, up, up, up, up. And we're saying, OK, what are the characteristics of any system where learning thrives, where learning takes place? And one of them is this idea of emergence. What else are some of those systems?

Sam Chaltain: Well, one of the things that I loved about this process that led to the book is the language that these scientists, these non-educators, these ecologists, these biologists are using are all words that are very familiar to educators. So for example, the first three principles of a living system, the principles that combine in order to basically create the seeds for growth, are identity, information, and relationships. 

If you think about identity, start with a cell. A stem cell has to initially decide, which way is it going to go? It's going to be a neuron, it's going to be a white blood cell, it's going to be a skin cell. That process is vital. And so the identity of those cells as they demarcate and figure out their responsibilities is specific. And yet, the ability to exchange information with them remains porous and vital and wide open. And ultimately, you think about any successful ecosystem, whether it's a pond or a school, it's determined by the quality and the quantity of the relationships that exist between those entities. 

You know, now we know, and not that long ago, it would have been foolish to even suggest that trees talk to each other. That there is an underground communications network, mycelial fiber that is kind of colloquially referred to as the “wood wide web.” So these webs of relationships, this ability of the most meaningful and relevant information to pass unimpeded, the ability for there to be both a clear sense of individual identity and a clear understanding of the collective identity that is formed between the exchanges of information among those relationships. That's the building block.

And then it is emergence. It is the ability of those trees to communicate with each other in real time. They don't know when some invasive species is suddenly going to arrive and start attacking their bark, but they know that the moment it happens, they need to be communicating with each other and formulating a response. The same thing is true of the way that we think about young people. Who are these young people that are coming together this year in this room? What are they interested in? 

The one thing that is unchanging in human development and thought is how we develop and grow. We are still, in many respects, operating with the same brain and the same outlook that we had 20,000 years ago. So why do we think that the well-understood path of child and adolescent development growth is any different? That is our spine. That is our through line. That is what we owe the ultimate fidelity to. 

And then that allows us to be emergent in how we foster that child and adolescent development and growth. That's what I meant about maybe it's the Vietnam War, or maybe it's reading The Giver, but maybe not, because it depends on those kids and what's going to set them alight. 

Last thing I want to say about this is then, the fifth through seventh principles, once you have these seeds for growth set up, and once emergence is operating in a living system as the seeds for change, the seeds for sustainability and transformation are the processes, the patterns, and the structures of that system. And I could say a lot about all of them, but the main thing I want to say is, this is a really important insight for educators, is that what nature is telling us is that the structures you implement are actually the last part of what you do, not the first, because the goal and the primary measure of health of a living system is disequilibrium, not equilibrium, right? 

The moment a pond establishes equilibrium, it gets covered in kind of green mushy muck. It's that constant delicate balance, the dance of all of these different contributing factors that allows for its ultimate and optimal health. And so too is it with us. Therefore, we have a different way and a different frame for how we can think about this thing that for the last 100 years we've called school.

Tim Fish: For me, when I look at that and I look at how I taught fourth grade, when I started my teaching career, right? What did it begin with? It began with the manual. It began with the structure. It began with the program of studies and the curriculum. And my job, so what was put in the center of the design, was that big, thick binder of stuff. The “what,” that you called it. 

And so what I needed to do, and what I always felt the pressure to do as a teacher, was to get through it, right? And so the learner and those learners who came in my room and what they wanted, and where they were, and where they wanted to go, and the emergence, was not part of the conversation for me. It was how do I get from here to there, right?

And how do I check along the way that they have that stuff? Right? So the notion of curriculum I've often wondered about, because often when I talk with schools, there's a lot of time spent on curriculum mapping, curriculum design, moving along this continuum. And not to suggest, as I know you're saying, it's not to suggest there's never any structure, that it's not got structure at all. But in fact, that structure comes when the other things are in place, and the structure works in service of the emergence. You don't start with structure. The structure comes as that thing that you sort of design around. 

So one of the things I'm curious about is, what, when you see kind of in a, you know, just an example of a school where this is happening, or a sort of learning community where this is happening, what are some of the elements of the learner that you see? 

Tim Fish: And what do some of those schools have, what are some of the characteristics that they have in terms of how adults work? What's the role of a teacher? How does the adult community collaborate to design? Etc.

Sam Chaltain: Yeah. Can I give you three?

Tim Fish: Yeah, I'd love it.

Sam Chaltain: OK. So I mentioned Reggio before, but I want to just get a little clearer. In my mind, what makes Reggio so powerful, and of course it's such a fascinating story, right? I mean, it's, it's literally. You move to Italy and you're trying, you're thinking in the American way, like, OK, I've got to figure out which neighborhood to live in so that I can send my kid to the good school, they're all good, right? Reggio has 80 something early childhood and early learning centers, and they're all of equal quality. And they've been able to maintain this civic experiment across 80 years. It's been happening since the end of World War II and multiple generations, multiple political leaders. It's remarkable. 
And the central thing that they're organized around is, first of all, the idea that the primary goal at the youngest age is to help children translate what they're thinking and feeling inside with the outside world. That's their version of understanding the child and adolescent development and growth. And the way they put it is, a child has a hundred languages and typically this school skills 99. We're not going to do that in Reggio. So there's the language of shadow, the language of clay. It's all about manipulating different creative materials and the world-class version of arts integration in order to help children better understand who they are and what they wish to communicate with the world. So that's one thing. 

The second thing is they pay very close attention to the significance of physical space as the third teacher. So you go to a Reggio school and, you were talking about structure before, and it's, it's a highly structured environment, similar to Montessori, but there's a big difference between structure slash order and control. It's not a controlled environment, it's an ordered environment that is inviting children to explore, create, test. Another aspect of that design is, I have never seen educators more equipped in the praxis of research than Reggio educators. Every moment, they are so attuned to looking for those emergent indicators of development and growth in their children, in a way that you were talking about yourself as a fourth grade teacher. When I taught high school in New York, I wasn't thinking that way. I was merely trying to determine if my kids understood what they had just read in the Odyssey, right? 

And then finally, there's this principle of emergence that we talked about. So all of that is coming together in Reggio, but now let's think of a totally different model. Now I'm sure you're familiar with, you've probably had on this show, somebody from the MET in Providence, Rhode Island. But if anybody out there does not know this school, it's been around for 30 years, and it's kind of taking the principle of elementary school and applying it to high school. And by that I mean, every school is a small high school. It's about 144 kids, although they have hundreds of kids across Rhode Island. Each kid is immediately assigned to an advisory of 16 people and one teacher, which means that for the bulk of these kids' high school experiences, they have 15 classmates and one teacher. That's the elementary school model. 

But the other design principle of the MET is the whole purpose is to leave to learn. So what allows them to do that is those kids are not sitting all day, eight to three in a single classroom with 15 kids and a teacher. They're spending at least half of their week out in the community. You think you want to be a baker? Let's connect you to a local bakery. And my job as the advisor is to help make sure that you're learning something valuable and I can play the game on your behalf and connect it to state standards and all of the hoops that we have to run through. But you think you're an astrophysicist? I don't know anything about astrophysics, but I will help connect you to the inevitable resources in this community and find the person that does.

Something so simple about investing deeply in relational knowing and support, believing passionately in following student interests and ensuring that every learning experience is
relevant and socially embedded. And doing all of that with an idea that the community, the city, is the school. 

And then the last one I want to say, because that's one from Italy and one from the US, let's go to higher ed. I mean, I don't, I'm sure you're familiar with Minerva, but Minerva is this remarkable university. It's only 10 years old or so, it already pulls students from over 100 different countries around the world. Freshman year, they spend their freshman year in San Francisco, and it's not a campus, it's a series of residence halls, because again, San Francisco is the campus. The learning is through apprenticeships and real world experiences and adventures with your classmates. And then they spend their next six semesters at six different cities around the world.

Tim Fish: I absolutely love that.

Sam Chaltain: London, Berlin, Taipei, Seoul, Buenos Aires, Hyderabad, all socially embedded experiences, all culturally immersive experiences, and all in service of making sure that the graduates of Minerva are the best possible global citizens, ambassadors, and problem solvers. And that's just three examples, but as you know, right, there's so many others, and so many valuable design principles and decisions to beg, borrow, and steal from.

Tim Fish: Yeah, I love it. And Sam, one of the things I'm thinking, when I think of those three examples, is I think about what's the role of the adult in– let's call it teacher, professor, whatever, in those environments, what's the role, right? And some of the characteristics that I see – and this is something we talked about when we talked with Catlin Tucker on the podcast, who is really an expert in sort of blended learning and now also very much student-led learning.

And it was this idea of educator as architect. It's this idea of designer, right? This key designer and that magical ability to get out of the way, right? To allow that emergence to take place. 
And so one of the questions I have now is, all right, so these three examples, I love them. Reggio is 80 years old or more, right? So that's been around for a while. And, but it was created and it's sustained. And I think the MET and I think Minerva are both examples also of relatively new things that have been created, and in their core, in their core, they were this, these concepts, these metaphors, these design principles were in place. Do you know of any schools that were once what we might refer to as a traditional school environment, that had been able to successfully transition? That have gone from where they were to where they want to be effectively? One of the things I've had a harder time finding is examples of that transformation within an existing community.

Sam Chaltain: Yeah. So first to go back to the, the first part of that question, which was about the adults and what's common about them, I mean, I do think the most valuable formula across all three and across anywhere, dare I say, is to set the conditions for epiphany. And I like those words about educator as architect, educator as designer, right? I mean, teacher is the wrong word, right? Montessori, for years, they don't use the word teacher. They use guide.

But I do think, you know, that Montessori had it right, and our job truly is to be the guide on the side. We have a responsibility, as Paulo Freire said, to be authoritative, not authoritarian. So we are adults. We do know stuff. I'm not a fan of the models that basically just put kids and adults on the same level. That's, to me, that's Freire's point. We have a role to play here, to help you, but not to control you. 

And regarding the second point, it's a great question about traditional schools evolving. Here's the thing, right? The primary goal of a living system or the primary measure of health in a living system is disequilibrium, so any school, no matter how traditional or how innovative, is never done. And the trajectory of any school is always primarily dependent on the individuals who make up the relational culture of that environment. 

So for example, and I know this is true for you too, I've seen schools that I thought were really vibrant and innovative, and then they got a little stale because they kind of started to believe that they were done, and they just had to kind of run it back the way that they'd done it before. I've seen schools that were really traditional, and then there was an epiphany on the part of that school leader or some of those folks that were in it. And they started to cook with gas in a different way and come up with new ideas. So in a way, even the notion of seeing a school as traditional or innovative is somewhat restrictive in its ability to help us understand the constant emergent continuum on which they and we are all, always, on.

Tim Fish: Yes. It's a great point. It's not like there's been a flip. It's not a coin that flips over that you were this. Now you're this, right. And, and also to your really good point, even if you do have that transition or whatever, you've made significant progress. You can also lose it if you either, if you believe you're done, right.

Sam Chaltain: You will lose it if you believe you're done. 

Tim Fish: You will lose it if you believe you're done. 

You know, one of the things that you talked about, Sam, is this idea of like, you know, space, the physical space is the third teacher. Right? And you've done a lot of work on this in 180 studio, your work with Trung Le, your work with schools, you have really gotten in to help schools think about the space. 

When schools do it right, when they design, because so many schools are rebuilding, building new middle schools and new upper schools and everything, what are the kinds of things that, if a school that's listening now is in that early stage of design, what are some of the things that the characteristics of space, the questions they should be asking, the design principles that maybe really help schools think about designing the right kind of space?

Sam Chaltain: Well, I've learned so much about this from my work with Trung Le. And so a few things that I learned as an educator about how a lot of the world of architectural design works, if you're not paying attention, as educators. Like, I learned from him that for a long time, the primary thing an architect would do in designing a school is like, tell me how many kids you have. Tell me how many teachers you have. I'll divide that and I'll basically give a building that gives you the right number of classrooms. 

OK. So like, let's, let's stop doing that. Let's start there. But also, in our work with communities all over the world, when we began our conversations with them, even though they have ultimately hired us to design a building, we never actually asked them questions about space.

Because for example, if you're talking to a bunch of teachers and you're like, where do you want the storage and the electrical outlets? Then all you're going to get is advice for storage and electrical outlets. And that's actually the easy stuff. So what we always try to focus on is, first help us learn about this community and what makes it special. Like, you know, whether, if you're a teacher, there's a lot of places you could hang out your teaching shingle, what led you to this place? And what is it about this place right now that keeps that flame lit for you? Or if you're a parent, why'd you choose this school, whether it's public or private? And if you had to identify or describe what for you is most distinctive about this culture, tell us. So we began by trying to really identify the evergreen aspects of the current culture.

And then it's an invitation to dream together, right? Of all the things, imagine that we’re five years from now and we've made possible something that is not yet possible at this place. What is that? What do you want that to be? Whether it's, and think physically, think culturally, think pedagogically, don't limit yourself to physical space. 

And so all of our design work is in service of the answers to those questions. How do we unleash even more powerfully the things that are already powerful here? And how do we make possible the things that are not yet possible? And usually what that leads to is a space that is flexible, that is adaptable, that is permeable, that has the ability…that doesn't look like the way that schools have looked. It's not necessarily expensive, right? Like the things that people want are not things that are luxurious. They're things that are in service of setting daily conditions for epiphany, for connection, for reflection, and for emergence.

Tim Fish: You know, it's interesting when I, so much of the work I do is around helping schools imagine their future. And I think in our schools, because I know from having been in one and you are in the same way for a long, long time, the machinery of just running a day is everything. It's hard to get the space to think, both sort of brain space, physical space, time space, to think outside of the box of just keeping it all going.

It does make me wonder about why that is, and are there other ways to do it? And I think that's a lot of what we’ve talked about today. But for me, that notion of clarity, and when we talk about strategy, I often say like, what are you obsessed with? What do you want to be obsessed with? What are you in the radical pursuit of? You know, and I think sometimes we don't know what that, we don't have that answer, right? We are just doing school, and we're just doing it day in and day out. And again, great people who believe deeply in kids, who want to build those relationships. But as communities, I think that's at the center of how we think about where we're trying to go.

And what I also like about what you're talking about is like, look, yeah, do we think that there are, going back to the beginning of the conversation, there are things that we need to change that we've had? Like, do we think that eventually things will likely or should likely look quite different? Yes, in terms of the operation, the way school works. But the journey to get there
is a step-by-step journey, right? It is not just blow everything up. It is make progress, right? This concept I often talk about, called deliberate progress. What does deliberate progress look like? How do we feel on a daily and weekly and monthly basis that we are moving forward? 

As you've seen schools that are maintaining that, whether they're new schools or, or schools that have a long tradition, that are on a journey. What's present when schools have that continuous progress design in their community, when they're what I call on the move? 

Sam Chaltain: Well, first of all, I wrote it down because I love the question you said that you ask people, of what are you in radical pursuit of? So I love that question. And I think the schools that have answered it, they’re, and you know this when you enter it, right? Like when you enter a school that is joyful, you pay attention. When you enter a school that is subdued, you notice. 

And so for me, the best schools are in radical pursuit of aliveness in everybody, young and old, right? Since an adult's working conditions are a kid's learning conditions, the adults should feel alive. And as we all know, if we're educators, right, it's the most rewarding, most difficult job you can do. So in what ways are you making it more rewarding than difficult? As a culture? Because that's what's going to allow the kids to feel even more alive. 

We're in radical pursuit of purpose, of connection. And ultimately in, in my mind, the three word story of humanity is “longing and belonging.” That is the primary thing we are all in search of, whether we're six or 66. We long, we're people who howl at the moon. We're always longing for the undiscovered country. We're explorers, right? Carl Sagan, it's the undiscovered itch. And at the same time, we always seek belonging in the company of others. We want to know who our people are. And any school that is intentionally structured to facilitate a spirit of aliveness and purpose and connection in the service of our unmistakable longing and belonging as a species…That's a place that I want to work and that's a place where I know the kids are going to be alright.

Tim Fish: Oh, I love it. And it summarizes, I think back on all the examples of folks we've talked to from different places, different schools where really amazing stuff is happening, and I think you're right on. I think that's present. And when it's absent, that's when we talk about kids for, for school, not being fulfilling. Kids don't want to be there. They're bored. They're sort of, metaphorically or literally, their head is on the desk. Right. And, and so how do we create, when you just walk around your school, you know, do we see the presence of that community, and if not, how might we get it there? 

My last question for you, Sam, is as you think about the future and something that you talk about all the time, what are your hopes for the future of, for our schools, for our learners? What are the things that you think we should be really, you know, continuing to go after? I love the notion of setting the conditions for epiphany. And I certainly think that I'm sure that's part of it. And that maybe in the shorter term, what are some of the things you hope we'll see in the near term?

Sam Chaltain: So, it wasn't that long ago that schools that wanted to explicitly focus on or prioritize the non-academic needs of students felt a lot of pushback. Like social and emotional skills, the horrific branding of these as soft skills, right? It's a horrible way to think about it. 

But that was an uphill battle. Whereas now, I feel like in almost every school I work with, people realize that their primary objective is to create a culture of thriving. And they recognize that to thrive includes, and is not limited to, intellectual growth. And ironically, I think the ubiquity of digital technology now, in ways that I mean, obviously are very problematic. I bemoan my children's cell phones every day. I see the limitations of that. And at the same time, I think from a learning perspective, the ubiquity of information and access to information actually is going to give our schools, increasingly, the opportunity to really double down on our humanness, to increasingly make the who, the unique individual at the center of the learning experience, and to be even more attuned to the dispositions of the ideal global citizen in the future, which again, is not about content knowledge.

It's about character, it's about values, it's about empathy, it's about knowledge of self. And the idea that that will continue to grow in importance is the thing that leaves me feeling most hopeful about the future of education.

Tim Fish: Thank you, Sam. Thank you for a great conversation. So many of the things that we talked about, so many things you said today are going to really stick with me. And, you know, both as an educator and as a father, you know, how am I in my family setting the conditions for epiphany? How am I, in my work with everyone around me? How am I doing that? And certainly how am I helping that happen in schools? It's a great challenge for me personally. And one that I'm going to really hold on to. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today.

Sam Chaltain: Thank you, Tim, and thank you for the honor of the invitation.