A Passionate Principal’s Thoughts On Change – Chris Lehmann’s CMTC Keynote

I had the pleasure of listening to Chris Lehmann’s Keynote at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in Manchester, NH this morning.  His opening slide (pictured above) was certainly an attention grabber and you  can check out his entire presentation here. Here are some of the remarks that I found most meaningful.

Opening Concerns

“We have incredibly caring teachers in a system that sucks.”

“I have this huge concern that school stinks.”

“If school teaches us nothing else shouldn’t it teach students how to learn.  Do we have a systemic process (in each school) that teaches kids how to be to that? become lifelong learners?”

In regards to the question of the focus of schools being Creating Citizens or Creating Workers

“Our job is greater than creating workers it is to help students become citizens.  If we shoot for citizens we will get the workers we need. If we shoot for workers we will not get the husbands and wives and parents that we need. If all we teach kids about is being a cog in the machine then we have failed them and we have failed ourselves.”

About the importance of the culture we create in our schools

“Until we make schools healthy places for adults they will never be healthy places for children.  We will never bully teachers into caring for kids or becoming better teachers.”

How do we get there?

“The ethic of care should be the first thing in our schools.  If you take nothing else away change your language about what you say you teach from I teach math or I teach second grade to I teach kids.”

“Kids can care about their school. We want them to say I went to that school and that matters.”

“The final goal is to have kids that know they are cared about. We want to create students who are thoughtful, passionate, wise and kind.”

We are the ones who can and must make the change!

“No one is coming to save us. We must organize and come up with our own answers. We need to reach out to our students and our parents and empower ourselves.”

“Be willing to be transformed. We cannot transform students if we are not willing to be transformed ourselves.”

“When we do all this we have a shot at changing the world…”

Thanks to Chris for the inspirational words and for continually giving other schools something to aspire to! I encourage you to check out his school’s webpage for a concrete example of how Science Leadership Academy is changing the world for its students!  I also recommend that you take a few minutes and watch this great profile of SLA from Apple.


  1. Thank you, Patrick, for sharing: this is awesome, and so important.

    I do think that very often, school does stink, and I think that what we ask students to do, day in and day out, we (we who love learning) would not volunteer for ourselves because we would not find the requisite autonomy, mastery and purpose opportunities– we would go crazy with the required sitting, listening, and watching!

    Why do we ask kids to do (for no compensation) what most of us would refuse to do, for compensation? Ultimately it must be because we don’t respect them enough– and this is where Chris’ point about respect becomes so essential: by respecting our students and their experience as we should, we will realize we must change schools to become places of meaningful engagement and authentic tasks in learning, as I know happens so wonderfully at Chris’s school (and, and increasingly, at my school!).

    Finally, I agree wholeheartedly we must become the change we seek; we adults must become, truly and authentically, the learners we want our students to become: experimenters and innovators, digital creators and producers, powerfully effective collaborators, life-long learners.

    Great stuff, Patrick and Chris!

    December 3, 2010
  2. Amanda Brooks said:

    Chris Lehmann has so many good points. Reading the title “High School Stinks” would really catch anybody’s attention. Chris has so much to say and I really think that he should be heard. We face these problems everyday going in and out of school and teachers coming in and out to work. I think that theres so much that could be changed in today’s school systems, and people should start making these changes so that eventually we will have a better and more advanced society. People like Chris that make an effort to be noticed, are the people that are going to start having an effect on the new school system that will hopefully be in effect soon.

    December 3, 2010
  3. gio faria said:

    If creating citezens creates the workers we need than why is he questioning weather or not to create citezens or workers. I think we don’t need to learn all the things we learn in school in the real life. When are you going to need to know absolute value in the real life.

    December 3, 2010
  4. Nicholas Lake said:

    I agree with what the presentation was saying. Instead of teaching kids to become good at solving the answer to x on a worksheet, ect we should teach them to be good at being a citizen. Being a good, successful person. Also because good citizens are responsible and responsible people get jobs when needed to have a successful life. A person could have a successful life without ever learning how to solve the answer to 7x-42y=-24z- what does x equal? Or learning about where the chromosome of the neutron is.

    December 3, 2010
  5. Billy said:

    Chris has alot of great ideas and thoughts and i think more prople should relize what needs to be changed in todays school systems.

    December 3, 2010

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