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Podcast: A Parent-Teacher Conference

Solo Podcast: A Parent-Teacher Conference

“A Parent-Teacher Conference about Values” is a solo episode about my book-in-progress It’s Not About The Grades: Love for Learning Beyond Schooling which I hope to revise and publish in the coming months.

I provide a brief, yet incomplete, overview of the book in progress and read an excerpt from a chapter that is about the parent-teacher conference I wanted to have while a high school teacher but never really could. Now that I have resigned from my position, I am able to discuss what I see as the critical piece missing from a complete education for high school students and how it is severely overshadowed and almost drowned out completely by the over-valuing of grades.

I invite parents (and schools) into a conversation about a serious reflection on their values and our culture’s values and the mental health of teens, not merely to help kids to be successful students and achievers but rather to be whole, healthy, individual human beings who are able to self-actualize and blossom throughout their lives. This is the process of yoga, an exploration of the inner landscape!

I welcome your comments on the podcast in iTunes or feel free to share your thoughts by emailing me at or leave a comment on this post.


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Podcast Episode 005: How to Be The Hero of Your Own Life Story

“You ARE the hero of your own journey, and [this course] is the most important course you will ever take. You should be at the center of your own curriculum and let the rest of your schooling experiences supplement this foundational study of yourself…This is a solo mission– a private, individual, one-on-one class where you are both teacher and student. You only have to deal with and answer to yourself! Nobody can tell you what to do but you!”

A Humanities Course: Heroism 101
Lesson 1: How to Be The Hero of Your Own Life Story

If I could create a course especially for young people this podcast would serve as a sample introductory mini-lecture about the importance of knowing thyself within a larger course that I would call The Hero’s Journey or Heroism 101 (credit to Jospeh Campbell, Carl Jung, Jordan Peterson and many many others from antiquity to the present).

Typically, English teachers in public high schools are required to “cover” specific works of literature and teach specific language arts skills to students. We grade the students on their skills performance and progress, and assess their understanding of the literature under study. Coursework usually begins  with reading required stories where students are encouraged to make personal connections– to see themselves in the characters and explore human themes that might resonate with them.  The value of a humanities class, especially today, cannot be overstated! But, I thought, why not reverse this approach and begin a humanities course with students studying their very own lives– their own “selves,” their inner landscapes– the inner world of who they are, and  encourage them to see that they are actually, really, travelling on their own hero’s journey? The essential guiding question for such a course is : Who am I and How do I know? I think this is a valuable and precious piece of education that is needed for young people today, therefore the curriculum I am creating at Landscapes for Learning that will include podcasting, a journaling program, coaching sessions, video and other tutorials, and lots of other learning materials.

So, I would say to kids, why not just examine your own actual life rather than starting with examples and metaphors? I mean, for sure, archetypal stories and archetypal characters can teach you a ton about yourself (think Luke Skywalker, Frodo, Simba, and many more). Definitely, do your schoolwork! But instead of only studying fictional examples in the confines and context of school, I am reversing the approach by starting with YOU and your life– you, as the character of your own story, and encouraging and motivating you to examine the conflicts and themes that are human, relevant, and your real, actual life. Maybe things like your struggle with and hatred of school, or how you feel about yourself– maybe you lack confidence or feel ashamed of your weaknesses, or you lie a lot– or problems with friends & parents, or bullying and social media, anxiety and depression, and many other issues that are part of being a human being. These are the dragons you must slay, this is your road of trials, as the hero of your own life.

This curriculum I am creating is for you and is focused 100% on YOU and YOU becoming an expert on you and your own human nature! I will merely get you started– the rest is really up to you.

You ARE the hero of your own journey, and it is the most important course you will ever take. You should be at the center of your own curriculum and let the rest of your schooling experiences supplement this foundational study of yourself. The more you get to know yourself– the better you will see the world and understand others. All of your subjects in school will have more meaning for you– biology and chemistry and history and literature (I don’t know about math– probably math too!!). You will perform better because you will know your weakness and strengths, and your inner wisdom will help you find the grit, character, commitment, and motivation to do better and to be better all around! So, in this — your hero’s journey “course,” you will read, write and speak about, listen to, and think deeply about you! This is not more tedious slogging through a class or course simply to achieve a good grade. That is schooling. This is real, authentic learning.

This course– you and your life, NOW, is the learning that trumps all other forms of learning, and it’s actually important that you try to do the best you can — be the best student of yourself that you can be, since you will be the one who benefits most (although others will too, by default). And it is none of anyone else’s business what you are doing in this, your own class. This is a solo mission– a private, individual, one-on-one class where you are both teacher and student. You only have to deal with and answer to yourself! Nobody can tell you what to do but you!

You can assess yourself and decide about how much or little homework you do (I call it “soulwork”); and your attendance is totally up to you. You are in charge and you are responsible for you and only you.

So, I challenge you to put yourself at the center of your own attention, learn about what you are like and how you handle yourself– your thoughts, feelings, discomfort, boredom, whatever….and start figuring out who you’d like to be and get going on making it happen.

I hope I can get you to consider committing your time and your energy to self-understanding– spending more time with yourself, learning how to become your own best friend, and making yourself the best YOU you can be because you are full of amazing possibility, and the design of your own life is 100% in your control.

Enjoy this introductory lecture and stay tuned for more to come, more lessons you can use to teach yourself about yourself as you continue in this course– the course about YOU.

If you are interested in becoming the best you possible, subscribe to for email updates on new posts, podcasts, curriculum, and materials for your personal development.


Podcast Intro Music by:

Earthling-Political Lunatics published by DAWN STARS MUSIC 
Creative Commons License

Click HERE to Listen to Podcast 005

Listen on Apple ITunes Podcasts


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Just a thought…How Higher Ed. Can Help the Natural Landscape

After reading “Ending Extracurricular Privilege” by Olga Kahzan in December 21st issue of The Atlantic Monthly, I realize just how much influence higher education has on the values, beliefs, behaviors, habits, and choices of their incoming students as well as their parents and their high schools. (I mean, I know the competition among students over grades has completely destroyed the joy and authenticity of learning and creativity, but…)

I’ve seen the administration and school committee where I work (and my children’s high school) consistently respond with, “How high?” when colleges and university admissions request that they “jump.” You want global studies? Done! You want cross-curricular courses? You got it! Study abroad programs? Yes! Right away! Community service? Of course! And a substantial portion of the job of an entire department (Guidance) is to help students create these required stellar resumes starting in 9th grade. By grade 11, it’s too late! That’s a lot of resources geared toward shaping kids to meet college admissions expectations.


The personal qualities and characteristics colleges seek in candidates almost always become the secondary school community’s goals which are aimed at raising and shaping teens’ behavior and time, at least from what I have witnessed. And it’s not an entirely bad thing! Achievement and service are valuable. It gets out of control when it’s forced or completely ingenuine. I believe intention does matter, especially when it’s a gauge of character. When kids are competing against each other over who can gain more community service hours to best the other’s resume? Umm… no. That doesn’t seem very “communal.”

The extracurricular resume of students is a map of how they spend their “free” time beyond the strictly academic realm. Many times, I might argue most times, students complete obligatory community service hours for the sole purpose of their resume and its desired effect on college acceptance. How can admissions officers know which student has genuinely community-oriented values?


It also appears that schools require community service because that will help their students gain favor with college admissions; they build it into the curriculum, if you will. Kids have no choice in the matter or they don’t graduate. I have heard the following, and other versions of the same from students: “I have to get my community service done or my parents will kill me.” Is that service or forced labor? This is only one of the issues Richard Weissbourd raises in the article; he raises several others worth considering.


It’s rather impressive that higher ed has such power to motivate kids to complete service, and work, and play sports, and join clubs, and do well in school (c’mon, you know that kid, those parents), so what about requiring applicants to go green– to serve our earth, to be 100% focused on full immersion in the wild, or to nurture the natural landscape and all it’s living creatures, or to provide evidence that they recycle and show that they moderate or eliminate their carbon footprint, and somehow show that they don’t support (via consumerism) unhealthy and corrupt business practices that harm the environment, including all its life forms?

It’s just a thought.