How to Teach Big and Kick Ass – Interview with A.J. Juliani, Author of Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning – Ep. 027

Kids live in a world where they don’t have to wait for anything. But in school, we tell them what they have to do, when they should do it, and how it needs to be done. There are few opportunities for student choice and even fewer opportunities for students to create something of their own.

As kids learn to play the game of school, they learn that doing as they’re told is how you win. But what happens when kids get to college and out in the real world and there isn’t anyone telling them what to do anymore?

We need to let kids wrestle with choice on what they want to make, create, learn, and explore. We can give our students the opportunities to explore their own passions and discover who they are. This doesn’t have to wait until they’re older. It can start right now – in YOUR classroom! You can go beyond engaging and entertaining students and take it a step further so kids feel empowered and can make their own path in life, not wait for someone to tell them the next step.

In this week’s episode, I spoke with A.J. Juliani, who has written four incredible books all focused on inspiring students and teachers to become the future leaders of tomorrow. As the author of Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning, Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in All Students, Intentional Innovation: How to Guide Risk-Taking, Build Creative Capacity and Lead Change, and Learning by Choice: 10 Ways Choice and Differentiation Create an Engaged Learning Experience for Every Student, A.J. created a tremendous collection of ideas, strategies, resources, and experiences that will turn your classroom into a mini-incubator of creativity and passion.

If those book titles don’t get you excited, I don’t know what will! Plus, A.J. is a fan of the WORLD CHAMPION Philadelphia Eagles, so between the awesome books and the great taste in NFL teams, A.J. qualified as the perfect guest for the Punk Rock Preschool Podcast.

Listen here to learn more about how you and your students can immediately feel the benefits of a more creative classroom.

A traditional curriculum just doesn’t do the job anymore. School needs to reassess its own purpose and refocus the attention on helping kids find their passions, understand the wild opportunities that exist for them, and discover for themselves that they can make a difference in the world.

It is not empowering to take a test.

Instead, we need to give children opportunities to create and actually do something with what they know. Whether that means solving a problem, collaborating together to accomplish a goal, putting on a performance, or any other empowering activity, we need to give kids learning opportunities that are meaningful and relevant.

And by expanding your own ideas of creativity, you will soon find all types of ways to be creative in your classroom!

Being creative doesn’t mean being Mrs. Frizzle.

There are all kinds of creative types – the engineer, the hacker, the geek, the astronaut, and many more – all of whom he discusses on this week’s episode. Creativity is not a recipe to be followed because if it was, we would get the same thing back every time. Instead, A.J. focuses on Design Thinking which is employed by Amazon, IBM, Google, and all the other game-changing companies around the world. He boils down these processes and strategies so you can “boost creativity and bring out the maker in every student.” You can learn more about Design Thinking and the steps that go into creating this special type of classroom in A.J.’s book Launch.

There are so many gems in this week’s episode. To get a handle on all of them, listen to this week’s episode now. In it, A.J. explains his incredible strategies for increasing student talk (seriously, incredible is an understatement. These strategies ROCK!), how you can provide more choices for our students, and how you can make creativity a priority in your classroom and school. There is so much useful and great content in these forty minutes you may want to listen twice!

“We are not preparing kids for something, we are helping kids prepare themselves for anything.”

When you think about the tech, social media, and blockchain jobs that are still sprouting up today, it is easy to forget that twenty years ago, no one could have predicted that these jobs would exist. Similarly, the jobs of the future don’t exist yet either. As much as we try to focus on preparing our students for the next big thing, the next big thing could be something that none of us ever imagined. For that reason, kids need to do more than just learn.

Kids need to create.

Find out how to bring this spirit of creativity and innovation into your classroom on this week’s episode of the Punk Rock Preschool Podcast.


Show Notes:

  • 03:23 – Creating a Classroom that Fosters Inquiry and Innovation
  • 05:26 – How do we inspire and empower the future leaders of the world
  • 08:27 – Results inside and outside of the classroom when kids can find the passion
  • 11:36 – How do we expose kids to subjects that can help them find their passions
  • 15:15 – How Teachers Can Find Their Creativity
  • 18:46 – Why isn’t creativity a priority in schools
  • 24:03 – How Do We Give Students More Choice
  • 25:32 – Choice in Pace – Classroom Structure So Kids Don’t Fall Behind (And Top Students stay challenged)
  • 29:10 – Increasing Student Talk – Discussion Games
  • 36:58 – Final Thoughts
  • 39:32 – Where To Find AJ

Thank you so much for joining us this week! Was there anything I missed in this episode that you’d like to hear more about? Would you mind sharing in the comments so all the great teachers can learn from your thoughts? Thank you!

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