When it’s Art and not Science


I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?

It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.

Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in.

–Neil Gaiman


I have been overwhelmed since arriving by the professional spirit at Daystar Academy. Faculty, Expat and Chinese alike have been requesting meetings, asking questions and rolling with the ever-fickle nature of the start of the school year like champs. –And they have been overwhelmingly gracious in dealing with a new MYP Coordinator who is just learning the ropes (and trying not to hang himself on them).

Among the many early contributions I have witnessed in the Secondary School, I would like to give special attention to Nick Grasso and Nicole Last who pushed through a messy transition process to co-develop a projects program for the MYP that spans all five years and provides a triple-tiered accountability and support process for students. It will make everyone’s job easier over the upcoming year (especially mine) and equip students with multiple faculty guides and a scaffolded process as they navigate the complex demands of the IB’s project requirements.

I can’t help but notice, however, that the vast majority of the questions I have been asked have to do with formatting unit plans…and objectives and criteria and Australia standards and Common Core Standards and priority vs. supporting standards and…formatting unit plans.

And that’s all well and good. But I hope we can turn our conversations over these last few days to conversations where we ask different questions, like:

  • How will we welcome our new students into our community?
  • How will we make our students feel safe on the first day?
  • How will we differentiate for introverts and extroverts in our icebreakers?
  • What do we hope to learn about our students by the end of the first week?
  • How can we from the very first week set up a reflective practice of the Daystar Core Values and the IB Learner Profile?
  • How will we make our students laugh in the first week?
  • How will we instill a sense of wonder in the first week?

I order to get us thinking about these and other questions, and to refresh our practice, I would like to introduce a couple of resources I will be using throughout the year:

  • The Modern Learning Lab Paper.li
    • This is a collection of resources from the web that I will update and share with you each week. This week’s collection includes several article on how to reflect on the first day of school, and the Neil Gaiman article the introductory quote comes from.
  • The Modern Learning Lab Google Site
    • This is the Google Site on which I curate past and future PD sessions and relevant media for Modern Learning. The page that I have linked here has more material for considering the well-being of students on the first day of school and suggests a process for refreshing our practice. It also recommends a bit of reflection before asking, “How was your summer?” on the first day back.

So keep on keeping on with the plans and the standards, but don’t forget to bring some magic and mess and marvel–some fairy fruit–to your first days with your new kids. I would love to talk to you about how you plan to accomplish this.

Good luck! And thank you for the generous welcome to Daystar.



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