I’m writing Rewild School (the book) blogpost by blogpost. When the book is completed, it’ll review (in detail) the ten steps educators take to Rewild their students (and themselves). Here are the most recent blogposts:

  • The Art of Shunning – “One of my former students, who’s in a leadership position in the Navy, reached out for advice on how to handle one member of his team being shunned by the rest. Here’s our email exchange…”
  • Your Students and Their Fearscapes – “We are divided individuals. “Who we are” and “Who we are meant to be” do not match up. This is not how it is supposed to be. And, to bring this existential mismatch to the attention of my students, I ask them to doodle their fearscapes.”
  • Disbandment – “Disbandment is a powerful tool. Indeed, it is so powerful that my pedagogical use of it could have gone terribly wrong. But it didn’t. Why not?” 
  • Those who can, do; those who can’t – “So, a lawyer and a teacher are at a dinner party. The lawyer is gesticulating wildly and holding court when he says the one thing that sears the ears of every teacher…”
  • Fear in the Classroom – “I sat at the head of the two beaten-up boardroom tables around which we gathered and I held court. I rarely (if ever) held court in this class. But I had to take this fear-induced uprising head on. Here’s what I said…”
  • Welcome to College – Are you willing to leave home? This is the ask of college. And, know that if you say “yes”, then it is my job to sting, disturb, question, poke, provoke and unsettle you.”
  • The Day I Met Gen Z – “One of the students no longer feels safe with you in the classroom” she said. “What do you mean?” I asked. “They no longer feel safe with you in the classroom” she repeated.
  • Being Disrupted – “For years, I’ve watched many of my colleagues in higher education decry with head-shaking frustration the so-called backward-looking reluctance of communities to embrace their disruption (especially, the green economy). Well, now, we’re the ones being disrupted. So, who knows, maybe now, after feeling the feels of being disrupted, some of my colleagues will develop a bit of empathy for those who have been living the life of disruption for years.”
  • Fear in the Classroom – “I sat at the head of the two beaten-up boardroom tables around which we gathered and I held court. I rarely (if ever) held court in this class. But I had to take this fear-induced uprising head on. Here’s what I said…”
  • Exiled – “Upon reflection, I decided that their behavior had crossed a line. And, upon deeper reflection, I concluded that their continued presence in our community was detrimental to our community.”
  • You and Your Classroom’s Culture – “I exercised authority that an educator committed to Rewilding their students should exercise with extreme caution.”
  • B but Leave – “I stormed into the classroom fifteen minutes late and fired up. They needed an ultimatum. So, I pulled a Zappos.”
  • How to Be Vulnerable with Your Students – “There is this threshold. I walk my students up to it each semester. They stand on one side as they are, as they arrive. On the other side is…”

Tribes, Trials and Thresholds

Ten steps educators can take to Rewild their students (and themselves).

Step 1: Choose a Project

No. Choose a Big Project. No, bigger than that. Be unreasonable. Imagine the kind of world you want to live in, the kind of world that makes you proud to be a human being. Go for greatness. Change the cultural conversation. Choose a project that when shared with others they say “Can you do that?” Or, even better “You cannot do that.” Propose a project that is so monumental that it can only be accomplished through collective effort. The project cannot be accomplished in a semester, an academic year, or even before your students graduates. It will not fit neatly into a syllabus. That’s the point.

Step 2: Send Out Invitations

You got your project. Now, go build your Tribe. Send out invitations. Some will accept your invitation. Others will not. But, whoever does, do not accept them all.

Step 3: Screen

Your project resides in reality. You and your students work with real people. You deliver a service that real people depend on. And, in order for your project to be a success, you need to deliver. Delivering takes each and every one of you at our best – taking the initiative, taking risks, acting, doing, producing. Delivering requires each of you to get our demons under control. So, when you are looking at prospective members of the Tribe, look ahead, visualize them in the Arena and ask “Will they deliver?”

Step 4: The Training Grounds

You have your project. You have your team. Now, it is time to get them ready for the Arena. You have 16 weeks. You need to do 3 things:

  • Build a Community through engineering shared experiences.
  • Build a Culture by making 11 Promises to each other.
  • Build Commitment to the project by animating and teaching them how to handle their demons.

You prepare them for the arena by embedding them in a community of change-makers, co-creating a group culture that is demon-proof, and animating their demons. Now, it’s time to head to the Arena. But, first, a few words about how you lead in the classroom.

Step 5: Your Role in the Classroom

Step 6: The Tunnel to the Arena

What you’re asking of your students is not easy. You’re asking them to exit the classroom, enter reality and offer their work up for judgment. You’re asking them to walk into the Arena. You cannot just stand outside the gates and say “You gotta go in there.” You nudge, encourage and cajole them to enter the Arena by being vulnerable and sharing your stories of struggle. You need to walk with them down the tunnel, stand with them where the shade ends and the light begins, and go into the Arena with them.

Step 7: The Arena

Your students are out of the classroom.  They are out of their comfort zones. They are in the Arena. It is in the Arena that they feel the true weight, pressure and responsibility of their work. You are looking at them. The community you are working with is looking at them. Their Tribe is looking at them. They need to act. Make a decision. Choose. Do. The stage is set for the battle.

Step 8: The Battle

You and your students have similar demons. You may even call them by the same names. But, your demons are your demons. They are unique to your history. They are unique to your upbringing. They have been customized by your circumstances, culture, context, and community. They are tailored made to kick your ass. The same is true of your students. You and your students may be in the arena together; but, your students have to fight the battle with their demons on their own. You cannot fight their demons for them. No one can. It is up to them. They have a Choice to make.

Step 9: The Choice

Your students can heed the words of their demons and curl up inside their comfort zones. Or, they can push through their fear and deliver. They have a choice: their Tribe or their Demons. They will choose their TRIBE. Here’s why:

  • if they choose their demons, they will avoid the discomfort to delivering. But, their choice contravenes a culture that they have internalized. In turn, they will feel guilt. No one likes to feel guilt.
  • if they choose their demons, they will avoid the cost of having to take the lead. But, they are part of a community of like-minded individuals that they respect. And, if they choose their demons, their standing in the eyes of the Tribe may diminish. No one wants that.

Taking on their fears is costly but so is running away from them. Moreover, if they choose their TRIBE, they will find love and encouragement pulling you through their fear. Those who follow through with this process transform into individuals who act upon their agency to create, construct, imagine, wonder and aspire to not only change the world around them but change the landscape of thoughts and feelings within themselves.

Step 10: Transfiguration

That’s the goal of Rewilding.