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My Summer: Ed.L.D. Candidate Jason Yamashiro

"Education needs to be valued in American society and focused on not only test scores and economic success, but also on the whole child and finding joy in learning."

Jason YamishiroAfter beginning the Ed.L.D. Program last year, Jason Yamashiro envisioned his summer filled with family road trips and leisurely afternoons. “I was the person in the cohort saying I’d work the least,” quips the former teacher and principal from the San Francisco Bay area. Yet Yamashiro, propelled by his learning experience in year one of the program, as well as the connections he made, did the exact opposite.

“I saw opportunities that I couldn’t pass up,” he says.

Those opportunities involved Yamashiro consulting for not one but two, state-run school districts. “Up until now, I had always worked in a school district and not in consulting,” he says. “I really wanted to see what it would be like sitting in a meeting with a superintendent and get that perspective.”

During the first half of the summer, he worked with District Management Consulting – a leading educational consulting group in Massachusetts -- where he helped with curriculum mapping, strategic planning, and parental involvement for Lawrence (Mass.) Public Schools. In addition, Yamashiro continued to work on a project that he had begun during the school year for the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) of Michigan – a new statewide school system that was just beginning the process of taking over some of the lowest performing schools in the state, starting in Detroit.

As the EAA ramped up to start its first academic year, Yamashiro helped conduct interviews for the hiring of hundreds of teachers. Through nearly 120 interviews via Skype, he met educators across the spectrum, from Teach For America teachers to 30-year veterans. “I found that really inspirational,” he says.

Yamashiro also helped the EAA think through competency-based high school learning and teacher training. “The EAA is focused on student-centered learning and reinventing schools,” he says. “Getting a chance to support the teachers as they prepared to launch was a special experience.”

While Yamashiro is grateful to have been able to gain a different perspective through being on the other side of the table with schools, his experience this summer reinforced his desire to be on the ground in a school district and to stay focused on teaching and learning. For that reason, he also found time to continue working on a project he started at the Ed School last year called the Joyful Learning Network. The nonprofit grew out of an Ed.L.D. assignment in which he was asked to create an idea that could transform the education sector.

“Schools and learning need a movement to change not just the way we teach, but also how we think about teaching and learning,” Yamashiro says, noting that education needs to be valued in American society and focused on not only test scores and economic success, but also on the whole child and finding joy in learning. To this end, he sought and obtained an Ed.L.D. Innovation Fund grant to support work on a School Happiness Index, a new metric that schools and districts could use that is conceptually modeled after the Global Happiness Index now being used by the United Nations.

Joyful learning, as Yamashiro describes it, starts with passion, purpose, and play. Components include building strong positive relationships; developing a growth mindset; connecting learning with social action in the community; and infusing arts, enrichment, and technology into the daily lives of students. The nonprofit, which Yamashiro started with his wife, acts as a network aimed to unite people and organizations worldwide in joyful learning and restructuring the tone and message of schools.

“There are few things more important to us than the daily experiences and future of our children,” says Yamashiro, who has three school-aged sons. “Through the daily interaction with school, children learn not only content, but values. Over time I hope that the Joyful Learning Network can play a part in expanding the values that we believe have a place in our schools, as well as positively impacting teaching and learning.”


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