Academic Impressions is hiring!

My company, Academic Impressions, is currently adding members to its Program Development Team! If you love higher ed and are interested in learning more about a job that combines research, program design/development and program management, please feel free to reply or reach out at

join AI

Getting out of your comfort zone

balletIn the past year, I’ve taken on two new endeavors that have greatly challenged me, sometimes to a breaking point. Last summer, I left a job I adored, a beautiful 22nd-floor apartment, and close friends, to move across the Pacific and start a new job in the curriculum department at an international school. Not long ago, I also started taking ballet lessons after a 16-year hiatus.
The similarities of those two endeavors sometimes take me by surprise.
My landings are rough;
My muscles stiff.
What I used to do with ease now feels, at times, false, as though I’m pretending to be something I’m not; yet in my memory, my time as a teacher and as a dancer doesn’t seem so long ago.
I force myself to get up every morning knowing that I’m going to stretch a little longer today. And slowly, I’m celebrating small wins.
Things start to feel familiar.
A new identity starts to awaken.
Complacency is the body & mind slowly decaying.
Scare yourself.
Be uncomfortable.
Your reward will amaze you.

Resources for K-5 NGSS

At my school, we are just starting the process of implementing the Next Gen Science Standards into our elementary curriculum. This has, at times, been an exhausting process, but it’s so exciting to see our teachers incorporating these practices and encouraging their learners to “think like a scientist.” We have decided not to go with a packaged program, which means more work on our end, but with the advantage of having lots of flexibility to think about cross-curricular options (especially with Design Thinking). I thought I’d share some of the resources that have been most helpful to me in getting my head around NGSS.
  1. Paul Andersen’s site (and his visit to our school) were incredibly helpful. Paul has created an entire video series around the standards and is a good starting place for learning about how the standards are organized.
  2. Rubicon has started offering free webinars on NGSS. I used to think of Rubicon as simply a curriculum mapping resource, yet they seem to have really expanded their PD opportunities and the recorded webinars work especially well for us in the Pacific.
  3. Speaking of Rubicon, since we are capturing these units in Atlas, we had to decide what went where in our template. We decided on the following alignment:
Standards & Benchmarks = Performance Expectations
Disciplinary Core Ideas = Content
Cross-Cutting Concepts = Understandings
Science & Engineering Practices = Skills

4. Finally, I’m a “big picture” learner who has to see some sort of graphic or organizational layout of a concept in order to really get my head around it. I searched online profusely, but could never find a layout of the standards in a way that made sense to me. I finally ended up printing out the standards and organizing them on a wall in my office by grade level and areas of Life Science, Earth & Space Science, Physical Science, and Engineering & Technology Standards. (I really wish I had taken a photo of the wall!) That eventually morphed into grid you see below, organized by Topics. The Topics combine standards that fit well together into a learning experience. Each hyperlink goes directly to the NGSS website’s 1-page write up of that particular topic. Here’s a PDF of the grid: NGSSStandardsArrangedbyTopics.

Have you found other resources that would be helpful in implementing NGSS, especially at the elementary level? I’d love to hear about them!

Ch-ch-ch-changes (an announcement)

As many of you know, I have spent the past nine years working as a consultant for McREL International. This wasn’t something I ever thought I would do when I first went into the teaching profession. (I’m not even sure I knew it was an option.) Yet for most of the past decade, I have enjoyed every aspect of this amazing job. I’ve had opportunities to learn from our talented researchers and consultants, to travel the US and the world, and to reconnect with my love of writing by co-authoring five books and numerous articles. I have reveled in this role more than I ever imagined and am grateful for the many mentors and friends I have met while doing so.

A few months ago, however, I started to feel the need to shake things up. I wasn’t exactly sure why or how. Maybe it was because I had lived in Denver for almost 16 years, which was never really the plan. Maybe I was starting to feel disconnected from the day-to-day vibrancy of working in a school and seeing learning in action on a daily basis. Maybe I realized that my career was half over and I hadn’t yet fulfilled a lifelong dream of living abroad.

Whatever the impetus, a series of conversations and events led to reconnecting with some of the wonderful people at the American School in Japan. One conversation led to another and as a result…

I will be moving to Tokyo (with husband and kitty in tow) this summer where I will take on the position of Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning for ASIJ. While the prospect of leaving a city I love, my McREL family, and a job that I adore is bittersweet, I am SO EXCITED to begin this new chapter in our lives and to embrace all the challenges and joys that living in a different country will bring. Most of all, I am honored to join this amazing community of educators.

I hope to chronicle my travels, learning, and experiences on this blog and via my Twitter account (@erhubbell). I hope you will join me in the conversation. 

My working definition of Creativity

What is your definition of creativity? Innovation?

I started typing out my working definition and this is what I came up with. I’d love to hear yours.



  • has to have impact on how we solve a problem, comprehend a concept, define entertainment or beauty, or live our daily lives
  • is likely to be made up of previously conceived ideas, but put together in entirely new ways
  • is not boring; humans will intuitively recognize a creative piece as engaging even if they don’t particularly like it
  • will sometimes be dismissed or ridiculed by those who hold firmly to a particular standard set in the past
  • a creative work can become aligned to a particular place or period in history as it helped to define movements that were happening during that place and time

The power of social learning: Can working with peers improve outcomes? (McREL Blog)

This was posted on McREL’s blog, but thought I would cross-link it here.

Corporal punishment in American schools in 2013

It happened as we were conducting practice walkthroughs during principal training. I was working with a group of administrators on gathering formative data on teacher instructional practices and, as we were making our way down the hallway, I overheard one principal say to another, “…after that smart @$$ comment, I turned to [name] and just said, ‘Whup ‘im.'”

I let out a half-laugh as I turned to him, not sure whether to be aghast or amused at the absurdity of joking about spanking a student. The moment I saw his face, however, I realized that he wasn’t joking. I’m sure several emotions were evident in my expression as the realization of what he was saying sunk in – disbelief, disgust, horror. Mentally recoiling, I managed to create space between us as we continued walking, giving one of the other principals a chance to come up alongside me and whisper, somewhat apologetically, “Corporal punishment is still legal in Texas.”

I have memories of classmates being called to the office for punishment that can only be categorized as child abuse, but I had naively assumed that those brutish practices had been discontinued in the ’80s. How wrong I was.

I recently told a co-worker this story and she, like me, found it difficult to fathom that this form of punishment was still legal. She forwarded data from The Center for Effective Discipline on frequency of corporal punishment by state (and those that have banned such practices). I’ll let the data speak for itself. I am especially dismayed to see that Colorado, my adopted home of 15 years that I consider to be such a role model for healthy living and innovative ideas, still hasn’t banned corporal punishment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is corporal punishment still legal in your state? Is it still a part of your school’s culture? How frequently is this happening in your world?