Reflection: gift of time and reflection with Honors College learners

Leveraging the power of PLNs, Grant Lichtman (@GrantLichtman) connected Bo and me with Dave Ostroff (@DaveOstroff) sometime last summer.  In November, Grant suggested that I might enjoy spending a day learning with All Saints Episcopal School and Dave.  He was right.

Today the freshmen of the Tad Bird Honors College, Dave, and I gathered to learn together.  We accepted the challenge of the Gift Giving Project. Each member of this community committed to reflecting on some aspect of the experience tonight.  So, I am fulfilling my commitment to share what I learned from and with these 17 exceptional thinkers.


I like the tone and spirit of this group of learners, because I felt invited and accepted even though I was a stranger.  I wonder if this was because it was the second day of class and everyone is new to each other, or if this is a cultural norm.  What if we intentionally designed learning to be this open and accepting of others in all classrooms? How might we change education and learning by having this strong open door, all are welcome attitude everywhere?

I wonder if these learners know how powerful their work is and will be as they continue to problem find and problem solve together. I like how easy it seemed for them to roll up their sleeves and do the critical empathy work to actively listen and probe to uncover the root problem of their user.  What if we apply this work to local and global problems? How might we serve our communities by taking the time to ask enough questions to really hear and uncover needs?

I really like how fearless these learners are in their pursuit of understanding others and how they might serve one another.  I wonder if their fearlessness is understood, noticed, and acknowledged.  How might we bright spot the beauty of the risk and reward of listening with your heart? What if we practice sharing the unnoticed gems that require such bravery?

I love seeing the ideation of ideas. I love seeing them turn their 2-D drawings into 3-D prototypes to visualize point of view and possibilities. I wonder about the impact of the process and the product. What if we took the time to show what we know and think by building models of our ideas? How might we embrace additional creativity, communication, and collaboration by such acts?

I love the stories that accompany the ideation and prototyping. I wonder how we might capture the emotion, energy, and connectedness in these stories to share with others. What if we build to learn, create to communicate, and share? How might we better understand each other?


Accepted as a co-learner and embraced as a colleague, I learned with this community today.  How might we learn and share and connect and serve? What if we accept this as a responsibility?

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28 thoughts on “Reflection: gift of time and reflection with Honors College learners”

  1. Makes me want to get back to Honors College at All Saints and work with these kids in this framework again! I love what Dave is developing there, and of course he could not do it without really great and smart people like us! :)

  2. I am a student in the Honors College and thought this was a great approach to learning. It was a very loose environment and left me thinking outside the box about problem solving. If everyone went about their lives this way, the world would work differently. One life can have a definite impact on another. This project taught me how to solve a problem productively without hurting anyone’s feelings.Your work has left an impact on the Honors College! Thank you for helping us further our boundaries of learning!

    1. Hi Claire! Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I really appreciate that you took the time to write. I loved being with y’all last Thursday.

      I really appreciate that you say This project taught me how to solve a problem productively without hurting anyone’s feelings. I’ve spent this semester working to learn and teach how to give feedback that can be heard and that causes action.

      The work that you are doing to learn and grow as a servant leader is important, impactful work. To have contributed, even a little, makes the entire trip more that worth it to me.

  3. Hi Ms. Gough! Another Honors college member here. I wanted to thank you for coming out and spending time with us asking questions even if we didn’t find all the answers! I thought brainstorming with a partner and making prototypes were excellent ideas. I was able to successfully find a present for Sam’s brother that they both would be able to enjoy together. I hope you come and have class again with us soon!

    1. Hi Will! I loved being with you last Thursday. I am so grateful for the experience and the work that you and your peers are embracing. I loved observing you and Sam work together to understand, empathize, ideate, and prototype. Thanks for taking your drawings and turning them into 3-D models to further explain your ideas. I appreciate that you allowed me to capture them in the photos above. Thank you for inviting me to join you. I hope to see you soon.

  4. I’m Emma, a student in the All Saints Honors College. I loved this activity because it gave us a chance to help other people by changing their “gift-giving experience”. I liked the fact that this activity could have been used for more than just gift giving. It was a neat approach to find new ways to do something that can be a great benefit to many people. It also let other people know about and clearly understand your ideas that can change the way they do things in their daily lives. It was so great to have you visit the Honors College and I’m sure everyone would love to have you visit another time!

  5. Hi Emma – What a great day for me! I love that you can use what you learned for more than just gift giving/. Thank you for understanding that the activity was a process that can be used in most problem-finding/problem-solving situations. I loved every minute of my time with you and your classmates. I learned lots! Thank you for including me. I felt welcomed and accepted.

  6. This is Nicole from the Honors College. Thank you for spending some time with us last Thursday. I liked the structure of the gift giving activity because it did a great job of illustrating the problem solving process. I especially liked the role of feedback that was included and thought that was a great aspect to consider. This was a great experience for us, and all of the Honors College thanks you!

    1. Hi Nicole, I’m so glad that you enjoyed Gift Giving. I love that you understand that it is designed to teach a process that can be employed when solving human-centered problems. I’ve just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In her book, she discusses the importance of learning to give and receive feedback. Thank you for acknowledging the role of feedback in the design thinking process.

  7. …And yet another Honor’s College student. Thank you for taking the time to teach and oversee our class! I really enjoyed your seminar and the hands on projects we did; I learned a lot not just about gift giving but about thought processes and the complex ways our lives work. The discussion was eye opening and meaningful to me, and it was also a lot of fun. I hope you’ll be able to return to All Saints’ soon!

    1. Thank you, Sam. I always love it when we mix meaningful learning and fun. No matter your age, I hope that learning is always filled with purpose and play. I appreciate your comment. I loved being with y’all and hope to return again soon.

  8. I’m Brianna and I’m a student in the All Saints’ Honors College. I really enjoyed the Gift-Giving Challenge because we were able to help people with giving gifts to people they care about. I liked how we were able to interview our partner and dig deeper to find a problem that we were able to help them with. I thought this was a great way to learn how to give thoughtful advice for solving problems. Thank you so much for visiting us here at All Saints’ and I hope you can come back soon!

    1. Hi Brianna, My favorite part of Gift Giving is the interview. Like you, I enjoy digging deeper to learn more about my partner’s needs and wants. I love how easily your team engaged in the activity to listen, question, and design to serve. Thank you for sharing your time with me. I hope to see you again.

  9. Hello Mrs. Gough. I’m also a member of the Honors College at All Saints, but I was sick the day you came, so I don’t know exactly what we did that day. I got to see the prototypes that the others in the Honors College made, and I was very impressed. In hearing them talk about the experience, I learned about how someone’s input on your work can change it to make it way better. I wish I could’ve made it, and I hope to see you next time!

    1. Will, Thank you so much for sharing what you learned. I’m sorry we did not have the opportunity to meet. I am grateful to read your comments on the learning that occurred during my visit. I’m glad you could see and discuss the prototypes. Wow, it is so nice that you thought to leave me a comment!

  10. Dear Ms Gough,
    Thank you so much for coming to All Saints. I loved the empathetic atmosphere you brought, and how you helped us become better interviewers, and interviewees. I really felt like this was an opportunity for the Honors College to learn and grow together. I think that this experience will lead the Honors College to greater things in the future. Thank you so much for coming, and thanks for cooperating with Mr. Ostroff so that you could come!

    1. Sean-Michael, I know that empathy was an important part of your 8th grade experience at All Saints. I’m happy that you found a connection from Project Empathy to our work on Gift Giving. I know that your class will have impact at All Saints and in your communities. Thank you for learning with me. I hope to continue to working and learning with you.

  11. Hi, I’m Maddie, another Honors College student. Thank you for coming last Thursday to teach us about the Gift Giving Project! I had a lot of fun coming up with ideas and solutions for my partner’s gift problem, and also hearing what my partner had to say about mine. I liked how the Gift Giving Project taught us to think outside of the box and come up with solutions that we might not have thought of before. It helped me figure out what I could do to help and what I could also do with problems in the future. Building the prototype helped me visualize my solutions to see what else I could do to expand my ideas, and they helped me communicate with my partners and get feedback. Thank you for coming, and I hope that you can come teach us again some time!

    1. Hi Maddie! I love that you write I liked how the Gift Giving Project taught us to think outside of the box and come up with solutions that we might not have thought of before. I was so impressed with how you listened and questioned to get at the heart of the problem.

      I also appreciate Building the prototype helped me visualize my solutions to see what else I could do to expand my ideas, and they helped me communicate with my partners and get feedback.. I wonder how we might incorporate more 3-D models and feedback in our learning.

      You give me much to think about. Thank you!

  12. Hi Mrs. Gough, another student at the Honors College. It was great to meet and work with someone who gave us this opportunity to critically think in a way that I hadn’t ever experienced before. I liked how the Gift-Giving Challenge was formatted so that I had to think about my solutions in ways that i wouldn’t have ever thought of. It showed me how to figure out a solution in the most efficient and in-depth method possible, which tells me that I should continue to use this format in the future. Thank you for visiting the Honors College, and I hope you can visit some other time.

    1. Hi Jacob, I love that the Gift Giving Challenge offers you a process that you can continue for future work. I hope that it ties to your 8th grade Project Empathy. I think it is so important to actively listen, question for clarity and deeper understanding, and act on feedback to adjust to meet needs. Thank you for allowing me to join your learning community. I hope to see you soon.

  13. I’m Coby, another Honor’s College member. Thank you so much for taking the time to come visit us and show us this activity! I loved how the activity was a unique way to use empathy and to practice problem solving. I enjoyed being able to discuss the gifts my partner and I gave because it helps me to brainstorm when I can talk out ideas with someone. I also enjoyed being able to build a 3-D model so that my partner could get a better image of my idea for a gift. I hope that you will come visit us again sometime and thank you for helping to create this unique learning experience.

  14. Hello Mrs. Gough! I am too a part of the Honors college here at All Saints. I want to thank you for taking time to come and visit with us! I had a great experience. My partner and I were able to thoroughly dissect our problem that we faced when looking for gifts and giving them. With much time to think about our situation with the exercises you had us take part in, we came up with solutions that fit both of us. I will always be reminded of this project when giving gifts in the future. Again thank you very much! Hopefully you can join us again some other time!

  15. Hello! I’m another student of the Honors College, and liked how the framework of this project started as an investigation and only later turned into problem solving. It was interesting looking back to examine how the steps taken in understanding our partner’s needs directly led to a working solution. What if projects is other classes were done this way, with an understanding of the subject tying directly into a finished, relevant project? Like Claire, I liked the loose environment of the project, as it allowed for interesting diversions that would not have happened had the goals and what is deemed a successful or A+ project been layer out at the beginning. Thank you for sharing this wit hour school!

  16. Hi Ms Gough! This is Brendan yet another Honors College member. I wanted to thank you for spending time with us and showing us the new design project. I liked how we were considered colleagues and equals instead of being underneath you. Thank you for spending your day with us. I really liked how the gift giving can change into any topic and still work. Thanks again!

  17. Howdy from Fort Worth, Jill – I hope you are doing well! I read students’ comments above with a big grin: it’s clear that we all enjoyed your visit to All Saints’. I am grateful for your willingness to carve a day out of your busy, busy schedule to be with us.

    I appreciate you for engaging our students around design thinking in ways that model ‘teacher as co-learner’. Your example and our conversations have inspired a meaningful dialogue with students about re-imagining assessment in the Honors College (that I shared with parents at Open House earlier this week) – I asked “How might we encourage you (students) to honor your commitments both to your own growth and to our learning community?” We talked about setting two core priorities: 1) taking time for reflection and conversation; and 2) giving and receiving meaningful, formative feedback. I look forward to reporting on our ‘detox’ from a reliance on summative assessment by grade book — I wonder whether averaging a column of numbers together could ever align with design thinking’s emphasis on iteration, prototyping, and a bias toward action during a learning process…

    … along the way in our conversations, one students wondered “What if our activity or our follow-up questions for reflection don’t have meaning for me?” After some more discussion, we agreed that students are welcome to choose alternatives on which to reflect, including: 1) creating their own questions and/or 2) giving feedback to me about ideas for altering the design of our time together… I like that students are willing to invest in providing feedback for each other AND feedback for me as co-learner — often using “I like” / “I wonder” / “What if” protocol that you shared.

    And also – I think you’d be pleased to know that we invested in a second iteration of “Marshmallow Challenge” informed by reflection and formative feedback… at the end of 18 minutes, all four spaghetti towers stood tall!

    I love that All Saints’ students have read and commented on your reflection about our time together! I am grateful that you are willing to collaborate with us as we envision the Honors College in its formative stages of programmatic development. I feel a deep sense of connection in encouraging students to develop their own questions and take heightened ownership of their learning; in inspiring students to apply knowledge in creative ways to solve real problems; and in forging servant leaders with grit and determination who are motivated to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. I am encouraged about possibilities for deeper connections — both online and during your next visit!

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