Brightworks Head of School: Summer 2016

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  • Head of SchoolLeadership opportunity

    San Francisco, California: Summer 2016

  • sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 20162

    Fast Facts

    2011 65 12 3

    Opened in September with 19 studentsCurrent number of students (K-12)

    Mission district San Francisco, CATotal staff

    resident dinosaur sculptures

  • sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 20163

    Brightworks is a school based on the principle that everything is interesting. We trust that children are naturally motivated learners and partner with them

    as co-authors of their educational path. The school

    sets topics for exploration and encourages children

    to take on projects they are passionate about, while

    also fostering the development of a multitude of

    skills. We educate and inspire students in a flexible,

    mixed-age environment that breaks the traditional

    walls between school and the community outside

    the classroom. We offer a learning environment that

    encourages creative capacity, tenacity, and citizenship.

    We dont teach this way as a means to improve

    traditional educational metrics; we believe these

    qualities are a more important end in themselves.

    The school has grown and developed significantly

    in the five years since it was founded. Building on

    the pedagogical framework of the Brightworks

    Arc and driven by a vision of engagement-based,

    child-centric education, Brightworks has attracted

    global attention as a truly innovative school.

    The strong collaborative partnership between

    the schools Founder, who serves as Educational

    Architect, and the current Head of School is one of the

    cornerstones of the schools success. Together, they

    have built a unique learning environment, and we are

    seeking a new Head of School who will continue that

    partnership. Over the next few years, the school will

    expand and acquire larger premises to accommodate

    growth. The new Head will lead the schools growth

    and evolution while maintaining the core values and

    qualities that make Brightworks uniquely valuable.


    TL;DR Brightworks is a school that says yes to everything. A school that gives kids both power tools and mental tools to conquer things the world thinks only adults are allowed to do. An extraordinary school. If you are a leader who loves empowering kids with confidence, giving them the ability to create their own futures, and spontaneous group hugs, then Brightworks just may be the place for you.

  • sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 20164

    What Brightworks is doing is important, unique, and real. Most schools arent really doing what they say they are doing - you are.

    - Jeeva Roche PhD

    Director, UC Berkeley Global School Project

  • sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 20165

    About Gever Tulley and Tinkering School

    Eleven years ago, Gever

    Tulley started a sleep-

    away camp based on a

    simple idea and a question

    that he could not answer.

    The camp was called Tinkering School, and the

    idea was naively simple: that children can be

    trusted - with tools and with themselves.

    The question was a bit more complicated: Where does

    competence come from? Gever asked this question

    because competence is a common characteristic in the

    adults he most admired, and it appeared that schools

    did not really look at competence. One of Gevers

    students once asked him what he hoped she would

    get from coming to Tinkering School and building a

    sail-powered rail car (which her team sailed nine miles

    on an abandoned railroad track). He told her that one

    day he hoped she would be the kind of person he

    would choose (if you could choose!) to be shipwrecked

    with - a very competent person who would never give

    up, never stop trying to survive and could build her

    own rescue solution. The Tinkering ideal is that we

    should all be that sort of person - cheerful, tenacious,

    playful, resourceful, curious, resilient, and competent.

    It was while working on Tinkering School that Gever

    conceived of the notion of experience-first education.

    The idea is that if you design a meaningful and

    engaging experience, the rest (learning goals, core

    skills, social and emotional development, and so

    forth) you get almost for free. Engaged, discovery-

    based, self-motivated, self-challenging learning

    happens only when the experience is good. From

    that point on, the primary research effort at Tinkering

    School has been to discover and develop ways to

    reliably create engaging learning experiences.

    Tinkering School (and perhaps the wooden roller

    coaster that we built during the very first camp, with

    120 feet of track and big enough for students and their

    parents to ride) excited kids, intrigued parents, and

    caught the attention of big names in education and

    engineering. Gevers TED talks have over four million

    views, his book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should

    Let Your Children Do) was a best-seller, and NPR

    calls him The Father of the Tinkering Movement.

    School History

  • sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 20166

    After seeing so many students eagerly take on

    seemingly impossible challenges that required them

    to work 8- to 10-hours per day, Gever began to

    wonder: since its clearly feasible to create deeply

    engaging learning experiences, why isnt school

    the most interesting place in every childs life? This

    led to the development of the Brightworks Arc - a

    flexible pedagogical framework - and the founding

    of Brightworks. The school opened its doors in 2011

    in a 9,000-square-foot warehouse in San Francisco.

    We had a small staff, 19 students ages 6 to 12, and

    a vision for a different kind of school. In much the

    same way that Tinkering School was a laboratory,

    so too is Brightworks, where we are dedicated to

    developing an engagement-based, experience-first

    learning environment as a complete education.

    Now in its fifth year, Brightworks has grown from

    a dream to a thriving K-12 institution that is widely

    considered to be one of the most innovative schools

    in the world. Gever and the Brightworks team have

    realized the vision of a school that thrives on kids

    curiosity and ideas and provides a place for them to

    think big and be a part of a community of learners.

    The School

    Brightworks is a school that reimagines education. By

    taking the best practices from both early childhood

    education and hands-on, project-based experiential

    learning, we strive to meet students needs in a flexible,

    mixed-age environment that breaks the traditional

    walls between school and the community outside

    the classroom. We offer a broad-spectrum learning

    environment designed to encourage creative capacity,

    tenacity, and citizenship in students from K-12.

    Using the Brightworks Arc as a framework for deeply

    engaged learning, children develop the ability to find

    wonder and delight in the exploration of any topic, to

    practice working together to turn ideas into reality,

    and to learn how

    to communicate

    what they have

    done and why all

    in the context of a

    diverse community

    of collaborators,

    families, volunteers,

    and supporters.


  • sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 20167

    The Brightworks Arc

    The Arc is the fundamental rhythm of a Brightworks

    education. Each Arc has a topic; a major theme that

    is the connective thread of

    the experience. From Salt to

    Maps to Fairness to Clocks,

    the topics are as varied as

    human experience. With three

    arcs each year, students move

    through a diverse course of

    study in a series of intensive immersions, emphasizing

    depth over breadth, integrating and contextualizing

    the development of skills and domain knowledge.

    The beginning phase of the arc is Exploration, a

    time to delve into the fundamental questions about

    a topic what is it? why is it important? and

    also to expand skill bases and introduce concepts

    through work with related experts as well as field

    research, structured games, and practice.

    In the next phase of the arc, Expression, students

    go deeper by proposing a project centered

    around a facet of the arc topic that has caught

    their intellectual interest. Collaborators and

    experts support students in project management,

    documentation, perseverance, collaboration,

    and specific skills to complete their project.

    The final phase, Exposition, requires students to

    explain their work to their community and themselves

    through written and oral presentations, question

    sessions, and demonstrations. In doing so, they

    develop robust and flexible communication skills

    and integrate their most recent work into their

    continuing intellectual and social-emotional growth.

    Scheduled time for reflection and assessment is an

    essential moment of pause between arcs, intended

    for students to have time to write/reflect on the

    process and presentation of their work during the

    arc. There is also time for collaborators to fully assess

    each students experience of the arc in a written

    narrative to be shared with students and parents.

    Then its time to begin again.

    Because the basis of a Brightworks education begins

    with the Arc, we choose topics with great care.

    Those that work best are simple at first glance; things

    that even young children could be expected to be

  • sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 20168

    familiar with. In proving the school motto Everything

    is interesting, good arc topics contain multitudes

    of surprises and fascinating possibilities for project

    work. A topic works best when it functions as a seed

    rather than an umbrella when it has facets that

    reach into many academic disciplines, but when

    students can start small in their understanding of it

    and build outward through the phases. An arc topic

    stimulates curiosity, discovery, and insight when a

    5-year-old can grasp it, a 12-year-old can dive into it,

    and a 15-year-old can push its boundaries outward.

    Brightworks and The Institute for Applied Tinkering

    Brightworks is a small school with a big impact - not

    just on its immediate community, but on the global

    community of educators. Brightworks was recently

    called one of the 13 most innovative schools in the

    world, and is frequently mentioned in articles about

    the future of education in The New York Times,

    NPR, The Atlantic, and other national and global

    publications. Kim Saxe, Director of the Innovation Lab,

    The Nueva School and lecturer at Stanford University,

    says, Im drawn to innovators in general, and to

    innovators in education in particular. Im involved

    with Brightworks because I feel Gever, Ellen, and their

    team are pushing the envelope to actively invent and

    deliver programs that foster the making mindset.

    Part of what makes this possible is the support of

    the Institute for Applied Tinkering (IAT). The IAT

    is a 501(c)(3) and the parent organization of both

    Brightworks and Tinkering School. The Mission

    of the IAT is to Explore, develop, and promote

    new methods for helping children learn using real

    tools to solve real problems in the real world. This

    ensures that innovation in education and the open

    sharing of ideas with other schools and educators

    are core elements of Brightworks goals and values.

    Over the coming years we plan to formalize the

    role that Brightworks and Tinkering School play in

    the 21st century education space by establishing

    a small research center as a third project of the

    IAT. This Center for Engaged Learning will host

    educational researchers, offer educator trainings,

    and publish our pedagogy and methods, giving

    others around the world the necessary information

    to establish Brightworks-style education programs

    in their communities. Brightworks will remain the lab

    school where ideas are tested and demonstrated.

  • sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 20169

    The next Head of School will enter a thriving community

    with many strengths and unique challenges. These include:

    A pedagogical framework developed by the Founder

    and current Head of School that has resulted

    in transformative experiences for students. Our

    emergent curriculum is always in development,

    and the pedagogy needs further definition and

    experimentation. This position needs to work closely

    with lead and individual collaborators and Gever

    Tulley on ongoing experiments and implementation

    of curriculum throughout all bands at the school.

    A broader mission to influence the national and

    international conversation about educational

    reform beyond this one private school community.

    As such, we need to continue on our bold path

    toward creating truly unique pedagogy rather than

    drifting toward the progressive school mainstream.

    This position is critical in balancing that mission

    with supporting the journey of families who have

    taken a significant leap on behalf of their children.

    A creative, committed community. Our families

    are brave, thoughtful people who care about

    the school, the staff, and each other.

    A student body that is deeply engaged in their

    education. Our kids care, and they question. The

    new Head must be committed to fostering an

    environment where that is more than allowed,

    where it is welcomed and encouraged.

    A startup school with an early reputation for

    education innovation that we need to continue

    to earn. We are already in the public eye in the

    educational world; balancing the risks and benefits

    of that, supporting the many educators who

    want to visit, and eventually collaborating with

    a more formalized program to disseminate our

    curriculum and methods will be important.

    The school recently secured the current location

    for 5 more years, including a new expansion

    space that will be occupied beginning with the

    2016-17 school year. To accommodate future

    growth, the board of directors intends to raise

    the funds to acquire a building or other location

    that can serve as a permanent home for both

    Brightworks and Tinkering School, as well as

    future educator training and research programs.

    Brightworks is a K-12 school with fewer than 100

    students and a limited budget. Operating a small

    school with broad ambitions presents opportunities

    and challenges. Individual staff members, including

    the Head of School, perform many functions

    that would generally be the responsibility of a

    dedicated individual or team in larger schools. The

    small size helps us stay nimble and spontaneous,

    which is critical to our pedagogy; but it requires

    substantial flexibility and resilience from the staff.

    Opportunities and Challenges

  • sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 201610

    Has experience developing, supporting, or

    implementing emergent or alternative curriculum.

    Has meaningful past teaching experience

    in a K-12 classroom environment.

    Has a nose for talent and is able to

    attract, mentor, evaluate, support, train and

    retain exceptional faculty and staff.

    Ready to lead recruiting and admissions, and

    alumni and parent engagement, as well as work

    closely with committees on marketing and

    outreach, fundraising, and development.

    Is financially literate and comfortable managing

    school budgets and related administrative matters.



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