Head of SchoolLeadership opportunity
San Francisco, California: Summer 2016
sfbrightworks.orgHead of School: Summer 20162
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.
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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.
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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.
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
what they have
done and why all
in the context of a
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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
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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
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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.