Kirsten Olson

I'm writer and educational activist. I work in public, charter, private, unschools. I'm here for the learning revolution.
Kirsten Olson has written 27 posts for Cooperative Catalyst


(Hey Folks, A version of this post is currently running at Education Week, and is written by Kirsten Olson and Valerie Brown.) The work of skillful, mindful leadership in education has never been more challenging.  Recently a visionary, Twitter-connected and forward-thinking superintendent wrote to one of us describing her sense that the pockets of innovation and exemplary … Continue reading

What Puts You In A Playful State of Mind?

“The enormous educative power of play lies in its triviality.”  -Peter Gray A couple of days ago I was talking with my mentor coach–I am currently in a program at Georgetown University to become a certified leadership coach–and we were discussing some aspects of the program and their implications for our lives.  It was a … Continue reading

Bowl of Wishes for American Education

Does wishing have power? Is there danger in wishing? Are some wishes more worthy than others? And what about the ancient link between suffering and desire? We had an education party at my house recently.  The room was filled with high school students, activists, graduate students, policy makers, academics, deans of education, teachers, writers, and administrators.  At … Continue reading

Real Education Is Human

This post kicks off Blog for IDEC 2012 week. At an extraordinary and unusual school I visited recently, I observed a seven-year-old girl come before the school’s judicial council. The day before she had violated a cardinal rule of the school.  She had failed to look after her own safety.  She and four of her … Continue reading

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

This is in support of Heather’s post. Protesting is a family affair. I was out with my family yesterday. How are you occupying your classroom or educational setting, to stand up for what you believe? Chad and David got it rolling.  Now we need to keep it going. Submit here. Occupy Education. Reclaiming Our Voice … Continue reading

No Friction Homework

When my children were about 11, 9, and 7 (I have twins so that’s four kids), the kids would arrive home after school, bus exhaust announcing their appearance.  They’d walk up the driveway wearily, their shoulders weighed down by backpacks filled with textbooks, notebooks and most especially, reams and reams of worksheets of homework.  Sometimes, … Continue reading

Blue Sky Wonderings about Educational Transformation.

This email/prompt went out to the COOP mailing list this morning from Kirsten Olson, …We thought the responses were so interesting, we decided to make this into a general post and widen the conversation to everyone. Tomorrow I am participating in a very small think tank meeting at Boston College with Peter Gray the author of … Continue reading

Paradoxes of Our Work

The ability to hold two conflicting truths simultaneously isn’t easy.  And that’s exactly what our work in education calls us to do at this moment. I am just returning from the AERO and Holistic Education conferences, where I saw COOPsters David Loitz, Casey Caronna, Paul Freedman and Jen Groves.  (Oh yeah!) One evening at AERO, … Continue reading

The Kids Are Alright

Yesterday my two youngest children graduated from high school. Unlike many of the parents cheering and hollering on the lawn on that beautiful June day, I was not deeply grateful to the institution that had just processed them through four years of standardized testing, sorted and tracked them, assessed their “readiness” for honors and AP … Continue reading

We’re Not Getting Paid

Over here at the COOP, we’re not getting paid to “influence” the reform discourse in education. Are we ever missing the gravy train. Returning from a weekend practicing mindfulness for educators (so wrong side of the tracks), I blithely take some deep breaths, settle onto my ergonomic knee chair, and catch up on my emails … Continue reading

First Year Reflection: Kirsten

I’ve loved the Co-op since I first started commenting and posting there in February 2010.  The original gang of four were discussing Wounded By School and I was so intrigued by the level of candor and openness, and the honest, respectful, grounded-in-practice kind of talk that was going on there that I decided to get in … Continue reading

Tour Of Our Lives

Last week 37 educators from 10 states and 4 countries gathered at the headquarters of Project Reach and Fertile Grounds in Manhattan to begin the Institute for Democratic Education in America’s (IDEA’s) first ever Innovation School tour. After receiving our Metrocards (this was an all subway all the time tour), and a quick chance to get to know each … Continue reading

If You Were A Learning Entrepreneur

Folks,  This is cross-posted at Teacher Magazine.  I am trying something out here and I really would love your comments and thoughts. If you were a learning entrepreneur, you would consider school part of your “balanced portfolio” of learning experiences, but one and only one venue for learning some kinds of things.  If you were … Continue reading

When A School Is About Learning

I am just back from EDUCON, where a lot of the talk was about new ways to learn, the new era of education to come, the loneliness of being an innovator in a largely innovation-averse sector. One of the things I came away with was that we don’t still, after all these years, have good … Continue reading

50 Ways To Make Your School More Democratic

This is also cross posted at the IDEA (Institute for Democratic Education In America) website. It was an amazing meeting.  Ten activists, educators, school founders, and school re-starters recently gathered for an IDEA Board Retreat in San Francisco.  Fired up by Pedro Noguera’s keynote speech to the Coalition of Essential Schools the day before, we … Continue reading

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