Alan M. Blankstein [Failure is Not an Option® In Action: Engaging All Students]

Alan Blackstein, Founder and President of the HOPE Foundation, leads this interactive session illustrating student engagement and six principles essetial for creating and sustaining learning communities where all students succeed. This inspirational session provides specific strategies and processes drawn from 15 years of research on how high-performing learning communities sustain success. Alan is a prolific presenter, former teacher, and author of the award-winning book, Failure is Not an Option.

Harnessing Optimism and Potential through Education.

Barely an time after introducing himself, Blankstein asks the audience to stand up and react to…nothing happens. One AV whiz and some “talk amongst yourself later”, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” comes blaring over the speakers. I can’t even say how amazing it is to be sitting in a ballroom full of educators clapping and singing. Next, Aretha Franklin and all the teachers are belting about respect.

“As a former teacher, one of my duties is to get my kids in the room. The funny thing is, those kids one day grow up. It’s a challenge to get everybody in the room.”

He shows a video of a “police woman” shooting a gun at a school assembly to get students attention (as a joke, of course). How we get to our objective is key. You can have compliance or commitment from your students – you should crave commitment.

And then he takes a moment to introduce is young daughter, Sarah. She (and all other children) are the reason why he is so interested in helping all kids. He, and the last three generations of his family, have had major life issues that have put them in the “troubled kids” section of the classroom.

His biggest advice, “lose the curriculum, don’t lose the kids.”

Student/adult engagement.

Blankstein begins the meat and potatoes of his talk by inviting everyone to share something they know about President Obama’s Inauguration with a neighbor. Next, he identifies Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, who sang at the Inauguration. Third, he discusses the mating habits of mosquitoes. When the mosquitoes fly near each other, the “flapping” of their wings creates an overtone of one fifth (guy flaps at 400 beats per minute and female at 600 beats per minute). The interval of a fifth has been shown to be the interval of love. Hence, the mosquito mating. Blankstein explains that Franklin’s song “Respect” starts on a 5th. Lastly, he challenges everyone to depict their understanding of what they just learned, creatively and without words!

Without even realizing it, the audience had discussed biology (mating), physics (frequency and musical interval), music (Aretha Franklin), and social studies (Obama Inauguration). Blankstein then gave the teachers an opportunity to think about the lesson he just taught based on the lesson plan he projects on the screen. Interdisciplinary lessons, Blankstein asserts,

ABCs of How Schools of HOPE are Transforming:

Relational Trust

  • When adults in schools don’t trust each other, there is no chance for student gains. If the adults are learning, kids are learning.
  • Confront inappropriate behaviors (within the faculty) and act with integrity.
  • Create fail-safe zones so that there is no fear of evaluation.
  • Trust involves: respect, competence, personal regard, and alignment of words, actions, and intentions.
  • In the schools where trust is working, teachers are collaborating with each other.

Building Collective Capacity and Commitment

  • Teachers pursue a clear, shared purpose for all students’ learning – teachers of the same course grade one another’s assignments based on student-generated rubrics.
  • Teachers should have the same definitions of engagement and success of students.
  • Teachers will begin to take collective responsibility and commitment for student learning.

The main point that Blankstein wanted everyone to leave with is that the HOPE Foundation desires to help leaders in school settings transform school cultures.

Coming soon is my interview of Alan Blankstein that I’ll be conducting. If you have any questions, pass them along and I’ll try to include them.

Find out more or contact Blankstein at:


One response to this post.

  1. […] the Net Generation student.  But what about the Net Generation Teacher?  I came across the blog Just Call Me Ms Frizzle.  This blogger is a student teacher who blogs about a variety of education topics from her […]


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