What do you need to flourish?

For me, 7 hours of quality sleep in fresh air, freshly ground coffee, and a morning run are a perfect start.  Fresh food, great books, interesting and caring friends, love and laughs with family, sloppy kisses from a chocolate lab puppy – these all contribute to the feeling of health and wellness.

But I also need opportunities to create, write, and collaborate on adaptive problems to give me purpose and keep me learning.

For years I have thought about how we can design schools as places where ALL children flourish.

What does a school look like and sound like, when all children are thriving?

How does this differ from our traditional concept of “curriculum delivery”?

What are the conditions for learning that allow all children to develop the competencies needed to thrive in an exponentially changing world?


“What gives humans meaning in life is a strong sense of identity around a purpose or passion, creativity, mastery in relation to a valued pursuit, and connectedness with the world and others.”

(P. 5, Chapter 1 of Deep Learning Engage the World Change the World by Fullan, Quinn and McEachen (2018).)
Deep Learning, p. 14

Do we really believe our children will exceed all our expectations?

Do we consider how we are teaching our kids to be the agents of change to make the world better than today?

We want our students to “flourish as citizens of the world”. (p. 16, Deep Learning)  That world is increasingly unpredictable, volatile and complex.

As educators, we must ask ourselves what children have to know and be able to do to thrive in such an adaptive environment. What are the shifts and trends that impact our understanding of the future? How do we engage our kids now so they are ready for these changes?



According to Dr. Simon Breakspear:

  1. Skill shift – we have to be “globally good” to compete. We can access the best skills in the world with an internet connection. Content knowledge alone is not enough.
  2. Technology shift – who has the knowledge? The power has shifted. Students are increasingly learning without us using powerful digital tools.
  3. Engagement shift – How do we capture engagement and sustain it? Learning is hard work. Disciplined focus is required to develop expertise. Since we can’t learn for our students, we have to design learning environments where the learning is irresistible.


Now what does this look like in practice?



Our #nledDPAG (Director’s Principal Advisory Group) are working on solutions to student disengagement in grades 7-12. As part of this work we are reading Deep Learning Engage the World Change the World by Fullan, Quinn and McEachen (2018).  This is an ongoing reflection on that work.
Also in this series: 
Chapter 1: Relevance Unfound
Chapter 1: Finding Purpose, Skill and Connection


Thanks to Kristy Keery Bishop for the #5Days5Words provocation: 
So, I’ve made a commitment.  For the next five days – the last five days I have of summer vacation with internet access – I plan to write 5 mini blogs about 5 little words that I’ve been reflecting on this summer.  Mini…little…single words…nothing too intimidating.
Want to join me?  #5Days5Words
Also Participating: Aviva Dunsiger


Deep Learning: Invitation to Learn

Changing the Trajectory – Learning from Cathy Montreiul

Be that One Person – Learning with Richard Wagamese

Addiction doc says: It’s not the drugs. It’s the ACEs: Adverse Childhood Experiences – Aces too High News

Featured Image:
Rod Long

Deep Learning Series:

5 thoughts on “Flourishing

  1. Thank you for this really thought- provoking post, Donna. The word flourish really connotes for me the idea of high expectation; we aren’t looking to just get by with border-line success but with great success. Your list early on about all the things you need to flourish reminds me that, with our students, it would just be one thing – there is no single magic bullet for success, but a long list of conditions that will collectively contribute to success. Some of those will be within our control as educators and some will not, but we can attempt to influence our students/families to make good choices where we lack control (e.g., the seven hours sleep example fits here) and work hard to enhance the ones we do have more influence over. Considering our shifting world is important to that influence because learning and learners are changing so dramatically. Some important thinking. Thank you!

    1. High expectations – yes!

      Flourishing isn’t just engagement in fun activities if we have an eye on flourishing in the long run. As Simon Breakspear says in the video, we need to engage and sustain the engagement to get through that hard work of learning – because it is hard!

      Yes, a long list of what kids need, but also a long list of what they don’t. I’ve added in some references on trauma-informed practice and how our approach to code of conduct consequences often makes things worse, not better, for traumatized children. Some of our basic assumptions about what school should look like are in direct contrast with the idea of kids flourishing.

      Certainly there are things we have no control over: “The single greatest predictor of academic success that exists is the emotional stability of the home, it’s not the classroom. And if you really wanted to do education reform, you would start with the home, darn it, you wouldn’t start with the classroom, because it is the greatest predictor.”

      (John Medina, CBC Ideas Podcast, All in the Family, Part 2: 34: 01)

      …but with our awareness, we can choose school practices that enhance life for kids in a way we can control.

      “Resilience studies show that if just one person is looking out for a vulnerable child, that can mitigate trauma.”

      (CBC Ideas Podcast, All in the Family, Part 3: 35:35)

      Thanks for posing the provocation, and for taking the time to comment! I look forward to reading your word reflections, and happy holidays!

  2. Donna, I love that you’re participating too! What a great first word. It’s so interesting how this post is more one of questions than answers. I wonder how some answers might vary among schools and individuals. What might be the same and what might be different? You have me thinking here, Donna! Excited for post #2!


  3. Yes, thanks for noticing!

    Whenever we move from one system to another, and inquiry stance is essential. My past year has been all about questions. As we move into the next school year, I am hoping our questions will lead to many contextualized answers we can then share to build understanding together.

  4. Donna, I love the distinct flavour that the word “flourish” offers. There’s a sense of movement which makes the image of growth come to life. This connects beautifully to the notion that we need to make learning “irresistible”. I had a student describe her turning Point in grade 3 this way “I opened myself up to learning”. That’s the image that the word flourish brings to mind. A gorgeous flower opening and swaying with the gentle nudge of the breeze. Thanks so much for sharing this gorgeous word so intentionally.

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