Eclipsing Learning

You Forgot To #MakeItReal

Leadership can either help open the eyes of teachers and students to the learning opportunities that surround them, or they can completely cover those opportunities up and literally eclipse their potential value in a school. 

Yesterday was the Great American Total Solar Eclipse-O-Rama of 2017. You may have heard about it on the social media. In NJ, I was able to see about 75% totality, which was pretty cool. 

But I have a friend who I knew was teaching young elementary students at a school that was directly in the path of totality. She’d told me that the administration had extended dismissal that day so that kids wouldn’t be tempted to damage their eyes without proper protective gear. That’s when she got glasses for all her students so they could use the extended day to learn from the once in a lifetime eclipse experience. So I expected quite a good story when I asked her how it was going. This is what I got instead:

“They told us K-2 kids could NOT go outside.

In fact, they made classes move into interior rooms. It is BAD science. I’ve made such a noise. They wouldn’t even let teachers out. So I FINALLY convinced my admin to COME OUTSIDE AND LOOK!!! She then relented and let me relieve teachers so they could go take a peek. Can you imagine? And they even DELAYED our dismissal–but said we can’t go outside? We have had over 200 kids check out early.”

WHAT?!?!?!?! REALLY?!?!?!? 

This school’s leadership had found the only more effective way to block out the sun that day, move kids deep into the heart of a building. It’s an eclipse, not a tornado. There’s no need to seek shelter. Parents knew it, too, and took their kids out of the solar “shelter in place” drill that was going on so they could experience something interesting and unique. 

How unique? These are the pictures the teacher’s son took from nearby.
















Totality…and moon shadows. That’s right, moon shadows.

In last night’s Teach Like a Pirate chat (#tlap), Tara Martin and Tisha Richmond asked this question first.

The answers ranged from tragedies like Kennedy being shot and the Challenger, to exciting moments like class walks, planting trees, and…what do you know…watching an eclipse with their elementary class. Yesterday was a singular event, not likely to reoccur in that place for a long time. What will the students from this school remember? 

Unfortunately…not the Great American Total Solar Eclipse-O-Rama of 2017. 

As school leaders, we can do better. Put the Instant Relevance message into action. Use today’s experiences to teach tomorrow’s lessons. Open the doors to learning, don’t build up walls.


Remember to use the #MakeItReal Hashtag for sharing ideas!

Connect with Denis Sheeran at

Twitter: @MathDenisNJ and

#MakeItReal Chat Every Wednesday 9:30 pm EST for 30 Minutes.

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