SHIFTING TIDES: “DAY 9”,
A NEW DAY OF LEARNING
Shannon Gallagher and Scot Hoffman
A perfect storm: an expression that describes an event where a rare combination of circumstance will
aggravate [or disrupt] a situation drastically. The term is also used to describe an actual phenomenon that
happens to occur in such a confluence, resulting in an event of unusual magnitude (Wikipedia).
Without realizing it, the elementary school at the American School of Bombay, had all the elements of a
perfect storm brewing. Within the past year and a half, one task force had focused on the implications of
Multi-Age Classrooms, another on Project-Based Learning, the elementary school had shifted to a campus
with collaborative learning spaces, and there was an unmarked day on the calendar. The tide was turning.
In his book, Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire, author Bruce
Nussbaum introduces a concept he calls VUCA. It stands for “Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and
Ambiguous”. He cites these landscapes of conditions as challenging, but also as opportunities to think,
collaborate, and do things differently. This was precisely the situation in February 2013 as a team of
teachers from the elementary school sat down to create a “new school day”.
After much brainstorming, discussion, confusion, and moments of clarity the team began to shape the
vision for this new day. It would be a day that facilitated student and teacher choice and interest; a day
that required students to grapple with a driving question; a day for teachers to get their feet wet with
some of the key elements of project-based learning; a day where students of different age levels and
grades were able to come together to form Multi-Age groupings; a day completely unlike anything that
had happened in the elementary school before.
Thus, the title for the day, “Day 9,” seemed fitting. The school calendar at ASB, has been based on a six
day rotation, an eight day rotation, and even a “color day” rotation, but there had never been a ninth
day... until now.
In his book, Nussbaum also mentions “magic circles”. He describes these as small groups of people who
trust each other to play at experimenting and discovering new things. Our team of eight, continued to
come together to refine, plan, and develop Day 9. Through a willingness to fail, take risks, and make
mistakes, the expected outcomes and goals began to rise to the surface. Our “magic circle” decided the
goals of Day 9 would be: