Training Your Way Towards Your Goals

This was written as a response to one of my students in the “How To Make A Comic MOOC”  within our new “” Slack online community.

The Question:

I know that the challenge is to write within 16 panels for the course assignment. I also know its good for me to write within that constraint. But, I have a much longer comic in mind. Why is it so hard to write within a 16 panel constraint? (paraphrased question).

My Answer:

Concision is key! I’m also a person who likes longer form better as well. However, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to hone in on that feeling of “done-ness”. Without crafting a feeling of completion you can run into the bigger roadblock in the creation process – not knowing how to finish. Small projects are really key.


Abandoning Dehumanizing Systems

Once, an eleventh grade student came to me during break in between classes. He looked excited. I was gathering my things and getting ready. This is a busy part of the school day, especially for the kind of teachers, like myself, who had 5 classes with 30 students each to teach within the day.

Needless to say, I was distracted.

He came up on me quick, “Patrick!”*

(*There were a few students who used my first name, even though I’d asked them all to.)

“Down the hall, there is a local police officer giving a presentation to one of our classes.”

“That’s nice. Why are you telling me this?” I didn’t look up at him because I was busy, though I did feel confused about why this student was so excited.

“Do you hate him? Don’t you want to tell him?”


A Tough Day

I don’t know exactly what I thought I was going to feel at the end of this election. Angst with a bit of disgust with the entire process. Go back to my corner. Work on my projects. Move on. Something snapped for me this time though. I couldn’t sleep last night. I don’t know exactly what I was feeling, but it has definitely had me in a contemplative mood for the last 12 hours. I am struggling to understand myself and what I my role is as a human and American citizen.

My Political Tapestry

Age 5 I start reading Newsweek magazine, specifically drawn to political cartoons. I announce, “I will be a political cartoonist when I grow up!”

I become obsessed with the mythology of the American revolution. I want to visit all the landmarks regarding the formation of this country that New England has to offer.

I remember the first Clinton election. We held a mock vote in my school. I was particularly interested in Ross Perot, but as a good catholic democrat – I backed Clinton.

I hear Sublime for the first time. “April 26, 1992” informs me about the tapestry surrounding the Rodney King trial and riots in LA that I only peripherally understood when watching the news with my parents.

I’m a freshman in high school. It is announced one day during class, over the loudspeaker, that President Clinton was acquitted of all charges and remained in office after a year long media blitz about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Limp Bizkit plays “Break Stuff” at Woodstock ’99 – riots ensue. (thus cementing a very different relationship between my generation and Woodstock than the original).

Gore wins the popular vote but Bush wins the electorate. Controversy ensues. I stay up all night to see who is announced as winner. My jaw hits the floor as I get my first feeling of disillusionment with American government.

August – I turn 18 and get my driver’s license right as I enter my senior year of high school. A receive a draft card in the mail. I get nervous.

9/11 happens. I get mad as classmates of mine talk about wanting to kill “towel-heads”. I get up and walk out of school.

Bush is up for re-election. The DNC is in Boston where I’m in college, coincidently taking my Poli-Sci requirement. The teacher arranges for both a republican and democrat to come in and answer question. The democrat seems condescending to me. The republican is unabashedly honest, despite the fact that I agree with almost nothing he is talking about.

Obama gets elected. I barely noticed as I was completely checked out of politics at that point.

Economy crashes followed by an unprecedented federal bailout of Wallstreet. Nobody is tried in court for mishandling the American economy.

Occupy Wallstreet captures my attention, but not enough for me to join the protests. (I still don’t know why)

Donald Trump is elected POTUS.


Today was hard because all of this history, my history, flashed before my eyes. I have spent so much time as an adult feel lethargic about American politics and government. I feel something else happening now. I don’t feel like sharing just yet, but I did want to share that I am resolved to not let this go. Something needs to change. We all need to act in a direction that aligns our values with our actions. We cannot be passive consumers any longer. That got us what we have today.

A reality TV star elected to be the leader of our country.

Now is not the time to be sad. Now is the time to mobilize. Before you act though, take a step back and truly ask yourself what your values are. I guarantee you don’t value hating or judging anyone.

My Greeting Protocol

See the live form to download and use the protocol here.

The Greeting Protocol (aka the Daily Greeting) is a activity utilized across grade levels and ages used to start class. The greeting was designed to:

  • Allow all students to speak in class at least once every day.
  • Introduces students to the language needed to share emotions with others safely.
  • Allows all students to be seen by the entire class every day.

Allows for teacher check-ins with each individual student on a daily basis.


Fine Art Mastery Is Irrelevant As An End Goal For The Average High School Student

Ok, so I do not want this to come off as argumentative, and if it does it has more to do with my own pain around the subjects you are raising and less to do with you personally. (I don’t actually even know you Rob, so it can’t be personal). I know where you’re coming from when and I have respect for your perspective.

Fundamentally, however, I have always rejected this western-civ-dominated view of art. I can appreciate the language & rhetoric created by generations of fine art scholars, though I honestly find it boring and irrelevant.

As a child I would go to museums and always wonder, “Why is this painting of a guy in a fancy coat called art and the tree outside my window isn’t?” (The reason why they are different has more to do with the role of “meaningfulness” and its relationship to art, but I will wait to get into that in another post). This feeling of fine arts dysphoria followed me all through adulthood. In 2002, the choice between going into a BFA vs. going into a B.S. in Graphic Design was no contest. I went with technology. My earliest resonance with art was with comic books and the emerging tech scene had more mysteries to me than the stuffy world of fine arts. In my teens I connected to the southern California graffiti/street art scene heavily. In the fine arts world these things are deemed “low art”.

This is why I reject the definition of art hierarchy as imposed on by the world of fine arts. Furthermore I reject the terminology in my own teaching. Generally speaking, the world of fine arts is fundamentally dictated by the people who have money and power. As I have just spent the last eight years working in a Title 1 school district on the border of Mexico, to an 80% hispanic population, I find little about the fine arts world that is relevant to a general population ninth grade arts student body.

What am I supposed to tell them? “One day you can become a starving artist like Van Gogh!”

No – I wouldn’t tell them that, because, generally speaking, the fine arts world is secluded only to the rich and white.

I do actually use the elements and principles of art to discuss visual art, as well as concepts relating to visual arts. But only when they go in tandem with what we are trying to achieve within the work that the students are doing.

In general I find that the language around art is only helpful if it is used to progress the conversation around practicing life with creativity. Generally speaking, if my teaching is not facilitating joy, awe, and wonder in relation to the word “art” than I am not doing my job as an educator. At the high school level, for the majority of students, the art class they took with me will probably be the last time they do art for the rest of their lives.Art education and art language shouldn’t be a hierarchal system designed to keep people from practicing art, it should be a language designed to heighten our enjoyment of life.

I subscribe the Peter London school of thinking about art. I also believe that art is everything, and comes the moment we first perform an abstraction of a concept during our living existence. It is the wonder of interpretation. It isn’t Michelangelo’s “David” (or, rather, it isn’t JUST “David”).

If I seem a little huff and puff about this language it is because I have been on the other end of the fine arts world my entire life. I like, and practice, comic making and street/public art. I have degrees in technology and in education. I have never been put through a fine arts degree practicum, and honestly, from what I have seen – I wouldn’t want to be. I have been judged by other art educators for the entirety of the near-decade I have been teaching because I wasn’t a “real artist” (this was said to me).

I was raised by an elementary art educator who has been practicing for 33 years. She was a teacher who believed that even I could be an artist, and I always was, and always will be – no matter what a degree says about me. My mother’s art education philosophy is more of what we need in the world. One of acceptance, joy, and enthusiasm.

We need to let down the gates of this language that dictates what is and isn’t so that we can let people into our world of lifelong practice in the arts. We need to let the people in.

Hopefully I helped clarify some of the language I was using with this response. Heck, I may have introduced you to a couple of new concepts as well. If you’d ever like to discuss emerging art forms & curriculum approaches, feel free to reach out.

Learning Mindsets & Skills MOOC

For the last year I’ve been working with the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, the Raikes Foundation, and Coursera to design a massive open online course around the subject of “Learning Mindsets & Skills” (aka Student Agency, aka Academic Mindsets). This is the fourth MOOC that I’ve worked on, and I am proud to say that this is the best one we have ever designed. The LMS MOOC employs the Coursera On-Demand platform which allows users the ability to start the course at any time that they want to, as well as collaborate with a cohort of peers that are synchronized with the users who start at the same, or similar times.

Here is some more information about the Learning Mindsets & Skills MOOC. Let me know what you think!


A Case For Equity Driven Blended Learning

Course: HTH 205 – Equity, Diversity, and Design

In the first half of this paper I will outline my own context, and give a specific history regarding my own interest in blended/online learning environments. This history will serve to outline the online learning projects that I have worked on and the pedagogical construction that was used to guide those endeavors. In the second half of this paper I will outline my own proposal for an equity driven blended learning school (combined online & face-to-face school). I will outline problems within the existing paradigms of blended/online education, specifically in regards to equitable outcomes. I will argue that a blended learning environment can only be successful if its pedagogical construction is centered on student voice, cultural relevancy, personalization, and equitable access to resources. Furthermore, I will argue that current face-to-face educational models fail to be adequately centered within these goals due to outdated design constraints that prevent the inclusion of 21st century cultural needs. Continue…

On Designing Equitable Learning Environments…

American public school currently lacks an understanding of its own purpose. This is most likely a result of a confusing design origin that embraced values such as racial, class, ability tracking, and cultural segregation as a necessity (Steinberg & Rosenstock, 2007) (Ladson-Billings, 2006). While these values may have, at one time, been arguably vital in order for the public school system to prosper, those same ideals are radically out of place with modern society. Due to the fact that school is constructed in a way to embrace these outdated values, the resulting design of public schooling is one that has radical implications on its own ability to be effective at actually educating students. Continue…

Personal Learning Plan

This is a personal learning plan for Patrick Yurick as a part of his High Tech High Graduate School of Education School Leadership residency requirements. 

What are your hopes and dreams for your learning through this program? How do you hope to grow as an educator and leader?

– Project Based Learning Blended School System Design
Since I began my career in education I’ve been interested in experimenting with ways of integrating technology into the teaching experience that serve to enhance the way students interact with the world around them. I’m motivated to do this because I’m a tech geek but also, more importantly, I’m interested in helping bring down the costs of high quality education (like HTH’s equity-based PBL) so that it can easily, and affordably, reach people who need it the most.

– Leadership Through The Lens Of Art Education
I’ve been an artist my entire life. Art is the most healing and centering part of who I am. I’m specifically interested in integrating art education into my practice so that I can help people practice the use art for healing and self-expression.


Choosing Sean

This article was featured in Unboxed as well as Edweek

Deeper learning experiences are needed by our students. Not in two years, not in six months, not next week. Deeper learning experiences are needed by our students today. Right now. This very moment. We need to structure environments where students are deeply engaged in their lives as they are living them.

I know this is true because during the last days of the 2010/11 school year, the worst fear of every teacher was realized for me. My student was murdered. Sean (15), and his younger brother Kyle (13) tragically died in a murder/suicide, killed by their own father. Sean was my favorite that year. In fact, Sean was my favorite student of all time. He was the kid I wished I could have been at fifteen. He swaggered into school with confidence, intelligence, and a never-ending stream of comic book superhero references. Sean and I became close immediately. This closeness in our relationship only increased as we spent many hours together in my after-school Graphic Novel Project, touring statewide on the weekends, selling comics at conventions.