This week’s tip: Five things to increase your skills and well being

Anniversaries are usually happy affairs.  This one…not so much.  We’ve soldiered through a full year of the pandemic. Many of us have lost friends and family to Covid-19.  All of us have had our lives disrupted.  It is trite, and somewhat saccharin, to keep telling people to be unfailingly positive.  Perhaps recognizing that this has been difficult, harrowing, frightening and more challenging than we ever expected is a good place to start.

It may be helpful to recognize the hardships we’ve endured as the first step in identifying what we’ve done successfully to get through this, both individually and together.  For many, learning something new has been key.

For the last thirteen years, the end of January has been a time of incredible learning, fun and adventure for SAM teams.  We’ve gathered together at amazing resorts and spent time with dazzling speakers on a wide variety of new things to learn.  We’ve danced with the LA All Stars, played with mermaids and mermen, tried a zip-line, walked along the beach, learned from amazing presenters and, importantly, decompressed. 

But not this January.

So, here are five things to consider doing to amp up your skills and decompress a bit…and, maybe, have the annual National SAM Conference after all:

  1. Participate in the monthly SAM Talks.  You can register for the February 12 SAM Talks, featuring Will Parker and his new book on self-care for school leaders, or you can click and see/hear one of the monthly talks you missed…or any of the Summer’s SAM Coffee Breaks
  1. To register:
  2. To access past SAM Talks:
  3. To access past SAM Coffee Breaks:
  1. Take a free online class from Harvard.  Yes.  Free.  Yes.  Harvard.  We’ve listed ten courses at the end of this email on topic ranging from Justice to Art to Cooking.  Click on the title and it will take you the Harvard registration page.  To see a list of all Harvard online courses, use this link.  Pick a subject area and then click price and select free.
  1. Attend the annual National SAM Conference…in July.  We’ve moved the date and restructured the conference as a vacation and professional development retreat.  We’ll be at a luxury resort in Tucson, JW Marriott Starr Pass, with three amazing pools, a lazy river, golf, tennis, hiking and terrific keynote and breakout sessions. The schedule will be a little different with sessions in the morning leaving the afternoons free to enjoy the resort and recreational activities followed by an early evening keynote and cocktail reception before dinner events.  You can bring your family and we’ve made it possible to come early and stay late at the resort.   Click here to register:
  1. Read Amanda Gorman’s poem, The Hill We Climb, watch her on video and share with your staff.  Not only is she inspirational but she is connects Americans of all ages with the power, joy and beauty of poetry.  Yes.  Her mother was a teacher.  Yes.  She overcame a speech impediment by reciting poetry.  Yes.  She is magnificent.  Video:   Text:
  1. Sign-up for a service we provide any SAM team member who requests: 
  1. The weekly Marshall Memo:  
  2. The monthly The Main Idea:

Harvard Classes:  Click the title to register:

1. Justice 

We’re starting our list with Justice, one of the most famous courses taught at Harvard, which includes the oldest continuously operating law school in the United States. This 12-week-long course taught by lauded professor Michael Sandel explores classical and contemporary theories of justice, including discussion of contemporary dilemmas and controversies and present-day applications.

2. Masterpieces of World Literature 

This class invites you to “embark on a global journey to explore the past, present, and future of world literature.” This 12-week course requires a time commitment of up to seven hours a week. During those hours, you’ll study how great writers refract their world, looking at works from Goethe, Voltaire, and Rushdie, among others.

3. Women Making History: 10 Objects, Many Stories

This course, taught by two female professors, takes the interesting approach of studying how American women created, confronted, and embraced change in the 20th century by considering “10 iconic objects” from the Harvard Schlesinger Library collection. This is a shorter, six-week course that requires a commitment of around three hours a week. 

4. Fundamentals of TinyML

Tiny machine learning is one of the fastest-growing areas of deep learning, and it’s rapidly becoming more accessible to all. This free course provides a foundation for you to understand this emerging field and how it allows for the creation of more affordable smartphones, for example. You’ll get the basics of machine learning, deep learning, and embedded devices and systems, such as smartphones and other tiny devices. It’s taught by Harvard’s Vijay Janapa Reddi and Laurence Moroney, Lead AI Advocate at Google. 

5. Backyard Meteorology: The Science of Weather

Harvard’s backyard meteorology course makes the epic promise that by taking it you’ll learn to forecast the weather just by looking out your window. This course could possibly save your life as well, as there’s a component that informs you how to avoid being struck by lightning. Other elements include cloud identification and how to estimate wind speed.

6. Shakespeare’s Life and Work

If you want to learn more about the Bard, this short, intensive course is the way to go. It’s a four-week course that you’ll study for up to seven hours per week. During that time you’ll learn about the cultural significance of Shakespeare’s plays and how to analyze them both on the page and in performance. This course includes videos and readings filmed on location in Stratford-upon-Avon and London.

7. Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (physics)

Anyone who’s dreamed of studying mayonnaise should be in for a delicious treat with this scientific look at food. This 16-week course will have you carrying out experiments in your own kitchen, looking at how cooking changes food texture, understanding phase changes in cooking, and making emulsions and foams. If you enjoy this kind of physics-based study, you may want to continue your learning with the Science & Cooking course that focuses on chemistry. 

8. CitiesX: The Past, Present, and Future of Urban Life

This course offers an expert look at the past, present, and future of cities, with the aim of teaching you how to better understand, appreciate, and improve urban areas. As part of the course, you’ll look at case studies from around the world, such as London, Rio de Janiero, New York City, Shanghai, and Mumbai. This 11-week course includes interviews and insights from academics, policymakers, urban leaders, and city residents.

9. PredictionX: Omens, Oracles & Prophecies 

This mini-module is a good option for anyone wary of committing to a longer-term learning journey. It’s an introductory-level, one-week-long immersive course that examines “pre-scientific” prediction systems that range from ancient Chinese bone-burning to the Oracle of Delphi to modern astrology and tarot. 

10. The Einstein Revolution

This course will, through the life and work of Albert Einstein, teach you all about the changing role of physics in the 20th and 21st centuries. There’s no science knowledge required for this history course, which considers Einstein’s engagement with relativity, quantum mechanics, Nazism, nuclear weapons, philosophy, the arts, and technology. This is a 17-lesson course that will require a commitment of up to three hours a week.