#MCHUNTER Day 1: Setting the Stage

Today, I attended The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence’s Master Class with John Hunter. This morning, we observed Mr. Hunter as he facilitated the first day of the World Peace Game with a room full of local students. The students’ ages range from 9 to 14 years old, and my middle son Sam is one of the participants. (He’s now the “Head Arms Dealer.” Don’t you know I’m proud!) The Master Class participants include 12 adults (11 teachers) from across the country and around the world (Houston, Miami, San Francisco, Nashville, Memphis, New Zealand, Norway, and Vietnam). During the morning session, the adult observers looked for the following things:

  • How relationships form
  • Engagement
  • Role of teacher
  • Complexity’s role
  • Work the game does

After some brief introductions this morning, Mr. Hunter spent a significant amount of time explaining the game pieces and the board to the students. The board has four strata: submarine, surface, air, and space. Each stratum contains unique resources and the potential for conflicts and crises. The game is incredibly complex, and my curiosity piqued when Mr. Hunter explained that one reason for the complexity is to move students beyond their “analytical minds to their artistic minds.” As the students asked questions about individual things they could do in the game, Mr. Hunter repeatedly responded by telling them, “You can do anything you want as long it meets two criteria. First, you must be able to afford it. Second, you must be willing to deal with the consequences.” Costs and consequences. It’s obvious the game is designed to teach students that every action (or inaction) carries both a cost and a consequence.

Once he explained the pieces of the game, Mr. Hunter selected several students as central figures in the game. First, he identified a Secretary General of the United Nations, four Prime Ministers to represent the four countries, a Chairman of The World Bank, a Head Arms Dealer, and a Weather Goddess. These individuals then picked their cabinet members and underlings. Then the groups met to name their country and design their insignia. Each group was then introduced and the students were given their individual dossiers. John Hunter covered an immense amount of material for the first day, and I’m sure the students’ heads were spinning from all the information as well as their own excitement.

After lunch, the adults reconvened to debrief on the morning session with John and Jamie Baker. We talked about some of the things we observed about how groups formed, how John selected leaders, how he prepares for class, and how he assesses learning. We also spent a little time talking about the formality/informality in how we address students and how that differs in our different cultures. We also briefly touched on the topic of power and empowering students.

After debriefing and a short break, we took some time to quietly reflect and answer the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • Why are you here?
  • What do you hope to leave with?

I won’t go into my response to the first question in this post as most of that is available through other posts on this blog. However, I will answer the other questions briefly. I first learned about John Hunter and the World Peace Game through his TED talk over a year ago thanks to my PLN. I was fascinated by what he does. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you take the time to watch it.

Then, last November The Martin Institute showed the movie World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements here in Memphis, and I attended the screening. Again, what John does in his classroom fascinated me. As someone who believes teaching critical and creative thinking skills is extremely important, I was inspired by John’s story and wanted to learn more.


So when The Martin Institute announced that John would keynote at the Summer Conference and offer Master Classes over the summer, I knew I wanted to attend. I’m extremely excited about this opportunity.

My hope is that I will leave this class with a few more tools in my toolbox for teaching creative thinking skills in my classroom. Not that I have mastered teaching critical thinking, but I feel more comfortable with critical thinking than with creativity.

Tonight’s homework is to respond to the following prompts:
How do you teach?
Why do you teach that way?
(Bonus: How are you intentional about building relationships?)
While I’m pretty certain I can go ahead and respond to these questions now, I’m going to wait and put them on my “Running Thoughts” agenda for tomorrow morning so that I can reflect on them more deeply.

Other Notes:

One quote that I wrote down today was from Susan who said, “If kids can’t fail (make mistakes), they can’t grow.” And my friend Stephanie piggybacked on that remark by suggesting that it might be a good idea for teachers to intentionally fail in front of their students early in the year in order to model how one handles making a mistake.

Book Recommendations From Today:

  • The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
  • Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
  • Cracking the Creativity Code by Michael Michalko
  • Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman

It’s been quite a first day, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or comments about any of these notes or ideas.