Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Well I was born in a small town. Every school break when I’m Back Home Again in Indiana, I go with my dad for coffee first thing in the morning. We wake up at the crack of dawn or earlier, leave at 6:00am exactly–in order to hear our county radio station announce the news, weather, and obituaries on the way–just in time to catch our assigned seats at 6:10am. There, we’re greeted by a small group of gentlemen, with another dozen rotating thru over the next few hours. Comprised mostly of blue-collar farmers, truckers, and construction workers, sprinkled in with a few white-collar educators, bankers, and mailmen, they begin their day by catching the latest local buzz before heading to work. A new morning is breaking in the Crossroads of America.


Plainly put: These men work hard, as if they’re baby-booming sons of parents who lived through The Great Depression. They’re great at what they do. And they’re passionate about the weather; sports; the latest engineering, construction, and farming techniques; history, culture, and politics; the occasional arts; global events; Hoosier hysteria; and, of course, the latest from around town. Although some have passed, and the location has changed a few times over the last five decades, their morning routine, joke-telling, and camaraderie have not.

During the Indiana Floods of 2015, farmers discussed whether or not to use drones to survey their fields. This was one of my favorite coffee time discussions in recent years. #INFloods15

As a youngster, going to coffee with dad was a big deal. A very big deal. I went to coffee to be like my dad; spend more time with my dad; and just to feel like one of the big guys. So badly, I wanted to drive my own pickup truck, work hard all day to build something, and drink coffee. Now, as a thirty-something-year-old adult, I also choose to attend coffee time with my dad in order to learn. That’s right. Coffee time is very educational and entertaining. But probably not in the way a millennial (which I am not) would think. In the rare 100+ minutes of the day when I (almost) disconnect from my vibrating flashy screen, face-to-face human interactions require a unique skillset of me nearly extinct from the general public today. These men don’t just embrace the lost art of genuine conversation, they live it. It’s true: In arguably the best part of the day, they go Analog.


In the prime of my career, I’m striving to be a connected educator, hungry to learn in an already fast-paced world where change is speeding up exponentially.

So how, then, do men twice my age know so much—and all without immediate, simultaneous, arms-length access to all-things-digital on multiple devices? Yes, I’m sure many watch the news on TV, email, and probably surf the net for various info periodically, but NOT during coffee time, except maybe to check a text from a loved one. And time is also on their side; they can access prior knowledge from a plethora of unique life experiences. So there I sit, taking it all in. Entertained and learning–in analog.


Learning is unlimited in time, space, and form. It’s healthy for learners of all walks to experience and appreciate learning in all formats. When educators themselves appreciate diverse learning styles, they are more apt to embrace a wider range of student learning preferences. They’re more willing to traverse canyons separating student choice from student voice. Too often in education, we get hung up on ONE learning format. Too often, we get hung up on the latest and greatest technologies, kits, publishing companies, book series, and buzzwords.

Flashy things shine brightly in the eyes of the unsuspecting edu-marketers’ prey, but the 360° educator strategically preys on what’s best for student learning.

And sometimes that means that the best technology is NO technology. Sometimes that requires educators to vary instructional delivery methods throughout each day. Sometimes that means going outside in the fresh air for hands-on learning in nature. Sometimes it means repurposing furniture, spaces, and schedules to flexibly meet student needs. And sometimes it means going to coffee with the big guys.

4 Replies to “ANALOGous Cups of Coffee”

  • This is excellent, pal! “Sometimes in means the best technology is NO technology” Love this line! Your visits to your farming community hometown parallel mine on so many levels. Hmmmm…… great post. Wheels turning. 🙂 KOKO -Brendan

  • Wow, such insightful thoughts about being in the moment or “analog”. Kyle, I am so impressed with how much ribbing we give you about putting your phone down that you have written such an amazing piece about those conversations, personal relationships, being with the people you admire and love and just sitting back and being part of that. I wish so often we had more time to do that with students, they too have such rich stories of who they are and what makes them tick.

    Thank you for showing this personal side. I already had such great respect for you and your passion for children, but this is a side that lets us look into what makes Kyle Hamstra tick. Can’t wait to keep reading!

  • Loved this, Kyle….

    Another thing that makes those Indiana coffee trips unique is the diversity of experiences in the room. When bankers and teachers sit with farmers and plumbers, everyone learns a little bit more than they would have otherwise.

    That’s the trouble with our digital worlds. Those spaces are SO homogeneous that diversity of thought and opinion and experience is almost nonexistent. My network, for example, is almost all educators. And those who aren’t educators are almost all white collar workers. And almost everyone leans left.

    The result: It’s tough to have my core beliefs about “what the world should be” challenged by different ideas.

    Have you ever read Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam?


    He makes similar arguments to yours — but through the lens of the bowling leagues that were so common in our parents’ generation. They were places of social networking and understanding. But they’re gone — a victim of the endless opportunities sitting behind our screens.

    We have to do more to make sure that we protect those experiences, too — and to teach the kids in our classrooms to protect those experiences!

    I’m going to work on that this year.

    Thanks for the nudge.

  • Thanks for the kind words and book recommendation, Bill. Ironic, I also join my dad for senior citizens bowling when I’m home. I am the only one (occasionally) checking my phone between turns. Always appreciate your feedback. Thanks again.

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