Eric Nelson has made a habit out of turning setbacks into silver linings. Having grown up in a family of educators, Eric was taught early on to prioritize how to, “learn like a champion”. This lesson served him well as he faced his own hurdles personally and professionally that led to the development of Fanschool; the platform that promotes trust, connection and growth between students, parents and community members revolving around students’ published work.
There is much to learn from failure. Eric’s first lessons came from being too over-zealous about a project in speech class that ultimately led to one of his first ever failures in school- all because he didn’t follow the rules and broke the time requirement by two minutes. It was a hard lesson to learn. His next lesson in failure was getting cut from his High School basketball team, after sitting on the bench for the majority of his freshman year. Eric talked to us about how difficult it was to go for something you loved and just not being good enough. He took these lessons and decided that it was necessary for him to write his own story; and perhaps, he could assist others in writing theirs as well.
As a teacher.
What Are We Doing Here?
After graduating with a masters, Eric told us that he found himself employed at one of the first charter schools in the nation, during a time of transition; for the school and himself. He showed up on the first day of his 9th grade Civics class, not knowing that neither a 9th grade class or a Civics class had ever been taught yet in the school. No curriculum was developed. No lesson plans to follow. He was on his own. The seeds of Fanschool had already been planted, but what happened next really made them grow.
Eric told our listeners that one of the most influential events he lived through as an educator was the loss of a ninth grade student to death by suicide. He was surprised to have a full class the following day, including the girl’s best friend. “What do I say in front of this class?” He wondered. He found a song he felt would be fitting and played it for the class. He knew he needed to acknowledge the loss, and then provide them with an outlet to engage in projects and activities.
It made him ask the question,
“What are we doing here?”
How are parents and teachers alike able to provide a safe space for kids to build trust, connect and growth? The research shows that everyones lives are enriched when kids are able to play. He knew he needed a way to get students out of the news, and encourage them to write their own story just like he wrote his.
FanSchool was born.
Fanschool is a safe and engaging student publishing platform that encourages students to own their own learning and verified adults to celebrate it. “ We’re not trying to break the grade,” Eric says,”We’re not trying to be disruptive. We want to activate, celebrate and elevate student work.” Teachers have known for decades that, “student folders are where good work goes to die.” Eric wants to encourage students that whatever they’re working on, publishing will only make it go, “up”. The ability to connect and to grow in their publishing reinforces the social emotional learning element of who you become is just as important as what you achieve. Fanschool makes it all come together.
“We have the best content moderation system on the internet,” he confidently says.
The proof is in the success of the platform. Kids want space to grow and learn, and parents want peace of mind. With Fanschool, both get their wish.
If you want to hear more inspirational stories and practical steps on how Eric used his experience as a teacher to build a wildly successful platform like Fanschool, listen to the full episode.