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when the tables are turned: what I learned about my instruction while being a student

This January, we’ve spent three weeks in Rio doing a Portuguese course at a local language school. Now, as I head home to the kiddos that I miss and the job that I love, I cannot help but reflect on what I learned while being an emerging bi(tri)lingual student. The Teacher. When I think back on my educational experience, it is people I remember…not lessons or curriculum. The teacher matters. Humanity matters. The same goes for this experience: I felt much more engaged when I connected with the teacher; I felt much more motivated when I respected the teacher. What Read More

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an open reflection on my practice: semester one of teaching abroad

“As I draw the curtains on the sleepy eyes of 2017, my mind turns to the power of reflection. It is my first semester teaching internationally. How has it gone? What are my strengths? What are my next steps? At the end of the semester, I presented a survey eliciting student feedback. It is a survey provided by my school leadership that I modified for what matters to me most as a teacher. Here are the results (prompts are at the top). Some thoughts: I need to improve in clarity. 1, “In this class the expectations for assignments, quizzes, tests, homework, summatives are Read More

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all about the bump: promoting positive adult culture in schools

The post that appears below is the original draft I submitted to Edutopia, an amazing website of all things education! (To all my readers in schools, it is highly valuable and worth following.) Here is the link to the edited post as it appeared on Edutopia. I cannot count the number of times I have heard a colleague advise a student to “do what makes you happy.” Yet ironically, I wonder often how many teachers are happy in their jobs. Research indicates job satisfaction was at a 25 year low in 2012, turnover trends are alarmingly high and costly, and Read More

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mindfulness in the classroom: for them, for me, for the world

This past summer, I took the course “Mindful Educator Essentials” from Mindful Schools. I knew from personal experience the power of mindfulness to steady myself, as well as to benefit students coming from traumatized backgrounds. But I was also looking ahead. My future students–now my current students–would largely represent the opposite demographics of my entire teaching experience: wealthy, advantaged, political, prominent. And those kiddos have parents in the same category. And with such privilege comes an enormous amount of weight: the strongest drive to get the best grades and the most extracurricular sports and activities to get into the elit-est schools. Just typing that sentence stresses me Read More

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cww trip journal: days 1-2

Each year, Graded organizes a trip for all of our students to experience learning beyond the confine of desks, chairs and computers: CWW, aka Classroom Without Walls. I am fortunate enough to be on the 11th grade trip to Belem, Brazil. Our arrival to Belem took a four hour plan ride. Taking the bus through town I saw: barefoot, sun-browned skin kiddos playing soccer in a field of dirt, wild dogs scratching fleas, countless pairs of people chatting on their “porches” in plastic chairs, shanty towns adorned with graffiti, more bare chests than I see at a typical beach, Bible Read More

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teacher reflections: strong relationships AND high expectations

I have transitioned, now, into four different schools. The first school, Adams City High School, I like to think I came in as a wrecking ball. Unfamiliar, new, powerful in a naive way. The second and third school, Bruce Randolph and North, respectively, where I first tiptoed around who I knew I was and who I thought my new kiddos needed. And now, I find myself in my fourth school, Graded. And once again, I am walking the wire of tension between strong relationships and high expectations. They don’t like it. Daily, I vacillate between “why don’t they like me?” Read More

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catch up journal: days 10-31

Today marks our 31st day living in another country. We have frequent moments where we look at each other and say: “Holy cow, we LIVE here. In another country. On a different continent.” As of late, I often find myself in the stage of admiring our hefty-ball size for doing something so bold. #teampossum for the win, indeed. It’s been awhile since I shared about the happenings down here in Sampa, so here goes. Students. My students have consulates and CEO’s as parents. My students are Olympic-bound athletes. My students are well-educated and articulate and reflective. My students say thank Read More

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dear you: a letter to my first set of international students

I’ve come here for you. All five thousand seven hundred and sixty nine miles for you. Yes, the adventure and travel and culture and lifestyle called, but more than anything, it was you that captivated me. The last two weeks have been in preparation for you. And I am ready. Though there is so much value in adult collaboration and collegiality, it is for you, the students, I show up everyday. You are my heart and soul. You are my light. Like any first time mother, I am nervous also; you are my first international children. I wonder if my Read More

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arrival journal: days five through seven

It’s hard to believe today marks one week we’ve been living in Brazil! The past few days have been a whirlwind of continued professional introductions to the school’s systems as well as more delicious wining and dining. Wednesday’s orientation provided time for a Portuguese 101 class with one of the school’s most charismatic Brazilian teachers. Her wide smile lights up a room and her warmth makes anyone feel at ease. She taught us through lively action made even sweeter by a table of delicious local candies. I also had my “appointment” with the school’s doctor to make sure I was Read More

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arrival journal: day four

For the last ten years in Colorado, my commute has been extensive. In Telluride, we had to drive roughly an hour over the Dallas Divide,  which literally took my breath away: both from the astonishing beauty and the sheer frightening anxiety of a snowstorm. In Evergreen’s foothills, my commute averaged about 45 minutes but could take two hours during snowstorms. When I think about how much time I’ve spent in the car over the last decade, it’s a bit depressing. Today, however, I walked to school. Up hill. For less than 10 minutes. The birds were singing and the sun Read More