img_2174

Learning in Circles: Implementing Effective Socratic Seminars

An edited version of this post first appeared on Edutopia. “Socratic seminars help me understand other people’s perspective as well as advance my own through critical thinking…They have also helped me become a better leader by engaging my peers in the discussion through deepening questions.” ~BQ, class of 2016 One of my favorite moments as a teacher is when guests come into my classroom, and despite their best attempts to locate me visually and auditorily, they can’t. I am hidden quietly among the students, who are engaged in a student-led, high-level academic discussion. Throughout my nine years as a high Read More

img_8376

welcome home to b261

The first day is everything. My students spent their summer inundated with news reports about senseless, merciless and unjust killings of people who look just like them. They are afraid. My students spent their summer working multiple jobs just to keep food on their families’ tables. They are hungry and tired. My students spent their summer wondering which of their teachers from May would still be there in August. They are insecure. My students spent their summer listening to a white man’s rhetoric about how they don’t belong in this country, how they’ll be shipped back to a place that Read More

img_2174

to the class of 2016: on the power of thought

When I think about the class of 2016… I think about Rene’s eye roll and sassy hip sway. I’m so sorry I missed your pole dancing performance. I think about Bianca’s powerful serve on the volleyball court and confident voice of leadership in class discussions. I think about how the only thing bigger than Chantel’s mouth is her heart. I think about how we stomped you in staff versus senior volleyball. I think about Rubby’s laugh and Nana’s immediate departures to the bathroom upon arriving to the class. I think about those of you I taught during 8th grade: Daniel, Read More

img_2174

sanctifying space for closure

May brings showers, raindrops of tears that roll down the cheeks as I say goodbye and best wishes to students who have melded into the tissue of my heart. And without the protection of umbrella or raincoat, I run directly into the impending storm clouds of emotions. I dance in the rain because I need closure. I dance in the rain because I know my students need closure. I work with students who are often dealing with trauma of some sort: poverty, abuse, violence, homelessness, illegal status, witness to crimes, gangs, addiction, broken homes and shattered dreams…weights pile atop their Read More

c1223134e27a005b50330c5edf7c2eff

on the path to rigor: demystifying differentiation

I have spent the majority of my career teaching advanced courses such as International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement to upperclassman. So after it had been decided that I was going to teach 9th grade in the 2015-2016 school year, my standard response and running joke was: Pray for my soul. It is now May, and I can honestly say not only has my soul survived teaching 9th grade this year…it has even thrived. This of course was not without struggle: I had to tighten my behavior management approaches and often went home discouraged. However, now that I have taught a Read More

the art of transitions

There are some images that just resonate so deeply, they never fade. This 3 and 1/2 minute video is one such image. Once the senses move past the the scantily clad woman, the stunning cityscape, and the soft sultry music, what is left is asana that is so captivating…it steals the breath. On my mat, I want to move like this woman. Not (just) because she is sleek and strong, but because there is not a singular pose visible in any of this. Rather it is a river of transformations, inhales and exhales that do not just move the body from one Read More

img_2174

on confidence

Don’t you love those trainings that actually get you thinking? Not the ones that waste your time, the ones that leave you with a kink in the neck because you’re constantly glancing at the clock, but the ones that hit you… “in the feels?” (as my kiddos would say). Yesterday I had the blessing of just such a training about leadership in presence and presentation. And what crystallized in mind was moment of clarity about my year. I am a good teacher. My presence in the classroom is at once formidable yet also friendly. I know, so deep in my core Read More

img_2174

present in the pain

Sometimes the stars align so that the same message is being whispered over and over into your ear, at just the right time. A divine echo. Saturday morning’s yoga class was one of those whispers. Led by a pregnant woman whose roundness in her belly was only rivaled by the curve of her carved biceps, she started class with the intention of being present. She shared that being in her second pregnancy lends itself to the tendency to want the carrying and labor part to be over to get to the “best part”–life with the child. But she explored the irony, that even Read More

img_2174

a classroom Thanksgiving

In the 1940’s, Maslow said it: full bellies + safe bodies + happy hearts + thriving self = engaged learning This week it popped up on my feed: respect given + respect received = engaged learning And Friday, it blossomed in my classroom: family potluck + words of gratitude = engaged learning Actually, I don’t know yet, for sure, with quantitative numbers and qualitative studies, if my Friday activity will result in engaged learning. But I just don’t care. Because it meant so much more. These words are the sentiments from the students after our Thanksgiving celebration as a classroom family. Read More

img_2174

the fault lines of leadership

For all of my career, I have sworn til I was blue in the face that I would not, could not, should not become an administrator. No sir-re-bob, that is not for me. After taking on more of a leadership role this year at school, that stance has only been confirmed. Though I was coaching last year and assisting another coach with our department, my leadership was, in essence, lateral. I’d like to believe that those I helped because of an official “title” were few, but those I helped because of a desire to be a great teacher were more–hopefully the Read More