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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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holidays: the rhythm of life

I sit here in the glow of a twinkling tree. It is my in-law’s tree. It is Dave’s parent’s tree. It is the tree of the only parents I have anymore. My eyes feast upon the bird feeders that gather feathery visitors of brown, yellow, blue, and grey. Flashes of red draw my attention to a couple-eternal of cardinals. Acoustic Christmas music caresses my ears, wrapping my heart in a bow. A melody of holiday angels. It is the first time this season I have let myself feel Christmas. Nostalgia drips from my eyes and rolls down my cheeks. My folded hands 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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the untethered expat: culture shock

I’ve been a bit off lately. I’ve seen it coming, and I recognize it for what it is, but nonetheless, it’s unsettling. I felt it on our school trip to Belem. The last presentation–the culminating speech–was in Portuguese. Again. Chaos erupted across the room as Brazilian friends leaned in to translate for their foreign peers. Someone leaned over and began translating for me. I was hot. I was itchy. I was tired. I was annoyed by an earlier rude interaction. I couldn’t focus on the speaker, I couldn’t focus on the translator, I couldn’t focus. My skin crawled. I left the room Read More

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expat insecurities: how moving overseas turns you into a middle schooler

This post has been marinating a while in my mind (often around 1 or 2 middle of the night: time to wake up and worry about things you can’t control. yippee!). A variety of factors have appeared on the radar recently that I’ll attribute to a storm of culture shock brewing off the shore. An extended commute where I was stuck in a car in a land where I don’t speak the language (where is a restaurant where we can stop for a quick meal where we actually fully understand the menu without a million Google acts of translation?). My 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