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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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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: day three

As I write this, I sit on my balcony enjoying the interplay of stars above and apartment lights around and headlights below. Dave and I just shared some conversation about our separate days’ experiences (the first we’ve been apart in awhile) on the balcony while sipping out of cherry blossom mugs the whiskey we packed into our overseas luggage. As you might be able to tell, I am in a much better place than yesterday. Today started with the first of many back to school alarm clock appointments followed by a meditation about going with the flow of life’s direction. Read More

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storytelling using mentor texts

Inevitably, every break brings time for reflection and renewal for teaching. What’s going well? What’s hurting the team? Over winter break, I found myself desperate for a reset in my classroom. Students didn’t even know each other’s names, much less stories; I was the bad guy without enough of the connection that grounds those high expectations; I was so busy trying to collaborate in an overwhelming amount of configurations that I lost my authentic teacher compass; I was buried in systematic behavior expectations that did not align with who I am…and that didn’t work. I felt like a failure…worst, I Read More

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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

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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

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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

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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

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the space of hospitality

***This post is part of the June synchroblog that invited bloggers to write about hospitality.*** When I think of hospitality, I think of my mother-in-law: or Mom as I call her and know her. Upon arriving to her house, it is clear she has taken the time to lovingly designate space for us to be, comfortably and naturally. Furniture is moved so that our bed is accessible. Sheets and pillows are purchased and placed so that our skin is greeted warmly. Cups and beverages, with the appropriate spoon, are laid out on the counter so that our morning is seamless. Read More

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the puzzle of a positive learning environment: 10 pieces (glue included)

The adage goes something like this: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to play with that concept a bit: Ask me a question once and I don’t have an answer–shame on you. Ask me the same question twice and I still don’t have an answer–shame on me. Part of our district’s teacher evaluation system is how we build the learning environment for our students. I am grateful that I tend to score effective to distinguished in these categories. Once I was asked the question by my observer: how do you Read More