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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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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

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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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prepare for liftoff: culture shock

In 2010, I spent three weeks in Puebla, Mexico to finish up my master’s program in ESL. Amid ancient cathedrals and extensive teaching units and luxurious welcomes and late-night plaza dancing and studious students and chocolaty mole dishes and open air markets, I found myself–in the air conditioned safety of my hotel room–having a meltdown. My skin crawled. I was overwhelmed with exhaustion. My brain was tangled between two languages. My body felt like it was walking in the twilight zone. My heart ached for home… for comfort, for ease, for freedom from having to work so damn hard to 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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take this job and shove it?: a tired teacher reflects on when enough is enough 

I don’t know how to write this post. Partially because on some level I feel like it’s already been written, but the act of putting words and phrases to secret utterances will make them reality lived instead of fear assumed. Partially because it’s been said before by countless other teachers…ex-teachers. Partially because this is not anybody’s fault who might be reading this. I have worked in 3 buildings that serve at-risk students, and in each of those places are stories of meaningful and authentic work that makes a difference. But, I must write it. For me. To breath. For the Read More

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to see the light, be the light: shifting perspective

Transitioning back into the classroom full time at a new school has been so. stinking. hard. To the point where I feel caught in a web spun by a mid-life-career-crisis-spider. (More on that to come later.) I work at least 60 hours a week. I am tired. I am overwhelmed. I never feel good enough. I feel unsuccessful at doing all those things I have written about for so long on this blog–the things that matter most. I am insecure in who I am as a teacher. It has been five years since I’ve had a caseload of 150 students. Read More

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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

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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