thought-2123970_1280

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

thought-2123970_1280

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

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

thought-2123970_1280

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

thought-2123970_1280

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

thought-2123970_1280

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

thought-2123970_1280

from saddle to school: what riding reveals about teaching

I have had the soul-joy lately of reconnecting with my heart’s deepest passion: horses. For as long as I could remember, the mere glimpse of a horse brought my soul to its knees…a kind of divine whisper. Thanks to a God-placed friend, I have been partially leasing a tall and regal Saddlebred named Bruno. After I spend some time brushing the matted dirt out of his pinto coat, I lead him into the arena for some lunging and riding. For the first few times, I also received some training on how to best communicate with him; his owner, Nicole, would give Read More

thought-2123970_1280

mantras for students

I get a lot of questions in my classroom. Miss, is this right? Miss, what page? Miss, can you check this? Miss, what do you think? But the question in my class that has brought me the most refreshment as of late is… Miss, can we meditate? Several weeks ago, I faced the big, bad giant Senioritis as he trolled through my student population. Since then, I have been setting space aside on a weekly basis in my class–if not daily–to lead my students in meditation. Sometimes I guide them. Sometimes I use an app. But either way, it is a few Read More