who am I?

I am fortunate enough to be participating in a pilot program at my school that looks at how we can use metacognition, belonging, and conceptual approaches to foster deep, enduring & transferrable learning. It is an intensive & immersive experience that began today, with the easy task of writing an identity statement.

You know, no big deal… she said facetiously.

But, here I it is.

Here I Am.

I am Light. I am humble enough not to dare to define God, but also faithful enough to believe in All. Because of this, I recognize my life is not physical alone; it is Spiritual. Because of this, I honor what is beneath the surface and behind the projection. This means I operate from a place of discovery with students, rather than assumptions. This also means I treat them as people, not just students.

I am Love. I recognize that all we want as people is to be in community, to be seen, to be known, to be safe…to be loved. In the end, to say I received Love & I gave Love… what more could there be. May my classZoom or classRoom reflect this.

I am a Space-maker. Next to being Light & being Love, my ultimate identity is to create the space for those. Designing the vibe, planning the sequence, facilitating the moments, welcoming the wild, inviting the participants: this is who I am as a teacher, yes, but also as I woman. Also as a human.

I am a Storyteller. I got this from my Mom, but I also got this from my high school English teacher, from other teachers, and from the worlds of words where I have dwelled since I was little. We are our stories. But we also are not. And this is the best story of all. This is why I teach English…to story.

I am a Comedian. Deep belly laughs & inappropriate that’s what she saids & giggling snorts. Humor buoys the depths of this thing we call life. If I can make a student laugh… that. is. just. gold.

I am Woman. Though, straight up, I’m still figuring that out. However, I use the stories in my classroom to dismantle all of the systems of oppression.

I am a Question Mark. I have leapt out of false security & easy answers. I am dancing into Mystery & Wonder. If I can teach a student to ask a meaningful question, I have succeeded.

I am Earth. Grounded & rooted in Creation, I respect the healing gifted by the yellowing trees & the singing birds & the glittering sunlight & the drumming rain & the tickling grass. This is why I teach students mindfulness. This is why I teach them to look & to listen.

be (not) still, my bleeding heart

What’s wrong with a bleeding heart? I am trying my hardest to understand why that has negative connotations.

I am trying my hardest to understand what Republicans are voting for, why they are keeping a man like Trump in office.

I saw this on a friend’s post on Facebook recently:

I hear you.

You want rights. Rights to guns, rights for unborn babies, rights to profit, rights to patriotism, rights to justice, rights to speak and act, rights without limit. You are important. You matter. You are powerful. You have the fucking right to protect your motherfucking land, damnit!

And I guess therein lies why my heart bleeds.

NOT for me, but for others.

My heart’s blood runs for the brown women housed in concentration-camp-like detention centers where their bodies are invaded. Yes, yes, I have the right to my body (somewhat), but do they?

My heart’s blood runs for the black men who are called thugs because the system has been designed to do just that: thuggize them. Their history has told them they are not human, and their (very) white house criminalizes them. Yes, yes, I have the right to law and order, but do they?

My heart’s blood runs for the babies who are forced into a world that cares only about them in the womb. But once they’re out, where is the attention and protection “commanded by God” then? Where are the wraparound services? Yes, yes, I have the right to protect the unborn, but who protects the born?

My heart’s blood runs for those living in poverty. Brown. Black. White. They are poor. They are the least. They are the ones making money for the big guys. Yes, yes, I have the right to profit as much as I possibly can, but even if it comes at their sacrifice?

My heart’s blood runs for those born into the wrong gender, or those who are called to love the same gender. Yes, yes, I have the right to live and act as I please, but do they?

My heart’s blood runs for the streams, the trees, the air we breath. Yes, yes, I have the right to use nature as a utility for me, but what of downstream? What of tomorrow?

So, what am I voting for?

I guess the answer that I can be most proud of is… others.

I do not vote for the individual, but the community. I do not vote for the greatest, but the least. I do not vote for me, but for them. I do not vote for my voice, but for those who are silenced.

Yes, yes, even if that means I lose some “rights.”

I guess I vote for selflessness.

Even knowing the donkey is just as corrupt as the elephant. And they both are. Let’s face it…it’s an all-around shit-show-circus.

But I would rather vote for corruption that protects the other over corruption that protects the self.

So yes, do I have a bleeding heart? Without fail.

Run blood river, run.

remembering for him: a tribute to my Daddy

I lost my Dad almost a decade ago.

But really I lost him long before that… to that terrible thief Alzheimer’s.

And so today, on Father’s Day, I want to take some time and do the thing that he was robbed of: remembering.

My Daddy loved the water. Every time we visited West Virginia, he made sure to take me canoeing at Babcock State Park. In all our family travels, there wasn’t a hotel pool that we didn’t enjoy together. I remember in the beginning stages of his sickness when he confided in me: “I feel something special when I’m moving through water; I can’t explain it.” He was shy to say it, thinking it was one more confusing curse of his disease. But I got it. I get it. I share this with him always.

My Daddy loved being outside. He climbed rocks and played with abandon. He always pointed weeping willows out to me. He toyed with snakes while my Mom screamed in the background. I remember taking walks with him around our neighborhood. Every time we were visited by a cardinal, we stopped and he called to it. I still do that.

My Daddy loved music. I remember dancing with him in the living room. We would twirl and then he would shoot me through his legs and rocket me up in the air; it was magical. He had this special whistle melody that he sang wherever he went; to this day I kick myself for not recording it. During the holiday seasons, we would play Christmas tunes in the car and we would sing and whistle along. He loved Frank Sinatra and Yanni. Even near the end of his decaying mind, he would sit on the couch and put in his CDs and close his eyes and tip his head back and disappear into the sounds; music was one thing he could remember. And now music reminds me of him.

My Daddy loved being active. He taught me how to catch, putting in hours with me tossing around baseballs with our tried and true gloves. I remember how much he loved golf, and how much he loved it even more when his family was involved. When I was a child, he would tip a cup over on the shag carpet and we would lie on our bellies and pool-shoot the golf ball into it. Later in life, I’ll never forget that one time I chipped in for a birdie… both of us were surprised and overjoyed. My athleticism reminds me of him.

My Daddy loved being adventurous. He loved traveling and road trips. As I look back at pictures, I have so many with him all around the country. I remember a white water rafting trip that bumped him out of the boat into the rapids. I was paranoid but we just got him back in and moved on downstream. Horses were my Mom’s and my thing. But, despite not being interested and slightly afraid, he did it anyways on one of our yearly trips to Kentucky. I’ll never forget when his horse neared home and took off and galloped down the hill and my Dad was sprawled-eagle with arms and legs flailing in the wind and reins everywhere but in his hands and then he was on the ground. We laughed at that story for years. I live a life of adventure now, too.

My Daddy was selfless. When I was a teenager, despite him not really supporting my religious fervor, he drove me back and forth from Oak Park several times a week for various meetings. He had this mocking way of saying “Oakkkkkk Parrrrrrk” when I would ask, because it was so common and so ridiculous. But he still did it. He always asked me true questions about how I was doing and what was going on. (I still have regrets for not answering him when I could. Maybe this is why my love language is questions.) He was selfless even in his sickness. I was so scared he would be too far gone to walk me down the aisle. But he did it, even though he didn’t fully understand what was happening…and I’m sure he was afraid.

My Daddy LOVED my Mom. When we would fight, all he ever said was: “don’t talk to your Mother like that.” It was never about him, but about her. When they weren’t doing well, he would talk to me about it and what was wrong and how it could change and why was it like that; he was petrified of losing her. In his sickness, the conversations revolved around us taking care of her when he was gone. This shaped my pursuit of a husband, and I am blessed to have found someone that evokes this strength of my Dad.

I love you Daddy.

I remember you Daddy.

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that’s what she (would’ve) said

Today my mother would have turned 80 years old.

Now, I just see her in my face, looking back at me looking at her. Now that I’ve cut my hair short, the strong curve of the cheekbones, set of the eyes and prominent arc of the nose remind me even more of her.

And this is good. Because, as much as I hate to admit it, grief turns into vague recollection, which eventually fades into forgetting, which always ends in gut-sinking guilt.

The days when I could barely breath because the loss was sitting on my chest are almost nonexistent. Some days I don’t even think about her.

Isn’t that terrible?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a crime against the mother-daughter bond. Maybe it’s natural. (Maybe it’s Maybelline, which was her eyebrow pencil of choice, burnt with a cigarette lighter of course.)

Maybe I’m too busy becoming her. More and more I’m finding my voice, not rolling over and taking it. More and more, I’m thinking about the art of storytelling, which was her specialty. But in a way that her stories are now becoming my own stories. (Isn’t that weird and beautiful, the way a narrative blurs time and people and place? In stories, we are all one.) More and more, I find myself making her food. (Though, sorry Mom, I have perfected your deviled eggs with the secret ingredient of pickle juice! You would have loved them.)

On this day, or during this month, we would have celebrated by going to the casino, all the sisters and her.

I miss that.

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Mom’s last trip to the casino

So today I’m going to do my own betting, if you will.

Here are 5 things I bet my Mom would have said, between long draws of Salems, were she alive during this crazy and historical pandemic.

  1. How’s the weather?
  2. Do you have enough groceries? Aldi had butter on sale and so I stocked up. I had to drive all the way to the one in Indiana, but it was worth it because the gas was so cheap. So I filled up. Yes suree.
  3. Have you seen the news?
  4. Don’t you leave your house now, you hear me?
  5. CAN YOU BELIEVE THE GAS PRICES? <insert Southern-twang-gasp>

love & learning in the time of coronavirus

*Thanks to my coworker Nikki for inspiring this post’s title.*

I’m a mess.

Let’s just start there.

But I’m kinda grateful…I haven’t been inspired to write in a while, yet here I am, brought to the keys by grief, once again. (Albeit on my old blog; the new one just got too expensive to maintain. I’ve still got to import & organize all my content. But from now on, I’ll be writing here again. It feels like coming home.)

Like many others have done recently across the world, our school closed physically. Yesterday and today have been two grueling days of “getting ready” to take our classrooms online.

My heart sighs. I am heavy wondering if this is permanent: was today a goodbye to my colleagues? What about saying goodbye to my students? That is not my kind of closure. My eyes hurt. So. much. screentime. My spirit is exhausted. The cynicism and criticism seems inexhaustible. When will it ever be good enough? My teacher soul is scared. I didn’t sign up for a virtual learning environment. I thrive on good vibes and quality connection. How will I meaningfully create that online?

And this is just all in my tiny little insignificant world. What about all the seniors worldwide who were robbed of their culminating experiences? What about the elderly parents who are achingly-lonely and isolated for fear of disease? What about students who are already so far behind academically and can’t go home to their own computer and internet service? What about health care workers who are relentless and spent with no end in sight? What about those without insurance? What about all the children who won’t eat regularly, who now will spend all day quarantined in a prison of neglect–at best and abuse–at worst? What about those who have jobs that just ended? No sick days. No pay. No safety net.

I. just. can’t. even. breath. #irony

And yet, even in all this, maybe because of it, I am so grateful.

I am so impressed with how my school has handled this shit show. Communication has been steady and intentional. Encouragement has been overflowing. (Today we even got personal bottles of our drink of choice for our virtual happy hour tomorrow! I mean, who does that? People are losing their jobs, and I’m getting free drinks!) We have been assured our school’s hourly employees will still be taken care of. We have advocates in our human resources, our parents, our bosses. These past two “emergency” PD days, I had substantial hours on both days to plan. I have great insurance and we’re close to a great hospital. Our campus is open-aired and still accessible.

Beyond my job, I am grateful for our apartment, that is expansive and inviting and a good place to quarantine. I am grateful for easy and quick access to the beach (that we are taking advantage of this weekend!) I am grateful for Dave who has pumpkin seeds, wine and homemade meals ready for me because he knows how tough it is. I am grateful our families are healthy. I am grateful for my strong body that swam 2k this morning. And for f***’s sake, I’m grateful we have plenty of toilet paper.

Through all of this, I can’t help but think of metta practice–lovingkindness meditation.

For me. For you. For the vulnerable populations. For those infected. For those recovering. For those traveling. For those scared. For those unemployed. For the politicians I disagree with. For the world.

May we be well.

May we be whole.

May we be happy.

May we be healthy.

May we be free from inner and outer harm.

May we live in peace and with ease.

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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 was uninspired and uninspiring.

Last semester, my colleague and friend started talking about the writing approach which consists of copying mentor texts. She’s all up in this book and talking about it all over the place. (You know, authentic and real PD…not the forced kind; rather the kind that evolves from dialogue and mutual eagerness to grow in our craft.) We implemented mentor texts with our juniors as a way to create real-life writing experiences: reviews.

Slowly these two bodies of reflection met and bowed to each other on the dance floor of my mind: how can I provide students the opportunity to share their stories and improve their writing with mentor texts? How can I create an opportunity for reset while encouraging students to write beyond the traditional (and boring) academic scope (read 5 paragraph essay).

And those two ideas danced. Beautifully and wonderfully, beyond my expectations. Here is how I approached it (some steps are modified for how I wish I would have done it):

  1. I decided on two mentor texts: Maus and Night. This would give students the ultimate choice: story-telling via prose or story-telling via art.
  2. Then I combed both texts looking for engaging prompts and mentor text sections that would elicit stories that matter from my students, the kinds of stories that bond at the heart level. Here are those prompts for Maus and Night.
  3. To begin all this, and to deepen my own connections with students, I also modeled the process, as did my student teacher. I chose for my brain dump a piece about my Mom I had published on this blog a while back. Then I altered it to mimic the mentor text. I also walked through breaking down the mentor text into moves I could mimic.
  4. Next students picked their genre and prompt followed by a rough draft. This draft is not based on the structure or style of the mentor text, but merely is a brain dump to get their stories onto the paper.
  5. Then began the analysis of the mentor texts’ approaches. This was a chance for students to be independently taught writing craft by the mentor text they selected. They were guided through this process using extensive graphic organizers. Here those are for Maus and NightOf course I shouldn’t have been surprised at how this organically produced the close and deep independent reading I’ve been trying to manufacture all year long. But that is exactly what happened. Three cheers for favorable instructional accidents!
  6. After the analysis portion, students transitioned to the remaking of their drafts into the style of their chosen genre. For some, this meant adding dialogue. For others, they rearranged paragraphs. For the artsy, they drew and divided into panels with shading and captions. No matter what, each student was nose deep in a text, looking for how to mimic it. It took a bit for them to get the hang of it, but they did!
  7. At this point, we did some peer workshopping. Secretly, the real point here was the sharing of their stories in partners to prepare them for a larger production. After all, in my head, this IS the reason for this entire writing project: community connections. All the academic benefits are bonuses. (Oops, did I say that out loud?)
  8. Then, the wondrous glory of storytelling: the sharing. I asked for feedback from students regarding which peers they felt most comfortable and uncomfortable sharing with, and then I used that data to place students into a variety of small groups. In those groups, I gave very specific directions to 1, read his/her story out loud and 2, each student was to write a note of encouragement/thank-you letter to the author after he/she shared. I provided sentence frames and colored cards. To me, these are the kinds of days I live for as a teacher. Students huddled together in small groups, sharing secrets of the heart, spinning webs of connection that are strong and trustworthy, a web upon which we build more learning and more connection. A web which catches the light.
  9. Finally, students self-graded using a narrative rubric based on CCSS. In the future, I will do a better job explicitly teaching these elements, because though they were inherent in the works the students produced, the students themselves did not have the language to self-evaluate with specifics.

The pieces the students turned in were breathtaking both in craft and content. Were there grammar errors? Of course…but honestly, who cared when I was seeing some of the best writing I’ve seen from students in my decade of teaching. The pieces were original and unique and authentic and individual and unfettered with the formulaic chains we so often think at-risk students need. The pieces were heart-wrenching with students exposing the dangerous truths of their lives: from gang violence to domestic abuse to homelessness to murder to drugs to suicide to anxiety to sexual assault to the grief of too many orphaned children. I was not reading papers; I was reading souls.

But THE most beautiful moment in this project came the day we shared our stories in small groups. Throughout the day, I roamed to different groups to pop in on students’ stories and leave them a note from my heart to theirs. In one group of two boys and two girls, one of my most difficult and often disengaged boys began sharing his story. As he worked his way through it, it was evident his exterior was cracking. His pace slowed; his face tightened; his eyes moistened; his words chocked. He collapsed into himself, a heaving pile of grief, shattered by bullets past. Literally. His peer, the other boy in the group, silently got up from his seat, walked around the table, knelt beside him, rubbed his back, and just stayed…a steady, silent, comforting rock. It was a moment so beautiful, so raw, I nearly lost my breath.

Who am I kidding? I did.

And things have been better with that student. Not perfect. Not a miracle. But a shaky bridge has been solidified.

And that is just the kind of story I want to write with penstrokes of my career.

 

brazilian wax poetic

I remember it very clearly. I was sitting in front of the computer while Dave sat on our blue leather couch. With my approaching December graduation date from North Central, we were discussing what comes next. What do I do as a teacher who graduates in December? It’s awkward. It’s unfavorable. It’s ill-timed.

And so, I uttered two dangerous words of adventure: what if?

What if we move to Colorado?

What if we work at a ski resort for the season?

What if we just spend a few months playing?

Those two words changed our lives. We moved to Colorado with everything we owned in a jeep. Found careers that we loved and that loved us back. Made new friends and new memories with old friends. Hosted family for holidays and vacations. Embraced the land and the lifestyle of the mountains. Became runners and yogis and cyclists. Experienced new dimensions of the Divine and new nuances of ourselves.

For the last eleven years, we have lived blessed and beautiful lives. Thank you God.

And now: what if?

Dave and I have been revisiting these very two dangerous words for a while now. Adventure calls.

What if we move?

What if it’s far?

What if it’s overseas?

What if it’s completely foreign and unlike any life we’ve ever lived?

Those two very dangerous words of what if have tumbled into two other words: I accept.

This past weekend I attended an international job fair in Boston, at which I found Graded. Before we went, I made a list of what I wanted in an overseas teaching gig: financially, personally and professionally. I pursued schools who met those criteria with a singular devotion. But in the end, or perhaps in the beginning, Graded found me.

And so, Dave and I will be taking this… freak show… circus… adventure on the road starting July 2017, at which time we will move to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a two-year contract. There are a million things to do and a million goodbyes to cry and a million freak-outs to stifle and a million questions to answer…but for now, I’ll settle into the wild-eyed lap of what if.


For those of you interested in the details of our adventure, I’ll be starting a new blog by the title of this post. Stay tuned!

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tidings of comfort

When I think of God, I think of Love.

When I think of Love, I think of Comfort.

And when I think of Comfort, I think of the holidays.

In the past year, we’ve lost both our pets. Our Christmas tree sits undisturbed in the corner of our living room, the sun through the windows its only companion. We don’t come home and play the game we so loved to be annoyed by: six ornaments rolling around on the ground, one broken, moving them further and further up the tree in some Jenga strategy to protect them from wagging hazards and pawing attacks.

Comfort.

Tomorrow marks the 5th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. My Dad loved Christmas music. He would sing along to it, or whistle along to it, from the deepest places of joy in his heart. To this day, I can’t hear “Silent Night” or “Jingle Bell Rock” without hearing his voice from some secret distance.

Comfort.

Two years later, my Mom joined my Dad. I miss her Christmasness. Peanut butter balls, fudge, all on a plate saran-wrapped, sitting cold on the porch. The buffets of food and a family packed around a festive tablecloth in an ivy-wallpapered kitchen. Mom, sitting near a frosty window cracked open so her cigarette smoke could escape.

Comfort.

And still we celebrate. There is joy in the holiday season. We are surrounded by those who love us and those whom we love. We live lives dripping with reasons to be grateful.

But there is also a sadness. An indescribable and inexplicable and inapproachable loneliness wraps around our heart like a scarf against the cold. A narrative of Christmas pasts of bonding and fighting reflects back at us from the twinkling lights. A deep ache to pick up the phone and hear that voice, that laugh, just once more burns as a candle on the windowsill. A longing for all the lost Christmases that will never be had drops in the belly, heavy like too many cookies.

Grief multiplies like frost on a window, intricate and beautiful and shattering lines of connection that disappear with the touch of a warm finger on lifeless glass.

Comfort.

I write this for me.

But, I write this for you, too: Jennifer and Jenny and Jen. Pam and Jo Ann. Mark and Regina. Cheryl. Erica. Fernanda. Heather. Doyle and Laina. Kathryn. Brandon. Dad and Mom. Juli. Jan. My family. Mel. Chris. Cara. Hilary. Melissa. Those of you not named, but nonetheless with me in sorrow during this season.

We stand together in the snow, icicles of crystal tears, and we hold each other up. Like wreaths, we circle in love and welcome those weights that break us and make us. We look for the light in the Bethlehems of each others’ hearts. We huddle together around the fire of comfort.

Comfort. For you. For me.


 

 

 

the ghost of grief past

I am haunted by grief. Like a ghost that fades in and out of the bedroom corner, sometimes it is silent, hovering beneath the floorboards; but sometimes it is devastatingly near, ice freezing through my veins.

Recently…I shiver.

Last year, I watched my cat die a long, slow death. His silky steel grey fur turned bristlecone; his oversized athletic body turned gristly; his ferocious appetite for salmon turned into aching refusal to eat; his impeccable potty and self-grooming habits turned sloppy spills all over the house. The cat who walked around the block with us could no longer hop up on our bed. He wandered the house, unsure of where he was, crying in confusion. Life oozed out of him, leaving a trail of tears.

Six years ago, I watched my Dad die a long, slow death. His consistent commitment to a healthy breakfast of Total cereal faded into choking on undigested food; his appetite for walks in the neighborhood faded to police rides back to a home he could no longer remember; his strong able body faded into a bony skeleton; his obsessive daily grooming with an electric razor faded into a unoccupied man playing with his feces. The man who drove my teenage self all over creation could no longer remember my name. He wandered the house, unsure of where he was, looking and laughing at a stranger’s reflection in the mirror. Life oozed out of him, leaving a trail of fears.

I am haunted by the molasses pace of death, its grief sticky and icky.

This year, I watched my dog disappear in the blink of an eye. Just the weekend before, we were camping and hiking and playing in alpine lakes with his girlfriend. He was strong. Full of life. Then, sickness. Then, death. My house is empty.

Three years ago, I watched my Mom disappear in the blink of an eye. Just the weekend before, we were laughing and buffeting and playing the slots with the family. She was strong. Full of life. Then, sickness. Then, death. My heart is empty.

I am haunted by the wind-sucking swiftness of death, its grief whiplash and heartcrash.

I am haunted.1690184_10152245507652813_202266945_n

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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 is no longer home to them, only to have their vision of this country’s promise cut off by a wall. They are worried.

My students spent their summer surrounded by terror attacks of extremists who (reportedly) worship the same god they do. They are disheartened.

So, yes, the first day is everything.

When they walk into my classroom–into our classroom–they don’t just need a safe place. They don’t just need a restorative place. They don’t just need a grounded place. They don’t just need a comfortable place. They don’t just need a welcoming place.

They need a home where they belong.

  • Home is where the door is open and inviting. It is important that the minute students see our classroom, they know it is for them. I do this with welcoming signs and clear communication.img_8376
  • Home is a place that is tidy and organized. I bought a carpet to ensure the auditory and aesthetic quality of my room was on point. I have bins for students to store their stuff. All of the previous day’s handouts have a place to be with clear labeling. I have minimal decorations as this will arise collaboratively with students’ contributions and academic anchor charts throughout the year.
  • Home is a place where resources abound. My first year student teaching, my mentor had the students bring community supplies for extra credit. I have copied this every year since. We have bad days or forgetful days; when that happens, my students always have what they need in the classroom to be successful–partly because they provide those resources for each other. IMG_8421
  • Home is a place where students are known. I do not want students’ first day to be going over a syllabus.

    Rather, I give a survey the first day so that I can gather important information about who my kiddos are…in school and as a human. While they are taking the survey, I walk around and introduce myself to each of them individually with a handshake. Such a first day procedure ensures that the priceless first impression that our time together will not be about rules, but about them.

  • Home is a place where I as the teacher am known. This was my first year at my current school, so the reputation that in the past had always done so much prework for me was void. So, I brought my reputation to them…alongside my heart. Students walked into the classroom to find this letter.
  • Home is a place where students see themselves. Our first activity as a class was to watch and discuss this video about “what’s your WHY?” I shared with students that there will be times this year where it will be hard and discouraging, and that’s exactly why they need to know why they’re showing up and persevering. Some of their whys (more still to come from students throughout the year) now are on display at the front of the room as a visual reminder to them that this is not about a grade, but about a heart matter.
  • Home is a place where students honor connection. The day after I introduced the why concept, we had circle. In this time, with the passing of a talking piece, students shared who or what their why is and told a story about their why. It was tender and special and bonding. It was a beautiful way to establish the kind of feel we will have in our classroom.img_8387

Just as the circle, I end where I started. The first day is everything. For I know that for there to be great learning in my class, there must be great risk.

And everyone feels more comfortable risking when they feel at home.


For more of my thoughts on how to establish a sense of home where students belong in the classroom, check out:

 

 

 

 

 

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Escaping Bars

Writings on Love, Pain, Overcoming, Hope, Longing, Justice, and Injustice

juliaetorres.blog

Strength \ Vision \ Service \ Exploration

A Tree On Fire With Love

But it's still scary sometimes because most people think love only looks like one thing, instead of the whole world

teaching With "Ang-sigh-eh-tea"

The life of a teacher who struggles with anxiety and depression.

Sampa Sympatico

A Yankee Teacher's Experience of Sao Paulo, Brazil

LINDSAY JILL

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Once Upon a Time in México

Living my dream of teaching, traveling, and discovering culture

Teach. Travel. Taste.

A peek into the life of an American teacher in Colombia

2seetheglobe

Adventures in Globetrotting

Nomad Notions

Tales of Expat Living, Teaching, and Tramping in Taiwan and Beyond.

Sojourners' Journal

“Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people." —Albert Einstein

Middle East by Midwest

Observations and Experiences of Bahrain

Ex(pat) and the City

The life of a twenty-something Canadian living & teaching in Korea.

ISR Discussion Boards

ISR Discussion Boards are open to site members and visitors alike. Your Voice Counts.

Teaching & Traveling

The Life of An International Teacher

EAT~PRAY~TRAVEL

THE ADVENTURES OF A NOMADIC EDUCATOR

pedagogyofthereformed

Teaching in Brooklyn in Spite of Everything

Actively Dying

by Peter Fall Ranger

Practicing Presence

An attempt at mindfulness in life, learning, and love

chanyado

by Aleya Kassam

Words Half Heard

writing into meaning

Greatfull

A snapshot of my journey to living each day with gratitude and striving to be full of greatness

tspelczech

"I'm too old to live my life in fear of dumb people." - Charlie Skinner, The Newsroom

Perfectly Pleased

Finding joy and beauty in the simple things

Cultivate Clarity

creative writing and mindfulness-based coaching, workshops, and retreats

Crawling Out of the Classroom

In everything that my students and I do together, we strive to find ways to use reading and writing to make the world outside of our classroom a better place for all of us to be

ADVENTURES ON THE YOGA MAT

writing into meaning

affectiveliving.wordpress.com/

Purpose, Perspective, and Perseverance for thriving in a challenging world

candidkay

Taking the journey, bumps and all

jenny's lark

the beauty of an ordinary life

Nonlinear Compilations

Parenting, teaching, writing, and learning to find beauty in the present

talk from chalk

What I've learned while teaching

Thoughtful teaching

Thoughts on teaching in the modern world.

Hope, Honor, and Happiness

A blog for the book “Kingdom of the Sun” and discussions on finding the Hope, Honor, and Happiness in education, life, and the seemingly impossible.

Secret Teacher

Life inside the primary classroom

A Confederacy of Spinsters

Sex, Dating, and Surviving Your Twenties

Miss Four Eyes

Seeing twice as much absolutely counts as a super power.