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Thinking, Learning, Creating and Growing alongside Adults

An often heard comment among teachers is "A room full of kids is no problem, but I get so nervous talking to a room full of adults." We feel this way every Back to School Night, whenever we have to facilitate a faculty meeting and most especially when we are teaching other adults. It's scary. We feel vulnerable, out of our element and certain that what we have to say is meaningless.

I went to bed on Sunday feeling all of these things in preparation for my role in facilitating learning at Summer Teaching Institute. My units aren't all that awesome, my students are kinda messy and I sometimes - especially on a Friday - wing it. What could I possibly share with new teachers?

Monday morning on my train ride in, I set a little goal: Get over this nonsense by Friday. And never again say out loud "I'm not good at teaching adults."

Over the centuries of education in America, teachers have been sent and have internalized a very clear message - Do the important …
Recent posts

Slow Down

I had an amazing and exhausting spring. Finishing year three at SLAMS, attending all of the end of the school year celebrations, concerts, shows and dances, watching both of my children graduate from high school on the same day, and remembering to thank all the people who made this amazingness possible was a steep hill to climb.

In the midst of the mayhem of remembering deadlines, finishing grades, shopping for graduation finery, and connecting the many people who needed thanks or farewells, I made some costly mistakes. I lost my new bifocals at the mall because I was trying to wear both sunglasses and reading glasses at the same time. I parked in a no parking zone on the last day of school because I was too tired read the sign. I sustained the few garden injuries in my haste to tidy up the yard for a party we were having to celebrate the graduates. I forgot to pay my life insurance bill. My computer broke on the last day of school (and is still at the laptop hospital, so I'm usin…

I'll Put a Blanket on You

My youngest son turned 18 last week, so I am officially the mom of adults. This is a weird transition for me. As a classic nurturer, I like to make dinner for the people, sew on the buttons, mend the injuries both physical and emotional and, most especially, put a blanket on the sleeping.

This last habit is a particularly annoying one, as I have been known to put blankets on most sleepers I encounter - my kids, people staying at the beach house and even the student who falls asleep in my classroom (for which a jacket functions very much like a blanket). Last month, I was staying at my mom's house and immediately before bed, my nephew said, "Hey, Aunt Nan, it really isn't cold tonight, so I won't be needing the extra blanket."

To me, the blanket is a metaphor for all the nurturing things out there: love, comfort, support, empathy, compassion, sustenance, forgiveness, encouragement and hope. When I put it on a person, these are the things I imagine placing upon the…

A Love Letter to Families

Dear Families,

Thank you for getting your kid to school each day. Without them, we'd have no reason to show up and do what we love.

Thank you for teaching them to be kind, to ask questions and to do the right things. You'll be pleased to learn that most of the time, they do.

Thank you for helping them with the projects and questions that they are too afraid to ask others or that we run out of time to work on. Your ideas and input deepen the learning and make it more real.

Thank you for sending in treats when they and their classmates are hungry. And thank you for celebrating their big moments with us - first days, performances, Senior Nights and birthdays. It is a privilege for us to make the photos that will one day be family relics.

Thank you for holding kids accountable for the things they do and for helping them move beyond their mistakes. And thank you for reminding us that they are beloved, even when the mistakes are large.

I know that schools don't do an awesome job…

What Does it Mean To Belong?

In my first year as a teacher I had a friend who was in her last year of teaching. "The last mile is always the longest," she told me. I am pretty sure that Mrs. Marilyn Stoner was not talking about the last week before break, and yet her words kept coming to me last week as we all - adults and kids alike - waited for winter break to arrive.

A few years ago I discovered the wisdom of assigning a project that last week before break. It keeps us all focused on learning and productivity. But it also adds an element of stress that I sometimes question.

That said, it was gratifying to look around and see how our community of mathematicians (and other supporting adults) came together to get the work done. Among the lovely things I witnessed were kids teaching eachother how to make geometric art in Google Sheets, students asking to spend their lunch working on projects, adults checking in on kids who might need some extra support and kids who had never been to Math Lab before show…

The Positive Game

This was a week. Coming down from writing narratives for each of the 90 Pathfinders in my classes and having conferences for each of the kids and their families in Advisory, I was hoping for some light days of playful learning. Alas. We had some hard meetings, there was some crazy weather and students were finding it hard to focus after so many half days and a long weekend off.

On Wednesday, I was sitting at a table with some gents from my Advisory. We challenged one of them to say only positive things about any topic we presented for five whole minutes. It was hard, but in the end, Taaj prevailed. 
The next day, students wanted to play the "Positive Game" on a broader scale. The rules are simple. A person brings up a topic that some might have negative feelings about and the group must find the silver lining. All topics are fair game, except other humans. 
A wide range of topics were introduced - some silly and some serious - and kids did a great job finding positive respon…

Tanned, Gruff and Generous

The first thing I noticed about Irv was his tan. It was impressive. He sat at the pool each day reading the New York Times in the sunshine. On really hot days, he would get in the water.

Irv had an economy of language that made him seem gruff. It was difficult to know how he felt about things. This included people. It was a while before I knew I was ok in his book.

Because I was friendly with Irv's wife, I knew that he was supposed to wear a hearing aid, but he often didn't at the pool. She also told me he was big with the Teachers' Union.

One day I was sitting at the side of pool reading and Irv floated over on a noodle.

"I hear you're a teacher," he said. We chatted for a while. He asked a lot of questions and then swam away. Our chats eventually fell into a pattern - we'd do our own thing at the pool, chat and then go back to our own thing.

When his wife would show up after work at the end of the day, we'd all chat together. She is more outgoing t…