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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…
Recent posts

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…

How Do We Accomplish Things Together?

Our Essential Questions this year revolve around the idea of community. My favorite of the questions is How do we accomplish things together?

As I ponder this today, my oldest son turns 19. In addition to feeling sentimental and somewhat old, I feel really proud of the way he builds community. Last night, we celebrated at our pool with the broad community that he has built.

Throwing a party is work, and in the weeks leading up yesterday, I tried to cover my alarm when he would invite more and more people. It is his event, I reminded myself. He should have who he wants.

Yesterday, I woke up and did all the party prep, kept my fingers crossed the weather would hold and went to the pool. Looking around at the people assembled and the fun that was being had, I realized that I was looking at some answers to the question How do we accomplish things together?

Build a diverse group of people. My son is friends with everyone. At the party last night were people from all walks of life, all diffe…


I took a test this week - a thing I had not done in a long while. I wanted to extend my teaching certification and the state of Pennsylvania insisted that passing this test was the way to accomplish that.

My experiences with tests have generally been positive. I have a good memory and can reason my way out of many problems. Ironsides are generally gifted with the fine art of BS, which helps when all else fails.
But this test was different. I completed several practice tests a the pool and asked my 17 year old son to grade them for me. The amount to head shaking and face making was alarming. Why had I done so poorly? What is wrong with me? I like math and I teach kids math every day, so why is it that I can't pass this test? Why did I admit my failure to anyone?
The situation became more grave when I purchased a practice test on-line. My score was so low, I was afraid the state would take away my existing certification. 
Problem solving is what I do in life and what we do in math. …

Summer for Humans, School for Humans

It's summer. I made a To Do List. It is pretty long. There are math units to plan, papers to sort, things that need to be fixed, weeds to be pulled, recipes to try, closets to purge and laundry I should fold.

Thus far, I have been off for 5 days. In that time, I have only folded the mountain of wash. It took a while but was highly satisfying. I've begun some work on the first unit for Pathfinder Math - thinking and brainstorming mostly, but not a lot of actual writing. Unlike the laundry, it is not complete, but similar to the wash, it is highly satisfying work.

Instead of my Official To Do List, I have engaged in some really important tasks, the likes of which only the slow pace of summer can provide. Thus far I have:

Finished 1 novel.Hosted 2 dinners at the pool and attended 1 that someone else hosted.Practiced driving with my son (he practices, I give feedback and enjoy the ride).Taken 5 leisurely walks.Watched countless YouTube videos with my other son.Spent time with famil…