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Showing posts from 2016

And so we learn to appreciate each other...

A colleague was absent today. She is a favorite among the students and class seemed difficult without her - or so I heard.

Our sub was not accustomed to our school culture. She was strict - which is fair when you have to be the sub. But her strictness felt like meanness to some of my students.

I stopped in to check in with a student about an entirely different matter and was met with furious whispering. "What should we do?" "She is so mean!"

My advice was simple. "You got this. Stay calm. Do your work. Be kind and remember that the sub is new."

About five minutes later, I got some emails.

"There is a problem. Please come back," one student wrote.

"I just got yelled at and it wasn't my fault," wrote another.

My reply remained the same: "Stay calm. Be kind. Remember she in new here."

The reply from KP was the best: "I will stay calm." For her, this is real growth.

After the period was over, they all came to my cla…

Make Sense of Problems & Persevere in Solving Them

I have a problem and it is math. Common Core standards indicate that, as a proficient student, I should be able to explain the problem and look for entry points into it's solution.

The problem is a loud one and I have heard it from students, from parents and from colleagues. The problem comes daily in the form of questions.
"Can we do division today?" "Can you send home some math problems so that my son can practice operations with fractions?""How can we teach math in a project based, inquiry driven setting?" While I am not certain that I have entirely explained the problem - even to myself - I do believe that the more I grapple with the problem, the more clear it becomes.

Solving the problem has become somewhat of an obsession. My first entry point was the Internet. Extensive searches did not yield the results I had hoped. I was able to see curricula from all over the nation & from all types of schools, but I didn't feel much closer to a solut…

"You Despair"

My kids are out of town and I miss them. This has been a crazy summer for us - we've been apart a great deal, which isn't our normal. My kids are teenagers, so this is "age appropriate" - but I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel weird.

They have traveled with classmates and been to camp. I have traveled for my new and terribly exciting job. Even so, we are managing - thanks to technology - to stay connected and aware of eachother's goings on. Thank goodness.

Because we are rarely home all together, our routines are disrupted. In some ways, this is a good thing. We appreciate eachother more and connect more deeply when we are together. But in other ways, we are missing out on the things we love. Most notably - Oreland Pizza.

I am not really proud of the amount of time and money that we spend there, but over the years, I have come to rely heavily on OP for a fast, healthy, affordable dinner that is always served with a smile. Oreland Pizza is a constant in…

What Should Happen..

My son is coming home tonight from a week-long school trip to Vancouver, B.C. Technically, this was an international trip for him, so I warned him ahead of time not to call or text. But we set up accounts with WhatsApp so that we could - um - communicate.

My son is on the autism spectrum, but more significantly, I am a mother. As a mom, I worry. Did he eat enough? Is he cold? Because some of his pictures on Facebook show snow.. Has he run out of money? Should I be concerned?

The other significant fact is that my son is almost 17. When he was diagnosed at the age of two, I worried that he would never talk. Or read. Or write. Or listen. Or love learning. Or be "normal."

So in spite of all my motherly angst about the sleeping and the layers, I am so very proud of my boy for NOT communicating. How much more normal can you get than a teenager NOT telling his mom what he is doing?!

Recognizing that I am "living the dream" of parents of children with autism, I decided th…

When Life Tells You No... Stay Ready

Setbacks are a part of life. And we will all go through those stretches when setbacks are a BIG part of life. Many people I know are in the midst of one of those stretches when the hits just keep on coming. One friend is in the midst of a frustrating job search. A student I know is trying to psych herself up to start school at her second choice college.

As a generally positive person, I find that I can cope with a moderate level of setbacks. Most people can, but it is when the level of setbacks rises, that I struggle to remain positive, hopeful and optimistic about the future. At least, that is how I've been feeling for the last two weeks.

But then I had some advice from Russell Wilson. In his commencement speech last Saturday at the University of Wisconsin, Wilson spoke of his own setbacks and gave some advice on moving beyond the frustrations of life telling you no.

The truth is, we hear no a lot throughout our entire lives. For children, it can be an hourly occurrence. For tee…

Anxious About Toads and Other Things

I never did like toads. I remember going to the local park with my family as a child and being anxious that I would see one. Or one might touch me.

My father always said, the toad is more afraid of you than you are of it. I always doubted that, but he said it all the time.

My anxiety was not exclusive to toads, however. Boys, radiators, public speaking, and crossing the street by the library were all things that I worried about throughout childhood. It was hard to do somethings, but I always found a way. Except for when toads were involved.

Last Friday, I attended a workshop about anxiety in schools. I learned what anxiety is and how we as educators can support students who struggle.

All people experience anxiety and it serves an evolutional purpose, as it helps us to perform better. Anxiety become a problem when it gets in the way of our "joyful development" into the people that we are. Take my toad example: How many fun games did I miss out on because they took place near…

Kindness is Not a Random Act

My son is a freshman in high school. For me, being a freshman was a difficult journey, but he carries the mantle more graciously than I ever did.

Being a freshman means finding your way. It's about deciding who you will be, what you will do, how you will spend your time and why you will get out of bed in the morning.

If you are lucky, you will find people to help you on your way - friends, teachers, teammates, people with similar interests. If you are really lucky, these people will not only provide companionship, but also guidance, support and encouragement.

My son is an actor and just yesterday, his troupe finished their run of Damn Yankees. The production was fantastic - the singing, the dancing, the set, the sound were all student led and all remarkable in their own way. At the final performance, the students had the opportunity to buy a carnation and attach a note for their peers. It was really great to see how many of the students chose to send good wishes to their friends…

The Value of Volunteers

I vividly remember rolling my eyes when the assistant principal announced that I would be getting a classroom volunteer. "Oh, great," I thought, "more work for me."

The volunteer in question turned out to be great. She was engaging, funny, proactive and the students loved her. I was sad when the moved on.

But my initial reaction stuck with me for a long time. Whenever the subject of parent volunteers came up, I was skeptical. What does this mean for me? Will this be worth it? What are their motives? Don't they have jobs? Super snooty, right?

Recently, I have become more enlightened on the matter, as I have been doing some volunteering myself. I know that the teachers probably roll their eyes when they see me coming, but I really don't care. I volunteer because I am grateful for the opportunity my kid has to do cool things. If I can help behind the scenes with the play by printing programs, hanging up posters, organizing other volunteers or being a cheerlead…

On Getting Accepted to Grad School.. Again

So I was accepted to graduate school. Again.

Earlier this academic year, I'd looked into some doctoral programs. The idea really excited me, but being the mom of two teenagers is an expensive proposition - especially on an educator's salary. So I figured I'd scale back. That dream can wait a little longer...

I finished my Masters' when my youngest was one. He' about to turn 15, so that was a while ago. And now I shall get another one.

Yes, I learn all day. Yes, I actively seek new knowledge from colleagues, students, parents, mentors, conferences and Twitter. I read all the time. Ask questions. Wonder. Ponder. Think. It's a good life.

But I would be lying if the schoolgirl within - who always dreamed of being a teacher and loved being a student - isn't jumping up and down today. She knows the value of being in class, of asking questions, stretching her thinking and muscling through required readings. It was for her that I decided to do this. And so, today,…

I Have Something to Say

My oldest son is on the autism spectrum. For the first several years of his life, he had no language. We communicated through signs, pictures, pointing, crying and codes. It was hard and there was a lot of guessing on my part. But as frustrating as it was for me, I am certain that it was torture for him. He had something to say - always - and no opportunity to say it.

This post, however, is not about my family's journey through the delights of autism. Whether or not we are verbal or non-verbal, we all have something to say. Sometimes our somethings are funny. Sometimes they communicate need. Often, we have something to say that lets other know what and how we are thinking. Having watched my boy struggle to say his somethings has taught me the value of voice. Whether our something is insightful, ridiculous, mundane or meaningful, we all must have the opportunity to say it.

Last night, I was at a parent meeting hosted by the school district that my younger son attends. It was very i…

Intuition or Unconscious Bias?

About 18 months ago I overheard an idea at a work event. Without going into the gory details of the comment, the idea surrounded the sustainability of the school at which I was working. I found the idea terribly uncomfortable and couldn't wrap my head around it. My intuition led me to believe that the speaker's slant or bias was coloring her comments.

Unsure of how to process this info, I consulted with some folks - our head of school, a donor, some colleagues and a few students (disguising the idea as a hypothetical situation, of course). I received a variety of different ideas and opinions, but was still fairly stuck in my own thinking. Despite what I gleaned from others, I was pretty sure this idea was a bad one.

Recently, I had a reversal in my thinking. In the process of changing my mind, I realized something important: Even though I was going through the motions of evaluating the idea, I was clinging dearly to my own opinion. Call it arrogance, stubbornness, close-minded…

Keep Your Focus on Your Growth

I had a bad week. Everything frustrated me - other people, circumstances, the weather, work and even my hair. It was bad.

I vented to a friend. He's a good friend, so I was hoping for a little sympathy and maybe an "oh, poor you."

I got neither. Turns out, sympathy was not was I needed. The problem with sympathy (in situations like these) is that it makes feeling crummy and wallowing in self pity acceptable. It validates an unwillingness to change something about how we think and operate.

Instead of coming to my pity party, my friend took off my party hat and said "the party's over." He reminded me that there are always opportunities to learn - even in bad situations. He reminded me to focus on the things that I can see and control and capitalize on those to buoy me through difficulties. The best part of the advice was this: keep your focus on your growth and everything else will fall into place.

Remaining focused on growth means I can take charge of how I …

(A Story) can change the world

"Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music,  or a book can make a difference. It can change the world." ~ Alan Rickman
Years ago I fell in love with Alan Rickman. I was in college and home for winter break and my mom forced all of her teenaged & young adult children to watch Truly, Madly, Deeply. I was hooked. A few years later, my brother and I would chronically watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves realizing it was a terrible film but relishing in Rickman's wit and talent. He went on to play Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility - my favorite of Jane Austen's impressive body of work. And while I was a fan long before Alan Rickman became Professor Snape, his role as Snape appealed to my inner nerdy teacher. Professor Snape was demanding and exacting, but he really knew his stuff.

I love what Alan Rickman had to say about the power of storytelling to create change. Looking back at his body of work, both the sublime and the ridiculou…

The Process is the Goal

Only recently have my sons allowed me to take them to the barbershop. "It is a manly place, mom," they would say. "You won't like it."

The truth is, I love going to the barbershop with them. Even though I don't smoke cigars or ride a motorcycle, I enjoy reading magazines about them. I am prone to ask questions of the barbers themselves and I suspect THIS is the reason why my sons had previously banned me from the barbershop. Everything there is so foreign to me, so I seek to understand and create meaning.

On a recent visit right before Christmas, I was asking the barber about his holiday plans. He told me about a fishing trip he'd planned to take after the new year. He planned to fly to Florida and fish for 2 weeks.

"Do you try to catch anything in particular?," I asked.

"Nope."

"Do you eat what you catch?"

"I throw it back. To me, fishing is more about the process and less about the end result," he said.

Over the…