Category Archives: education

Fall updates

There is nothing like Vermont fall leaves and dirt roads.

Summer is feeling long gone. I have finally given up sandals, and am wearing socks and shoes and brought the sweaters up from the basement. Like many, I am wistful for summer, but also embracing all things fall (crisp apples, soup, colorful leaves).

This summer I had the chance to go on one of my favorite shows, Vermont Edition on VPR, and be interviewed by the incredible Jane Lindholm about personalized learning in Vermont. I love this show for many reasons, including the opportunity to hear a lively and in-depth dialogue about many issues impacting us in Vermont and beyond. I hoped to represent the work of incredible Vermont educators and my co-authors (Penny Bishop and John Downes) well, and describe the importance and opportunity of personalized learning as we envision it in our book, Personalized Learning in the Middle Grades, as a tool for students to be known, heard, understood for their full selves, and given opportunities for personally meaningful, significant, and relevant work.

If you missed it, here is the link to the show.

M&Ms for all!

(AND, at VPR there is both a M&M dispenser and Kombucha on tap.)

This summer I also had a chance to revisit my earlier book, Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus, in preparation for a presentation to principals. I was thinking a lot about this false binary we seem to focus on, as if they are at opposite ends of a spectrum:

What is best for teachers. What is best for students.

Often, these are the same, because the lives of students and teachers are so interconnected and relational.

A false binary: Why do we assume that what is best for students (voice, choice, self-direction, creativity, movement, active learning, personal relationships) isn’t best for teachers too, especially when concerning their professional learning + school lives?

I will be creating an article or resource to share about this follow up to Why Great Teachers Quit, focused on increasing the humanity school leaders offer teachers in their buildings and school systems.

I’m connecting themes and ideas about how can we best support teachers as human beings and their needs for belongingness, safety, purpose, and care, especially those who have not felt these things in our systems as they currently are.

And over at the Tarrant Institute of Innovative Education, we’ve been busy helping teachers launch the school year centered on students and their identities. Many teachers start the day with morning meetings. This new post shares what structures can support meaningful conversations, student leadership, and build relationships.

Schools we work with are also transitioning in many cases to student led conferences. This shift can be hard, but full of opportunity. This post looks at some of the critiques and talking points surrounding this shift.

Happy fall!

Personalized Learning for the Middle Grades is here!

It has been such an honor to be able to travel to different Vermont schools to support innovation, personalization, and deep, engaging learning in my job as a professional development coordinator with the Tarrant Institute of Innovative Education at the University of Vermont. Truly, partnering with teachers in the work they want to do and know helps their students find meaning and purpose is an incredible privilege. And teachers and students are revolutionizing education from the inside out: doing work that matters to their communities and is valued. Students are showing us what they need and who they are through their personalized learning plans, choices, and leadership.

I am fortunate to be a co-author (with the amazing Penny Bishop and John Downes) to bring these stories, research, examples, and resources about how Vermont teachers and students are making learning personal and meaningful. We hope it shows what is possible in the journey toward engaging all of our students in deeper, relevant, purposeful learning. Our book is called Personalization in the Middle Grades: a guide for educators and school leaders, and it was released on May 6th by Harvard Ed Press. Hope you find it helpful!

Support for Raising Teens

This post is sponsored by the Center for Parent and Teen Communication.  All opinions (and memories!) are my own.

She has come so far. When you slow down to think about it, this is nothing short of amazing.

Then….

I’ll never forget the day my daughter made her first attempt to communicate using sign language. We had been teaching a few basic signs for the words more, light, eat, drink, and sleep. Those concepts that help parents communicate with babies and toddlers before they can use words and can prevent tantrums and frustration. We really needed that. I was holding her on my hip in her bedroom after a bath. I had flipped on the light to change her diaper and she looked up, her slate blue eyes seeing the shiny overhead light as if for the very first time. She took her tiny fingers, put them in a ball, and then opened them, looking up, and pointing with the other hand. She was making the sign for light. “Yes!” I said, “Light!” Her face lit up (oh yes, I meant that pun!) in understanding. She was glowing, exuberant, satisfied.

We understood each other.

Now…

As I watch her sprint toward the finish line at a cross country race, I see all at once this same determination, spirit, and courage. She juggles homework, her love of reading for hours on end, practices, and time with her sister on a daily basis, while remaining curious, open and kind. How incredible is it that these people we helped learned the basics of communication and how the world works can do all of these things at once now? Continue reading