Category Archives: education

Supporting teachers, emotional labor, critical project-based learning (Winter updates)

Warming up.

I am relieved January is behind us. It is deep deep winter here in Vermont. Very little light. But there is a quiet beauty, even if your fingers and toes sting with the cold. Like the woods behind my house. Always quiet, beautiful, waiting for a visit. They stand guard and connect me to a world beyond impeachment, caucus meltdowns, and other human issues.

Since Why Great Teachers Quit and How We Might Stop the Exodus was published in 2010 I have been pondering, how would I write about that now? What would I add? I wrote a recent post for Edutopia with some new thinking about the hugely important issue of supporting teachers for a long and happy career in the field of education. It is crystal clear to me that we must work to increase the humanity we extend to teachers and students in schools, and create what Carla Shalaby calls in Troublemakers:

โ€œResurrect our imagination for schooling as a deeply human, wildly revolutionary site of possibility.

Here are 7 ways to make teaching a sustainable profession, and these ideas are not revolutionary.. but they are ways to build the kind of learning environments we know support the growth and emotional health of teachers and students. I would also add the importance of building supportive teacher networks and communities, online and off as essential to this work.

Another piece that is often overlooked and undervalued is the emotional labor teachers put forth each day. I wrote about that over here at the TIIE blog. This one is personal for sure. I hope that we can validate and make visible the care and effort teachers give students each day.

Lastly, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we tend to focus on what is wrong before we focus on what is right. How can we bring a strength-based lens to project-based learning work so students can learn deeply about the values of their communities? By intentionally planning it.

One of the beauties we found on the dirt road outside our house. Can’t wait!

And the salamanders will be coming…. soon! I’m excited to head to a few schools this spring to share about the great salamander migration and Salamander Sky and how to write for change.

Thanks for reading!

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) isnโ€™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 in 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!