Past Tense / Future Tense

On Thursday morning, I climbed aboard an old yellow school bus packed full of my junior concurrent enrollment students for a slow, bumpy ride to downtown Boise. There was a buzz of excitement during the drive, albeit mostly about being out of class for the day or the free all-you-can-eat lunch, but excitement none the less.

As we pulled on to University Drive and the campus came into view, I found myself filled with happy memories and that wishful feeling of wanting to come back and do it all over again. While I didn’t have a traditional college experience (living in the dorms, involvement in campus life), I loved going to class and learning new things. I liked reading through stacks of anthologies and taking part in class discussions. The experiences I had in college sharpened my vision and helped me think through what I cared about and why it mattered.

“Do you miss college?” they ask. I do.

On our campus tour, we tour the new honors college and learn about the coursework and special programs. We visit the library, exploring with the research librarians and playing in the maker space. We walk through buildings and peer in to the life of college students.

As we do,  the conversations begin to shift. What colleges are they considering applying to in the fall? What majors sound interesting? What might they do with those majors? Should they apply for honors college? Play intermural sports? Join a sorority?

Perhaps the thing I love the most about being back here is the feeling of possibility. There’s a hopeful spirit underlying the work that is done on campus each day about what could happen tomorrow, who we might become, and how we could shape the world around us.

I feel lucky to be able to walk alongside my students in these moments as they begin to consider the future. I can’t wait to see who they turn out to be.

Students at the B



My Existential Teaching Crisis: Or, What’s a Girl to Do?

For the last month or so, I have been caught up in an existential teaching crisis. The school in which I work has an innovative spirit, which means that we are often the first to try new things, whether that’s piloting a new bell schedule or going 1:1 with devices. These changes are almost always framed by healthy discussions in our building and we come to consensus on decisions. I feel ready for what’s ahead because I’ve had a chance to take part in the process and feel like I know what to expect.

This time, the changes that are coming feel almost covert. The transparency that I have come to expect over the last 6 years is missing. I don’t feel like I’ve had a chance to hear the rationale for why this is happening, and I am left with many more questions than answers. I have found myself frustrated and angry, but most of all, I am unsure. Can I get behind this change? And if not, then what?

Thanks to the advice of my BSWP thinking partners, I’ve decided to shift my teacher inquiry focus to explore what is at the heart of this crisis:

I commit to making my classroom a place for community. I believe that learning is a social activity. We need each other to collaborate, to think more deeply, to defend our ideas, to challenge our assumptions, and to learn from each other’s expertise.

I am concerned that using the Summit platform will get in the way of these collaborative relationships.

I commit to making instructional choices that respond to who my students are and what they need. We spent days looking over a range of student data prior to our ELA curriculum adoption in 2016. I believe that whenever possible, texts and topics should be tailored to my students and that they should be allowed voice and choice.

 I am concerned that the curriculum pre-loaded in to the Summit platform does not suit the needs of students in our district.

I commit to engaging in productive collaboration with my peers and teaching community. I want to freely share things that are effective, to learn from others, and to study results together so that we can improve as a whole.

I am concerned that the team structure used for Summit will limit the opportunities I have to collaborate in my content area within my building, the district and beyond.

I hope that by examining these commitments and concerns, I can come to a decision that I can live with.

An Attitude of Gratitude

In spirit of Thanksgiving, my BSWP co-host Gregory and I asked our cohort to reflect on what they were thankful for and how they might embrace an attitude of gratitude in their professional lives this year.

This question came at a very helpful time for me as I find myself struggling to process the conflict between my core teaching beliefs and the vision for what is to come in our district. These feelings are messy and uncomfortable, and I worry that I will not like the outcome.

While it’s important to continue thinking about this existential crisis, I don’t want to loose sight of what brings me joy in my professional life.

My classroom is a warm, comfortable space that feels unlike many other spaces in our building. I love walking in to the room each morning, pushing back the polka-dot curtains, and catching a glimpse of the sunrise. I love the sound of the rain pattering on the roof. I love the way students gather to collaborate or spread out on the floor to get in the zone. I am thankful for all of the help I’ve had from family, friends, and strangers to make this space a reality.

Books are a gift. I appreciate that I have the resources to maintain a large class library. My favorite moments in a day are when students come in to talk with me about what they are reading or suggest a title they think I would like. I am thankful for opportunities to connect with others through a shared love of stories.

My colleagues bring so much laughter and reassurance to my day. I deeply treasure the sense of comradery I have within my department, building, and extended teacher communities. I love that we share stories and ideas and push each other’s thinking further. I love that we care about each other as people, too. I am thankful for all of the people who have helped to shape who I am as a teacher and a learner.

The relationships I have with my students make the difficult days worthwhile. I am honored when students open up and share stories about their lives. I look for opportunities recognize and celebrate their strengths. Over the last 5 years, I have met countless incredible individuals, and I am thankful for the opportunity to learn with and from them.