Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In The Classroom

I’m not in the classroom this year. An American can’t just show up and teach in Canada: you need a work permit. You can’t get a work permit until you submit your permanent residence application. You can’t submit your permanent residence application until you get your official marriage certificate. Which doesn’t show up until a month after a wedding. But I digress…

There have been times I’ve really missed being in the classroom this year. It was weird to watch all my old friends post about going back to school in mid-August. Hearing from old students - now juniors - made me miss getting to talk to kids. Getting to show up to my old school’s fall play - I was in town for 30 hours and the schedules fit JUST RIGHT - and getting to see kids I knew and loved do amazing things, and getting to talk to them? That made me miss it.

Nothing like today though.

I turned 37 yesterday. All in all, it was a pretty cruddy birthday. But at some point last night, after I heard that Ron Johnson beat Russ Feingold in my old home state and that Trump was going to win Wisconsin and the presidency, I wanted to be able to be in a classroom today. My classroom. With my kids.

To listen. To hear. To make sure kids felt heard. Loved. That despite what was said publicly about them - immigrants, Muslim, female, LGBT, Latino, … - that kids could feel safe. Today was the day that I missed that.

Teachers I talked to today weren’t sure they were ready, but put on a brave face. They were there for their students, whether they felt ready internally or not.

Today, more than any other day this fall, I wished I had that opportunity.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pivoting on This Week's #caedchat Topic

I really can’t say, I guess I laugh to keep from cryin
So much goin on, people killin people dyin
But I won’t dwell on that, I think I’ll elevate my mental
Q-Tip on Steve Biko from Midnight Marauders, released November 1993

For me, there’s A Tribe Called Quest, then everyone else. There isn’t a conversation about my favorite rap group. It’s them. There isn’t a close second.

As a white male who was fourteen and living in Wisconsin when Midnight Marauders came out, there is a lot I can’t understand about what it was like to be a young black man in New York City in the early 1990s. I can only listen. And appreciate.

I certainly don’t begrudge Q-Tip his choice to elevate his mental and focus on his music and positive things going on around him.


I am hosting #caedchat this week. A long time ago - January? Late 2015? - I came across a really interesting article on the importance of open networks for success in life and work. It’s good. Thought provoking. The questions are ready to go - I wrote them already. It’d be a good conversation. We’ll have it. At some point. Not this week.


Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.


Earlier this week, we lost a great humanitarian in Elie Wiesel. As I was going through my timeline late last night, I came across a quote of his that someone (sorry, I don’t remember who) tweeted in the aftermath of the second videotaped shooting of a black man by police officers in as many days: "We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

And as I read that quote, I knew that we can’t talk about open networks on #caedchat this week. As my mind churned, my thoughts turned to Q-Tip’s verse. It was written in a completely different context - a young black man in New York City in the 1990s can be completely right to choose focus on the positive. This week though I can’t ‘not dwell on that and elevate my mental.’

Educators - disproportionately white - often choose not to dwell on the negative, including (and importantly) the systematic oppression that impacts so many of our students. We choose to elevate our mind by focusing on the happy things. And while there is a time and a place for that, at some point that neutrality has to end. For all our students’ sake.

I don’t know what we’re talking about on #caedchat this week. But it won’t be open networks.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Student Designed Units

Brief digression: I haven’t blogged in months. Since July actually. As one who talks about the importance of blogging as a reflective tool, that smacks a bit of hypocrisy.

There are several reasons why. One, I’m in kind of a weird transition year, firmly planted in the now but looking forward as well. Two, I just haven’t felt like what I’m doing with my kids is that amazing, and it isn’t something I haven’t written about before. It just seems like it isn’t anything amazing.

Tuesday night, the moderators of #caedchat had a hangout to talk about year 4 of #caedchat. We talked about blogging briefly, and I mentioned my blogging hiatus. My buddy David said that he enjoyed when I blogged about what we did in the classroom. Thanks for the nudge, David.


History teachers live in a blessed time right now - THERE ARE NO CONTENT STANDARDS. We can literally teach whatever we want! (Untrue if you teach an AP class, but you most likely signed up for that deal with the devil…)

As I was planning my second semester, I realized that there was some content that was going to be new, and some I should cover a bit of - yeah, the Cold War probably merits mentioning in a two year world history class...

Anyways, I saw this hole at the end of the year - about a four to five week chunk of time that could be filled with literally anything that I could justify teaching in a history class. Why not get my students - who are now in their second year with me - to figure out what THEY wanted to do in our last unit of our two years together?

And thus was born this and this. Kids got about 75 minutes to work through this process. After that, they will look through the other unit proposals from their period and choose the two they are most interested in. I’ll combine these choices across classes and students will then get to vote on the peer-created unit they are most excited about and that’s what we’ll cover in April and May.

Want a student-centered classroom? Why not use ‘I’ve got no content standards’ to your advantage and let students choose what to study?

I’m excited to see how this goes!