Re-thinking Intruder Drills



While I would hope to never have to defend my students against an armed intruder, our school’s crisis management training led by Sandy Springs officers yesterday has left me feeling better prepared than ever if I were to encounter an emergency situation. Statistics inform us that we need to be better prepared for these situations. I was shocked to learn that while NO student deaths have occurred in schools due to fire since 1990 (namely because of the frequency with which we drill our students), that we have lost 342 students to armed assault in schools since then. The discrepancy is clear to me: we need to improve our education of not only our faculty but also our students in these types of situations. Here is what I took away from our training: unlike the old model where we would have students sit quietly and “hide” from intruders (and thus where they were “sitting ducks,” the perfect target for an armed intruder), now we are going to train students to block an intruder from entering the classroom with all resources at their disposal (desks, chairs, etc), to be aware of all possible exit routes (like windows in the classroom), to use objects to defend themselves (like chairs, books, computers, staplers etc.) and to both fight back and think on their feet. I also learned that tourniquets save more lives than CPR (Mount Vernon is investing in these life-saving devices), and that they are worth investing in to have on hand in case of an emergency. While I hope I am never in the situation where this occurs, I feel more prepared this year than ever before!

Re-thinking Homework

Today I attended a session led by our new Head of Middle School, Dr. Angél Kytle, based on her insights from the book, Hacking Homework. In our session, these were my main takeaways with regards to the new school year and the way that I both assign and assess homework:

  • Start with WHY (why are we assigning homework?)
  • Instead of Homework, try whetting the students’ appetite beforehand!
  • Teach students to design their own homework
  • Enrich student grown with only purposeful assignments

As both a parent and a teacher, I appreciate Dr. Kytle starting this conversation in order to get the entire middle school re-imagining what homework might look like this year!


A Student’s Honest Year-End Reflection

IMG_4325 (1)This was sitting on my desk this week, on our second to last day of school. I knew who the student was who wrote it, and had to share it because its content speaks volumes. So many times part of my job as a teacher is more than just preparing lessons and grading papers. This job is one where expectations are high, where opportunities for building character are plentiful, and where independence and inspiration are fostered. This student ended up getting an A on my final exam (his goal), despite being just a mediocre student all year. I knew he had it in him all along, and only pray that he takes what he learned this year and applies it in the future, as I wish for all of my students. What an honest reflection, and celebratory note on which to end the school year!

The Glass Menagerie

I love seeing students bring our works of literature to life. Here are a few photos of students acting out scenes from Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie last month.

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Here are some samples of their character collages for Amanda, Tom, Laura, and Jim, the four main characters from the play:


Interim Week – 4th year to D.C.

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Mr. Hanson asked that all of our students reflect on our interim trip to Washington D.C. earlier this month. I decided to reflect as well. Here are my thoughts from my 4th trip to D.C. with the 8th grade class:

  1. What was the most meaningful thing you encountered on your trip?
As always, I enjoyed going to The Holocaust Museum. 
  1. Which historical site you visited left you most appreciative to be an American?
The US capitol always makes me most appreciative to be an American, especially to reflect on the decisions that our forefathers had to make so many years ago to grant us the opportunity to be such a strong nation. The White House and National Cathedral are close seconds.
  1. What was the most surprising moment of interim week? Why?
The weather! The cherry blossoms were about to bloom due to the unseasonably warmer temperatures!
  1. If you could have spent more time at a particular site, which would it have been? Why?
Mount Vernon – I could have spent more time on the grounds and in the museums. There was so much to take in! Also, the American History Museum – never enough time there!
  1. What was the first thing you told your parents about the trip upon returning home?
Getting drenched on our walk from Union Station to The Capitol.
  1. On which part of the trip did you find the experience most educational? What did you learn?
Our visit to Mount Vernon – I had not been there since I was a child, and I learned so much about George Washington!
  1. What story from your trip might you share with your children and/or grandchildren one day?
  2. If you could have lunch with any of the historical figures about which you learned, who would you choose? What would you ask them during lunch?
I would choose George Washington. I would like to know what motivated him, and how he was able to have such crystal clear vision for our country’s future. 
  1. If you gave your Interim Week trip experience a title, like a book or movie, what would it be?

    Sopping wet in our Nation’s Capital!

10. If you could give advice to next year’s students, about to take the trip, what would you tell them?
Don’t forget your umbrella!

Bringing Shakespeare to Life

Frequently when I am asked what I do for a living, the response of others tends to be looks of pity when I reveal my daily interactions with teens. However, I feel so fortunate to work at a school where kids are not bound to desks all day. In fact, as teachers, we are encouraged to get students up and on their feet, learning by performing. For example, our school’s educational initiative this year involved Project-Based Learning. What a better chance to demonstrate student learning than with performances of Romeo and Juliet? As I observed each class over the past two days as they prepared and rehearsed their chosen scenes to perform, this is what I noticed: students turned outdoor classroom space into theatrical stages; foam swords helped turned teenagers into Renaissance villains; technology like iphones, headphones, go-pros, and drones helped to enhance videos that Spielberg would admire; best of all, however, might have been the expressions on students faces. Have you ever seen kids so excited about learning Shakespeare before? This is why I love teaching teenagers!