What Parents Want

It’s hard to believe that Curriculum Night was a month ago already; I have just now had the time to reflect on the goals that parents want for their children from my course this year. What I discovered when asking my students’ parents their goals for their children for my course is that the parents’ goals were similar to my own. They want their children to read more, to become better reads, to read the Classics, and to learn to LOVE to read. I could not agree more! Their goals for their children are my goals too!  Here are their responses:IMG_5004


Obsessed with Author Wally Lamb

This summer I unintentionally ended up on a Wally Lamb kick. I discovered his first novel, “She’s Come Undone” on a friend’s bookshelf, asked to borrow the book for my trip to the lake, and subsequently, could not put it down! Lamb’s writing was like chocolate – tempting, rich, and addictive! His ideas were thought-provoking, his style engaging. He made me think – over and over again. After I finished his first book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on his second, “I Know This Much Is True,” which I had remembered wanting to read years ago as an Oprah’s book club selection. Just like the first novel, the second did not disappoint. In it, the protagonist must come to terms with his identical twin brother’s bout with schizophrenia. His third novel, “The Hour I First Believed” I had actually remembered reading years ago, about one teacher’s near death experience hiding in her classroom closet during the Columbine massacre. Finally, I just finished his fifth novel, “We are Water,” which recounts Annie Oh and her family’s perspective on her 27 year marriage, and pending nuptials to a woman. In his fifth novel, Lamb’s characters are so believable, so vulnerable, facing real life issues, and his stream-of-consciousness style makes him one of the best author’s I have ever read. I am still yearning for more, and hope to get my hands on his fourth novel, “Wishin’ and Hopin.’”


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: