Monday, August 20, 2018

Let's Change the Rules {Hardest Year Yet}

Image result for school rulesLast school year was my hardest school year yet.  Though I had great classes, and was able to enjoy teaching some wonderful students, events outside of the classroom were challenging.  School shootings as a weekly event, student deaths at our high school, immigration raids on our students' neighborhoods, and a rising normalization of intolerance in our public sphere - it all left me feeling empty.  So, this summer was an important time for me - a reprieve, a chance to recharge myself, and lean into my hopes. I was looking forward to it.


But it is also a fact that every Summer I love reworking my class syllabus, and trying out new, creative ways to teach.  Some things work, and some things don't - and that's okay, because it is what helps me grow as a teacher.  But after last year, I felt the need to rethink my classroom environment.  You see, one of the greatest gifts of being a teacher is our unique ability to build a culture in our classroom - even if it is only for an hour a day.  It is just amazing to build a tiny world where expectations and norms can appeal to the best versions of ourselves.

So, in an effort to answer the question, "What can I do to make my classroom even more of a welcoming, tolerant, and positive environment?"  Though there are many ways that I can work to achieve this, a good start is always with the rules... 

So that is where I started.  I changed the rules (sometimes its really cool to be a teacher!).  This year, we are starting anew (though we kept some of the oldies, ie: Don't hit people).  And it looks like this:


In this Classroom Community – We will always try to do these things (aka, The Rules):

1.     SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND.
2. BE FRIENDLY, AND WHEN IN DOUBT, BE KIND.
3. BE YOURSELF, AND LET YOUR FREAK FLAG FLY.
4. TELL THE TRUTH, AND PLAY FAIR.
5. BE CURIOUS.
6. ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS, AND ASK FOR HELP.
7. DO NOT HIT PEOPLE.
8. DO NOT USE YOUR DEVICE/PHONE UNLESS INSTRUCTED. 

So here's to a new school year, and hope that springs eternal.  I can't wait to get started.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Chicago {Round 2}

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
-  Anita Desai

We spent the long weekend in Chicago (by way of Louisville, Cincinnati, and Knoxville).  Though I've said it many times before, traveling gives us new eyes - and these students have experienced much. 

From dinosaur fossils, and the man eating lions of Tsavo, to the enormity of the Willis Tower, to the Institute of Art (where they saw the works of Picasso, Monet, Caravaggio, Warhol, and Pollock), to the Blue Man Group performance, to an architectural tour of Chicago by boat, and (of course) a Chicago Fire soccer match - these students will hopefully have their eyes open a bit wider from henceforth.

I love to learn new things.  I love to teach.  I love to travel.  And I love these kids.

I hope they learned as much as I did.






Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Support Public Schools.

I love being a teacher.  I love my students, my school, my colleagues, and history.  And I most love being a parent to my two children - each of whom have incredible teachers. 

In North Carolina, we currently invest 9.4% LESS than we did ten years ago in school funding (adjusted for inflation).  We are the tenth largest state in the US, yet currently rank 37th in school funding.

This is not okay.

This is why a 42 NC public school systems, including mine, shut down today.  We can do better than this in NC.  We MUST do better than this.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Our Students Deserve Better.

Image result for duck and coverMy students were scared to be at school yesterday.  One student politely asked me to keep our door closed while in class.  Another asked to be escorted to the bathroom.  Over a third of my student simply sis not come to school.  It was a surreal day, and was also ridiculous.  My kids should not be afraid to attend a public school.  We can do so much better.
I have been a public school teacher for 18 years.  This is the first time I have witnessed this level of anxiety from my students, concerning the security of our school.  Many elected officials are claiming that we should give people like me a firearm (and training) to better secure our students.  I do not want to carry a gun to my job, and in no way do I believe that this is a reasonable solution to school safety.

On the contrary, I believe that arming teachers is our government giving up, and admitting that it does not have the ability to solve this problem of school safety. What I want to see happen is for our government officials to fund our public schools adequately.

How can make our students feel safe?
1.  Hire more school counselors
2.  Hire more school psychologists.
3.  Hire more armed law enforcement officers.
4.  Invest in better school security.
5.  Hire more school nurses.
6.  Improve access to healthcare, and provide mental health equity.

This is a start.  Students should not have to be afraid to learn.  They deserve better.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Moving Forward {with Mr. Cavnar}

Image result for bobbie cavnarThis past summer, I was fortunate enough to travel to Germany with a group of amazing teachers.  Bobby Cavnar, the 2017 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, and the recent recipient of NEA's highest national teacher award was one of them, and we became buddies.  I respect him, and know that he is a great teacher who thinks deeply about the issues that are impacting public education here in NC. 


This week, in the wake of another deadly school shooting - Bobbie wrote a great piece about how we can move forward in NC.  I highly recommend it.

Read it here.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Choose NBHS {I did}

AP Information Booth, 8th Grade Open House
One of the primary changes in NC public education over the last several years is the rise of charter, STEM, and private schools actively recruiting talented students out of traditional public high schools.  Here at NBHS, we have certainly noticed the trend, and have quietly witnessed other schools attempt to sell their programs.

Whereas many of these nontraditional schools have much to offer our students, NBHS remains an amazing high school.  And we do not believe that great students will continue to simply walk in our doors without careful consideration.  Everyone now has a choice.

AP trip to the Civil Rights Memorial Museum, Montgomery, AL
To that end, we have decided to build a PR campaign to educate the families of Buncombe County on exactly what our school offers.  For my part specifically, that involves our Advanced Placement program.  We have developed a website specifically for our AP program, complete with information about all of our (now 16!) AP courses.  In addition, we opened an information booth at our 8th grade open house for families to ask questions and learn about our top notch programs.  This is just the beginning, but I hope that it helps paint a more complete picture of what NBHS has to offer.

We are the only school in Western North Carolina that offers 16 face to face AP classes, coupled with three AP history field trips (these trips include educational tours of NYC, Chicago, Philadelphia, and DC).  Extensions of our AP program include our Robotics team, Science Olympiad, Mock Trial team (law), and our competitive Mathematics team.

I have taught at NBHS for 18 years, and am so proud of our school.  I believe in our teachers and students, and have witnessed firsthand the positive impacts that this institution can have on a child's life.  I choose NBHS.  I think you should too.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Visit to Dachau {Vlog}

Travelling to Germany this past summer with Go Global NC was truly an amazing experience.

As I am teaching about the Nazi era of German history (in my American History II course) for the first time since my return, it is cause for reflection.
One of the greatest gifts from the trip was that each of us (teachers) were required to either, A. write a reflective blog post for a certain day, or B. record a video blog entry (Vlog).

Being an avid blogger (written), I decided to try my hand at a Vlog.  Luckily, I recorded my Vlog immediately after visiting the Nazi Concentration Camp of Dachau.  It was the most emotional experience I had while in Germany, and I am pleased that I was able to reflect on it for posterity.

Per their website, "On March 22, 1933, a few weeks after Adolf Hitler had been appointed Reich Chancellor, a concentration camp for political prisoners was set up in Dachau. This camp served as a model for all later concentration camps and as a "school of violence" for the SS men under whose command it stood. In the twelve years of its existence over 200.000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned here and in the numerous subsidiary camps. 41,500 were murdered. 

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