being a teacher, new teacher

And Then You Say We Failed…

Go on any social media platform and inevitably you see the discussions cropping up about how the teaching during the shutdown was not enough. How educators failed their students. How kids are now so far behind. How removing grades meant that kids didn’t learn anything. How we must open schools up for face-to-face instruction for all or else our nation will fall even further behind, or else our children will suffer. How dare schools want to teach online? How dare educators try to put their own health into the equation, after all, we knew what we signed up for when we became teachers?

I had hoped that the conversations online wouldn’t be so predictable. After all it was not too long ago that educators were held up as heroes, as people who were part of the solution. And yet I knew that within the adoration would soon come the backlash. The predictability of how we had failed, how we were not enough, that we better get back to to work or leave the profession. It happens every time educators are held up as heroes.

I get the panic driving many of these conversation. I have four children of my own whose school district has just declared that they will be virtual for at least the first quarter. We don’t know how we will make that work. We don’t know how we will pay for childcare, who will be with our children as we both work full-time as teachers. How will our children’s education be changed because of the online format? How will the social components work? How will services and needs be met for my two kids with IEP’s? We have a lot of questions, but we also have a lot of faith, because we saw how their entire school rose up to the challenge the spring presented to us all. We saw the work that happened under incredible stress.

And so, I just want us to take a moment to remember what did happen during the shutdown in many places. How educators and school districts rose to the challenge and will continue to do so as we face an uncertain future. How almost none of us were ever trained to teach online, I don’t know many educators that were, we still rose to the challenge.

Because we educators tried. We did our very best when the world shut down around us. We lost sleep both literally and figuratively as we worried about the students we would no longer see, how we would translate what we had built face-to-face, how our students would still be able to learn at home facing unknown situations, some navigating life or death situations and we were no longer there to help.

I wanted to make it work for every child, for every child to feel that I was right there with them supporting them through all of this new unknown while myself grappling with a really scary time: a major family emergency and also being presumed positive for COVID-19. This is while we lost more than half of our income, much like many other families. And yet, I showed up with a smile every day because that is what we do as educators.

We took what we were supposed to be teaching live and tried to transform it to digital teaching, knowing that we had to cut back on our curriculum because it would be overwhelming otherwise. Many of us were told to not do synchronous teaching because it would be inequitable for kids. We were told to make it all accessible, to go deep but make it short, to not assign too much because the kids were barely managing it all.

We recorded videos for read aloud, lessons, check-ins and anything else we could think of to help kids understand and stay connected with us.

We created different paths for kids to choose their learning so they still had choice and voice in their education. This meant finding extra resources, creating extra resources, and then scaffolding kids through with extra resources. That takes time, time that we put in in order to somehow make this unfamiliar territory more familiar and inviting.

We set up opportunities for live question and answer situations whenever we could. We invited students to show and tell, to record videos, to do kahoots, and any other games and events just to give them a space to connect with one another in a way that had nothing to do with academics.

We mailed letters and sent postcards with encouraging notes, funny stickers, and quick hello’s just so kids knew we were there thinking of them.

We met one-on-one with students whenever they needed us at all hours of the day. My husband would have to remind me to turn my computer off every night at 10 PM, urging me to let it wait until morning. It was hard because I knew that some kids would be up late at night sending emails, I didn’t want them to feel alone.

We found time to sit in professional development to learn new digital tools in order to increase understanding and engagement. Then made time to implement it into our teaching on the fly whenever we could.

We continued meeting with colleagues to discuss needs of students and figure out crisis plans for the many kids whose mental health spiraled. We tried to think of new ways to reach kids who weren’t answering our phone calls, our texts, our emails, we tried to get them reconnected with their learning until the very last day. We continue to reach out over summer vacation.

We continued to communicate with all adults supporting their kids so that they felt included but also not overwhelmed, navigating a tight balancing act where the adults at home both needed information but also didn’t need all the information at the same time.

We continued to recreate resources that were locked in our classrooms without the necessary tools needed (even things like tape, posters, whiteboards, printer ink and such were things we had to find or pay for).

We coordinated and sent supplies to students so they could participate on as equal footing as we could create. We dropped off books on porches, brought food to those with no transportation, got internet to those whose applications were denied.

We purchased better internet plans or other tools for ourselves so that we could do our jobs, knowing that it was one more expense we would not be reimbursed for. We sat in parking lots when the wifi went down or when we needed to record videos and home didn’t have anywhere quiet. We searched for solutions to make it work whenever a new problem inevitably arose.

Many worked 12 hour+ days while trying to navigate online school with our own children as well. I had to place all of the needs of my students in front of my kids because that’s my job, and my job is our only income. I know many others in the same situation, whose own children were set aside because of the demands of work and not just within education.

We fought for the kids to not be unduly assessed on situations that were outside of their control. It’s easy to say that removing grades means kids were not motivated when your child has few obstacles to access their learning.

We tried to reach every child and provide the tools they needed to continue their growth.

We adapted, innovated, created, collaborated, grew, and rose up to meet the challenge that we were given little time or funding to prepare for. And we did it. And we will continue to do it, no matter what the fall brings. We will spend our summer preparing for a fall that many of us still don’t know what looks like. We will show up for trainings. We will create resources and lessons. We will collaborate. We will plan. We will dream. Not because we are getting paid to do so, because most of us aren’t, but because we care deeply about the education of our future students even if they cannot be with us face-to-face.

I know it will be better, after all, we now have more experience, we have had some time to think, to gather feedback and to learn. We have had more training and hopefully have more access to tools, to ideas, to resources.

So to say that we failed, or that we didn’t do enough, once again diminishes the extraordinary work that many educators and school staff put into a situation that none of us could ever have predicted. Was it perfect? No. Did everyone do all of these things? No. But did many go above and beyond because it is what we do? Yes.

I know that the fall will bring more challenges. I know that even as I plan for either a hybrid model or full online teaching experience that I have a lot of things to work out, a lot of obstacles to navigate. And yet, I saw what my own kids’ teachers did in the spring, how their school rose up as a community, and we will, forever, be grateful. So thank you to all who rose up, who tried, who continue to do the work, despite being in a nation that prefers to defund schools and blame staff rather than work on solutions.

So if we want to talk about failure, let’s discuss how a school system founded on inequity and systemic racism continues to push out children every year. Let’s discuss how schools are funded. Let’s discuss how in the US our population poverty is so large that many families depend on schools to feed their children. That in one of the richest nations of the world we have schools with unsafe water, with crumbling buildings, with unfilled positions because there is no money to hire staff. That the cost of living is so high that many people cannot afford childcare. Let’s discuss how education as a profession is disparaged rather than supported. How the voices of stakeholders are easily dismissed whenever procedural decisions are made, whenever federal changes are implemented. How our federal government failed to act in many ways to contain the spread of this virus. Let’s discuss that before we proclaim the crisis teaching that did happen as a failure. Perhaps then we can actually see some changes that we all could get behind.

books, Literacy, new year, Reading

Book Shopping and Handling Books in Our Classrooms During Covid-19 – A Few Ideas

If there is one thing that is considered the cornerstone tool of what I do with students it is the sharing of the books that we read throughout the year. Our classroom and school library collection is vast, it is varied, it is inclusive, and it is always a work in progress. For many years the books that we read are what brings us together, what centers all of the work we do within our reading identity and the time we spend on independent reading is what students tell me year after year makes the biggest difference in their own reading lives. I spend a lot of time watching kids and how they handle their books; do they dive right in, eagerly open up the book when it is time to read? Do they hesitate? Do they ignore my request to find a book altogether? Do they avoid touching books at all costs? How a child handles a book will often give us great insight into how they feel about reading. That is something that e-books and audio, while both amazing, simply doesn’t provide us in the same way.

We know that COVID-19 is cruel in many facets. We know more about the potentiality of spread and the risk of exposure due to the diligent research happening globally. What we know today may be further refined tomorrow and so this post is not meant as a guidelines post, but rather as an idea post, ultimately, whatever guidelines we are handed from districts or other governing policies trump any ideas. There are ways to still have kids book shop and browse books, there are ideas we can implement to keep them safe. We know that COVID-19 lands on surfaces including paper but the CDC has told us, “Children’s books, like other paper-based materials such as mail or envelopes, are not considered a high risk for transmission and do not need additional cleaning or disinfection procedures.” (CDC, Apr 21, 2020). However, a new study says that some print materials such as board books need at least 96 hours of quarantine.

I am not as worried about kids getting exposure by touching a book briefly and then another child touching it, at least not if I read what the CDC has to say about it: There is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and how it spreads. Coronaviruses are thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, it is unlikely to be spread from domestic or international mail, products or packaging. However, it may be possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads...but more about the social proximity that tends to come when we book shop and such which can lend to increased exposure. While all people in our school are required to wear a mask if/when we open, I still want to minimize risks as much as possible. So how can we still have kids book shop and browse books without increasing their exposure risk, because surely, telling teachers and librarians to close their book access and solely focus on digital is not the only solution. And neither is going crazy with ideas without knowing the risks.

So I wanted to share few ideas but also direct you toward ALA’s guidelines (some of them are from the spring and the guidelines may have changed since then.)

My own ideas for my classroom collection include:

A quarantine space for books that have been handled. If I am teaching in a hybrid fashion, I will have three classes a day with the the same kids for two days, then a different cohort with also three classes another two days (Online will not be with live, they will be in a separate cohort – so some kids will start with me at the the beginning of week and the other cohort will end with me live. So cohort A: Live M + T, Virtual W + R + F, Cohort B: Virtual: M + T + W, Live: R + F, it’s a lot to navigate. I plan on having a basket for kids to place books they have touched into and then removing them from the room with gloves if I can get some. Then books will be left to wait it out for at least 96 hours before being placed back in our collection.

A highly requested and read book cart. The titles that tend to fly off the shelves, like the ones listed here, will be on a separate cart so that kids don’t have to dig through anything to get them. I will have some form of electronic synopsis available for kids to browse through in our Google Classroom so they can read the blurb and not handle the book. They can then grab the book they would like when they have found one to try. I can also be the one handling the book and act as curator when we are bookshopping.

Touchless browsing. Another idea I have is to grab collections of books and leave them out with the back or blurb facing up. Kids will be encouraged to write down potential titles on their to-be-read list and then check out a few books to try. When they leave us for the week, they should bring the books home to try as part of their online learning.

Lysol and Clorox browsing. Every students browses books with disinfectant wipes in hand. If they touch a book and they end up not grabbing it, it gets wiped down by them right after and then handed to me to be set aside. Books should be cleaned if dirty and then disinfected. (Do at your own risk, me wiping down a book once in a while in my classroom is not the same as a book in a school or public library being wiped down all of the time).

Electronic browsing. I don’t have a digital library collection of titles but will start working on one for the coming year, that way students can browse through titles we have in our classroom and put in a request through a google form for a book they would like. I may even just do this in Google Slides. While I am not going to do anything super fancy, I know there are fancy ways to do this.

Video book talks. There are many already made and to be found on Youtube which will help me speed up the processing time, but I also want to start recording electronic book talks to have for throughout the year. Besides, we all do book talks differently and I want to use them as another way for students to create connection to our community. This approach not only allows me to curate a collection that I can use year after year if I want, it helps me audit what I am book talking since I will be pulling specific book stacks to use. I am allowed into my classroom right now for the sole purpose of grabbing books and I will be grabbing as many inclusive titles as I can to use.

A video tour of our library. I will be recording a tour of our classroom library when I head in so kids can see different genres available, how it is organized, and also just get ready for using it at some point. This will be part of their online learning so they are preloaded with some info before they are in the classroom. That way I can also pull out books to show, showcase how things are shelved, and build some book excitement.

If we are fully online, I am hoping to set up some sort of concierge service to drop off sanitized books for kids. Much like librarians have done throughout the country, kids would be able to request books and then have them placed in quarantine for a drop off or pick up. In the spring we were not able to get into our schools which greatly limited physical book access for all of us. We were able to get some books in the hands of kids who had none through a google from and mailoing but it was nowhere enough to what we would have liked to see. We know book access in a major inequity and so my district right now is also discussing ways to get physical books to all kids and not just e-books.

Also, I am hoping to drop a book off to each student as we begin the year if we start online. I would choose selections from Books4School under $3 each and then drop them off when we do our scheduled “yard visits.”

I asked on twitter what other people were doing and was once again deluged with wonderful ideas, thank you to everyone who shared!

Link to Jill’s playlist
Link to Demco blog
Link to BookDash

While we wait for districts to release our fall plans, I know we will find a way to get books in the hands of kids. We have to so feel free to share more resources and ideas in the comments.

Also, if your district or conference are interested in bringing me in virtually throughout the school year, please see information here. I have been supporting teachers remotely as they plan for meaningful literacy instruction in a virtual and hybrid model throughout the summer and would love to help others as well.

building community

But How Do We Build Community? Ideas for Virtual and Hybrid Learning

While my district has yet to release its plan for the fall here in Wisconsin, things are not looking so good. The last two days we have set new records in my county for positive test results for Covid-19, as a family we went through our own wait-time to get results this week so we have continued to stay at home with very limited movement. And while there is a lot of uncertainty that are furiously being discussed and planned for as best we can, one thing is practically certain; our year will not start in the normal sense.

And it shouldn’t, we have changed. Our world has changed.

Community lies at the heart of everything we do, the threads that bind us together create a learning space that will hopefully work for all of the children in our care. I know most of the learning success I had in the three months of crisis teaching was dependent on the community we had spent all year establishing and maintaining. On the trust we had built, on the care for each other, on the fun we had had. We know that building that community is hard work, it is not just simply putting together fun activities and hoping kids will buy into it and immediately build trust. There is so much that goes into creating the space that we hope kids will flourish in throughout the year. But how do we do that when we are not face to face? When we perhaps are both teaching live and online at the same time?

My hope every year is that the children in my care feel safe within our community. Safe to be who they are. Safe to challenge themselves. Safe to take risks. Safe to disagree. Safe to speak up. Safe to show up even if they are not at their best. Safe to go on a year long identity journey together. One that hopefully will matter to them beyond “just” developing their English Language Arts skills.

And yet the whole determination and definition of safe is something that has been weighing on me. When we say that we want our classrooms to be safe, what do we really mean? I have been reading the brilliant book Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in Classroom by Matthew R. Kay and he writes about this as well, “…for most students, a teacher’s safe space designation doesn’t mean much.” Because we don’t definite it, because we don’t think about our cultural norms that at times exclude kids, because we don’t think about the extent of the required needs to be met for someone to feel safe. And so when I think of community building work, I want it to be meaningful, it want it to be real. Yes, there is room for fun, for get-to-know you activities, but how do we go past that? How do we get further?

For me, I plan on spending our face-to-face time on a lot of the community building we usually do. As it stands, it sounds like my district will be hybrid with some face-to-face and some online, where I teach both at the same time (no, I am not sure how that will work). This means that as always we will spend the first few weeks laser focused on laying the groundwork for our year-long identity work. We will do the work we do every year. We will reflect on our reading and writing identity. We will discuss when reading sucks. We will create our reading rights together. We will set meaningful goals for our own growth. We will read and discuss personal essays that speak to not fitting into the world, into being seen as different, into finding your people, finding your own strength. We will start our focus on whose voices are missing and how that impacts our understanding of our world. We will do all of this together so that online can become learning time. So that online can be manageable for the kids who can access it. So that the online work becomes a time for kids to go deeper with what we are already doing rather than further to-do’s. And yet, the community aspect also needs to continue to be developed while we are apart, so that we can feel connected, so that we can grow together.

A few ideas I am contemplating using:

  • Ready-Set-Go conferences before the year starts, we offered these up last year face-to-face and had a good turnout. This year, depending on access, they will either be face-to-face or virtual for a chance for us to meet.
  • Yard visits, for those who are okay with it, I would like to say hello from a distance before the year starts. Either by standing in the street, a public park, or some other decided place. This will be an option to see each other from a far and say hello.
  • A welcome video for the students hopefully shot in our classroom so they can get a sense of what it looks like. If not it will be from my home with my kids.
  • Welcome postcards. I wrote a lot of postcards in the past few months, I think they made a difference, and even if they didn’t, it is one more way to say hello. I am playing with the idea of including a postcard they can mail back to me with the postage already paid. I don’t know how many kids would take me up on it but perhaps some would.
  • Weekly surveys checking in worked well for me last semester. Here is a sample of one.
  • I want community to be built through the work we do, not just as an add on feature, so the work we do needs to be worth their time and dedication. This is huge as I start to plan the work and our year focus.
  • Easy accessible Google Slides to work through every day they are online, only a few items but I want to focus on sharing either through video, audio, or written form. We will use Padlet, Flipgrid, or whatever else we can use to respond to each other.
  • I won’t be able to do morning meetings live because I will be teaching at the same time, I will be doing recorded morning messages every day though and keep them short! My own kids scoffed the minute their morning videos were longer than 3 minutes.

I will be offering free PD on how I plan on embedding authentic choice and voice throughout our year in August, I will be definitely sharing more about my ideas for building community authentically. To sign up and see more information, please go to this website and search for my name. This is also the heart of my work alongside students and I write extensively about it in my book, Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Learners.

I want to be mindful of a lot of things:

  • Virtual teaching is inherently more inequitable than even live teaching.
  • Not all kids will be able to access virtual teaching for many different reasons.
  • Kids have no reason to trust me.
  • Having a device (provided for all kids by my district) does not mean you have space to or time to use it.
  • Students are in many different places in their journey of learning and also in how safe they feel at school. I want to be acutely aware of this and let it guide my work.
  • The world continues to be overwhelming, kids are in a lot of different places when it comes to their mental health. Everything we do has to be shaped through equity and care.
  • I will be one of many classes.
  • We, teachers, need to deeply collaborate especially when it comes to how much work we are asking kids to do.
  • We need even more safety nets such as trusted adults for every child.
  • We need to find ways for students to connect with one another, not just in an academic sense.
  • I keep thinking about this webinar: A conversation with Bettina Love, Gholdy Muhammad, Dena Simmons and Brian Jones about abolitionist teaching and antiracist education. I have been a part of a lot of learning this summer and this was one of the most powerful hours I spent, their voices are definitely resonating loudly as I plan for my upcoming year.

Yesterday on Twitter I asked for ideas for building community online because surely others have been grappling with this idea as well. I promised I would share the ideas here as a list not to take credit, but instead to highlight all of the ideas floating around. So thank you to all who shared. Thank you to all who took the time to share new or tried and true ideas. May we all be able to find something that will help us out.

Major take aways from ideas shared:

  • Identity work and creating learning conditions that honor each child is a must.
  • Having access in many different ways to allow kids choice.
  • Making yourself available in many different formats.
  • Scheduling virtual drop-in times where kids can hang out and also interact with you works well.
  • Don’t require video or their face to be shown.
  • What works for your students will depend very much on your students.
  • Don’t be afraid to try things and then change them or not use the idea if it doesn’t work.

What were other ideas shared?

The brilliant Julie Jee also asked this question, here is the thread with all of the ideas shared.

Link to these webinars
Link to blog
Link to blog post
Link to blog post
Link to blog post
Link to blog
Link to book
Link to blog post
Link to Google Doc
Link to Youtube
Link to resource
Link to article

I am grateful for all of the ideas shared, there were even more than were posted here, to see the original thread, click this link. We may face an uncertain future when it comes to our school but one thing remains; the kids will show up and need us to be fully human, to be present, and to be safe. I hope that you can use some of these ideas to help you move toward that.

Also, if your district or conference are interested in bringing me in virtually throughout the school year, please see information here. I have been supporting teachers remotely as they plan for meaningful literacy instruction in a virtual and hybrid model throughout the summer and would love to help others as well.

being a teacher, books, Literacy, new year, Reading, Reading Identity

But They Still Hate Reading: Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity – A New Free Masterclass Offering

Note: the link now works to register, hooray!

As summer continues here in the Northern Hemisphere, I am excited to move into my next free Masterclass focusing on developing and supporting an individual student reading identity. This is the work I have been invested in with my students for the past six years in particular and I am so excited to offer others a deep dive into all of the components that we integrate into the curriculum as we try to create and maintain experiences that center on the individual student’s journey in reading. These sessions will be live as well as recorded for later access if the times do not work for you.

This masterclass is in 4 parts:

July 8th at 11 AM PST – Passionate Readers: The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.

This first 1-hour session is focused on the birdseye view of the entire year, the research behind why student identity needs to be at the core of our work as well as practical ways to start or continue the focus on reading identity. This will also focus on how to do an all-district or school reading audit and how we can align practices better so that students are not victims of an educational lottery where some get access to meaningful reading experiences that center on personal reading, and others do not.

July 15th 1:30 PM PST – But They Still Hate Reading: Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity- Part 1.

July 22nd 11 AM PST – But They Still Hate Reading: Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity- Part 2

July 29th 11 AM PST – But They Still Hate Reading: Establishing and Cultivating a Personal Reading Identity- Part 3.

These three parts will focus on all of the components that make up our year together: Creating and maintaining an inclusive book collection, supporting independent and joyful reading, reflection and goal setting throughout, scaffolds and supports we can use to help kids whose reading experiences have been negative, using book clubs as a meaningful way to discuss the world, individual reading challenges, and of course, how to help students find space for reading in their life outside of school. The three sessions will take place on the following dates. This is an invitation into the work I do behind the scenes, the work my students take on, as well as planning for a virtual or hybrid school start.

While the sessions will take on the form of presentations, there will be office hours to go along with them. These office hours are meant for questions, discussion, resource sharing, as well as anything else related to the sessions. These are also free, but not recorded.

Office Hour July 12th – 8 AM PST

Office Hour July 19th – 8 AM PST

Office Hour July 26th – 8 AM PST

Office Hour July 29th – 7 PM PST

I hope that these free PD offerings will be helpful to you. To sign up, please click on the link embedded in this sentence and you can sign up

The final masterclass after this one will be embedding authentic choice and voice as we start the year together with students. It will be focused on all of the things I am trying to wrap my head around as we prepare for our new year together. The information for those can also be seen on the website and sign up will be open soon.

Also, if your district or conference are interested in bringing me in virtually throughout the school year, please see information here. I have been supporting teachers remotely as they plan for meaningful literacy instruction in a virtual and hybrid model throughout the summer and would love to help others as well.

being a teacher, being me, Personalized Learning

Collaborate With Me During Free Office Hours

One of the ventures I have been a part of this summer has been the incredible professional development line up facilitated by CUE and sponsored by Microsoft. As I have written on the blog before, every week throughout summer, I, and many other amazing educators, are offering free PD on a variety of topics. I am loving the chance to deep dive into some of my favorite topics such as creating authentic and student-centered literacy experiences and embedding choice and voice into our classrooms. To see all of the sessions I am still offering this summer, please click this link. One of the other components though is equally amazing; office hours.

Once a week, or sometimes more, there is a free drop in office hour with me where we get to just talk. These office hours are not recorded, but are stand alone brainstorm sessions where we can discuss whatever I might be able to help you work through. Perhaps you have clarifying questions about something I have shared, perhaps you are trying to do the Global Read Aloud for the first time, perhaps you are wondering about reading and writing identity. Whatever it is, if you have questions about reading, writing, student engagement, the Global Read Aloud or anything else you think I might be able to help you solve or think about, these hours are for you.

Here is when I will have office hours:

  • 6/28 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/2 –  7 PM PST
  • 7/5 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/12 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/19 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/26 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/29 – 7 PM PST
  • 8/7 – 8 AM PST
  • 8/15 – 8 AM PST
  • 8/16 – 8 AM PST
  • 8/23 – 8 AM PST

All you have to do to access them is to register through this link – come for an hour or just a few minutes but I hope to see you there. I also hope to see you at any of the free sessions being hosted, there are so many wonderful opportunities to learn.

being a student, being a teacher, being me, hopes, Passionate Readers, Reading, Reading Identity, student choice, Student Engagement, teaching, Writing Identity

Creating Passionate Writers – Next Masterclass Kicks Off Tomorrow

Moving to America at the age of 18, gave me a whole new education. An education in privilege, in control, in power, and how to know your place. To pursue your dreams but only if others see you as worthy of that dream.

Becoming a teacher in the American public school system has been one of my greatest joys but also one of my biggest frustrations, my biggest moments of failure, of regret. The power handed those of us with teaching degrees is immeasurable; I can continue the systemic inequities of the structures we work within, or I can learn, listen, question, dismantle, disturb, and create an education that is truly for all kids. I didn’t know that when I started as an educator, my own privilege awarded me blinders and ear muffs. But 10 years ago I started to wake up, a little at a time, although not fast enough, and I recognized that how I used control as a way to ascertain my power in the classroom meant that not all kids could thrive, that not all kids were cared for. That my classroom might have said “Welcome” but those were shallow words. And it was echoed in the curriculum we did and how I helped students grow, how I used choice, how I used rewards and punishment.

And so I started to change the way I taught, the way I thought of education, of my own power within the classroom. I immersed myself in the expertise and wisdom of others who have been on this journey so much longer than I have, I started to ask my students questions I should have been asking from the start and I started writing this blog; sharing my thoughts out loud, inviting others on the journey as I stumbled through and tried to create an education that might work for all kids. A shared experience that would center on the identity of each child rather than the curriculum. It is the work I continue to do and will for a long time. I continue to stumble through on this journey, I continue to share on here, I continue to learn and grow from others while offering my own journey up and now I have been invited by CUE and Microsoft to share through their channels as well as a way to invite you into the journey.

And so I invite you into a conversation surrounding the writing we do in our classrooms with students and how we can use storytelling not just as a way to teach standards but to help students examine and find power within their own identity and story. To come along with me as I share the questions we discuss in our community, the writing we do, and also the resources I have learned from so perhaps you can learn from them as well. So if you have space in your life or a desire to go on this journey with me, please go here to register

The Masterclass will be three parts much like the other masterclass I have done this summer, you can join live or access the recording when it is posted here. I will also be finishing up Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice. part 3 this week, on Thursday at 11 AM PST.

Posting this today, I also know that not everyone is in a place for PD or perhaps that this is not the type of PD you want to immerse yourself in, this is okay. The world is rightfully continuing to need our attention and perhaps you are putting in your energy elsewhere or fully taking a break. I know I have been taking many breaks the last few weeks as I plan for actions in the fall and right now, but for those of you who want to learn with and from me, please know that there will be several offerings all the way through summer.

Live office hours will start up next week – my first drop in one is on the 22nd at 8 AM PST. This is a great opportunity for you to bring problems of practice and we can brainstorm together for an hour or so. If you participate in the Global Read Aloud, you can also use the office hours to brainstorm with me or just ask questions.

All of these sessions are free and the sessions are recorded (office hours are not) so even if you can’t or don’t want to be there live, you can access them later.

The schedule for the rest of the summer’s free PD from me looks like so:


  • 6/17 7 AM PST – Masterclass: Passionate Writers Pt1
  • 6/18 10:30 AM PST – Choice and Voice Pt 3
  • 6/24 7 AM PST – Masterclass: Passionate Writers Pt 2
  • 7/1 7AM PST – Masterclass: Passionate Writers Pt 3
  • 7/8 11 AM PST – Passionate Readers – stand-alone session
  • 7/15 11 AM PST – Masterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Supporting and Developing Student Reading Identity Pt 1
  • 7/22 11 AM PST – Masterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Supporting and Developing Student Reading Identity Pt 2
  • 7/29 11 AM PST – Masterclass: But They Still Hate Reading – Supporting and Developing Student Reading Identity Pt 3
  • 8/6 7 PM PST – Passionate Learners – stand alone session
  • 8/13 7 PM PST – Repeat Masterclass: Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice as we get ready for a new year Pt 1
  • 8/20 7 PM PST – Repeat Masterclass: Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice as we get ready for a new year Pt 2
  • 8/27 7 PM PST – Repeat Masterclass: Embedding Authentic Choice and Voice as we get ready for a new year Pt 3

Office hours:

  • 6/22 – 8 AM PST
  • 6/28 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/2 – 7 PM PST
  • 7/5 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/12 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/19 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/26 – 8 AM PST
  • 7/29 – 7 PM PST
  • 8/7 – 8 AM PST
  • 8/15 – 8 AM PST
  • 8/16 – 8 AM PST
  • 8/23 – 8 AM PST

I hope I can be of service through these sessions. I hope to see some of you there.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. I offer up workshops and presentations both live and virtually that are based on the work I do with my own students as we pursue engaging, personalized, and independent learning opportunities. I also write more about the design of my classroom and how to give control of their learning back to students in my first book, Passionate Learners.