Nobel Laureate: Kailash Satyarthi

Let us unite the world through the compassion for our children.
-Kailash Satyarthi

Ispahan Carpet

Elizabeth Burge
Rough timber gallows on which the carpets are woven
By a silent, sallow, dark-eyed Persian family,
Fills the room, bare but for blackened pots and jars
In the cavernous hearth. A flickering fire
Lights on the sensuous jewelled arabesques
Shadowing the makers of the webs.
Eight-year-old girls sit sparrowed on a plank
Rope-rising with the pattern, their unsupported bird-bones
Bent like old women. Only such little fingers,
Following the guides of coloured wool upon the warp
Left by their aunts and sisters,
Can tie such exquisitely minute knots —
One hundred to the square centimeter, says the guide proudly —
For the most desired Tabriz and Karmenshah.
One hundred knots in the space of my thumb-nail,
One hundred heart-beats of a young child’s growing,
One hundred hours for the space a foot will crush down.
O, eyes whose whole horizon is the carpet
And its traditional beauty! Who can unravel
The world’s weaving?
My swollen hand is gentle on the greenstick shoulder
Her large eyes look back at me with a speaking darkness.


On Friday April 7th, we were fortunate to welcome Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kailash Satyarthi to AES. Kailash Ji is working to end child labor in India and around the world, and has already saved 84,000 children from bonded labor. He has started a campaign called 100 million for 100 million – to help end child labor and provide an opportunity for all children to have a quality education.

Kailash Ji enters the gym and greets children.

Kailash Ji embraces Aarav, a student whose family is close with his own, volunteering at the ashram and working together on the same mission.

Introducing Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi.

He spoke for 45 minutes directly to our children. He talked about their bright faces, their energy, their joy, their dreams….he called them the true heroes and heroines of this world who are full of light. He asked our students if they dream. Do you dream in the night? Do you dream in the day? Do you dream of your future? Do you dream of the future of others? He explained to our students that they are fortunate- they have the opportunity to dream, they have the opportunity to go to a phenomenal school…and there are millions of children who are as fortunate as they are. And there are also millions of children who are not as fortunate as they are.

Kailash Satyarthi speaking to the children of AES.

You could see the love that Kailash Ji has for children.

So inspiring to hear Kailash Satyarthi speak to the students at AES.

Kailash spoke about the fact that there is one earth, and we all walk on the same earth. We are all connected, and it is not okay for there to be 170 million children in the world who are not in school, and instead engaged in child labor. Especially when there are 210 million adults without jobs. Satyarthi stated that it is these children who are not in school who are most vulnerable and the most likely to be radicalized. It is our job to protect our children, as all children must be protected from all dangers.

Satyarthi then told our students about his 100 million for 100 million campaign. He said that he is looking for 100 million children to be the spokesperson, the change-makers, the champions for the 100 million children who are left out.

Students inspired and pledging to help.

Ellen Stern presents Kailash Satyarthi with gifts and gratitude.

Kailash’s final message to us was powerful, the Three Ds:

  • Dream big – not just for yourself, but dream big for all of humanity.
  • Discover the power inside of you, and the possibilities and opportunities outside of you.
  • Do something – act now.

After school, Kailash met with a small working group of students. There were questions and answers for about 20 minutes before Mr. Satyarthi had to leave AES. And then our students engaged in a letter writing exercise and researching addresses of Heads of State for letters that Kailash will be sending out in a week or two.

Small working group engaging in letter writing and researching addresses of Heads of State for Kailash Satyarthi.

Last year, I visited Mukti Ashram (one of Kailash’s centers for rescued bonded laborers) with our 8th grade students on a Population Project (8th grade capstone cross-curricular project, examining the impact of growing population of India on different aspects of life….this trip – looking at child labor) field trip. I was able to meet and interact with some of the children who are rescued and it was an interesting experience to see the incredible work happening in Delhi for these children.


The following video gives an up close account of the kind of work that Satyarthi has spearheaded in India since the 1980s. There is video footage of child labor raids/rescues, which shows how dangerous, heroic and influential his work has been to so many children.

TED Talk: How to make peace? Get angry.

Service Learning

This year I have served on the Vertical Service Learning Committee at AES. Last year we added a performance objective for accreditation related to service. We are looking to find more meaningful ways to integrate community service and service learning in our school. The first step has been to learn a little more about what Service Learning actually is. We are all pretty clear about community service – taking action to address an identified and authentic community need. Service Learning, however, has been a little less prevalent at our school. So we have set out to learn and research and understand what Service Learning is all about.

We have done a lot of reading, and here are a couple of resources that contributed to deepening our understanding:

At the heart of it, Service Learning is linking service to the curriculum. From NYLC (National Youth Leadership Council):

Service-learning is an approach to teaching and learning in which students use academic knowledge and skills to address genuine community needs.

  • Picking up trash on a river bank is service.
  • Studying water samples under a microscope is learning.
  • When science students collect and analyze water samples, document their results, and present findings to a local pollution control agency – that is service-learning.

Or, as Cathryn Berger Kaye says:

When classroom learning is applied through action that addresses an authentic community need in a process that allows for youth initiative and provided structured time for reflection on the service experience and demonstration of acquired skills and knowledge.

Service learning doesn’t always mean direct service. According to Cathryn Berger Kaye there are 3 types of service:

  1. Direct Service (face to face)
  2. Indirect Service (broad issues)
  3. Advocacy (education and policy change)

Service Learning is the combination of knowledge gained within the classroom with service opportunities in the community. Service Learning provides opportunities for personal growth through reflection, civic learning and deepening an understanding of social responsibility and citizenship. Ideally, projects are mutually beneficial and lead to a feeling of interconnectedness within the community. Service Learning is most meaningful when there are ongoing community partnerships. The standards for quality practice are:

  • meaningful service – relevant service activities
  • link to curriculum – service learning is an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards
  • reflection – prompting deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society
  • diversity – promotes mutual respect among all participants
  • youth voice – strong voice in planning, implementing and evaluating experiences
  • partnerships – collaborative, mutually beneficial and address genuine community needs
  • progress monitoring – ongoing process toward sustainability
  • duration and intensity – developmentally appropriate and sufficient to meet specified outcomes

Our middle school has been building momentum around Service Learning through the incredible work of our Service Learning Coordinator, Cassie. She recently led a faculty meeting where we explored these ideas, and then thought about ways to get started in the classroom. Cassie prompted with this question: What authentic needs that students identify could make connections relating to themes in the curriculum?

Our advisory curriculum has been an easy starting point. The seventh grade advisory curriculum addresses empathy and extending our thoughts beyond self to others. As a part of this work, students collaborate with kindergarten classrooms in the late fall, and then in early spring, they start work with an ongoing partnership with Aanchal School – a school nearby that supports students with cognitive and physical challenges. This year marked the 10th year of our partnership, and in our third and final collaboration we hosted a carnival, with music, popsicles and fun games. It was incredible to see how much our student grew and matured in the way they interacted with these students who teach us so much about joy and how to care for each other. Enjoy the video and photos below.

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Literacy with Dan Feigelson

I am not a literacy teacher. So I have really enjoyed the opportunities I have had to learn from various consultants (Barb Golub, Ralph Fletcher, Dan Feigelson,…) who have visited AES over the years in order to deepen my knowledge and understanding in an area where I don’t have a strong background. Last week, we have had the good fortune to learn from Dan Feigelson, a visiting literacy consultant who has been focusing largely on reading conferences to deepen student comprehension.

In meeting with Dan, his session was called Reading Projects Reimagined: Teaching kids to come up with their own ideas about books. Dan talked about the importance of freedom of thought, how to help students recognize, name and extend their own lines of thinking and ideas, and how to teach independent thinking which is free of teacher prompts. As teachers, we often spend so much time in school telling and guiding students about what to think, and this approach is nurturing student thinking and metacognition.

Dan supports that reading time in the classroom should be spent READING or talking to a classmate about reading, and that we should save our literary analysis and other writing about literature for our writing instruction. So we spent our time with Dan digging into reading conferences, and the concept of listening well to what students are noticing and thinking. The idea is to teach the reader, not the book.

The reading conference focuses on the power of naming. First, name the thinking that the student is demonstrating. Then, express how that thinking and reading strategy can be generalized for other types of reading. The goal is to build a repertoire of reading strategies that are transferrable. These will generally fall under the 7 comprehension strategies (which are research-based) for what children need to know and be able to do in order to understand and think deeply about a text:

Some of the things that we might do as readers:

  • connect personal experiences to text
  • think about characters
  • recognize bigger issues in the text
  • argue with the text
  • think about what they already know
  • make predictions
  • thinks about the role of the minor characters
  • thinks about the theme or lesson in the text
  • empathizes with character feelings

The flow of the reading conference went like this;

  1. Start open – “What are you thinking about what you are reading?”
  2. Start making connections to possible strategies – generalizable strategy that is transferrable
  3. Make a decision on a strategy and zoom in….”tell me more” (say this at least 3 times)
  4. Create a plan – consider the ZPD – What is the student most ready for? Listen to the most sophisticated thinking and push it forward. (We don’t always want to teach to the deficit….)
  5. Broaden the strategy back out (to what good readers do with all books)
  6. Negotiate an assignment with the students – make sure there is student ownership of the work
  7. Explain to the student why this work is important to the student and transferrable to other reading

“Noticing and naming is….crucial to becoming capable in particular activities…Once we start noticing certain things, it is difficult not to notice them again.” -Peter Johnston, 2004

So, as Dan said – perhaps the most critical role a teacher can play when discussing a book with student readers is to help name what they are thinking about.


When we joined Dan for a lab site to watch him confer with students, he started by explaining the jobs in a conference.

Much of Dan’s work was stressing the importance of meta-cognition; helping students to think about their thinking. He noted the importance of how teachers can model this, especially in the phase when students are first getting used to this new way of thinking about our thinking and how readers make sense of a text.

Overall, I felt like I learned a lot (both about reading conferences, as well as listening and question-asking strategies that would be transferrable to conferences I have with teachers as well!). I know our teachers were super engaged and energized. I can’t wait to see the continued learning that happens over the next several weeks to make sense of what we learned.


Maker Mindset

“When we encourage children to tinker, to tweak and to improve things, we offer them an opportunity to develop self-advocacy, the feeling of being a creator, a producer and not merely a consumer.” -John Rinker

On Monday during our Professional Learning Day, the faculty at AES spent an hour and a half in the morning participating in a thought-provoking session about developing a maker mindset in ourselves and our students. Here is Monday morning’s presentation.

In January, the middle school opened our brand new maker space. The space was new, but the maker mindset was not. We have had many electives and core classes engaging in design thinking, tinkering, exploring passions, creating, and more. We believe that the Maker Mindset empowers learners to explore, create, discover and define their learning journey. By nurturing a maker mindset, we believe that we encourage makers to be: curious, reflective, empathetic, have a growth mindset, agents of change and believe that they can do anything.

Here are some pics of our new space:screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-9-23-00-amscreen-shot-2017-02-22-at-9-22-36-am

Here is a sewing club – one of our after school activities:


Here is another after school activity – Claymation / Legomation Club:screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-9-22-08-am

Here are students working on independent projects in Create Your Own Elective class, where they identify something they are passionate about and curious to learn more about:screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-9-21-20-am

And we also have an elective called Media Street Team that uses the space to create a middle school form of a ‘newspaper’. Check out their blog and their Instagram.

Gary, our Director of Technology, shared some resources with faculty that I am hoping to further dig into this spring, and I wanted to document them here. To learn more about making and creating a maker centered classroom, he shared Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez’s book Invent to Learn, which is a staple of maker centered education. Here are links to pdfs of Chapter 2 (Learning) and Chapter 3 (Thinking about Thinking). These two chapters make a compelling case for providing opportunities for students to make.

Gary and the Tech Team also suggest that the Parts, Purposes and Complexities thinking routine from Harvard’s Project Zero can support thinking in a maker centered classroom.

Here is an article and a few videos to further support and deepen understanding about the Maker Mindset.

From NPR: On the Lesson Plan Today: Make Stuff. Fail. Learn While You’re At It.



“We don’t need to change everything now, but we do need to start forgetting the assumptions that we have made. The future is more uncertain than ever, but we need to make our kids as balanced, agile and as self-reliant as ever in order to thrive in it.” -John Rinker

Happiness Advantage / Gratitude Project

Today we were fortunate to have Teachers Teaching Teachers for our Faculty Inservice Day. I was able to attend 2 great sessions with colleagues from the elementary and high school. In the afternoon, I attended a session led by Mary Miller called Happiness Advantage / Gratitude Project. Here is a PDF of her presentation: happiness-advantage%2fgratitude

Mary started the session by sharing the following Ted Talk by Shawn Achor, which inspired the work that Mary does with her students. I have this Ted Talk under my Inspiration pages on Balance and Happiness, and I was so interested to see how Mary intentionally put his message into action in her classroom.





A key point that Shawn Achor makes: our external world does not predict our happiness.

There is a myth out there: “If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I am more successful, I will be happy.” But all this means is that happiness will always be elusive, and the target will always shift. As soon as we reach a goal, we will set a higher goal, and therefore, happiness will always be something that seems out of reach if we have linked it to ‘success’ and reaching a goal.

So, Shawn Achor suggests that we can retrain ourselves to create ripples of positivity in our lives, as 90% of our longterm happiness is predicted by the way our brain processes the world. Also, when we are happy, our brains are ready to learn.


Achor provides the following list of practices that we can put into place for 21 days to retrain our brain to be positive:

  • 3 gratitudes each day
  • journaling about a positive experience in the last 24 hours
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • conscious acts of kindness

With regards to gratitudes, the practice is intended to help us scan the world for the positives, not the negatives. The gratitudes we think about should be specific and different. We won’t say that we are grateful for our family or good health every day. Instead, we will focus on small things in our life that we are grateful for. The act of writing it down is naming and noticing it. The act of sharing it with others helps to give it more life. In Mary’s class, she asks students to write “I am grateful for _________ because _________”.


Mary also has students journal about a positive experience from the last 24 hours. In our session, there were many of us who had participated in an amazing “Rickshaw Rally” on Saturday, but Mary said to find something that was positive about Sunday instead. The point isn’t the big moments that ‘wow’ us, but instead focusing in on small positive moments in our life. Journaling about it allows our brain to relive that experience.

And finally, rather than random acts of kindness, like opening a door for someone or helping someone when we encounter a situation throughout the day, the final piece is to make a plan to conscious think of a kind act that will bring someone else happiness.

Equitable Group Work

Today we were fortunate to have Teachers Teaching Teachers for our Faculty Inservice Day. I was able to attend 2 great sessions with colleagues from the elementary and high school. The first session was led by Sunshine Campbell, a high school math teacher, and was called Equitable Group Work. The focus of the presentation was in raising awareness regarding status hierarchies in the classroom. Here is a PDF of the presentation: equitable-groupwork-presentation.

Sunshine pointed out that when we place students in groups, they will always wonder why they were placed in a particular situation, and that it is human nature for us to size each other up against others in our group to determine our relative status. Sunshine shared a strategy of randomly and publicly assigning seating so that there is no question about possible hidden teacher bias.

Some of the beliefs that drive the reasoning to publicly and randomly assign students to groups is because:

  • how students perceive what the teacher thinks “smart” looks like in the content area matters
  • how students perceive themselves and others as “smart” in a content area matters

Generally, when we create mixed ability groups, where there is 1 “high” student, 2 “middle-ability” students and 1 “weaker” student, the weak student will immediately understand his or her role in that group. However, if we want students to all take risks, give answers, and make effort to learn our content, we want to avoid communicating this unintentional message to students about the teacher-perceived ability of group members. This is relative academic status.

In addition to academic status, students also measure themselves according to societal status (gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc) and peer status (their popularity and social standing).

Two common things to watch for with group dynamics and status are body language and who has the tools (pencil, materials, manipulatives). Additionally, it is important for the teacher to let students know that there are lots of ways for students to demonstrate ‘smartness’ in this content area. And then it will be important for the teacher to assign competence, or publicly acknowledge and recognize when students of lower status display ‘smartness’. One way to help convey and communicate about what ‘smartness’ looks like in the classroom is to have students complete a survey like the example below:


Some strategies that Sunshine suggests to ‘treat’ status:

  • randomly and publicly seat students in groups
  • assign group work roles (see below)
  • create group work norms
  • assign competence

Group Work Roles:

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Many years ago I was fortunate to be a part of a professional learning opportunity with visiting consultant, Joel Shimoji. Our elementary school is a Restitution school, and we took advantage of the opportunity of Joel being on campus to also allow middle school teachers to learn a little about this approach to choices/discipline. It strongly resonated with me at the time, and I looked for ways to incorporate the strategies into my work with students. As I shifted into administration, I have leaned even more heavily on the principals of restitution. I have a long way to go to understand and better implement the approach, but I appreciate the tools and language when supporting students through mistakes and poor choices. We are fortunate to now have Meemie Kemper, an elementary art teacher as a restitution trainer. Last week, Meemie offered a 1-hour introduction/overview to our middle school faculty. She will be offering the full 2-day Restitution 1 training to interested middle school faculty in the coming weeks/months.
Anyone who works in a middle school knows that kids make mistakes. We certainly don’t come to work expecting that we are going to have a class of 18 perfectly behaved students. Being a kid is messy, hard work. Especially in middle school. However, those of us who have chosen to work with this age group probably did so because it is an amazing opportunity to help support students through these difficult times/choices/mistakes. This is a time when the impulsive brain is still the biggest part for our students. But they are also really developing their rationale brain. So it is important that after someone makes a mistake, we need to activate the rationale brain. Ask the question: What need were you meeting? How can you meet your needs without interfering with the needs of others and our collective need for safety? How can you fix this mistake?
Creating the conditions for people to fix their mistakes and return to the group strengthened. -Diane Gossen (based on work by Dr. William Glasser)
  • it is okay to make mistakes
  • fixing our mistakes strengthens us
  • we are all doing the best we can
  • all behavior is purposeful
In order to be happy and healthy, we need to get our basic needs met. These include Safety, Belonging, Fun, Freedom and Power/Mastery. However, some of us have different size “buckets” for the different needs. It is important that we understand ourself and our own needs, so that we can deepen our empathy for our students as they work to meet their own needs.
We can only control ourself. We can create conditions to help influence others, but we cannot control others. How can we both get our needs met so there is a win-win?
Some articles and clips to further understand this work:

Post Election Resources

Please note: I am trying to update this post over the next week as resources are shared with me.

Yesterday was a tough day. It felt scary and sad. But I always like to look for opportunities and to look for hope. So the purpose of this post is to put together a few resources to help feel empowered and optimistic, in particular as educators working with students.

Follow: Twitter #ImTellingMyKids

Also, look under my ‘Inspiration’ pages for many great resources: in particular Compassion & Kindness and Empathy.

This was shared by friend and colleague, Meemie Kemper.

This was shared by my daughters’ teacher, Jenna Laslocky:

Web resources:
Teaching Tolerance is a great resource. In particular, this post The Day After.
What Do We Tell the Children? from Huffington Post
A List of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations That Need Your Support
What Happened on Election Day from the New York Times
“I’m Going To Reassure Them That They Are Safe”: Talking To Students After The Election from NEA Today
This Is What We Do Now from WBUR
How To Get From Emotion To Action After The Election, As Narrated By Amazing Humans from Upworthy
Buddhist Teachers Respond to Trump’s Presidential Win from Lion’s Roar
How To Explain The Trump Victory To Children: 19 Things To Say from Sacraparental
Southern Poverty Law Center: Teaching Tolerance
How To Build An Exit Ramp For Trump Supporters from Harvard Business Review
How to easily be an ally to marginalized communities from Medium
Seven Thoughts on Waking Up in Our America
Read the Touching Letter a Principal Wrote to His Students the Day After the Election
A 12-Step Program For Responding to President-Elect Trump
‘Do not say mean things’: Kids are writing to Donald Trump, asking him to be a kind president

Here is a post from my friend and former colleague, Jonah Rosenfield:
“I would suggest that today is a great opportunity to reflect on how well we actively listen to each other for understanding; how able we are in keeping an open mind when others have a different opinion and how, even when involved in conflict, can we still hear what the other person is saying with both our ears and our heart so that the end result is a better understanding of what unites us rather than what divides us.

To some extent or another, we all live in our own little bubbles. Maybe today is an opportunity to poke through and really see and understand what is on the other side.”

This poem was shared yesterday by former director Dr. Bob Hetzel, who always knows the right thing to say to inspire love, compassion, peace and hope…….
Believing In Someday
By Mattie Stepanek

We will all join hands
And live together…
Helping each other,
Loving each other.
We will all make the world
A much better place…
And be a like a gigantic,
Smoothly rushing river of peace-
A loving circle that nothing can break,
We may start with just one person,
And one permanent peace agreement
Within one’s self, within one’s world.

Personal peace can then spread
Within and between the families,
Then within and between communities,
And then within and around the
whole world.
We can become
As close to perfect
As anything and anyone can get.
Let us each join our own Heartsong
With this old song of the heart, and
“Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.”

These two poems were shared me by Amy Minkley:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened.  Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading.  Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up. The Master, by residing in the Tao,
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn’t display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn’t know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goad in mind,
everything he does succeeds. When the ancient Masters said,
“If you want to be given everything, give everything up,”
they weren’t using empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Tao can you be truly yourself. 
The Tao Da Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers






Opening Our Classroom Doors

“The most valuable resource teachers have is each other.  Without collaboration, our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” -Robert John Meehan

Over the last couple of years we have started a new opportunity in the middle school called Open Doors Week. It is an opportunity to deprivatize our practices and learn from our colleagues. We have had overwhelming responses from teachers, who have enjoyed the opportunity to watch their colleagues in action and benefit by stealing some new ideas. This practice provides so many benefits, and this article outlines it very well: Open Door: Why We Need To See Each Other Teach (and there are so many out there right now….here is another article: Lesson Study: When Teachers Team Up to Improve Teaching).

Our Middle School Literacy Coach has been instrumental in helping to plan these successful learning opportunities for our faculty. Last year we started with a Literacy Open Doors throughout our humanities classes. Last winter we had a Cultural Forces Open Doors, inviting teachers to use the Cultural Forces as a lens for their observations, in an effort to build excitement for visiting consultant Mark Church, of Harvard’s Project Zero Making Thinking Visible. Our approach is that observing teachers leave a ‘thank you’ note sharing the ideas they are “stealing” or things they loved. There is space to share through the particular lens/theme of the week. The whole situation is win-win. Observer learns cool things and is inspired. Presenting teacher gets awesome feedback and feels like a rockstar.

This year, we kicked off our Open Doors Week with a middle school-wide literacy week. We had many teachers participate, both opening their doors and visiting other classrooms. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive, and we are looking for ways to deepen this practice. Some ideas moving forward are to have presenting teachers identify what they are specifically looking for feedback about in their practice. I also have hopes that these continued opportunities spark more informal peer observation opportunities. Another thing I have heard about is where teachers put a folder with a sheet outside the door indicating the objectives for the lesson and what the teacher is working on in his practice at that time. The idea is that teachers with these folders are extending an ongoing invitation for anyone to stop by, get a little background about what to expect when coming in, and then the teacher can also get some feedback at the same time. I don’t think we are there yet, but I have been thinking about our next steps…..and then I came across this article: How Pineapple Charts Revolutionize Professional Development.

I am so interested in the ideas in this article. So this week my focus will be to bounce this idea off colleagues, refine and rework the idea to fit our school, and then see if we can get something started.

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Most of these pictures are courtesy of Courtney Al Moreno, our MS Literacy Coach who has been instrumental in helping our Open Doors Weeks take off and succeed in our middle school.

Doctor of Education

This summer I started my Doctor of Education in Learning, Leadership and Community at Plymouth State University. From 2010-2012 I completed my CAGS (Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies) in Educational Leadership and received K-12 Principal Certification. Not all schools have the CAGS, but it is essentially the first 30 hours of the doctoral program. It was that degree that allowed me to shift into my current role as an assistant principal in 2013. At the time that I finished my CAGS, I was very interested in continuing with the second half of the doctoral program, and I was so excited to jump in this summer.

The program I have entered is a Summers-Only cohort. I will have 4 summers of coursework and then enter into the dissertation phase of my doctorate. I am lucky that the majority of the year is an opportunity for me to do as much professional reading as possible. (Most others in my cohort will be taking the CAGS courses throughout the rest of the year.)

Here I am with my friend Gene on the first day of class. It is an amazing gift to have Gene in my cohort. He is a friend and former colleague who inspires and pushes me professionally.


And speaking of cohorts – one of the most amazing things about the Plymouth program is that it uses the cohort model. Here is my cohort at ‘Mandatory Fun’ – an evening with all 18 members of our cohort (and our 2 professors, Baker & McCabe, from our first class).


As noted, I was very happy to have a cohort model. I truly believe in the power and importance of learning from and with others. Baker and McCabe actually wrote a piece about the importance of being in a cohort when going through doctoral studies: Learning is a Social Endeavor: Professional Learning Communities and Graduate School.

Our first class was titled Emerging Perspectives in Learning & Development. We studied memory, emotional intelligence, PLCs, and a lot about Vygotsky.


Here are the two big assignments that I completed for the first course:

The second course was called Program Evaluation Theory and Practice. The topics covered in this course felt totally new for me in so many ways. And at the same time, the concept of evaluating and reflecting and tweaking our programs is something very familiar. To start, we had to read and then share our understanding of the topic in a pre-class paper:  The Branches of Program Evaluation.

The major project and work of our second class was to actually write a program evaluation proposal for a local NGO. I was in a group that created a proposal for Cathy Bentwood and The Bridge House, a homeless shelter that serves Plymouth and the greater area of Grafton County. Check us out in Professor Berry’s cool wheels on a field trip to visit the Bridge House:


And here is my group working hard over the weekend on our paper.


We probably each put in around 25-30 hours of work for our final proposal, which we presented to Cathy. A Proposed Study of Rural Homelessness in Grafton County (and here is the presentation)


Here are two other final papers I wrote for the second course:

And here is our crew at the end of the summer.


Cheers! Until next summer!


So now that I am done with my summer coursework, my task is to read and fill my ‘buckets of interest’. I am not sure what my dissertation will eventually cover, and so I am reading about topics that interest me: leadership, professional learning, inquiry, teacher evaluation/supervision, emotional intelligence and school culture. Here are a few of books in my current reading ling up, which excites me:


Last but not least, here is an awesome video we made of our summer. It is actually part 1 out of 4. Looking forward to continuing to learn and grow with this group of peers. Enjoy the fun video!


Disclaimer: I made final edits and changes with each paper when I converted it from a google doc to a Word doc. So whatever is linked above may not be the exact and final version that I submitted for grading. But in an effort to be vulnerable, transparent and share my learning process, I have decided to share all of my papers.