Showing posts from May, 2015

18. The Reflective Practitioner and Calculated Risks #edblogaday

At the end of each of our lesson plans and unit plans is space to reflect on how it went and attach student work (digitally).  Admittedly, I seldom take the time to reflect on the lessons this way.  It has never felt authentic but rather forced.  When I began blogging for this project at the beginning of April, it didn't feel forced.  My thinking felt authentic, honest and it was true to me.  While I know blogging is the long form of reflection, what is the happy medium between nothing and blogging that still gives me time to think about my teaching in a brief yet authentic way that really does serve a purpose?

I have found of late that my reflection has centered around many WHY questions as I work to dig through the much of my craft.  As I was walking out last night, I walked along side my Principal and I was sharing with him that a teaching colleague, who had applied to another admin training program (one I applied to but did not get into) had been accepted.  It will be an intens…

17. Laughter and Electricity: The Solution to Exhaustion #edblogaday

Today was  along day.  An epic day at the end of an epic week.  I am tired.  I can feel myself starting to hit the wall of the school year.  I know that it has been a Herculean feat just for me to get through this year.  It's ok that I am exhausted.  Last night I got to go see Fiasco Theatre Company's production of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona.  I got all dressed up and my wonderful friend Primo came with me.  We laughed and schmmozed and drank wine.  It felt good to laugh and relax and escape into the theatre for a few hours.

If you are in NYC you can see this show through June 20th!
Today was long.  Up at 5.  Out the door by 6:30.  Heavy teaching day, lots of student conferences, quick coffee after school, back for meeting at 3:45 to prep for interview session from 4-6, run interviews for group of 17, chat with applicants after, debrief with Admin, pack up, answer phone messages, out the door by 7:15, on the rain by 7:30, home by 815.   I don't have much left.…

16. Appreciation and Expectations- My Journey Through Heartbreak #Edblogaday

A friend of mine posted the above image on Facebook last week and I set it aside, knowing that it would become a blog post.  I suppose it would have made a great Teacher Appreciation Week post, but after participating in the #NYEdChat last night on Twitter, it is clear to me, now more than ever, that teachers thrive in positivity.  This does not mean that we need to inflate each others egos or provide untruths.  It means that teachers should speak up and speak out about what IS working.  This is why writing about appreciation, not just for a week in May is integral to growth, development and cultivation of community.

I, like many of us, have already had many jobs in my short 38 years. I have had great employers and I have had horrible ones.  When I saw this image, the first thought into my head was, of course I do! I want to work hard when the hard work is recognized.  I have always thought of myself as someone who does work hard.  My parents let me get my first job when I was 10, as…

15. Supporting Parents- The Conversations To Be Had #Edblogaday

I have never felt like this was something I was especially good at. I am not that great advisor that is in constant contact with my students. I also have a number of parents, who after two years have still never met and to my best knowledge have not ever come into school.
I have three families who I text, call, email pretty consistently, there are a couple more who are in between lots of communication and none at all. When there is none, it's because I never get a response and their kid is not failing, so I have let it slide. There are bigger advisory fish to fry.
The Chancellor built in, with our new contract, time for parent outreach. It's the time for midday phone calls that often are bad news. It sucks and doesn't really feel constructive. I often wonder what it's like for K-8 teachers who have 32 families they have to keep abreast of everything and not just 10 to 15.   While I think parent outreach is a great idea, the current structures don't work that wel…

14. The Hiring Season: Department Accountability #Edblogaday

I love this time of year.  I love it because it warms up, people smile at each other more, and I can wear sandals.  This is also the time of year that I start thinking towards next year.  I don't know if all teachers do this but it seems to be my pattern. I start reflecting on all the things that I want to do differently, tweak and retool for next year.

Now, I have to be 100% honest here.  I have NEVER taught the same curriculum two years in a row.  My first 5 years of teaching I was in an alternative HS with 12 week trimesters so over 5 years I wrote roughly 30 different courses. It was quick and dirty planning and the style I developed meant that on paper I didn't necessarily write down every step I was going to make through the lesson.  I also didn't need to. My years of theatre training have served me well as a teacher.

Last year, I co planned with three other teachers to build the new 10th grade Global Lit curriculum.  I struggled with this kind of co planning.  My …

#13 What the Teacher's role in advocating? #Edblogaday

ad•vo•cate(ădˈvə-kātˌ)v. To speak, plead, or argue in favor of. n. One that argues for a cause; a supporter or defender. n. One that pleads in another's behalf.

Advocating is an essential part of my teaching practice.  
As a newer teacher, I was in a high need school and my students needed a LOT- academically and social/emotionally.   I gave everything I had to them with out hesitation, because I saw that as my job and responsibility as a teacher.  I also had the energy to give to them that way.  There were years when I had kids who needed much stronger voices in their corners to help them achieve their goals and move forward.  There were other years when I had students who were very self-sufficient or had parents who were very present and took on that role.  
As I gained more experience, it became clear that I needed to shift my advocacy from students to colleagues, as new teachers entered the system and I was taking on school leadership roles and working as a mentor.  We had tricky d…

To My Students On The Eve of Your AP Language and Composition Exam #Edblogaday

Dearest AP LANG, 

On the eve of your exam, a first AP exam for a number of you, I know that there are nerves, last minute ruminating, and wondering what tomorrow will bring.  For me too.  
Please know this:  I am beyond proud of the work you have done this year.  You have grown and challenged yourself, your peers and me as you have become stronger students, critical thinkers, and braver young adult.  You are all able to step into uncertainty with the certainty that you have the tools in your toolboxes to conquer any challenge that is before you.
Amy Tan wrote, "Words to me were magic. You could say a word and it could conjure up all kinds of images or feelings or a chilly sensation or whatever. It was amazing to me that words had this power." Tomorrow, your words will be your power, use them to show the strength of your mind and determination of your soul. 
Get some rest, eat a smart breakfast and I will see you in the morning.
Best, Ms. Towne

#12 Three Important Things To Make The End of The Year Manageable (with musical accompaniment)! #Edblogaday

I had a hard day today.  It was capped off with my 9th graders electing to just toss their laptops into the cart in a pile rather than storing and plugging them in as we have been doing since SEPTEMBER.  It made me so angry and disappointed on so many levels.  I kept the kids, telling them that they would all be losing their laptop privileges for the remainder of the year.  However if the responsible parties came forward and took responsibility for the lapse in judgment, I would reevaluate.  And at that, I let them go.

Two young men came up to me right after class and took responsibility explaining what they did and where the error in judgment had come into play.  I thanked them for their honesty, expressed my disappointment and that I would need to think about the consequence for the choice- which ultimately will be that they will manage and monitor the laptops for the remainder of the year, a good job for both boys.

Moments like these are good reminders for teachers, that the year …

#11- The Stress of the Test #Edblogaday

Last week I wrote about my nerves around the administration of the AP Language and Comp exam- which is tomorrow-and everything I was feeling and thinking about.

Yesterday, I had my last class with my kids before they take this monumental exam tomorrow.  Two of my colleagues graciously gave up their class period with the kids so I could have a double period with them- this included 2.5 hours of debriefing the practice exam they took on Saturday, examine anchor papers and rubrics, self assessing their own work, reminders about pacing, prioritizing and remaining focused.  My kids were great (for the most part) and the students who have worked hard continued to work hard through those last 2.5 hours.

I had three kids come to see me after school yesterday, to do additional troubleshooting.  I knew they have all be struggling, Type A kids who want to do everything perfect the first time.  I can relate, it's hard to let go and just let things settle.  We tend to want to amp kids up, but …

Day 10: Why Do I Love My Mama? Because She Helped Me Kick Cancer's Butt!

Last Christmas was the first time I had been in my hometown for the holidays since I moved to NYC 10 years years ago.  My husband and I flew for a week of celebration and family. My mama and I got to have some great time together that week.  I didn't know I had cancer and the most exciting thing coming up was hoping the Seahawks would make a return trip to the now ill-fated Superbowl.  This picture was taken on an early morning outing to Starbucks before some post holiday shopping at Fred Meyer.
One of the hardest phone calls I ever made was the call to my parents to tell them that the biopsy had come back positive and that I had thyroid cancer.  This was one of those moments where you don't want to live 3000 miles from your mom, but instead across the street so you can cry in your parents arms.  My mom didn't miss a beat though and by weeks end had figured out how to take the time off so she could fly to NYC to be with me and my husband to support, help, be mom and mother-…

Day 9: Nerves #Edblogaday

This next week has been almost a year in the making.

This year I took on the challenge of teaching AP Language and Composition.  I had never taught it before and honestly, never really thought I would have the opportunity to.  I had always taught students who really struggled and the rigor and speed with which AP has to be paced (especially that NYC schools not start until September, in some cases a month later than schools in other parts of the country) and while I believe I could have moved students forward and they would have been better prepared for college, I don't believe many of them would have been able to pass the AP Exam.

It's difficult, I'll be the first to say it, and rightly so.  It should be.

When I sat down with my Principal this past fall and we discussed the goals I had for my students this year I settled on this:  While passing the AP exam would be fantastic, if I move my students forward- help them improve their writing, their analysis and critical thi…

Day 8: Why Celebrate Teachers? Because They Are Essential To The Human Experience #Edblogaday

A Tale of Three Students
This morning, a teacher from our math team came into the staff room because one of our freshman was having a meltdown in her class.  I have cultivated a strong relationship with this student this year.  He is an emotional, passionate, and his peers know this and target him more than necessary.  Being part of the leadership team I wear many hats and today was no exception. I went up to the math class and asked him to step into the hall way with me.  His tears exploded into sobs but we quickly maneuvered through deep feeling and frustrations he was grappling with this morning and he was back in class a few minutes later.

Briana, one of my 11th graders, came in today and gave me a wonderful handmade card, thanking me for teaching her, for helping her develop as a writer, successfully preparing her to pass the Common Core English Regents Exam- which she did so with flying colors.  I have watched her confidence in her ability to succeed academically soar this year in…

Day 7: Gratitude #Thankateacher #edblogaday #teacherappreciation

So many teachers, so little time.
Today I found out I was accepted into a two year leadership program that culminates in being certified to be a school administrator.  I never, and I mean that: NEVER thought I would be taking this step.  There were a plethora of factors that went into the decision to even apply. There was a moment last spring, when I was walking to the subway with my principal and he asked me if I had thought about administration.  A year ago, I was not ready.  What a difference a year makes.

I am ready and I am excited.  I am beating cancer.  I know that life is precious and I have to move forward, take risks and evolve.  I would not have made this choice if I did not have strong school leadership who I know will mentor and support me through this process.  So today, I choose to thank my administrators who have been my champions this year, have had hard conversations, have been transparent and answered so many of my big and small questions.

It's a good time to …

DAY 6: You like me? But do you like me like me or just like me? #Edblogaday (Forewarned: This one is a bit of a rant.)

At the end of my first year in NYC I was not working in my chosen first career but in a huge multinational law firm in Midtown Manhattan. I had culled together paralegal-ish skills over the years, growing up with parents who worked in firms and after high school landing a magic temp job with the Washington AGO working on the case that is now historic against Big Tobacco. I remember sitting in that little cubical in Midtown, learned how much a first year attorney makes right out of law school. It was staggeringly eye opening. Especially when I considered the work they did. No offense to lawyers, but this kind of law was not changing the world.  It was a pissing match between corporations for patent violations or copy-write infringement. I couldn't believe someone was making that much money to argue.  I had never made more than 30,000 a year working in the arts.  It was ok, but this was way before ObamaCare so things like insurance were invaluable when I had been able to work enough…

DAY 5: National Teacher Appreciation Day #Edblogaday #edtech

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of taking for of.our students to the 2015 TechCrunch Disrupt NYC Conference (hackathon, expo, competition, speakers...). After listening to the opening remarks and Fireside chat with Fred Wilson a good friend and supporter of our school as well as advocate for CS education in K-12, we took the kids down to the Start Up Alley with instructions to meet, network, ask questions and learn all they could. They just had to stay in the space and we would meet up to debrief in 90 minutes.  This also meant that I got to wonder through, introduce myself to companies that I thought might work well within the classroom or that I had heard wonderful things about I was excited to meet like Black Girls Code.  There were also some great discoveries and inspiring moments.  I stopped to talk with Shaun Tai of Oakland Digital, something I personally, would love to see spread across the country.  However, the question they were asking everyone was: What was the BRIDGE to…

Day 4: Teaching Is..A collection of moments, good and bad that make for an amazing Journey #Edblogaday

Day 4: For the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week, I have a Teaching Is...poem for you (it's not all rainbows and puppies).

Teaching is...

That moment when you step
into a classroom as a pre-service teacher
questioning every choice they make as
you just observe.

That moment when you step into a classroom
& your cooperating teacher didn't have
any idea
that you were going to be there
& as a result spends the semester resenting you.

That moment when you are finally in your own
and are no longer a renter but an

That moment when only 3
show up for parent-teacher
conferences (for both days).

That moment when you tell
those 3 parents how well their
child is doing in your class
& they cry because it's the first
time this has ever happened.

That moment when you lose a student
to violence...
to drugs...
to an asthma attack...

That moment when you are the only
constant and consistant
in a child's life.

That moment when you cry at

Day 3: My Concern? How to take back the narrative. #Teachingis... #Edblogaday

Day 3 topic:
What's your biggest concern about teaching and what can we do about it?

We all have things that concern us.  There are the day to day things, the larger scale things, then the systemic things. Immediately, passing rate for the AP exam on the 13th, how to push the three kids who didn't do well on the state exam to move forward before June 2nd.  The Spring Talent Show in June and how to get the underclassmen involved.  Supporting 9th grade team to help get their kids read for the science and math exams as well.  Hiring fairs and events as we look to hire our last cohort of teachers as my school grows to have all 4 grades. Completing the last of the observations for mentees for the year and logging those hours. Oh and lessons, always lessons....

Things like one ones I listed above come and go.  They are part of the constant flow of working in education.  Our work never stops.  These are not the things that concern me any more.  My bigger concerns now reside in the sent…

Day 2: Why We Love Spring (And You Should, Too!) #Edblogaday

Day 2: Why We Love Spring!  

Growing up in Seattle, spring was damp (duh) and cold but the sun would come out and eventually the lilacs would bloom.  This smell has to be one of my all time favorites.  When I was in college, I lived in a house in Tucson that was on a street lined with orange trees.  It was a luscious and joyous smell that I remember breathing in through the brief but fragrant time they were in bloom.  This year, spring has been stubborn to arrive here in NY.  But finally, just earlier this week, the trees exploded just a couple blocks from my house and a street that happens to be in between my house and the subway station.  I find myself going out of the way to walk down this one block on my way to and from work, breathing in the sumptuous smell of spring.

As educators, this is also the time of year when teachers start to get tired, frustrated and sometimes discouraged.  I sat earlier this week with a co-worker who is experiencing all of these things.  I, for the mos…

Day 1: Why Blog? #EdBlogADay

Day 1: Why is blogging important to teaching and learning?  #EdBlogADay

I started seriously blogging Fall of 2013.  I made the decision to chronicle my journey through bariatric surgery.  It was a life changing experience- both my surgery and the documentation of the last 18 months.  I quickly learned that the feelings I was having, the thinking I was doing and the highs and lows I experienced were not unique to people who had weight loss surgery.  I also learned that truly authentic reflection is the best way for me to develop and grow.  

With any sort of reflection, there are ups and downs, periods to self-doubt and celebration, things to reconsider depending on the day.  Ultimately, for me blogging is important to teaching and learning because it challenges me to seek clarity about my own work, my own learning.  Often when teachers come together, it leaves teachers dwelling in the negative but I have found the solitary and contemplative nature of blogging results in the opposite.  Ev…