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Swimming by YouTube

It started innocently enough. An email from a friend suggesting that we do a super-short-distance all-women triathlon near where I live. Well, that’s easy! No, I didn’t know how to swim (not-drowning was about as far as I could go), I didn’t own a bike (other than the broken-down oversize man’s bike under the house that I’d rescued from a millionaire boss in New York City who VERY briefly wanted to be Lance Armstrong), and I only ran when chased…or maybe on fire. Maybe. But then it nagged at me. I was approaching my mid-40’s, and this would be a perfect opportunity to do something big. My parents raised me to believe I could do anything I wanted to–actually, it still never occurs to me that I can’t. And really, I should probably learn how to swim. Actually, I should already know. I grew up in Florida, after all. But I was the kid who always got dunked or thrown in the pool. Water was not fun for me. And putting my face in the water? Forget it. So the days and weeks went by while I debated with myself, and the triathlon filled up except for a few ridiculously

Mrs. Franks’ House

When I was about 5 years old I was at a neighbor’s house who opened her home to serves as a babysitter. There were always lots of kids of all ages at Mrs. Franks’ and it was a chaotic but happy, play-driven atmosphere. My mom had dropped me off after school while she ran some errands. I was sitting at the dining room table drawing a picture and coloring. There was one other boy coloring, too. I was very eager to have some recognition for my picture, as Mrs. Franks came into the room, and was contemplating asking for her to come look. But from either shyness or insecurity or divine intervention I did not say anything. The other little boy was jumping up and down saying “come look at what I did, come look at my picture,” and generally being a pest, demanding his due attention. Mrs. Franks finally looked at his picture, but said to him, “look at how nice and quiet and polite and patient Andrea is over there, and her picture is just as worth looking at as yours. You could learn something from her.” It’s a powerful lesson I have never forgotten and has molded

“John, you are in charge. What do we do now?”

I was 19 and in an instructor training course for Colorado Outward Bound. We had backpacked in to Snowmass Lake, and then, after crossing a steep snowfield (late June) climbed up over beautiful wildflower covered slopes into a high col in the ridge between Snowmass and the next cirque to the north under Capitol Peak. Just as we came into the col, a huge thunderstorm blew in from the north. Lightning was striking the peaks around us, and thunder was echoing back and forth across the cirque. The north slope was covered in avalanche-prone snow, which the booming thunder threatened to shake loose. Our packs began to buzz with electricity, signaling possible lightning strikes. The instructor turned to me, and calmly said, “John, you are in charge. What do we do now?” I had to think of a safe plan and execute it extremely quickly, and I had to manage getting the rest of the group into a safe place and addressing their fears, while organizing how they would move in an orderly and safe way down the snow covered slope to the valley below. We were able to get off the ridge and down the slope safely and quickly,

“I want to tell my mom about the skunk track!”

“What is that?” the boy asked the old man pointing at a spot in the mud. “Looks like a critter track. I bet you left one too,” said the old man, looking around at the muddy footprints on the rocks near the boy. The boy looks at his own tracks in the mud and on the rocks and asks, “Who made these?” “That is a good question, I have a book of prints and maybe we can figure it out.” The old man and the boy scurry up the rocks out of the creek and head to the house to get the book to see what left the track in the mud. They find the book and take it back to the creek to compare the track to those in the book and figure out that it was a skunk. “I want to tell my mom about the skunk track!” exclaimed the boy. “Good,” The old man replied, “let’s write it in our journal so we don’t forget to tell her tonight when she gets home.” They sit down and the boy tells the old man what to write and they construct a few sentences about what they saw and

Anthony Cody’s Learning Story

All of our students deserve well-trained teachers, but high needs schools often struggle to retain teachers, especially in math and science. I was lucky to work for 18 years with a remarkable group of teachers at Bret Harte Middle School in Oakland. Nine years ago, our science and math departments were struggling with turnover, so we applied and received a state grant to improve instruction. We assigned each new teacher an experienced colleague to serve as their informal mentor, and we met several times a month to share and learn together. We conducted lesson study, developing lessons together, then observing one another teach. We looked hard at our assessment practices, and learned to do formative assessments. There were several keys to making this work. 1. Classroom teachers were in charge. We set the direction of the project, and we chose the tools we would use to collaborate. We had a vision for what we needed and we owned the process. 2. Our principal, Mary Hamadeh, was supportive but not prescriptive. She encouraged us to apply for the grant, but she did not attempt to micromanage it. 3. We brought in resources from partners in the community. Local experts in Lesson Study from

Raechel Waddy’s Learning Story

I could never narrow down the path of learning which has led me to this point in life. I can’t pin it all on one defining epiphany that woke me up and made me pay attention. I can tell about all the small things which have added to my experience. These things may be the “…so you can get into a good college.” statements that I heard throughout my life, the look that my Dad always gives me that says he knew I could do it, or the many privileges I have had in my education. Without these three things I could never have come this far, could never be graduating in May with a wonderful GPA or have the opportunity to stand in front of 129 students as their student teacher this January. My Mother’s “…so you can get into a good college.” statements left little doubt in my mind about what happens after highschool. I was somewhat amazed to find out later on that there were other children who grew up knowing the “…college isn’t for everybody.” statement instead. Where would I be today if I had known such an option existed? Do our children fail because they

Jenerra Williams’ Learning Story

At Mission Hill School, we publish a weekly newsletter that goes out to our extended community, both near and far. Within the newsletter is a short piece from each classroom teacher. Usually, the piece is a reflection on the children’s learning and growth. As I searched a few weeks ago for a topic to write I stepped away from writing about my students’ progress and instead thought I’d share a little about my own reflection as a learner. Recently it was our student teacher Molly’s last day. Every time a student teacher leaves I am filled with mixed emotions of sadness and joy. It is always sad to see someone leave who has become a part of your community. In a few short months they find their rightful places in our classrooms and in our hearts. However, I am joyful too. When student teachers leave my classroom, I feel confident that they have learned something about our school, our students, teaching, and themselves. It is in this confidence where I find my own growth. With every student teacher, I become a better mentor. I learn to ask the right questions. I learn to comfort and console and to create

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