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Watching First-Gens Navigate Financial Aid

This past week, I spent much of my "free time" at school working with two students to ensure they have everything necessary submitted to the university they plan to attend this fall. I was a first-generation college student. So are these young men.So it came as no surprise when a few weeks went by and they hadn't followed up with me. One hadn't checked his email to notice a respond from the Office of Financial Aid to let him know that he needed to submit additional documentation. Other had been so consumed with life (I remember my own senior year when I was so involved in other activities that I forgot to turn in any of the local scholarship applications) that I didn't focus on anything beyond high school. So I spent a little time tracking these guys down, sending reminder texts like, "Paperwork. ASAP," and then following up in person. It was during this process that I also had the chance to watch a young man interact on the phone with the financial aid…
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Making Time for Inquiry

I recently finished Leading for Literacy, WestEd's newest book about Reading Apprenticeship. This book builds on the work in Reading for Understanding, a text that I would argue should be in every teacher's professional library, no matter the content area. If you want to think critically about disciplinary-specific ways of reading and thinking, it's really the book for you.

Leading builds on all the great work that RA teachers are doing and shines much light on continuing and supporting RA implementation for the long haul. With vignettes from across North America, readers get snapshots of others' classrooms, leveraging other teachers' voices in our constant quest to become better reading teachers.

It wasn't until my participation in the Eastern Michigan Writing Project's Summer Institute that I really learned about teacher research or inquiry. In high school, I always thought that teachers just taught. I had this idea that everything that my teachers did rem…

Re-Evaluating What You Do

I recently finished Greg McKeown's Essentialism, a book I had bought two years ago when a few friends and I were on a panel at NCTE together. We had all agreed to buy this book to direct our presentation, but I never had--scratch that--madethe time to read it. I can begin this blog post about taking ownership by actually taking ownership. Not reading that was on me. I didn't make enough tough choices in order to make time to read it. So, Essentialism. In a nut shell, it "is not about how to get more things done; it's about how to get the right things done" (5). Essentialists rank; they discern. They take the time to question and think about opportunities that are presented to them, and they think through the trade-off that will occur if they do one particular thing instead of waiting for another or just saying no altogether. This is tough work for teachers, in particular.

Many of us are go-to people. We want to "do what's right for kids" all the tim…

Taking the Time to Ask Why

Recently a counselor shared an article entitled "Reengaging At-Risk Girls" by Nona C. Jones. She placed it in my mailbox, noting that she "thought of me" when reading it. I finally had the time to sit down, read it, and reflect today. What a powerful article.

In it, Jones writes this: "What shows up as defiance is nothing more than defensiveness, defensiveness learned from a girl having to defend her dignity. What shows up as apathy is nothing more than hopelessness, hopelessness learned from a girl who has never been given a reason to hope. What shows up as anger is nothing more than explosive hurt, hurt that a girl has contained for so long it has nowhere to go but out and at the nearest person.”

This serves as a good reminder that the students we interact with every day are more than just surface-level reactions, behaviors, and emotions. It's when we take the time to question, to ask why, to build meaningful relationships that we can really find out who …

The Mountain Top

I've been thinking a lot about a poem shared with me by my own high school mentor. I haven't read the original book that it comes from, but I shared this same poem with another student as we debated experience and perspective the other day.

Poem from ‘Mount Analogue’ One cannot stay on the summit forever – One has to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this. What is above knows what is below – But what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees – One descends and sees no longer But one has seen! There is an art of conducting one’s self in The lower regions by the memory of What one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, One does at least still know.
So, is it better to have climbed the mountain or to never climb? Is it better to take risks and adventures--to take a chance to see from the summit or precipice--or to remain below?
This is also a reminder that our experiences change us forever. We can never "go back" once we have ex…

We Must Look to the Best

I recently finished reading Todd Whittaker’s What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most. While I’m always skeptical of the promise of “best practices” or any type of guarantee, I quickly realized that the things that Whittaker discusses in this book really are the things that the colleagues I consider to be the best really do.

And Whittaker makes the argument that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the worst to improve our practice. Part of the problem lies in the fact that “many ineffective teachers also think they are doing a good job,” and that building the ability to self-reflect is really hard work. But we can only deeply self reflect and improve our practice when we have exemplars to emulate.

Although there were 17 practices that he shares, I’m really thinking about these: -“When a student misbehaves, the great teacher has one goal: to keep that behavior from happening again. The least effective teacher often has a different goal: revenge.” (25)
-“Great teacher…

Was That a Dream?

I woke this morning earlier than usual. At 3:00 AM I stumbled to the bathroom, paying little attention on my journey. We have a small nightlight in the living room. It’s just bright enough to illuminate my path to the other end of the hour. And we’ve lived here long enough that I could probably navigate with my eyes closed.

I didn’t want to wake my wife, so I napped on the couch until it was time to wake for work. As I sat on the couch in a half-awake state, I thought I could make out a smell that I knew should not be in our house.

A few months ago, Stacy had woken me during the middle of the night to point out a skunk running in our yard. Its white stripe shining bright under the moonlight, I quickly turned back over and went to sleep.

But at 3:30 AM now, I felt a feeling of dread in my stomach. Did it get into the house? Did it get under the house? How much damage did it do? I knew I should have dealt with this earlier.

I walked around the house, smelling from room to room. It seeme…