Who am I?

MYP Humanities Instructor.  International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. Americorp Alumnae. National Board Certified Teacher.  Traveler & TV Watcher.

This is where I think about these things.

To see what’s going on in my classroom, visit my class blog

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Breaking it down

My assessments are full of text. And not fun text…boring text. Sometimes I try fun fonts or pretty colors or a thought-provoking pictures. But there are a lot of words. Seriously…look at this grade 6 assignment.


But it’s never the most entertaining. But it is important.

I’ve been using the sequencing brainframe* to help my kids break down what they need to do. Sequencing brainframe basically is a story telling device. First you do this then you do that.

Sometimes my brainframes are done online.  This one was for our grade 7/8 2 day project based learning days and broke down the steps for the kids would do when working independently.



Sometimes I do them very neatly and post them on my blog. This one is for my grade 6 early man skits.


Most of the time I just quickly do it on the whiteboard and take a pic at the end of class. This one is for my grade 7 empires timeline. 


Or my grade 7 Child Labor Trial, with the days written down for when they should finish each step.


This helps my kids SEE the steps. It also helps my kids CHECK that they have all the required bits of our pretty big assignments. And when I add the “check the TSC” (our word for rubric)” along the way it ensures that my kids are REFLECTING on their work

The final step is have my kids take all the text and make their own sequencing brainframe.  Stay tuned for how that goes…


*brainframes are flexible visual organizers that help students visually communicate their understanding and their thinking. See Architects for Learning for more information about how they work.

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Helping teachers learn

One of my hats is “In-School Professional Development Leader”. Basically, I help shape what professional learning goes on in school, be it through meetings or structures for learning through teacher evaluations. As I get ready to actually plan 2016/17 professional learning for YIS teachers, I’ve been reading Dylan Wiliam’s new book “Leadership For Teacher Learning: Creating a Culture Where All Teachers Improve so That All Students Succeed.  Before I went off  this and starting worrying about logistics of planning faculty meeting I wanted to reflect on some of the points Wiliam brings up. 

I have been at staff meetings where I’ve considered if it would be less painful to stick an icepick in my ear rather than stay and listen to one more thing. Every one of these memes resonates for me.



And now I’m the person organizing Monday morning meetings.  With the admin team, I help shape what professional learning looks like at YIS. It’s a hugely challenging/fun job. And I work really hard for the meetings to be learning experiences, not a rehash of what could have been said in an email. But I know one is that happy to receive an email from me reminding them of Monday’s meeting. Even me, some days, if I’m honest.

So as I get ready to plan next year’s professional learning plan, I wanted to put some quotations from Dylan Wiliam and do some reflection before I start working.

“Once the “what” of teacher professional development is clear, then the focus should turn to the “how” of professional development, and in particular, the process of teacher learning should be tailored to the focus of teacher learning that has be identified as a priority.”(p164)

It seems obvious that the “what” should be improving student learning. But what that means is more difficult to assesses. And sometimes I get so focused on the logistics and the plan and choosing the exact right activity to do with teachers, that perhaps I don’t communicate the focus on student learning as clearly as I should. So when I start planning…I’ll start with the “what” rather than the “how”.


“The aim of professional development is not to make everyone a clone of every other teachers, but rather to support each teacher in becoming the best teacher he or she can ben. Teachers are often their best when they are their quirky idiosyncratic selves and that is why choice is so important” (p168).

I love this quote. One of the reasons I love YIS is that it does embrace the quirky. Professional Learning needs to allow teachers to be themselves and play to their strengths. At international schools, where people come from many different backgrounds, this may be especially true. But that said, I do think all teachers can improve. But improvement can and should look different for every person.

“Teachers have to make small incremental, evolutionary changes to their practice…only a small numbers — ideally one or two, and certainly no more than three –aspects of their practice at one time”  (p 175)

It’s probably no surprise for anyone who knows me, but I like to go full steam ahead. But that isn’t really what is best. Change in school is evolutionary, which can be so frustrating when I want change RIGHT NOW. But I need to take a breath. The best example I can think of this is how much I want to introduce data collection and analysis into how we think about professional learning. I think there is a lot of value of knowing if what we are doing is having an impact on learning. I think I was ready to do that next year. But I’m realizing that is a long-term project and I need to create the circumstances for that to evolve so that it sticks at YIS for a long time.


“Teachers may, of course, chose to engage in research on lesson study [or}…learning styles… [etc] if they choose to do so, but that should be outside their contract. In contractually committed time, teachers should prioritize what makes the most difference to the students” (p 177)

This one has really got me thinking. As an inquiry based school, we value teacher and student inquiry. Our Professional Learning Plan is basically a year-long inquiry into a topic of teacher interest. Nine full faculty meetings are put aside for people to work on their inquiry…..that is a lot of time AND money our school puts towards this type of learning. I believe passionately that teachers need to have ownership of their learning and the best learning happens when people choose to construct meaning for themselves. I’ve seen great things happen when teachers choose what to study…even if it’s not what I would have chosen. So trying to balance teacher inquiry with practices that best serve the students (even if it’s not what the teachers would choose) is an interesting one that I need to think more about.


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What my students taught me on their last day of school

Today was the last day for my grade 12s. They are going away to take their exams. I’m a little sad. Actually I’m a lot sad, because I’ve spent two years with these people and after today I won’t see them every day. I love teaching middle school, but there is something special being part of this literal commencement of adulthood. My smart, funny, refuse-to-focus, history dorks* are ready to leave me.

Today the grade 12s took over the school. Senior pranks at YIS are so silly. They ask permission for each prank. They steal chairs and takeover the staff lounge until 9AM and no later. They make grade 1 students pretend to be IB students. They photoshop teachers as professional basketball players and as Churchill. Silly, funny, thoughtful pranks**

So today I came to my room this morning and I saw this and laughed…

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And I saw this and laughed…

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And I saw this and I was hit in the gut…


I laughed all day at this. It’s just so biting and mean and true. The women of my class are so damn smart***. But then I thought about it. What type of teacher/feminist am I when women aren’t the heroes of history, at least sometimes?   Why do we basically have a celebration every time we learn a woman’s name or read a history book written by a woman? Why are we studying what happens to women as opposed to understanding how women can take control of history?


I can make excuses. I know exactly why I teach what I do and there are legitimate reasons, too boring and pedantic to discuss here. But the wonderful women of my history classes deserve more. The men in my class deserve to know that studying women is valid and important.


I’m now trying to figure out how to add something women to the syllabus for next year’s students, because they deserve more too. My gorgeous grade 12s, these special men and women, totally schooled me on their last day at school. They inspired me to be a better teacher.  As it should be.


  1. I call them dorks, lovingly, on a regular basis. My wall of memes they sneakily post proves my thesis.
  2. Sometimes they are so sweet that I legitimately worry about them when they leave YIS. Are they tough enough?
  3. I know it was the women because I talked to them.
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Learning in the 10th Circle of Hell: Learning at the Middle School Dance

Here is my talk from Learning2 Manila. Thanks for letting me have the stage, Learning2. I’m realizing how much fun it is up there!

Watch this talk if…

….you have 8 minutes to spare and you’re running out of internet to read

… you have memories from your middle school dance and need to find a like-minded community

…watching adults awkwardly dancing to Boyz II Men makes you happy

…you think middle schoolers are resilient, amazing people.


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Project One School: Empowering Kids Two Days at a Time

I’m behind. I have about 10 blog posts I need to write. But my words all seem to be going to other spaces…Coetail blogs, report cards, emails. All those places words go. But I’m blogging now. And that’s my little victory for today. 

I’m starting this off with the statement that this wasn’t my project. I was there for support. And ideas. And feedback. And support. But this entire project was the brainchild of Cari Barbour, English teacher extraordinaire. But I did want to blog about it, so I don’t forget.

The Germ of an Idea: Where did this idea come from?

  • Where: At the EARCOS middle school conference
  • When: 2 days in  May 2015
  • Who:  A bunch of middle school teachers from YIS. Just having the group of teachers with time to talk and laugh meant that we could make something happen
  • What: Could we take our middle school kids off of timetable for a project based learning week?

First Prototype: What did we first think would happen?

  • Who: All middle schoolers in mixed grade teams
  • When: One week at the end of the 2015 school year. Beacause we don’t do anything
  • What: Students would create something based around something that interested them. Students would be grouped around themes like “Arts” “Sports” or “Service” We would include sessions about Approaches to Learning.

It was pretty obvious from the first discussion this was a step beyond where we actually were. A week was too much time. The idea of something was too vague. And we were too tired to actually make it happen.

Second Prototype: What we actually did 

  • What: In your groups you will design, organize, and present a new idea to bring together a new idea to bring YIS together.
  • How: The three winning pitches (who met the criteria according to three judges) will be funded by a PTSA grant (thanks PTSA!)


So you want to run your own PBL days and you want to steal some stuff (please do! And then share how you made it better!) 

If you want to see what things actually looked like, check out the Project One School googlesite. This was the resource the kids had and you can see the schedule for the day, what skills they kids worked on, and information about the idea of the pitch and the rubric for the most successful pitch.

  • Reflection: 
    • It was amazing. You should do it at your school. Kids are fantastic and they always step up. They handled the freedom of being off timetable, with minimal teacher supervision, with responsibility and a sense of pride.Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 3.13.56 PM
      • Teach your kids how to do action plans. It’s worth it, even though it sounds boring. At leadership day last year, a bunch of kids were introduced to an action plan and used it to plan events and activities. And with the kids in lots of different groups, there was at least one “expert” who could help the kids create a two day action plan. And now kids are using for dances or for GIN-CAS concerts, etc.
      • I loved watching kids go and talk to people they don’t normally talk to. They interviewed the principal. They found the service learning coordinator. They interviewed grade 3 kids. They surveyed high school kids. It was a great way to get people talking and letting the kids take the lead. When do our kids have the opportunities to do this. Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 8.05.56 AM
      • We need to involve more teachers. I think there was a core group of people who knew (kind of/sort of ) knew was going on. We need more teachers involved next year.
      • Even though kids were off-timetable, logistics were still a nightmare. How is that even possible? Each group had a logistics manager…they needed to know where there was supposed to be and when.
        • Do brain breaks. We had one kid in each group lead people with brain breaks.
        • There were stakes and they were very real. Every group had to present. Everyone had to contribute. There was a winner. This was negotiable.  This is vital to giving energy to the days. Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 3.11.17 PM
          • Kids were practicing all the skills we want them to: Creative commons presentations. Public speaking. Collaboration. Making connections between classes. Collaboration. Collaboration.
          • Here are the kid’s reflections. If it’s possible for a google form to be entertaining, this might be it.
          • Process is more important than product. Do I really need to expand?

Next Steps:

  • 3 groups won. They now have mentor teachers and are working towards getting it done
  • Non-winning presentations may still happen. You don’t have to win to bring the school together.
  • We will do it again. Bigger and better. Stay tuned


Photos found at the YIS Smug Mug


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That’s a tomorrow problem

flickr photo shared by Drriss & Marrionn under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Two inherent truths about myself:

  1. I love sleep
  2. I dislike stress

I wear a lot of hats. I think all teachers do. And I’m always so excited to say “yes”. All of my “yes” moments are intrinsically motivated. I love trying new things, being part of a solution, and I want to avoid falling into a rut. But along the way, I’ve found myself sometimes struggling to balance all of the hats I’ve chosen to wear. And that leads to stress. And that leads to less sleep. Which has meant that I’m not honoring the two to truths about myself. So I’ve tried a few things to help this year. Some are simple (Wunderlist has saved my life and the first app I’ve ever liked as a to-do list). Some are lifestyle choices (Headspace to help with mediating is really a special thing). But the biggest one for me is scheduling my worry.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 3.10.57 PM

The answer was somehow both.


Designated Worry Time

Every morning when I get to school, I look at my Wunderlist and have a tiny panic attack. And then get busy scheduling when I will worry about the things on my to-do list*.  It could be I’ll worry about it in March. It could be period 3 tomorrow. When I get an email, I mentally think about when I can worry about it. Sometimes I put the worry time in my calendar. Or I tell people “that’s a Thursday problem, but I promise to get to it then”. Or I have designated days to worry about a particular project.

And here is the secret:

I don’t worry about it until I’m schedule to worry.  

Quick case study:

flickr photo shared by photosteve101 under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

I teach DP History and it is often the class that takes most of my time in planning and grading. I received a long email from my DP coordinator with the details of uploading my internal assessments in three weeks time, which also happened to be the week grades were due and we had Student Led Conference. Normally this work have me immediately responding, emailing and dropping all other things to get it done as soon as possible and me stressing about all of the things that seemed to be due at the exact same hour. Instead what I did was send the email to my Wunderlist and didn’t think about it for 10 days, when I knew I had a day with a low teaching load and most of my grading would be done. I would occasionally think about it, but I knew I had time to deal with it later. And I slept pretty good that week.

Why this works for me

Having been using this system this school year, there are a couple of side-effects to this (both positive and negative)

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 3.51.34 PM

I created the category “my own damn life in a moment of frustration last year. This year it makes me laugh.

  • I am active as opposed to be reactive. I don’t have to jump with every email. I don’t have to respond to everything. I will get to it when my schedule says I can.
  • I’m using my time wisely. As opposed to spinning around my googledocs like a virtual Tasmanian Devil, I know what I’m doing because I’ve planned it. And I’m not jumping from project to project because I know I have time scheduled for everything. And now I’m no longer worrying, but I’m thinking.
  • I’ve started long-range planning. I’ve prioritized many of my projects, put them in a Googles spreadsheet and indicated when I’m going to think about it. In doing so I realized I was planning on doing a lot of big picture thinking in March. This isn’t going to be feasible because of the fact that I’m traveling and grades will be due. So I figure out when I do have time to worry about those big projects.
  • It seems like I’m avoiding things, but I promise I’m not. One of my biggest flaws is actively ignoring things I don’t want to do. But by honoring my time, I actually know I am going to do something I don’t want to do.
  • Things come up. We work in a school and things will come up. There are days where my plans will be thrown out the window and something needs to get done right now! But that’s okay.  And sometimes something will take longer than expected. And that’s okay too. I will have weeks where things will be intense and I will worry and stress and maybe my to-do list will be running through my mind at 2AM. It happens. But it will get done.
  • I’m vaguely afraid that by posting this post I’m jinxing myself I can imagine 20 emails coming in 30 minutes after I post and I will regret ever hitting publish.
  • Sometimes, people won’t get what they want from me right away. This is a toughie for me. I don’t like to say no. I don’t want to do less than 100% for my students and do less than my best in the jobs I’ve already said yes to. I love to dive in. But my life is a delicate balance and sometimes I have to tell someone I can’t do it right now. But I promise to worry about it later. And if I don’t have time to worry about it, maybe I will just have to say no (gulp!)


Of course this won’t work for all people. But it works for me.  And having been working on this this year, I feel healthier and more balanced. And most importantly, for everyone around me, I’m back getting my full 8-9 hours of sleep.


*There is something much more formal based in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy called designated worry time. My system isn’t quite that, but it’s not too far off.

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Learning from Each Other: Getting Meta with Professional Learning

I have recently taken on a new role at YIS…In-School Professional Development Leader. More to come on what this means, but it’s really thinking about how we support teacher learning while at ELC to grade 12, whether in meetings, PD days, or through the  Professional Growth Plan. I’m both excited and overwhelmed with the possibilities.  This post is about the first initiative with this new role. 

Our school, on the somewhat isolated country of Japan, value learning from each other. We also believe in punching above our weight. These are powerful qualities to have in a school. Around 20% of YIS teachers have led a professional development session of some kind outside of school. For a small school, this is a pretty impressive number. And even more teachers have lead workshops at school.

With this is mind, in my new role of in-school professional development leader, was to organize a learning opportunities for teachers who lead PD sessions, at school or away. I wanted to take advantage of the expertise we had of experienced presenters. We have the amazing Kim Cofino, who presents around the world, at our disposal and I wanted to steal ideas from her. And we had design-teacher extraordinaire, Joe Martinez, who does gorgeous presentations. And, equally important, I wanted to help empower other people so that they felt confident in presenting to other adults in a professional setting.

So I sent out this form

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 1.17.14 PM

And I got these responses:

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Again, I can’t stress enough how small our school is. And at the end of the school year, to see so many people, some of them unexpected, willing spend time thinking about professional development was pretty impressive.

The Three Sessions

Based on the feedback, we ended up having three voluntary sessions, open to all staff. I sent a pre-survey to the people who said they wanted to go to help out Joe and Kim and they did amazing things.

Session 1: May 27th (4-5PM): Designing an attractive and effective presentation. Run by Joe Martinez, this session will look at tools, templates and styles that will allow you to create attractive and effective presentations.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.11.36 PM

For this one, I wanted to give people options other than Presentation Zen. We, as a staff, are pretty good at using images instead of bullet points. I love Presentation Zen, but Joe’s style suggests there might be a next level. As simple as adding lines or pushing Google Presentation to the max, it’s amazing what we can do.

Session 2: June 1 (11-12PM): Creating an one hour workshop: This session will focus on how to plan for a one hour session with adult learners run by Kim Cofino. Kim will address how to create a plan, how to engage learners with with different activities, how to tap into prior knowledge, share ideas/resources and reflect.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.12.21 PM

This session really broke down Kim’s thinking about how to structure, plan and engage adult learners. Practical things like grouping and different protocols for collaborating.  No one knows this stuff better than Kim*. We were beyond lucky to have her as a friend and colleague and this session was just one more example of that.

Session 3: June 11 (4PM-5PM) –Creating an extended session created by Kim Cofino: This session will look at how you plan and organize an extended session for adult learners. This session will address engagement of adult learners (before, during and after), storing/organization/sharing of your PD resources, supporting reflection, and differentiation for adult learners.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 2.12.34 PM

Have I mentioned no one knows this better than Kim?

Wrapping it all up

The first session had almost thirty people show up. The second session (held on a day with no students) had about 25 people. And the third session, definitely a more niche topic, had about 12 people. It was amazing to see a room with teachers from all different parts of the school, including almost all the administration team, sit down and talk about adult learning.  I wish I took pictures, but I was too busy learning. It’s  pretty meta having a PD session about how to run PD. Kim’s fantastic sessions, in particular, focused on how to run a meeting, by using strategies she uses to run a meeting or learning session. It was a bit trippy. And all three sessions were excellent. I’m not sure of the impact of these sessions yet. I want to do more and I think people want more. We want our teachers to be leaders both at YIS and beyond, because they have so much to share. And I do know that the Head of School ran a end of year meeting using some of the ideas for Kim and Joe’s session. And that can’t be a bad thing.  


* In many ways, the inspiration of this session was to take full advantage of the last days of Kim at YIS. 

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“You’re just like Kris Jenner, Ms. Madrid”

“You’re just like Kris Jenner, Ms. Madrid”.

                                                -Grade 11 DP History Student on May 8th, 2015

That was a new one for me. I’ve never been compared to the matriarch of a family known for living their life on reality TV. So when I was compared to someone Urban Dictionary describes as “a fame hungry control freak who wishes she was 25” I got a little scared.*

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But it was a compliment. I swear.

My grade 11 DP history kids created some kick-butt Crash Coursestyle videos. The videos were funny, informative, and clearly my kids had worked hard on them. I may be a little prejudiced, but I think they’re fantastic. So I wanted to share them with the world. I asked them to change their YouTube settings to public and I asked for permission to tweet them out. These kids, who moments before were squirming in their seats when their 10 classmates were watching, wanted me to share them as quickly as possible. And when I was having issues with YouTube the same kids were posting them on blogs that are looking a little dusty.

And it was in this confusion of sharing and technology snafus that I was called Kris Jenner.

When I asked my student to follow up her statement, she said I was trying to make them famous like Kris Jenner made her kids famous. They were excited I thought something they shared was cool enough to tweet out to my 2000 followers.** And of course they’re not going to be famous because of my one tweet. Nor do I want them to be. But I do want their voices heard. I hope they will feel special that I cc’d @johngreen on the message. And I hope they might get just a tiny bit excited when this blog post pings back to theirs. And if they hit double digits on their YouTube videos, that might be kind of cool. This isn’t about keeping up with the Kardashians***, but about telling my students that I think what they have to say is worth other people hearing.

Sometimes I check in with myself to make sure I’m using Twitter and building my PLN for the right reasons. But if I can give my students a voice outside the room, then I think I’m doing okay. And it’s little moments like this, when I’m compared to a woman who (according to the New York Times) “not just invaded the culture but metastasized into it”, that I think I might be doing something good.


* There are days I wish I was 25, though. And there are days I might be a control freak.

** Kris Jenner laughs at this measly number, but it’s been 5 years building up to this point. Still surprises me people press that follow button.

*** I’ve actually never watched this show, so I have no real opinion on Kris Jenner beyond what I’ve learned just by being alive in the internet age. Not because I wouldn’t (I love terrible TV), but because I live overseas.

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Leadership Day 2: Empowering Student Leaders in Middle School

You can’t make the term “project management” sound fun. Or cool. Or like anything you want to think about ever. Every consenant sounds harsh and the concept sounds like something out of The Office.

So with that said, I had a blast talking about project management with 30 middle school kids.

First semester, we instituted our first leadership day (blogged about here). In classic YIS fashion, we decided to up our game and take 30 kids off campus to talk about project management. Now this sounds insane/boring. Instead, it was one of the best days I’ve spent with middle schoolers.

The goal:

To help students learn how to manage big projects that they are responsible for outside of the classroom.

The who:

Students who have been identified as leaders. This was the student council, members of the service committee, and members of GIN-CAS (Global Issues Network-Community & Service). Some of the kids didn’t know why they had been identified as leaders. But teachers and admin saw something special in these kids and so they were invited. It a wide-variety of kids.

Defining Leadership

I’ve come to realize that we have made leadership into something bigger than us. We’ve made into something beyond us. We’ve made it about changing the world. And we’ve taken this title of leader, and we treat it as if it’s something that one day we’re going to deserve, but to give it to ourselves right now means a level of arrogance or cockiness that we’re not comfortable with. And I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do that we’ve convinced ourselves that those are the only things worth celebrating, and we start to devalue the things that we can do every day, and we start to take moments where we truly are a leader and we don’t let ourselves take credit for it, and we don’t let ourselves feel good about it –

Drew Dudley- Ted Talk, Everyday Leadership

Some of the kids didn’t know why they had been identified as leaders. But teachers and admin saw something special in these kids and so they were invited. It a wide-variety of kids, from all grades and different social groups. Susie found this great TED talks, which helped us as adults shape what we wanted our students to be: everyday leaders. This helped our kids realize that they don’t have to be the most vocal, or outgoing, person to be a leader. They just had try to make a small difference. This seems manageable to a middle school kid.

The Newspaper Challenge

Most teachers who has ever been to a workshop based around team building/creativity have done the newspaper challenge. You have a limited time and limited resources to build a freestanding structure. For teachers this is old news. For kids, this is new and exciting.

PicMonkey Collage

This was used to talk about all the aspects of project management that we had identified: success criteria, planning, time-management, teamwork, and overcoming problems.

Project Management System

I just added the word system to make it an even more boring phrase. Click here if you want to see all the cool work the kids did to discuss all the phases of managing a big project. It’s way more exciting than anything I can time

Project Work Time

The afternoon was spent working on any upcoming projects.

  • Student Council: Assemblies, Sports Week, and Movie Night
  • Student Service Committee: All-school service fair
  • GIN-CAS: Red and White Concert

PicMonkey Collage

They worked so hard. And they worked because they had something important and something that mattered.

Final Reflections 

  • We need to give our kids time to do these projects we are asking them to do. At YIS we turn a lot of control over to the kids. They run assemblies, put on fundraising concerts, and organize all sorts of things. But like adults, they need the time to do this. To take them off campus and to to give them 3 hours to just work together was incredibly valuable.
  • Project management may not be sexy, but it’s necessary. I’ve already noticed that my student council has been more self-sufficient when it comes to planning. They know what they need to do and they do it.

    This is entirely student generated. I wasn't even shared on it until last week.

    This is entirely student generated. I wasn’t even shared on it until last week.

  • I’m so grateful to my school in how much they support this initiative. The PTSA who helps fund it, the always fantastic Adam Clark, the get-things-done Susie Clifford, my principal and Head of School who took time out of their day to stop by and work with the kids. It’s such a gift to work in a place where the default is “yes, and what can I do to help?”
  • Yesterday, the PE department identified 15 kids (different from the ones who we took on Leadership Day) to help run Elementary Sports Day.
    Grade 8 at ES Field Day

    Grade 8 at ES Field Day

    That means that we have about 45 kids identified as potential leaders, all with different skills. That is a powerful investment into their future of our school.

  • There is nothing out there to help support middle school student leaders. Susie and I ran a workshop at the EARCOS Middle School Student Conference in April.In preparing for this session, neither of us could find any resources for supporting middle school students as leaders. And there should be. So for anyone out there looking for stuff here is our presentation.


  • The Red and White Dance last week and the Service Fair this week were awesome. Kids had all sorts of roles…behind the scenes and up on stage. They did it all. And I truly because our job in middle school it to help them learn and then trust our kids to do amazing things. Because they can do awesome things. Grade 8 running the concert like a boss

Red and White Concert


This is written as part of my Professional Growth Plan focusing on Student Leadership

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Live Tweeting a History Class


 I’m starting this with the fact that I stole the following lesson from Ilja van Wering and Russel Tarr. They are the ones who came up with the great idea of a Historian’s Dinner Party for DP History students. The idea of having students investigate and play the role of historians studying WWI was all their idea and I unashamedly stole their idea. And my students seems to really geek out on role playing a debate and arguing a point of view even if they don’t believe in the position of their historian. And it can make historiography, something that can be a little dry, come alive. With that said, I wanted to talk a little about the process of live tweeting the conversation. I have had a historians dinner party twice…once discussing the origins of WWI and one more time today talking about the origins of WWII. And both time, my only job was to live tweet the conversation. I was the recorder and as such I was silent. And some of my kids joined in the conversation. We use the hashtag #16HISYIS so that we can follow the conversation without following each other. And in the process of live tweeting the conversation, I’ve noticed some real advantages of flipping the script and having me be the notetakers. 1) The conversation can just go. They don’t have to take notes and they don’t have to worry about remembering everything. I’ve shared my tweets with them and they know they can use that to go back and remember the conversation. 2) They don’t need me to talk. Today they talked for 40 minutes without me saying a word. They were in charge of the conversation. And if there was an awkward silence, they had to deal with it. 3) They really listen to each other.

It’s great to see heads nodding in agreement. And to see them shake their heads when they don’t agree. And to see them build on each other’s arguments. And to see them reach out to the quiet students to ensure that they are heard.

4) Through my tweets, my kids can see what I consider important. I can’t tweet everything, so I try to tweet what matters. Like anytime you live tweet, I try to capture the conversation as best I can and to showcase the most salient/interesting points. Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 3.44.28 PM

5) By having a backchannel some of more talkative students can “talk” without dominating the discussion. And I can “talk” with those students using the hashtag too.

6) There is something about having a global audience that tells my kids this is important. I’m not going to lie, my kids are impressed I have more than 125 followers. So when I say I’m tweeting their conversation, they feel that what they say matters. So they take it a little more seriously.

So next steps

1) I would love to have more kids in the back channel. I haven’t mandated that the kids get twitter accounts, but I would like to nudge them to do it more. Because I love what the add to that conversation.

2) It think there is a way to globalize this. I have a feeling Ilja and I will try to do this via Skype.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 3.51.45 PM
But with a larger group, there may be value to some kids in the backchannel while others play the historians. We’ll see where this goes. But I’m excited to be the silent one and record my kids learn.


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