The Parkland Conversation: Caring & Empathy in Our Schools

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In honor of the nationally student-organized Parkland walkouts today, I am posting this today.

Take heart reader, by in large, this is not a politically charged post, but it will serve as a call for change as many of my colleagues and the students I speak to each day are clamoring to see happen. I have spent hours since the February 14th tragedy wrestling with the realities of continued shootings in schools, the emotional fallout, political discord, scared children, attention-seeking adults, and the list goes on and on. I have started and stopped this post in my head many times, but as you can plainly see, I have decided my thoughts and the solutions I will try to convey are worth sharing.

Let’s start with what this post will really be about–I want to posit not only the need for our classrooms to be caring and empathetic in general but also the need for building caring and empathetic classrooms from the inside out, starting with teacher preparatory programs. While I am all for some extended gun laws and restrictions, this post will concentrate solely on what we as a society, in our little nook of it, can do to curtail or even prevent these events immediately.

Before we dive in, I would like to invite any educators who read this post to comment on it with their own use of care ethics and responsive classroom techniques and more specifically where and when you encountered those techniques. Continue reading

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2017: A Retrospective

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My family after successfully defending.

2017 has been one of the most eventful years of my life. I became a dad; I earned my doctorate; I published an entry in SAGE encyclopedia as well as a few other neat moments along the way. Today’s post is dedicated to recounting and appreciating this past year, so fair warning that this post is selfishly about me and my family. I will unpack and reflect on my pedagogy, of course, but I’ll spend time doing the same about me personally.

A BIG thank you to the many in my life who made this year a special one for me. Continue reading

Care & Empathy Training: Preparing Student Mentors to Work with Reluctant Peers

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Today I had a tremendous opportunity to put some of my research from my doctoral study to use in a whole new setting. A few weeks ago my special education department chair came to me with concerns about her peer mentors struggling to connect with her most at-risk students. (For quick background, my school has an ‘academy’ dedicated to serving our 50 most at-risk students as identified by grades, behavior, attendance and other factors under the special education umbrella.) I immediately jumped at the chance to provide training for these mentors, believing my newfound expertise in care ethics could help enlighten these mentors approach to working with their more reluctant peers.  Continue reading

“Lessons in the Family Orchard”: A Poem for the Mother of My Child

Happy Mother’s Day to one and all! To new moms, veterans, step-moms, mothers-to-be, mothers-in-waiting, motherly figures, single dads acting as mom and dad, and especially to those whose moms are no longer with us and those mothers whose child is not able to celebrate with them.

I rarely post personal work on the blog, but today is awfully special as it’s my wife’s first Mother’s Day as a newly minted mom. Below is the poem I gave her this morning. Enjoy!

Lessons in the Family Orchard

In elementary school, we learn about plants

and trees and their anatomies. Not

in detail, like the process of photosynthesis.

We learn about roots,

branches,

leaves.

Roots that dig deep into the earth;

branches that stretch into the open air;

leaves that color the sky.

We learn to admire trees for their age,

their colors, their breath of life. And

we see them as emblems of our own family.
We learn to trace our family’s roots,

branches,

leaves.

Roots that ground us to traditions;

branches that grow our legacy;

leaves that lead to new life.

I have learned to see you as our tree,

steadfast against the elements. You

continue to grow, reaching new heights.

I have learned about your roots,

branches,

leaves.

Roots that hold fast to us;

branches that protect us;

leaves that gave us new life.

You will learn to watch her grow in our

orchard only to start her own. She

will thrive in your umbrage day and night.

You will teach her about her roots,

branches,

leaves.

Roots that tell her she is known;

branches that show her reach;

leaves that lead to legacy.

She will grow, fed by your love–both pruning and watering;

she will love, led by your example–both truly and deeply–

just like the roots, branches, and leaves

of her mother.  

-W. K. Jones

Posting Hiatus

Readers, friends, and family, as I continue to fall woefully behind in my attempts to post relevant and interesting content on the blog, I am forced to admit I need to take a hiatus.

I am neck deep into writing my dissertation and an article with very clear deadlines (oh, and I’m going to be a dad!), so I have decided they need my attention more than anything. My hope is that by November I might return to posting on a regular basis. Until then, send good vibes and prayers my way. I need them!