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

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“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!

Teacher Mentoring: What We Can Learn from Each Other

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Glenn and I giving the ol’ selfie side-eye.

Meet Glenn. Glenn is my wonderfully enthusiastic, bearded protege and mentee. While I certainly try to mentor as many teachers who are willing to listen to my wild ideas and peculiar practices, Glenn is official. This year marks the first year that my school is positioning veteran teachers (in this case teachers who have been at the school for over a year) alongside newcomers (teachers new to the school, not necessarily new to teaching). I worked closely with a colleague over the summer to build our buddy program. We developed the program to be a support for our newcomers, but also to be a boon for our school. Research, that I should be citing, I know, continues to show supporting the professional growth of teachers continuously and with intention helps with teacher retention and student success rates. Still, beyond both the support this program might provide for new teachers to our school and the quality of instruction in our building, this program gives each of these teachers a voice. Like Glenn. I fully expect Glenn to speak just as loudly into my practice and life as an educator as I hope to speak into his. To get to what I mean, let me first tell you a little bit about Glenn. Continue reading

A Summer Update: Data Analysis, SREB, and a New School Year

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Posting this summer has become an elusive task for me. As much as I meant to chronicle my summer of analyzing data, I have not been inspired to do so. Partially, I have been surprised how far behind I feel in my effort. I suppose I am not really, but there is a bit of mental game being played when spending hours reading transcripts, watching videos, and coding it all. I have a long way to go, but what is emerging from the data is both affirming and surprising. That is the fun part. Yes, tiring to be sure, but also fun. It is like I am on a treasure hunt–a long, at times boring, yet exhilarating treasure hunt.  Continue reading