The Day I Became Dr. Jones


Me with my committee–Dr. Ritchie (left), Dr. Dail (right), and Dr. Rish (computer).

This past Monday (March 13, 2017) I defended my dissertation successfully. My committee unanimously congratulated me and officially called me Dr. Jones for the first time. The moment was a culmination of four years of the most enjoyable hard work I had done in my life, and I could not have done any of it without the amazing support system I have in my life. I am thankful I was surrounded by so many of my loved ones on the day I defended, including my dad, step-mom, in-laws, my principal, my former English Ed professor–Dr. Crovitz, my wife, and maybe most special of all my daughter, Gwen. (There is a great picture of me losing it after my committee congratulated me, and I was holding her later in the post.) My mom lives in another state, so she could not be there for the defense; however, she will be able to attend my graduation in May. All of these individuals made me feel loved and supported throughout my time pursuing this degree. I think it is often true that a family earns a doctorate together. In addition to the love my family showed me, my committee members–Dr. Ritchie (my chair), Dr. Dail, and Dr. Rish–were instrumental in seeing me through the conception of my study to the finish line. Their expertise was paramount in my success, and I am thankful they each believed in the work I was doing. As I returned to work on Tuesday, my colleagues and students all made me feel my accomplishment mattered to them too. Hearing them call me Dr. Jones for the first time was an indescribable feeling. While I do not need anyone to call me Dr. Jones, my fellow teachers and my students using it this week was special. Needless to say, this entire week has been special. Continue reading

Developing an Entry-Level Chemistry PBL: Creating a Tool Box for Success


Today’s post is an update on project planning I am currently doing with Ms. S, a second year chemistry teacher. When I last left off with Ms. S and Ms. C, I requested they both consider what standards they wanted their projects to have students to do some deep-diving. In wonderful fashion, Ms. S did just that for both a fall project idea and a spring project idea. We spent our planning time work on her fall idea. Using several Buck Institute resources (, we started the design process, which to be fair is an overwhelming venture the first time you take it on as a teacher. Why so overwhelming? PBL requires considering a far more variables than typical lesson planning does, and a teacher must plan several contingencies, which amounts to a stressful process where a teacher does not always know where to begin the first time they design a PBL. Like many bad memories, I tend to forget how difficult my first year of doing pervasive PBL really was on me mentally and physically. As I try to coach others like Ms. S, I try my best to recall those feelings of being tired and overwhelmed. Empathy is important when guiding other educators into uncharted waters–remembering we’re in it together keeps me humble and helps me give other teachers perspective. Still, empathy only goes so far. A teacher still needs a firm launching point, so I used BIE resources and a few in-house documents to create a project planning packet.

Continue reading

Zines, Black History, & Lived Experiences


While many of the upcoming posts will chronicle Ms. S and Ms. C’s adventure into project-based learning, I am also working alongside my colleague Mr. Chance, who has written a post here before, as he uses zines as tool enrich his students’ experience with Black literature and connecting that literature to their own lives. Continue reading

Dipping Our Toes into PBL: First Meeting with Ms. S and Ms. C


Yesterday, I sat down with two science teachers in my school building, Ms. S (chemistry) and Ms. C (oceanography/biology), to start a conversation about developing project-based learning (PBL) in their classes.

Both are new PBL as an instructional method, but both are interested in developing their pedagogy to include PBL as a more authentic approach to their content. While Ms. S is planning more so for next year, Ms. C is working on a PBL for her oceanography students that would take place in March/April. Inside today’s post, I go through the pace of our conversation and the questions and concerns they both had moving forward into uncharted waters. Continue reading

Dissertation Defense Set

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On Monday, March 13 at 1PM, I will have an opportunity to defend my dissertation and begin putting the final touches on earning my doctoral degree in English Education. The last four years have been extraordinary. I have made close friends from my cohort and been given opportunities academically and professionally that have changed the course of my work and life forever. I am grateful to everyone who helped get me here and for all of those opportunities.

My study, Zine Culture: Identity & Agency Trajectories in an ELA Classroom, took over a year to prepare for with an additional year to collect and analyze data and to write my findings and conclusions. While the process was trying at times, I would not trade the experience for anything. I am a far better educator and human being for having ventured into the world of academia with the goal of impacting not only my practice, but the practice of other teachers as well. Eventually, I will share some of what I unpacked from my study and what I think it means for the English classroom. Until then, the focus of the blog will be on working with Ms. A and Ms. C in their science classrooms and project-based learning. Those posts are coming soon. In the meantime, supposing all goes well with my defense, I am very seriously considering the pursuit of turning my study into a book worth reading for fellow English teachers and literacy researchers.

We’ll see what happens. Thank you to any of you who follow the blog and have followed my journey. Hopefully there are more insights and getting dirty with pedagogical practice to come!