Category Archives: EduCon

EduCon Resources: Creating The Ethic of Care.

Awesome notes courtesy of hellohomeroom.

Awesome notes courtesy of hellohomeroom.

The second session I was involved with involved significant less planning — but also somewhat more heart — than Standards Based Grading and Reporting.

Lehmann, Pia and I — and Mark Bey, and alumnus Mike Dea, and a smattering of SLA freshmen who all chose to be in the room just because — took folks on a meandering but meaningful tour through how care works in our building, and how we “care for” instead of just “caring about.”

Here are the prompts we used for the discussion:

  • What is the difference between care about and care for?
  • How can you (help teachers) make that transformation?
  • What are the challenges of this switch?
  • What are the tensions between caring for the adults and the children in the building?
  • How do you schedule care?
  • How can care be built into every structure and system that you have?

Here are a few general reflections from the session:

This process is not easy, and it’s never finished. SLA Spanish teacher Mark Bey talked about how his understanding of caring for students changed and expanded when he started working at the school — and now he tells his new advisory families that he is that child’s unconditional advocate in the building. They know that there is at least one person in the building who has their child’s best interests in mind.

Contact is key — and for us that includes Facebook, text messages, and hand-written journals passed back and forth, and random visits from graduates.

These procedures need space and time. We have advisory twice a week for 40 minutes, and advisory families stay together from freshman through senior year. We also have weekly planning time for all staff, which we sometimes use to conference in advisory groups, so teachers can plan curriculum, discuss upcoming events, etc.

That said — the shift to caring for can happen in small ways, without having your whole staff on board, and without a major shift in the schedule of the day. Three questions that Lehmann mentioned were key to treating students with care: What do you think? What do you need? And, when kids are in trouble, or upset, or in any kind of difficult situation: What do you need to say now?

We talked about situations where we have sat with a student and waited, patiently, without prodding, to hear what a student had to say about their life and their issues. Sometimes, proverbially speaking, we wait years. Sometimes they don’t even open up or figure things out before graduation. But we have some faith that part of the value is not in the immediate payoff (especially if there is none.) Sometimes, we get a glimpse of a delayed deposit for a student who comes back a few years later and has got it all under control and just wants to say thanks.

If you’re looking for more resources on how to integrate the ethic of care into your regular curriculum, check out my series on how to do test prep with heart.


EduCon visitors: What would you like to see today?

Here’s what I know is happening in SLA classrooms today:

Tim Best and his seniors are having a feast to celebrate the closing day of the “Science and Society” course — a big focus of their class has been the science behind modern food and nutrition.

On the 5th floor during both lunches (10:30 – 12:50, Room 506), students will be participating in Math Lab, getting help from teachers and each other, as well as taking standards quizzes.

On the 3rd floor during both lunches, Lit Lab tutors will be helping students with writing and reading. (Room 302b.)

In my room (505), student journalists will be cranking out the latest content for from 10:30 – 11:40. Starting at 12:55, Juniors will be peer editing their Prezis for their latest benchmark, about their personal reading history.

You want to see Spanish in action? Rooms 503 or 209.

Our Art teacher and Tech Coordinator might be busy troubleshooting for live streaming tomorrow, but Art class will still be happening in the delightful corner room with lots of windows — 301.

I have no idea what’s on the docket for Matt VanKouwenberg in his engineering classes — but as I understand it, that’s a part of the fun in room 304.

If you want to meet up with students in their natural habitat, try the ballrooms on the second or third floor, or the pool, or the cafe.

Looking for something else? Just wander into any room. Seriously.

At SLA, we like to share.

One day, during my first year of teaching at SLA, I walked into the office and announced that I had no idea what I was doing in my English class next period.

Of course, I knew what I was “doing”–I had a lesson plan written and all that–but I had no idea how I was actually going to make it work.

Zac Chase and Matt Kay were at the table, and they quickly tossed out a dozen different ideas at me. I don’t even remember what the material was, but I just remember feeling supported, and saved.

Sometimes, I forget how incredibly awesome this kind of open sharing is–and, sadly, how rare it is in many school settings. For one thing, many school administrations would have your head if you walked into the office and stated that you were pedagogically lost. So instead, people have to slink away to their classrooms and make the best of it. At least until they can find some open-minded folks to engage in the open flow of ideas.

I’ve got better footing now, but I’m still endlessly thankful for everyone who has helped and continues to help me. The good thing is that at SLA, it’s not a chore! And one of the best bits of this process sharing the accomplishments of our students.

They’re in on the game, too. Take the Digital Story “You Have Nothing to Hide From” by SLA Sophomore My Truong. She made it for an assignment in my class, and then shared it with Kay, which Lehmann saw and re-posted, and it gets retweeted by a bunch of folks, and I then wrote about it on this blog, and Meenoo Rami featured it on Ed Week Teacher — and I didn’t even create the project. The whole idea came from Josh Block, who started this assignment last year in his class.

So, if you’re joining us for EduCon this year, make sure you ask us to share some of our methods, or our projects. Or just walk into the office and announce that you’re lost. Somebody will look up and help you out.

EduConversation: Creating the Ethic of Care

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This is the second of two EduCon sessions that I am participating in. I joined this one in a happy moment of confluence, when I was toying around with building a session around my posts about standardized testing — and then I found out that our esteemed PE and Health teacher Pia Martin had already planned one with a similar focus. And Lehmann was in on it too, so we had ourselves a party.

This all got sorted out through a series of staff meetings and casual office conversations — a nice reminder of how the easy sharing of ideas at SLA benefits us, and you!

Here’s the official write up from our EduCon page:

At SLA, the Ethic of Care is central to the way we treat our students and each other. But what does that look like in practice? As educators, how do we make sure that the students we teach come first, and not the subject? How do we create and sustain an environment where students are supported and cared for while honoring the structure necessary for a school to function?

This conversation, led by the principal and two teachers, will address the successes and challenges of implementing the Ethic of Care at every level of a school’s operations, from daily classroom interactions to the strategic design of school policies and operations. Participants will be invited to share stories from their own learning environments in order to examine how they too can “care for” instead of “care about.”

For more context about where I’m coming from in this, check out my posts on “love in the face of the system.” Too often, teachers caring for students only happens in the gaps between the curriculum and the rules. I look forward to brainstorming with participants about how that compassion can be embedded in the coursework itself.

I would tell you to register, but the conference is sold out! However, all sessions will be streaming online, so we encourage you to join us from your nearest internet connection.