Guest Post: For Good

Well, we’re deep into the dog days of summer and it seems like a prime moment for a guest post because Lord knows it’s too hot to do anything else today! I want to share some thoughts from AUNE student and local music teacher Kate Butterfield.  Kate was selected by the student body to share her thoughts at the middle school’s graduation this spring and I found that her words were such a lovely reflection of what she’s been learning as a student in our Experienced Educator’s MEd in Mindfulness for Educators. Kate was gracious enough to share her remarks with me and I couldn’t wait to pass them along to you.  (If you’d like to reach Kate, you can do so at

Good Afternoon,

I am honored to be able to share a few thoughts with you this afternoon, and to be able to thank you for the gift you have been to us here at Keene Middle School. Although we celebrate you as the KMS Class of 2015, we also celebrate each of you as the amazing individuals you are. Each of you has had a different experience here at Keene Middle School, and we have been honored to be a part of that experience. When we think of you as a class, we will smile.

Over the past several weeks, I have been asked if I am looking forward to the year being over. My response has been – “Yes, in some ways I am very ready for a vacation. But I am also sorry for this year to end because of this wonderful 8th grade class.” Thank you for all you have been and done over these past 3 years.

This is a very special time and here you are, sitting in this beautiful auditorium, surrounded by friends and family, to mark the end of the first 8 years of your formal education. Look around this room – these people that are here, are here for you. You are important and we all celebrate you.

I would imagine you have many emotions right now. Take a moment to think about them….excitement…..sadness….pride…..uncertainty….wonder……..All of us experience mixed emotions when we are faced with a transition. The known is ending and the unknown is about to begin. You are not alone in how you are feeling!

I hope you are filled with gratitude for what you have experienced here at KMS. I hope you know how fortunate you are to have this gift of education. There are many middle school students in this world who do not have the opportunities you have been blessed with.

We all have voices in our heads that can inspire us or keep us from doing the things we want to do or what we know is right….Hear a different voice; one that says : “I am awesome, I am speciaI and unique. I can do amazing things with hard work and perseverance.”

Marianne Williamson says it this way in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?  Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. We were born to make manifest the glory within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

You have done this. You have let your light shine in athletics, music, drama, art, dance, Jonathan Daniels Peace committee, OCAC, Robotics, Destination Imagination, Student Council, Rachel’s Challenge, NJHS, advisory community service projects, yearbook, Cardinal Newspaper, in the classroom, the  halls and the cafeteria. It might have been as simple as being a friend or doing the right thing.

Much of what you have accomplished has happened with patience and tenacity – the ability to stick to something even when it is hard or you don’t think you will be able to do it or understand it.

Some of you may be thinking, “I did not take advantage of what I could have at KMS. I didn’t focus on my school work, or join a sport or club I wish I would have…or make friends with people in my classes.”

When things don’t turn out the way we want them to or we did or didn’t do something we should or shouldn’t have, know that we are able to start over, every minute of every day. All of us have made decisions we wish we had made differently….or said things without thinking. If we take time to pause before reacting, our minds will be clearer and we will respond in a more thoughtful and caring way. We can go forward in a new way. We can have a fresh start right now.

Each moment in our lives is all we really have. To live thinking of the past or dreaming of the future is really robbing us of life right now. Be fully present in your life. Know that the only thing you can control is yourself. You can’t change someone else. You can only change your thoughts, your attitude and your response.

I encourage you to live intentionally….do things on purpose….make things happen, don’t wait for them to come to you.

Take time to really talk with people…turn off your cell phones and have a conversation while looking into someone’s eyes. Listen to others and really hear what they are saying. Spend time outdoors without listening to your music and enjoy the sounds in nature.

Exercise gratitude – each morning before you get out of bed….think of at least 5 things for which you are thankful. Pause throughout the day and exercise gratitude. No matter what is going on in our lives, there is always something to be thankful for.

As you leave KMS, you may think we have been your teachers and you have been the students. But, we are all teachers and students. Every experience we have and every person we meet can teach us something. Know of the impact your life makes on the lives of all those around you.

Stephen Schwartz expresses this best in the song “For Good.”

It well may be that we will never meet again, so let me say before we part, so much of me is made of what I learned from you, you’ll be with me like a hand print on my heart. Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

Happy Accidents

You know how sometimes you think you have all your pedagogical ducks in a row all nice and neat, with all your prep done and organized and all your materials at hand and then, mid-lesson, you realize that you missed something.  Something BIG?

No? That never happens to you?  Really? Of course it does. Don’t be all faker-faker-cookie-baker.

So yesterday I got to be a part of  my 14th summer of Level 1 Institutes, watching the group in the Keene Level 1 present a big thing that we do in the middle of the institute. (I can’t say more than that because SPOILERS) Suffice to say, it was AWESOME.  And it was the product of a happy accident.

The last time I used this challenge I made some big modifications (as we always do) because the school I was working with, Creative City Charter, was using Critical Skills to support and magnify their Place Based and Arts Integration pedagogy (which, btw, is amazing).  The group we’re working with here in Keene this summer? Not so much the Creative City faculty.  (Not that they’re not awesome cause they are- they’re just a different group)

So as I watched the group unpack their challenge on Tuesday afternoon, I had a moment of realization that, at first, sent me into a bit of a panic when I realized that I HAD FORGOTTEN TO REVISE THE CHALLENGE.  While working with my amazing facilitators (Allison and Danika) to be sure they had everything they needed, I hadn’t thought to point out the MASSIVE changes I’d made to this particular challenge. All the stuff about Place Based Learning and Arts Integration (which we hadn’t talked about or touched on once in the institute because they’re not part of Critical Skills)? It was still in there. Whoops.

We whispered frantically, “Do we pull the challenge, send them on a break, revise it, tell them to change it on their copies? WHAT DO WE DO?!!!”

You know that scene in Star Wars where Ben Kenobi gets offed by Darth Vader and, as Luke stands there in stunned silence, he hears Ben’s voice in his head saying “Run Luke!” so he gets back on the ship and lives to fight another day? Well, I sort of had a moment like that.  I heard the collective voices of 30 years of Master Teachers in my head saying, “Just watch and wait.  They may surprise you.  Let it ride.” So I got my Zen on and did just that.  We agreed that we’d let the group negotiate that part of the challenge out if they asked. But you know what?

They never asked.  After just 2 days of doing this Critical Skills thing, they figured out how to leverage the expertise in the group because some of them knew all about Place Based Learning and others were killing it with Arts Integration already.  They didn’t question why these unfamiliar things were in the challenge because the whole week had been filled with unfamiliar things and they knew they could do this because they’d done everything leading up to this so why not?

Eventually we acknowledged what had happened, and it turned out to be this amazing teachable moment were we got to be transparent about what can happen when we keep calm and let things progress on their own when the unexpected happens. Allison and Danika were prepared with a plan B if things had really gone sideways, but they didn’t rush in to fix things.  They let the group figure it out and, in the end, they blew open a whole new understanding of Critical Skills for me and, I think, for each other.  They had a chance to see the ways that Critical Skills can support and magnify all kinds of student-centered philosophies and pedagogies. They even folded in things like Responsive Classroom and Technology Integration because they were things that they were using in their own classrooms already and they could already see that they all supported and magnified each other in really amazing ways.

It was an amazing happy accident. I’m so grateful for all those voices in my head (particularly those I recognized as Peter, Bill, Al, and Maura who seemed to speak the loudest) who reminded me to just wait.  Just. Wait. Watch. Pay Attention. Have Faith in the Group.  TRUST THE PROCESS.

(Want to see a rocking video about the day? Check out this one that Danika made!)

The #MakeTheMostOfIt Challenge | Edutopi

The #MakeTheMostOfIt Challenge | Edutopia #YouEarnedYourSummer

There’s still time to register for Crit

There’s still time to register for Critical Skills this summer. (Bonus: some financial aid is still available!)

Dear Teacher Thinking About Taking a Chance on Critical Skills…

Dear Teacher,
I’m a faculty member at The Riverside School in Lyndonville and a Critical Skills Master Teacher.  I’ve been working with the Center for School Renewal at Antioch New England to facilitate Critical Skills Institutes, a week-long summer professional development experience for teachers of all subjects and grade levels.  I know you’re thinking about taking a chance on an institute this summer and I wanted to give you a little more information about what you’d be getting into.
In essence, the Critical Skills Classroom about reworking your lessons to intentionally teach skills and dispositions (like quality, critical thinking, self direction, organization, community, etc) in a way that is problem-based, experiential,  standards-based, and collaborative.  Facilitators are really expected to walk our talk, so the week is designed to be experienced by participants in the same way we want our students to experience it.  This isn’t sit- and- get professional learning, you will feel engaged and challenged and part of a community as the week goes on.
This summer, I’ll be facilitating with Bill Vinton, who is a science teacher at St Johnsbury Academy during the Riverside Institute in August and  there are two great teachers- Allison and Danika- running the Keene Institute in July.
Here is a little more info:
1) The website for critical skills includes all kinds of additional specific information
2. A couple of videos (you can find more of these on our YouTube channel, if you’re interested)
3) The registration pages for the Vermont and Keene  Institutes
It really is a fun and inspiring week.  No one has ever told us they were sorry they came, so I hope you’ll decide to join us!

This post has no title because no mere title can capture the awesomeness of this post. Seriously.

One of the unexpected joys of working at Antioch is our monthly Education Department meeting. I know most people don’t put meetings under the heading of “joys,” but most people don’t work where I work.  The people I work with spend an incredible amount of time in the field, supervising student teachers, researching, and meeting with colleagues, so we don’t spend much time together. Our monthly meetings are half family reunion, half professional development and academic sharing (and okay, realistically, probably 20% the same administrivia everyone has to manage).  After 13 years here, I’m still learning new stuff about our programs, our students, and my colleagues.

Today, though, I learned something really, really awesome.  About a year ago, we launched a new concentration in our Integrated Learning program (our initial certification program for pre-service elementary teachers).  It had become really clear to us that beginning teachers everywhere weren’t well prepared to work with students with special needs- or to work well with Special Education teachers in Co-teaching situations, so we reframed our IL program so that all students would be better prepared and those who wished to do so could leave us with dual certification in Elementary and Special Education. We knew this was a good idea, but we’re not naive enough to believe that all good ideas work out as well as we imagine.

In this case, we nailed it.  At a time when new teachers are struggling to find jobs, of our dual certification students who wanted to go into the classroom, have positions lined up for the 2015-2016 school year. In fact, even though they finished in December (not usually a great time to pick up a teaching job) many of them were able to start working right away.

Let me say that again.

All of our dual certification graduates who wanted jobs, have jobs.

The teacher of the future needs to be prepared for all the kids coming to us. They need to be facile with all kinds of pedagogies and nimble enough to work in a whole bunch of different structures. I’m pretty jazzed to find out that not only are we creating these kinds of teachers, but that administrators are snapping them up.

Congratulations 2015 Integrated Learning grads.
Welcome to the profession!

Caring for ourselves is our professional

Caring for ourselves is our professional responsibility. @AntiochNewEng #innovation #MindfulSelfCompassion

Getting to 21st Century Skills Using The

Getting to 21st Century Skills Using The Critical Skills Model

From our friends at Black Public Media:

From our friends at Black Public Media:

:Nothing matters more to the long-term success of our country than the quality of our public school system.

We are pleased to release the 180 Days Game, an interactive experience that was designed in conjunction with the “180 Days: Hartsville” documentary, to help more people accurately understand the state of public education today and the challenges and opportunities that come with trying to support the holistic development of children.

Choose a user, accept the challenge, and see how you do. The future of the country is in your hands.

8 Things We Could Learn from Agent Peggy Carter

I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Comics universe, so I was eagerly awaiting the premiere of Agent Carter after the first of the year.  Finally, this under-developed character was going to become more than Captain America’s unrequited love interest! We were going to really get to know the enigmatic Agent Peggy Carter!  What I *didn’t* expect was eight lessons in pedagogy, community and school change.

1. Don’t let the jerks get to you.  In every field, in every job, there are badly behaved, ignorant, fearful, condescending…well, you get the picture.  They’re there.  They’ve always been there.  Don’t let them beat you, don’t let them decide your fate, don’t spend too much time railing against their idiocy (because you can’t change them), just go around them.  The best revenge is being right, you know?

2. Ask for help- or at least accept it when it’s offered.  Jarvis.  Oh, Jarvis.  Not just a butler, a willing ally able to anticipate where help is needed before our dear Peggy is able to ask.  Learning that there’s no single person who can hold the whole world- that we all need help and that there’s no prize for doing it alone?  That’s a lesson I’d love every single teacher, principal, and student to learn.

Know how to use the tech you have- even when it’s not ideal.  Got a watch that can help you bust into a safe (or at least count your steps and measure your heart rate)? A Smartboard that ALWAYS works? Great! Learn how to use it- really use it- before you need it.  Same with your smartphone, the 2 iPads the library has available or the ancient flip video camera you have in the bottom drawer of your desk.  You can’t use them if you don’t know how they work- and you can use them more creatively and effectively if you do.

3. When push comes to shove, a stapler is as a good weapon. Sometimes low-tech works. Don’t be ashamed to pull out the overhead projector, use paper and pencils and scissors and glue if they’re the right (or most expeditious) tools for the job. Just because you have the fancy gadgets doesn’t mean their use is always the most effective.

4. Problem solving is a seriously badass skill.  We don’t give problem-solving (especially when it’s done on the fly) nearly the props we should.  As any teacher who’s ever modified a lesson plan on a moment’s notice (read: every single teacher ever) knows, thinking creatively and quickly to use what you have is a serious superpower.  Give yourself credit when you do it. Serious credit.  MAD credit.

5. Feelings, man…Grief, frustration, loss, anger- they’re all real.  Now, whether you’re mourning the loss of Captain America, lost at the bottom of the sea in an effort to save the US from destruction, your favorite project because the school has allocated that time for RTI, or changes in the profession that feel too big to bear; we’re all dealing with feelings all the time and they can get in the way.  Know how to put them aside and focus on the things you can change.  Action is good medicine.

6. Make friends who aren’t secret agents.  You’ll need them.  Make connections outside of school.  Have conversations that have nothing to do with education, school, or students.  I’m not suggesting you move into a women-only hotel on the upper east side, but maybe join a book club or take yoga or find someone to play D&D with.

7. Have one really great hat.  Okay, maybe not everyone can pull off a little red hat, but have something that you can put on when it’s cold and dark and you’re tired and you feel like there’s just no way you can pull yourself out of bed because it’s February and it’s cold and it’s Wednesday.  When you look fabulous, you can do great things.