Thursday, November 17, 2016


Today I left school thinking about "student engagement." I'm really starting to question that idea as a teacher. If student engagement is a goal, and there are specific criteria people look for to determine if a student is engaged in learning, and I am the one planning the curriculum and making decisions based on student interests, then who owns the learning?  If you think hard about that one, it's actually a top-down, teacher-driven approach. I'm gonna stop putting that on my professional practice goal.

What if I switched it to "student empowerment?" This just means that I teach students the skills and knowledge to pursue their passions, and interests, and ultimately, their future. Students are in charge. They own it. I got to thinking about this because I've been teaching an integrated ELA/SS unit and we've been studying Haiti through the eyes of a Haitian graffiti artist named Jerry Moise Rosembert. Students analyzed his graffiti as visual text to determine the meaning of the social issues in Haiti. Then, to make a global to community connection, we had the dopest artist come in - his name is Philip Salamone, and he's an artist/muralist with a studio on the east side of Madison. My students really got into his presentation and his work - they were inspired and taken by him. But the truth is, I did all of that planning and decision making. And honestly, I felt really empowered. 

So imagine - imagine what could happen if the next unit of study was mostly designed by my students: They decide some of the content and they search and seek out guest artists and presenters. Imagine if they were to be decision makers and got to determine the skills and knowledge they need in order to pursue their interests, passions, and future. Imagine how empowering that would be for them.  

So ... yeah. That's the school life!

Here's what has been going on the past month or so ... a little climbing and a lot of school activities, including our CHOW (Choosing Healthy Options in Wisconsin), where local chefs come in and cook with our students. I also get to post a lil video of Katie doing the finals problem at the last Boulders comp - she's so humbly awesome, and I love that I can steal moments from her. And couldn't resist snapping a pic of Stacey on one of our rare weekend indoor climbing ventures :) Enjoy -- hope fall season has been amazing for you.

Jason and Rissa from Underground Collective demonstrating how to make cheese sauce after showing students how to make fresh pasta. 

Philip Salamone showing his Ice Cave mural. 

In response to student asking if Philip was famous, "No, but you all make me feel famous." 
One of my favorite partners and friends in and out of the gym.


  1. What?!! That start of Katie's?!! I HAVE to show Bren. He's been climbing everything he sees lately--including the outside of his school.

  2. He's the one who did the ice cave mural here? The kids and I love that--we are always taking pictures by it and hanging out by it. You should come see it if you haven't already.