“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–”
(Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)
It’s been a long, long long year
It’s been a long, long long year
How did I get here?
(Todd Snider, “Long Year”)
I can’t speak for anyone else at this school, but, for me personally, this past 2022-2023 school year was awash with contradictions. Moving to this full-school role professionally was exhilarating, but it also brought with it a steep learning curve. We felt a return to normalcy in regards to the pandemic, and yet this school year I also (finally) got covid . . . while visiting my father-in-law in Indiana at his deathbed. He died the next day. I turned 40. My family took an epic trip to national parks in Utah and Arizona over Spring Break. I went on generative work-trips to the east coast, to Salt Lake City, to Atlanta three weeks in a row in April. However, all this travel made me feel disconnected from what was happening in classrooms on our campus. I missed teaching deep into my bones. (This was the first spring semester in seven years I haven’t taught at least one college class.) We looked, and failed to find (so far), a new home closer to one of the campuses. I loved my job most days; sometimes, though, I went home so drained from the problem-solving and interpersonal negotiations that I locked myself in my room and told my family I was done for the day with mediating. There were so many successes. There were just as many failures.
You could all write a paragraph like mine above. I would like to read all of them. We all are made up of tiny connect-the-dot moments in our days and months and years. They make a shape, and we tell an identity-story about that shape. But it is never really exact. And it never really captures who we are.
“You are a human being, not a human doing,” my Mom always said.
Nevertheless, I would like to end this year by remembering some of the things we all have done this past year. So in the spirit of the end-of-the-year nostalgic slideshow that people like to play at graduations (by the way, here’s a fabulous 12 minute segment on a This American Life podcast reflecting on the peculiarities of that particular genre), here are some of my own personal top hits of the year:
- That time Meredith Kochtitzky invited to me to see PK4 students in centers, and I got to hang with some world-builders working out how to build a community together
2. That time Matt Hosler helped eighth graders better understand Lord of the Flies by using the modern concept of “gaslighting”.
3. That time Dalton Howard had her fourth grade students “moving around the world” in math problems. . . and I eavesdropped to hear her say to one on-top-of-it group: “Wow- and that was a tough one. Do you think your group could teach that to the class?”
4. That time Burton Inman got his 9th grade history students revved up for a robust Document Based Question conversation.
5. That time Sarah Walker had a last-minute surprise of an additional class to supervise during her coaching visit and she totally incorporated the extra 15 kids like it was nothing.
6. This blog. Marty had the brilliant idea to rebrand it from “i2” to “Our EsSAy” and in so doing she perfectly captured the heart of this blog all along. This year it felt less like “my thing” and more like “our thing” (shout out Maggie, Rachel, Dean, Marty) and that was always the ultimate hope.
7. That time Taylor Davis illustrated gratitude to her PK3 students by handing out distinct notes for each child; “let’s try to guess which person I’m talking about!”
8. That time Anna Frame somehow magically tricked her class to beg for the opportunity to write an “informational essay” so they could share what they learned with a larger audience.
9. This school year’s season of faculty-brainstormed, faculty-hosted podcasts. In the fall we hosted our first video version (thanks Josh Brister!) in “Parent Teacher Conference” and this spring we hit some pretty hard-hitting topics in “Bridging the Faculty/Admin divide.” Grateful for any opportunity to dialogue with each other.
10. That time Toby Lowe had all of his fifth graders wave their hands in the air eager to share their own word problems (ranging from simplistic to super sophisticated; the perfect differentiated activity) that would get them to the answer A=10.
11. That time Kathy Vial used (slightly spoiled) milk to illustrate magma, lava, and the earth’s crust.
12. That time Matt Luter utilized the art in his anthology to help students practice analysis.
13. That time Nicole Robinson masterfully encouraged her ECC friends to illustrate their feelings into boxes, interweaving art with SEL.
14. The imperfect construction of FAAC (Faculty & Administration Advisory Council) in hopes of fostering dialogue and increased transparency.
15. That time Dr. K helped students internalize the concept of inertia using coins and dollar bills.
16. That time that Mayson McKey wowed these kindergarteners with his charismatic Spanish teaching persona and his “magic bag”.
17. That time Mary Margaret got some shy math students to make their learning visible and audible through use of the white board space and spoken reflection.
18. That time Marie Venters got fifth graders excitedly talking about set design and costume choices by analyzing various scene snippets. . . in the middle of a monsoon. 🙂
19. That time Kerri Black masterfully leveraged second grader’s background knowledge and interests and equipped them with active reading strategies all through the magic of pumpkins.
20. That time Dennis Cranford used a particularly tricky rhythm warmup exercise to springboard into a trouble spot in a piece.
21. That (very recent almost like yesterday) time when the (probably exhausted) fifth grade team created a host of fun activities for Ancient World Days.
22. The multitude of contributions from our inaugural members of TEAM (Teacher Education, Assistance, and Mentoring): Marks McWhorter, Emmi Sprayberry, Nancy Rivas, Jim Foley, Marty Kelly, Rachel Scott, Maggie Secrest, and Dean Julius. And the many to come from the 2022-2023 cohort: Kim Sewell, Michelle Portera, Buck Cooper, and Hollie Marjanovic!
23. That time I accidentally drank a hemp-infused drink while chauffeuring around an SUV full of passengers on a really fun trip to Atlanta with lower school faculty open to dreaming of future learning spaces.
24. A record number of Summer of Excellence proposals(!) featuring a myriad of super cool collaborative projects faculty across three divisions will be busy with.
It’s been a year. (Said with a sigh of exhaustion). But luckily, it’s also been a year! (Said with a note of triumph!). May your summer bring you many more top hits. . . or maybe just some peace and quiet. That sounds lovely too.