One of my favorite travel experiences occurred during my first visit to Rome, Italy, about ten years ago. There was a particular moment on that trip which I will never forget. It was my first glance at the Pantheon. I was not prepared for what I saw, nor the education that this massive structure ultimately provided for me.
On a walking tour along the compact Roman roads, my traveling companions and I visited Piazza Navona. From there, we headed to see the Pantheon. We walked down a narrow road and turned the corner to see a massive building, one that appeared larger still due to the angle from which we approached the square. Having assumed, incorrectly, that there was a walkway to lead tourists to this building, I was unprepared for the sight. I never expected to see a building of this size in such a location. As we entered, I noticed something else unexpected… open space.
Continue reading The Pantheon and That Figurative Space in Schools
This is a guest blog post from a talented educator, Mr. Brendan D. Towell. I hope you enjoy his insights and perspectives as much as I did. We are lucky to have him on our faculty.
By: Brendan D. Towell (Theology Department)
At the end of each academic year, the student body of St. Augustine Prep has an opportunity to anonymously review their teachers. I am not so sure if the Administration ever gets reviewed by the students… but that’s a question for another day! Regardless, our reviews can be quite illuminating. I will spare you the minutia of how the process works, yet I will say that the comment section is by far the most revealing and helpful for me as an educator. I have found that affording a teenaged boy the opportunity to anonymously comment on one of his teachers results in a brutal form of honesty more helpful than any peer evaluation. Through this unfiltered honesty, I have come to find that one recurring point was how genuinely surprised the boys were to find that Theology class could actually be relevant in their lives today. Continue reading Chronological Snobbery: A reminder of the importance of a Liberal Arts Education
I was a new teacher eleven years ago. But as the new school year begins, it is more apparent to me than ever, that I am a new teacher every year. As educators, we are understandably focused on all there is to teach, and yet we must also be mindful of all there is to learn. The summer has given me bit of time to reflect on my own learning during my time in education and to identify the top eleven lessons I learned in as many years and to pay homage to the wise colleagues who have been my teachers. With their inspiration, I head into the next school year and those to come with a mindset not simply of, “What am I here to teach?” but “What am I here to learn?” On behalf of our students, I encourage you to do the same.
Lesson 1 – Meet the students where they are and take them where they need to go, even if that means to another country. Travel with your students, intellectually and literally. (Mr. Casolaro) Continue reading Eleven in Eleven
It’s Tuesday night around 9:30 as I settle into my seat on the PATCO train out of Philadelphia and into NJ. It is a historic night. Not because I have had a night out with friends, a rarity, but because on this night, for the first time, a woman will become the presidential candidate of a major party ticket. Don’t misunderstand . . . this is not an endorsement of either candidate, but the occasion makes me happy. I see it as a long overdue recognition of the hard work of my mother, who has yearned for equality during her professional career, and a heartening bellwether for the boundless future of my ten month-old daughter.
As the doors close on the train, I hear someone stumble in the aisle just over my shoulder. It is an older, African-American gentleman with a cane, likely in his mid-70’s. He apologizes to me for his slight stumble. Continue reading No Offense to You
As you may know, I often reference how lucky I am to work with an incredible faculty. Being a pragmatist, I decided to take advantage of their talents and insights by inviting some of my colleagues to guest blog for me. My first guest blogger is Ms. Elise Krogman, first-year Science Teacher. I know you will appreciate her insights as I did.
The last time I wrote a blog post, it was 2013, and I was backpacking for almost two months across Europe. Now, I find myself sitting down to write a guest blog post for the Dean of Academics at St. Augustine Prep (The Prep) about my first year teaching here. While the two experiences could not seem more different, in reality they are actually quite similar. In both situations, I was travelling by myself to a land unknown, and relying on the help and kindness of strangers to guide me through the upcoming months of my life. What I didn’t realize was how familiar these places would feel after what felt like no time at all, and how these strangers would come to be some of my closest friends and role models.
I have certainly learned a lot at the Prep this year… Continue reading “High school boys are not afraid to tell you that they don’t like your haircut.”
This morning I participated in a Twitter chat (#satchat – every Saturday at 7:30 AM). The topic was “Innovation in the Classroom.” It is a great topic, and it was a great conversation. I am thankful to be able to learn from so many other inspiring educators. If you have never tried a Twitter chat, I encourage you to try it. If you need help on how to, just ask me (@DeanofAcademics or Mr.Burke@hermits.com). I would be happy to help get you started.
As I was reading the comments in the chat, I remembered a breakfast conversation that I had over 5 years ago. I was in my second year of administration and was lucky to have the ear and voice of an experienced Head of School sitting across the table. My breakfast companion had been in education for over 40 years and was then the Head of School at a similar all-boys independent school. In the moment, I did not realize how fortunate I was to have been able to pick his brain for an hour. I could have asked so many more poignant questions than I did. Still, I took a lot away from our meeting, and there is one particular comment that I will never forget. I asked a generic question about effective teacher observations, but his response was profound: Continue reading Duck! The Pendulum is Swinging Again
I can’t wait for our in-service; I always learn so much! (Said no teacher… ever.)
Planning professional development (PD) days that suit ALL of our teachers is difficult. As the husband of an elementary school art teacher, an amazing elementary school art teacher, I hear often about the lack of relevance offered to her during in-service days. My wife loves her students and works hard to inspire them each day. Unfortunately though, as an art teacher she rarely grows as an educator during all-school PD days. Why? Because they’re geared toward “important” subjects like science and math? Because they focus on tested areas of the curriculum? For a variety of reasons she, like many other teachers, is expected to sit through sessions that offer very little to help her grow as an educator. For teachers, all teachers, there has to be a better way. Continue reading 4 out of 5 Educators Choose Root Canal Over PD
Lunch was over. My stomach was full. My eyes were straining to stay open, and I was going to need a cup (or an IV drip) of coffee to make it through the looming afternoon session of professional development. You know exactly what I mean— you’ve been there. My mind wandered from the PD session. The presenter then asked something that we all, educators or not, have likely been asked more than once in our adult lives. Who are your teaching heroes? Quick Kevin, think of an eloquent and engaging answer about the people in your life who cared for you, who made a difference, who pushed you to be your best…
Wow, it’s a long list.
I began to identify those who impacted me, but this time, for whatever reason, I focused on the why. In this moment, I suddenly realized how this question could help me to be the teacher that I needed when I was younger and how it could help me now to be that teacher for my students. Continue reading An IV Drip, A Brick Wall, and a Dead Man Walking
Continued from Is Consistently Crazy Good Enough? post.
Part III, of III: I am eager to know what personal milestones and struggles await me next year, whatever they may be. In the midst of them, I always want to be the educator that our students desire, and I feel certain I can accomplish this by being a consistent personality who can relate both myself and my instruction to our students.
Two weeks ago, the President of our school, an Augustinian priest, asked me if I had listened to Drake’s new songs. Wait. What? Did I mishear that? Drake? Continue reading Yes, Drake. This Drake.
Continued from Reflections on a Sleepless Year and Being the Educator Our Students Need post.
Consistency is the first of the two essential components of student engagement. Seems simple enough, and for some teachers, it is. The classroom is a haven where all of their outside problems wait at the door. Their moods are unaffected by parking tickets or root canal work. For others however, it is very difficult, sometimes impossible, not to bring their personal struggles into the classroom, and these difficulties manifest as unpredictable moods. Happy on Monday, inflexible on Tuesday, bitingly sarcastic on Wednesday. . . I get it. It is hard. I wrestle with this, and I assume many educators and administrators do too. Sometimes I wonder if consistently crazy is good enough. The inability to not bring personal challenges into the classroom however, creates a disconcerting inconsistency for students. Continue reading Is Consistently Crazy Good Enough?