SLAmbassadors // Sister Cities Exchange

Last year, ten SLA students participated in a weeklong exchange to with a group in one of our sister cities, Frankfurt, Germany.

As their fearless leader put it:
Was it a paradigm-shifting, mind-blowing experience for the kids we took? Yes and yes. Since returning, those students are busy learning German, plotting their return exchanges for college, and stalking tickets back to Frankfurt for the week after graduation.

This year, the SLAmbassadors group is doubling in size to include a second program with Torun, Poland! We will be hosting their group this March and will travel to Torun in October.

I am beyond thrilled to be one of the adults on this journey.
I know how powerful international travel can be.
The experiences and the relationships that come out of this will be transformational.

To ensure that all ten students can participate in our exchange with Poland, we are conducting all of the fundraising ourselves. And we'd love your help!


You are cordially invited to our Happy Hour Fundraiser on Thursday, March 8th at Brauhaus Schmitz. Your $20 donation gets you a drink ticket, access to some pretty killer raffle items, and three hours with me and my esteemed colleagues. If you'd like to purchase a ticket in advance, you can donate the $20 amount here.


Check out our general fundraising page - we welcome donations of any amount! Feel free to purchase a $20 ticket in absentia, and we will toast you at the happy hour -- and send you a thank-you note while we're on the trip!

Thank you for your support. Our friends in Torun will be here in a short while and we're thrilled to meet them IRL and show them our little city. I can't wait to share more about this experience.

I'm just, like, still figuring it out.

I videotaped myself teaching.
I watched it.

Oh my.

Within about 30 seconds of the footage, I couldn't stand how many times I had interjected the word LIKE.

I'm having feelings about this in two layers:

  1. At the thing: I notice and get annoyed when other people say like every other word but didn't notice that apparently I totally do that.

    I hate being a hypocrite more than I hate being an English teacher with a words problem.
  2. At myself: My annoyance with Like Overuse in the first place means I've fallen into the trap of being on the wrong side of policing women's voices.

And I was immediately reminded of Ann Friedman's piece from The Cut a couple of years ago: Can We Just Like Get Over The Way Women Talk? 

Read it.

It's freaky to realize how conditioned I've become to these norms:

The number of LIKEs peppered in my speech.
The number of JUSTs that appear in every email I've ever sent.
The exclamation point in almost every text message.

I'm just out here, seeing the problem and simultaneously perpetuating it.


For that teaching video, I needed to write up some context about the lesson.

It took multiple viewings to get past my vocal tics and see the substance of my work.

Beyond my stereotypically obnoxious linguistic patterns, the video also shows:

  • students engaged in conversations so rich that it takes a while to refocus their attention,
  • dozens of hands in the air eager to share ideas,
  • a board with hardly any space left to write tidbits of students' insights about what they've been learning, and
  • my inability to keep the lesson's timing on track because too many folks had commentary they wanted to share.

I have a lot to learn. 
About myself and my role and the space I take up in the world.

The ways I see all of that and what I do about it.

Illustrations by the amazingly talented Abernathy Bland

Heart Eyes // Guy Bourdain

I recently came across the fashion photography of Guy Bourdain and immediately fell in love with his distinctive style. The images are provocative, funny, shocking, amusing, surreal, and fetishistic.

Bourdain was a protege of Man Ray's in his early years, but it was his collaborations with French shoe designer Charles Jourdan that really got him noticed.

It's evident that the shoe is the subject, but it's also just a tiny part of the larger mise-en-scene at play.
It's impossible to look at these just once.

Zion + Bryce

Update on last year's Glacier trip: I can't believe I was almost stupid enough to pass it up. Since then, I have been itching to get back into the outdoors and needing the sky to be bigger on a daily basis.

I was eager to request a sleeping bag as a birthday present and start planning the next trip.

And check.

We're excitedly planning a quick getaway to Zion and Bryce National Parks this spring -- what are your recommendations? Fire away!

In My Brain // Presidents' Day Weekend

I'm spending the weekend catching up on grading, planning ahead for the ridiculous number of projects I've somehow said yes to, and running in the cold air and sunshine. 
Here are some of my distractions from the Internet:

PEAK READING/SHINE THEORY CIRCLE // Kate Petty's Fish Jokes (read now) --> featured in Ann Friedman's newsletter --> blasted by me on Twitter --> used as a testimonial the following week
(Sidebar: This week's Call Your Girlfriend is terrific.)

THIS OLDIE // Last week my 12th grade film studies students began The Graduate. I always love seeing how this film still resonates with kids today. And even though I've seen it over a dozen times, I'm always catching new things and learning more from fresh eyes. This year I can't get over how tight the writing is. The image above is from here: Here's To You, Mr. Nichols: The Making of The Graduate

THESE FUNKY EARRINGS // On sale and coming soon to my face

REALITY TV FOR LITERARY FOLKS: a good laugh, plus the embarrassing realization that you'd catch me watching these

THE FEMALE PRICE OF MALE PLEASURE // I keep rolling this piece around in my mind

DESIGN MATTERS // turns out that "one of the world's first podcasts" is new to me, and so happy I found it!

Seems like everyone hates this holiday except for me.

Which is why I shamelessly illustrated my likeness and dropped a handmade Valentine into each mailbox in the staff room.

(Not one to shy away from commitment, I am wearing the exact outfit pictured in this card today.)

And if I'd had more time, I would've busted out the sewing machine, like I used to do back in the day (because paper happens to be my favorite thing to sew). And then dropped dozens off at the post office and sent them all over the planet to all the folks I love and miss.

I'm cynical about a lot of things. Valentine's Day isn't one of them.

Which isn't to ignore its problematic consumerism and obnoxious and harmful emotional messaging.

I'm just choosing to celebrate things that matter to me always: friendships and feelings and handmade things and pleasant mailbox surprises.

So -- happy fake holiday to you. Hope it's full of things that matter to you always.

Our Philadelphia, Our America

When I read Claudia Rankine's Citizen last year, I immediately wondered what my students would have to say about it.

In her writing, Rankine captures her experiences and observations of race in America. The lyric poem explores what Rankine calls her "self self" and her "historical self." It's a moving account, from the microagressions to the national outcries, and students had a lot to say about this text.

Earlier in the year, my colleague, Josh Block, and I wondered about how to engage students in the current world around them. The culminating project that we came up with was Our Philadelphia, Our America. In both of our classes, we asked all of the 12th graders these essential questions:
  • How can we respond to this moment in time?
  • What new narratives can we construct in order to re-imagine future possibilities?
  • What does it mean to be a citizen?
  • What does it mean to be a young person in Philadelphia?

Here is the full project description.

Students grappled in a variety of ways with ideas of citizenship and identity. The structure of this project gave space for students' voices while pushing them to create their best work to share with a wider audience.

It was an important reminder:
Sometimes the best thing we can do for student learning is to get out of the way.

There are too many great Field Notes to share, but here is a sampling of some stand-outs:

This is a tiny selection of awesome student work, but you can see many more Field Notes on our evolving website.

At EduCon last weekend, Josh and I led a session called Citizenship and Radical Hope, where we invited several students to share their work on this project with conference attendees.

My favorite part of the entire weekend was hearing students read aloud snippets of their writing. Their voices sounded different. There was a fire behind the words that I didn't hear from other class assignments.

Something to ask myself more often, perhaps: what's my role in tending that fire?