Why I’m Doing This

ImageI’m the program coordinator at an alternative high school in Vermont. My role includes teaching a few classes per week, supporting teachers and students, designing and facilitating professional development opportunities, doing some administrative tasks, and lots of other odds and ends.

The students we work with at our school are smart, hardworking, funny and courageous young people who arrive at our school only after gaining many years of experience feeling like failures.

If anything else had worked, our students wouldn’t be with us.

And so we do our best to do school very differently than all the schools that came before us. We’re therapeutic and student-centered, with a strong focus on the whole child. We’re small enough that we can truly get to know each student, and we prioritize building relationships with our students that allow them to feel safe, heard and invested in their education.

We rarely offer our students worksheets or tests, and regularly offer them hands-on projects, community-based programming, and problem-based learning. The same course is rarely offered twice, because the same course that fit the needs of one group rarely makes sense for the next group.

I’ve been at this school for 6 years, and while I’ve learned and applied so many things during that time, I’m still often struck by how truly deep and nuanced this work of teaching is. My bag of tricks has grown over the years, and I have a much larger repertoire of experiences to draw on than I did 6 years ago, but I still don’t know “the answers.” The teachers at our school joke about having a school “playbook” for all those tricky situations that arise — something to refer to that will tell us what to do — but of course nothing of the sort could ever exist.

This is one of the reasons I love teaching: there’s “better practices” (and we as teachers have a responsibility to know them well), but there’s no formula.

My hope for this blog is to prioritize my reflective practice — to keep myself reflecting in thoughtful and intentional ways — and then to use this reflective practice as a springboard for sharing with and learning from other thoughtful educators.

I hope that as time goes on this blog helps you in your journey as a teacher, and I hope you’ll be willing to share your experiences and insight with me.

– Jenn

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