Commencement Season 2018

I absolutely love commencement speeches. I find they provide such beautiful nuggets of wisdom and beauty. Here are some of my favorites:

Tim Cook, Duke University

Abby Wambach, Barnard College

Hillary Clinton, Yale College Class Day

Jake Tapper, UMASS-Amherst

And just for kicks, here is the speech I gave at our Closing Ceremony last week.

What has inspired you this commencement season?

Update May 24, 2018: Don’t miss out on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at Harvard Class Day and Justin Trudeau at NYU.


Currents: Listens & Reads


It’s Been a Minute podcast: Meg Wolitzer on her book The Female Persuasion- I loved her book The Interestings and have not cracked the spine on this one yet, but I found this conversation really relatable. She taps into the values of mentorship. As someone who is still searching for a mentor, it reminded me to keep moving forward on that quest.

The Knowledge Project podcast from Farnam Street: I stumbled on this website from Shane Parrish this week and am now obsessed with this podcast. I have listened to several podcasts featuring Barbara Oakley and this one is no exception in brilliance. About 40 minutes it, Dr. Oakley and I divert in our views, specifically in memorization, but I appreciate that she is challenging me to think deeply.

The Meaning of Nuance from the Pantsuit Politics podcast was highly engaging. Regardless of your political affiliation, this episode provides a look at the way Spaceship Media is engaging a bi-partisan discussion (started in Alabama) that allows for nuance. In our age of shouting and memes, I really appreciate the way the offer insight into the value of nuance, especially in challenging conversations. Let’s keep talking and keep the doors to grey areas of all conversations wide open.


I’m about halfway through Boundaries for Leaders by Dr. Henry Cloud. It has given me the phrase, “ridiculously in charge” to consider as I reflect on closing up my first leadership role and moving into my second. The two essential boundaries that are sticking with me right now are: what you create and what you allow. These provide the framework for a culture that can thrive, survive, or fail. Several chapters in, I recommend this to anyone in a leadership role or pursuing one.

From my new found resource, Farnam Street: Go Fast and Break Things: The Difference Between Reversible and Irreversible Decisions I tend to be a significant overthinker or an impulsive underthinker. Being intentional in these types of decision takes practice and skill. They can also have deep and wide consequences if chosen incorrectly. A good read for a leadership team to consider.


Currents: Listens & Reads


On a non-professional note, I LOVE Brandi Carlile‘s new album, by the way, I forgive you. It is a masterpiece of passion, text painting, and raw vulnerability. She remains my spirit animal.

How to Be Awesome at Your Job podcast: I really enjoyed the episode on Critical Factors Separating High and Low Performers with Morten Hansen What practices separate the high performer from the low? He offers the key practices that differentiate the two.


The Grief of Accepting New Ideas by Rick Wormeli This one punched me in the gut. I have read it several times and am still processing it. I won’t provide much commentary other than to say that honoring the grief within change is just as important as moving the change forward. This quote says it all:

“To quote Bob Dylan, the times, they are a-changin’. We wonder, though, if teachers have the dispositions needed to make fundamental changes to their teaching practices in order to respond constructively to our changing times, especially when those changes reveal that what they were doing was less effective than their egos thought they were.”

The Danger of Teacher Nostalgia by Jennifer Gonzalez Following a similar theme of change and grief, Jennifer (Cult of Pedagogy) tackles how teachers can get stuck in “the way things were” or “have always been” which stunts the possibilities of serving the kids of now. I was also struck by the thought of creating negative stereotypes of kids and classes that they can’t shirk, even when they show growth and maturity. It is so important we live growth mindset not only for ourselves but also for our kids.

Currents: Listens & Reads


WorkLife with Adam Grant podcast: Every episode so far has been amazing, but I was most moved by the episode entitled Team of Humble Stars. In my ongoing quest for more humility, this one spoke directly to me. (However, the episode on Creative Burstiness gave me an awesome new phrase to share!)

The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle: I’m simultaneously listening and reading this remarkable book that profiles the way strong team culture is developed. This is a MUST listen/read for anyone working in or with teams. (Also, how much do I love the relevant and quippy reply from Zappos?)


How to Be Awesome at Your Job (podcast), Episode 270: In this episode, author Scott Mautz is interviewed and discusses his theory of the nine anti-muses that drain our inspiration at work. This one might be a multi-time listen, especially late in the school year when exhaustion can rear its ugly head.


This week was our Spring Break and I took the time to read three YA works and one other work of fiction.

Mustaches for Maddie by Chad Morris & Shelly Brown: A sweet story of compassion and kindness based on the true story of Chad and Shelly’s daughter Maddie. It has drawn comparisons to Wonder. I find the reading level a bit easier on this one and a little less development in the characters, but it is still worthy of a classroom library.

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk: I adored Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk and was thrilled to be able to borrow her second novel from our school library. This tale of family, mystery, and hard life is stunning in its word painting. It will hook you in quickly and leave you turning each page quickly.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: I read All American Boys last year and found it riveting. This work has a similar vein of gun violence and young African American men, but is written in verse. I must admit, I don’t typically love verse written texts (with all apologies to Jacqueline Woodson) but found myself consumed by this text, finishing it in less than an hour. Its language is rich and content sacred while being simple to access. I imagine this work could cross a wide range of reading levels.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood: This book is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series; a retelling of his great works by renowned authors. Much to my mother’s chagrin and due to the classroom of a very mean 9th grade English teacher, I tend to avoid Shakespeare at all costs. However, Hag-Seed is a delightful journey into the fall and rise of Felix, his dedication to his students, and his dreams of his lost Miranda. I highly recommend it!

Currents: Listens & Reads


Cult of Pedagogy: Moving from Feedback to Feedforward Jennifer Gonzales talks to Joe Hirsch about the concept of changing feedback to feedforward, particularly in the frame of teacher evaluation. This is definitely worth having a conversation around for teachers and administrators alike.

Aspen Ideas to Go: Walter Isaacson talks to Norman Lear and Khizr Khan about Understanding American Values This is an engaging hour of conversation between an icon and a patriot facilitated by a genius. Enjoy.


The Principled Principal: 10 Principles for Leading Exceptional Schools by Jeffrey Zoul & Anthony McConnell This is an easy-to-read yet chock full of wisdom book that explores the need for principals to be led by core principles to successfully lead a school. I really appreciate the discussion of culture crushers. (Halfway through, but a full review will come after I’m done.)

Accident by Andrea Tsurumi This is a lovely children’s book packed with wisdom for any age. Accidents happen–how we react to them is everything.

Have a great week!

Currents: Listens & Reads

Volume 3!! It was a light week in the listening/reading world, I admit it but here are a few nuggets for you.


Audiobook: The Power of Moments, Dan & Chip Heath I am only a few chapters into this latest thought-provoker by the Heath Brothers but I’m already hooked. The book explores examples of how we experience four elemental moments throughout our lives: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. This book is chock full of relevance for us as educators and leaders.

Washington National Cathedral Forum: Brené Brown & Bishop Mariann Budde I am a Brené Brown groupie, as I know many educators are based on her message of empathy, vulnerability, and courage. While this conversation is in a religious context, the emphasis on courage, honesty, and connection has direct correlations to our work with children and families.


Harvard Business Review: The Culture Factor This is a series of articles that look at organizational structure, leadership, and climate through the lens of culture. Most interesting to me are the eight styles of company (organizational) culture and how these interplay.


source: from HBR article, The Culture Factor

Screen Time? How About Creativity Time, Mitchel Resnick, MIT In our ever-growing debate whether screens are good or evil, Dr. Resnick offers some insight into both sides of the coin and encourages a new narrative–screen time as creativity. He makes the clear distinction that not all screen time is created equal and emphasizes focusing on quality vs. quantity in the screen time debate.

Have a great week!

Currents: Listens & Reads

Wow! I’ve actually made it to week 2 of Currents: Listens & Reads! Perhaps a trend is happening here, friends! Here is what was on my radar this week.


The Atlantic Interview: Maggie Haberman Maggie Haberman is a White House Correspondent for the New York Times. She is doing some very honest and challenging work. I really liked her perspective on her early years of journalism and coming up in a “man’s world.” (I really like this podcast, if you’re not currently listening to it.)

Outside Podcast-Science of Survival: He That is Down Need Fear No Fall As someone who is terrified of heights and falling, this story of survival and problem solving was really intriguing (and a bit scary.) It offers us some insight into the minds of those who take physical risks, on purpose.


Leadership + Design: Monthly Recharge (newsletter)  This month’s wisdom from L+D focuses on Disobedience over Compliance. As the group and its cohort reads WhiplashHow to Survive Our Future Fasteranalysis and insight have been shared to dig deeper into each chapter. This month’s chapter on disobedience over compliance shares the stories of those who have broken the rules to develop truly innovative and creative ideas. I’m particularly drawn to Executive Director Carla Silver’s story of her classmate as I may have known a kid or two who broke some school rules but have gone onto creative and successful lives. (Just as Mr. Bruce, my 4th grade Principal.)

Harvard Ed. Magazine: Troublemakers This really speaks to the deep need for educators to build strong relationships with all students, especially those who might be on the more “spirited” side. How can we dig deeper into the how and why kids are causing disruptions rather than just issue a punitive response?

Beyond the Whiteboard Blog: A Teachers Regret, a Lesson Learned  Laurie Smith offers a true life story of a heart-breaking missed opportunity with a student. We have all had moments like these in our practice and hers is a reminder not to miss out. (You might need a tissue for this one.)


We had two snow days this week so Amazon and Netflix got a little extra time in my life. I watched two extreme sports documentaries that I think offer quite the insight on persistence, responsibility, planning/organization, problem-solving, grit, positive thinking, friendship, and just a twinge of nutty.

Meru-the story of three mountain climbers as they make their ascent up the 21,000 ft Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru. Follow their trials and tribulations as well as observe truly stunning cinematography.

Meru Expedition, Garwhal, India

Desert Runners-follow the quest of several non-professional runners as they attempt to complete the Grand Slam of the Desert Run series by running 4 ultra marathons in one year in the Sahara, the Gobi, the Atacama, and Antarctica. You find yourself rooting for these “average janes and joes” as they run up to 100 miles a day in 100+ degree heat while carrying all the gear they need for four days on their back. It’s crazy but offers a lot of clear applications to our classrooms.

Will next week be a trifecta? Stay tuned!


Currents: Listen & Reads

I think it’s no secret that I’m obsessed with learning. I am never without a read in my proximity, a handful of tabs open to good articles, or a laundry list of podcasts on my phone. A lot of these may seem to have nothing to do with education but I view everything through the lens of education. I often ask the question, “how does this apply to the way we teach or lead?”

I’m going to *try* to start sharing these on a more regular basis. So here we go: Currents: Listens & Reads, Volume 1


Aspen Ideas To-Go: Seeing Grey in a World of Black and White NYTimes columnist David Brooks speaks to Rev. Adam Hamilton about divisions, perspectives, and actually serving. I appreciated the way Adam spoke about seeing humanity in others and participating in civil discourse. Important concepts within our schools, for sure.

Aspen Ideas To-Go: What Would MLK say About Today’s America? A conversation between Walter Isaacson and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I listened to this on my drive to visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge for the first time and it was very timely to consider not only the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s but the the movement during Reconstruction that is often forgotten.

How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black: Episode #76 Reza Aslan I have followed Reza Aslan for a long time and find him to be a brilliant scholar. He spoke of being on the margins of religion in order to be creative and disruptive. I thought that directly related to our work in education. Not being fully embedded in “one way” allows us the opportunity to stretch, grow, and embrace creativity.


KQED/Mindshift: Forget Talent: Why Practice is Key to Most Prodigies Success A summary of the 2016 book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson. This is timely for our division as we explore the concept of persistence with our students this month in a variety of formats.

Catlin Tucker: Rethink Your Grading Practices We are just beginning a conversation on learning versus grading in small pockets of our community. I am a proponent of quality of feedback over arbitrary quantification. This article provides practical application for a shift in practice that is more substantial for students and less time intensive for teachers.

Edutopia: Will Letter Grades Survive? As schools and districts around the nation embrace student-centered and realistic reporting systems, how will we move the colossus of education from random letters to substantive assessment? Read on and see how competency based grading and groups like the Mastery Transcript Consortium are leading the way for massive educational overhaul.

That’s all for now. Be well in the world this week!


The December value of the month at MA is “Gratitude.” It was intentionally made for December so we would honor that gratefulness lives beyond Thanksgiving. Just before Christmas, I shared with students just a small glimpse of how gratitude changes our brain chemistry and makes us happy. I talked about the science but also practical ways that we could share our gratitude in the world. I love the thought that just by articulating our gratitude, we can be happier and healthier people.

Over break, on a cold but beautiful walk in the woods, I listened to the On Being episode with Brother David Steindl-Rast on the Anatomy of Gratitude.  I was deeply moved by his thoughts on the way that the world is truly interconnected and how we must offer our gratitude for all of the ways that creation binds us to one another. This led to watching his amazing and popular TED talk. And then, a deeper dive into the Science of Gratitude. Talk about nerding out on information about gratitude!

“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
― David Steindl-Rast

In my hope of building a lifestyle of happiness in 2018, I’ve chosen GRATITUDE as my focus word. I hope that by offering both silent and public gratefulness for all the people, places, and things around me that I will return joy outward to the world.

Here are just a few things I’m grateful for in closing of 2017:

  • The gift of family. Our nutty bunch added a new member to the tribe this year with the birth of Clara. It was great to spend Christmas eve with the whole crew.


  • Team SSJ. We work so well together and provide a good balance of affirmation and encouragement as well as constructive feedback.
  • My cross-country team. Those wackadoodles made me laugh, cry, and push harder to be a better coach this past fall.
  • Sharing the first of many 40th birthdays in the year ahead for the class of 1996. It was a gift to be with my college besties to celebrate. I can’t wait until July to celebrate mine and welcome in a new decade!
  • Books. So many good reads in the last year, here are some faves:
  • Dogs. Atticus and Toby drive me nuts on a regular basis but they really do give me such great love and joy.


  • And, perhaps most important, falling in love again. It might seem mushy or inappropriate to put here on my teacher blog, but I am so truly grateful for the way my teaching and learning network has walked me through grief and now right into new love.

May your 2018 bring you abundant sources of gratitude.



I am so thankful for today’s Google doodle. In honor of Google’s 19th birthday, they’ve created a fun, interactive program to celebrate. I spun the wheel and got to an interactive one minute, deep breathing activity, which, it turns out, was just what I needed at 8:30am today. I shared it with one of my team’s during their meeting and it allowed a moment of laughter in a tough conversation.

We need these moments of whimsy. We need these moments of release. Our work is sacred and important and difficult and exhausting. It is also beautiful and rewarding. It is easy for us to become overwhelmed as educators. We simply must make space for the silly or relaxed now and again. I keep a link to Calming Manatee in my bookmarks bar for when I need two seconds of release.

This is all to say that mental self-care is essential for educators. We, by our natures, are givers and if we don’t take care of our own selves, we cannot give our best. So here is your permission slip to take care of yourself today and take two minutes for whimsy.

Happy Birthday, Google! Thanks for the laughs and breaths.