Bad News, School System Success, and Compassion

Topics for this week include teacher sustainability, making a lasting impact, and slowing down.

Bad News, School System Success, and Compassion
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TGIF Teacher Newsletter


I'm putting the finishing touches on this week's newsletter from downtown Denver, Colorado. I'm right in the middle of attending the EL Education National Conference 2023.

So far, it's been educational and inspiring. I've been using Notion to capture my takeaways. You can follow along here (if I set things up correctly🤞). I've also been sharing some highlights on social media.

Being a part of this professional learning community feels great. It reaffirms my belief in the importance of teachers as community servants. The passion and dedication of the educators at this conference make me hopeful for the future.

Have a great weekend!

In today’s newsletter…

  • What makes a successful school system?
  • Teachers Sustainability - Is compassion enough?
  • Making a lasting impact.

The News

Here are some articles that grabbed my attention.

  • School System Success - The U.S. Defense Department's school system has emerged as a top-performing public school system, outperforming all 50 states in reading and math scores for both eighth and fourth graders. Located on military bases and serving the children of service members and Defense Department civilian employees, these schools have smaller learning gaps between different racial groups compared to other schools. The success of these schools can be attributed to high standards, racial and economic integration, and increased funding compared to many public schools. I am sure that there are things to be learned from this school system, but I also think it’s important to use more than just test scores as a metric to determine the quality of a school.
  • More Than Compassion - It will take more than compassion to sustain today's educational system. Most teachers can tell you about the increase in expectations and challenges that have become overwhelming. Despite these hardships, teachers remain dedicated to fighting for their students' needs while they wait for systemic changes that can make being an educator more sustainable. Their passion and commitment to their students' well-being are unwavering, and they continue to advocate for a better future in education.
  • Bad News - In today's digital age, children are exposed to news and current events more than ever before. Teachers play a crucial role in helping students understand and navigate the information they encounter. Media literacy is a key tool that can empower students to critically evaluate news sources and separate fact from fiction. The use of artificial intelligence and "deepfakes" will make it increasingly difficult to identify the truth. This proactive approach ensures that students are not only well-informed but also capable of engaging with the world around them responsibly.
  • Resource - Genius Hour is a concept in education where students are given dedicated time to pursue their own passions and interests. It is a time for students to engage in self-directed learning and explore topics that they are curious about. During Genius Hour, students have the opportunity to research, create, and present projects that reflect their interests and showcase their learning. It promotes creativity, critical thinking, and a sense of ownership over the learning process. These types of projects require students to develop their ability to be self-directed, which is a beneficial lifelong skill. This article by Angela Watson is a good place to start.


Personal Development and Wellness Resources

  • Slow Radio - People all over the planet know the importance of rest and renewal. Explores six practices that can help people slow down and savor life more. These practices include spending time in nature (shinrin yoku), embracing the Swedish concept of fika, immersing oneself in slow radio, embracing the spirit of ubuntu, appreciating the art of dolce far niente, and experiencing the benefits of Indian head massage.
  • Lasting Impact - It's a common desire to want what others have. Envy and jealousy are prevalent in today's culture. Some people attribute it to the use of social media. How would your life be different if you shifted your focus from material possessions to developing virtues and character traits that truly inspire and leave a lasting impact?
  • Hanging by a Thread - According to the Hechinger Report, “The well-being of educators everywhere has been stretched to its limits over the last year and a half, " teachers and experts say. Continued high-stress working conditions appear to be accelerating teacher turnover. Creative, systemic reforms are needed to support teachers as people, not just employees, according to experts. Reimagining how school districts use professional development days could be one solution to an increasingly urgent problem.” Would you find it helpful if some of your professional development days were replaced with wellness retreats?


“You have to be able to slow down enough to switch your focus away from all the ways things could be better, to know how good they already are.” ― Katherine Ellison, Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention

Teacher Commuter Playlist (Recommended by my traveling partner/colleague/and 5th-grade teacher extraordinaire Andrew) - Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra

Favorite Things

  • Inspirational Speakers - Elena Aguilar was the keynote speaker for this year’s EL Education National Conference. She has worked in education since 1994. Her years of teaching, coaching, and leading teams in the Oakland, CA public schools deeply inform the eight books she’s written and the trainings she designs and facilitates. You can get to know her through the video clip below
  • Good News - “Every Tuesday afternoon, dozens of students at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minnesota, break into groups to quiz each other on science terms, share ideas for history projects, and tackle math problems. These teens are members of the Close the Gap club, which aims to close the achievement gap at the school.” When the desire to help meets with a willingness to ask for it, great things can happen.
  • Book - Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators* - I learned about this book during the conference I mentioned at the top of the newsletter. It's by Elena Aguilar, the keynote speaker. Any resource that aims to tackle the increased stresses of teaching is worth checking out.
  • Slow Radio Podcast - Slow down and immerse yourself in these interesting soundscapes from the BBC.

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