Monday, May 8, 2017

Lesley Graduate and National Teacher of the Year, 2017 on Rejecting the Myth of the "Super Teacher"

A Lesley Graduate! National Teacher of the Year, 2017


Rejecting The Myth Of The "Super Teacher"



There is no such thing as the perfect student, classroom or teacher, writes Sydney Chaffee. Instead, we must embrace the messiness inherent in teaching and learning. (Paul Hart/Flickr)
There is no such thing as the perfect student, classroom or teacher, writes Sydney Chaffee. Instead, we must embrace the messiness inherent in teaching and learning. (Paul Hart/Flickr)

Teaching is an art.
I became a teacher because I was inspired by my own great teachers. They helped me experience learning as a process of discovery and transformation. They also showed me that the art of teaching derives from teachers’ ability to work through messiness and see beauty in what many others perceive as imperfection. As a ninth grade humanities teacher, it has been an amazing privilege to devote my life to this art.
Recently, I was named National Teacher of the Year, and it is such an honor. I kicked off my year by visiting Washington, D.C., last week, to meet with policymakers and education advocates. Now, I am preparing to spend a year out of my classroom traveling around the country to speak with others about education.
After the reporter left, I began to doubt myself, feeling embarrassed that things had not gone more smoothly during her visit.
With this honor comes the opportunity and responsibility to share a message that I often teach my students: There is no such thing as the perfect student, classroom or teacher. Instead, we must embrace the messiness inherent in teaching and learning.
One particular instance allowed me to reflect on this lesson. A reporter visited my classroom in the fall, and afterwards told me that she was surprised I let her see that class. That day, students had participated in a collaborative game to review for an upcoming end-of-trimester test on the Haitian Revolution. A few students had difficulty interacting with their peers appropriately. Some called out or made disparaging remarks about the other team.
After the reporter left, I began to doubt myself, feeling embarrassed that things had not gone more smoothly during her visit. I wondered: Should I have invited her to a different class, one that might have posed fewer challenges?
As teachers, we sometimes fall victim to the myth of the perfect classroom, the perfect students, the perfect lesson. We feel the need to perpetuate this myth, to pretend that we have it all figured out. We feel vulnerable without it, worried that we will be identified as frauds or impostors.
Reflecting on the reporter’s visit, I can understand why the messiness of that class could feel uncomfortable, especially to someone who does not know my students. So much of our work in the classroom depends on relationships. And, because I know my students well, I was able to recognize elements of beauty where the reporter saw chaos.
One of the aforementioned students, who is usually absent or completely off-task, stayed in class for the entire period and was actively engaged in the review activity. He had trouble controlling his outbursts, but he cared about what was happening in class and wanted to do well. He was learning. While I didn’t dismiss his behavior, I was careful to note his progress. To me and the other teachers in my room, that classroom is a place where learning happens, in spite of — and sometimes because of — the messiness.
If we do not recognize that learning is happening even as children make mistakes and act out, we don’t recognize the growth of the whole child. Providing a holistic education means fostering a child’s development through examining mistakes, not forbidding them. In order to create a culture where the value of failure is celebrated, educators must be able to openly share our own failures.
Imagine the progress we can make on the journey to educational equity if teachers feel safe opening the doors of all of our classrooms -- even the messy ones -- to visitors.
The reporter’s visit helped me learn a valuable lesson about sharing what is happening inside of my classroom with others. Rather than shying away from inviting visitors in, I now take time to give them context about the class so they can get a more complete picture of who we are and what we’re working on.
Imagine the progress we can make on the journey to educational equity if teachers feel safe opening the doors of all of our classrooms — even the messy ones — to visitors. We must reject the “super teacher” myth and be brave enough to advocate for what we know to be true about learning: Real learning takes time. It is not always linear. And sometimes, the best learning happens when things don’t go perfectly.
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Sydney Chaffee Cognoscenti contributor
Sydney Chaffee is a high school humanities teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Boston and the 2017 National Teacher of the Year. She is a member of the Boston chapter of Educators for Excellence.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Every Educator Succeeds Act (EESA)

April 2017 Volume XIV Issue IV
The Just ASK 2017 Closing of School Checklist
Bruce Oliver

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is to be implemented at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. As we get ready to wrap up the 2016-2017 school year, I am proposing an “alternative act” called the Every Educator Succeeds Act (EESA). Below are some of my thoughts about how the act should play out.
I suggest that each professional begins implementation of the EESA by placing the following titles at the top of two separate pages:  
  • Accomplishments for the 2016-2017 School Year 
  • Disappointments for the 2016-2017 School Year 
Use the first document to jot down actions and results that occurred during the school year of which you are proud.  These can be small or large, mini-steps or giant steps, work with students, communication with parents, collaboration with peers… any and all positive achievements. Review the document slowly and take pride in the work you have done.

Next, take the second piece of paper, tear it into shreds and throw it in the recycling bin.  It has been a tough year for many of us and we do not have time to dwell on disappointments. Put the stressful situations out of your mind. Take the high road. You work too hard to focus on the negative.

Instead of spending another moment on the negative, use your time to tell a co-worker how much you appreciate their support and camaraderie. Maybe present them with flowers or a small token representing how you feel. We are surrounded by strong support systems, but sometimes as we are cleaning out our desks and preparing our rooms for summer cleaning, we forget to tell others how strongly we feel about them.

Then, send several parents an email, text message, or, better yet, a hand-written note to tell them how much you have learned from working with their children. Yes, our primary responsibility is to make sure that all children learn, but we learn a great deal from our students as well. And, we must not neglect to let our students know how much they have meant to us.

And as the year comes to a close, do not forget to tell your family and loved ones how deeply you care about them. Being an educator is a tough, tough job and sometimes we become consumed by our responsibilities. Let’s be sure to tell those special people in our lives that although it may seem we are completely focused on our jobs, deep in our hearts we are clear that they are the most important people in our lives.

After you have completed all these joyful tasks, take a seat in a comfy chair, put your feet up, close your eyes, smile, and remember that you are someone’s hero.

Now on to a spectacular school closing!




Learn about plant morphology as you build understanding of
tree parts, their functions, and relationships to the environment

-Engaging talks by scientists
-Active learning in the landscape
-Connecting science to practice

August 21 - 24, 2017
9 am - 4 pm
617 384-9032

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Summer PD: New Visions for a Changing World: Towards a Pedagogy of Climate Change

McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning, Center for Climate Change Education and Framingham State University College of STEM, in collaboration with Museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS) present: 


Join us to learn how climate science falls within the revised 2016 STE Standards, and how you can implement these standards, including the Science and Engineering practices, in your own classroom. Participate in content and skill development sessions taught by professional educators and scientists at each collaborating partner organization. Take home investigations you can use in your classroom and a collection of teaching resources and field trip ideas!

Learn how to use the Science and Engineering Practices in your classroom and how they relate to science inquiry.

Explore STEM resources in your community.

Discover how to adapt your current curriculum to meet the revised MA Science and Technology/Engineering Standards.

Droughts in the Southwest. Superstorms. Melting Arctic ice. Changing weather patterns and the northward movement of tropical species. Sea level rise of 1-4 feet by the end of the century. What is the Earth telling us? What trends and patterns are observable? What do they hold for our future?  What do we know about climate change? How do we know it?

Spend a week this summer asking these urgent questions about planetary changes, gathering and evaluating data, developing hypotheses, and considering evidence and consequences as you explore the intersection of climate science, food production, biodiversity, energy and infrastructure, and society. Your experience will include field and laboratory work at the recently opened state-of-the-art Framingham State University Hemenway Laboratories.

Participate in laboratory experiences to develop an understanding of the basic physics and chemistry of climate change that include analysis of temperature, carbon dioxide and precipitation data. Perform experiments to estimate the energy content of food waste, and explore the connections between food waste, agricultural production, energy consumption, emission of carbon dioxide and methane, and the warming up of the planet. Learn about exciting pedagogical approaches utilizing the idea of paradigms and paradigm shifts. Apply science and engineering practices to complex systems and complex problems, thus enabling you to creatively and effectively engage students in the heterogeneous classroom. Leave with an array of useful tools and inspiring approaches that are designed for deep learning, effective communication and positive change-making.

Learn how climate science falls within the revised 2016 STE Standards, and how you can implement these standards, including the Science and Engineering practices, in your own classroom. 

Partners: Framingham State University – College of STEM, McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning, Center for Climate Change Education

Course Dates: July 10-14 (8:30 am -3:30 pm); Half-Day Introductory Session June 10; Half-Day Fall Call-back November 18

Registration Fee: $375/participant; $350/participant for team of 2 or more teachers from the same school district.

PDPs and Graduate Credit: Framingham State University (3 credits, 67.5 PDPs, $225); 40 PDPs available without graduate credit.

Visit for more info on this and other Professional Development Institutes and to register online.

For more information contact:
Dr. Irene Porro, Director
McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning


Brianna Wilkinson, Assistant Education Director
Museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS)

Trauma and Resilience: The Effect on Families, Children and Learning

The Effect on Families, Children and Learning
Saturday, 4/29/17 from 10:00am-1:00pm
University Hall, Room 2-078
We are delighted to present Lesley University professor Dr. Patricia Crain de Galarce, Ed. D., the Associate Dean of GSOE and Director of the Center for Special Education, who will be facilitating this workshop.  She will be joined by her colleagues, and they will be leading us in a presentation and discussion about trauma and resiliency and what this means for us as teachers. 
Please register for this event by Monday, April 24 by sending your name and contact information to and putting RSVP Spring Event into the subject line.  Any questions?  Please email Andi Edson, Director of the NTC at

Certificates of Attendance to be given!  Great raffle prizes! Discounted parking!
Join us for a delicious and nutritious brunch!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Poetry Institute for Educators of Young Children

Poetry Institute for Educators of Young Children

Poetry readings and workshops, featuring Obama Inaugural poet Richard Blanco and Boston's Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges

Click here: For registraton information

Thursday, March 16, 2017
4:00 PM - 9:00 PM
The Poetry Institute for Educators of Young Children will begin with a reading and lecture by Richard Blanco, Inaugural poet for President Obama and Education Ambassador for the Academy of American Poets. Activities will include:
4:00 pm Registration and Coffee
4:30 pm Poetry reading and lecture with Richard Blanco
5:30 pm Introduction to Poetry as an Art Form  with Danielle Legros Georges, Boston Poet Laureate and Lesley professor
6:15 pm Supper and review of resources on poetry for young children
7:30 pm Workshops:
  • Poetry and the Disciplines  with Madeline Holzer, Educator in Residence of American Academy of Poets
  • Poetry and Nature  with Mary Ann Cappiello and Erika Thulin Dawes, editors of the Classroom Bookshelf and Lesley professors
  • Sound and Word Play  with Betty Bardige, author of Poems to Learn to Read By
8:30 pm Reflection on workshop poems and discussion of next steps for integrating poetry into teaching and learning
Register now.

Co-sponsored by Lesley University and the Academy of American Poets.
Richard Blanco
Richard Blanco, Inaugural Poet for President Obama and 2016 Lesley University Honorary Degree Recipient
University Hall Amphitheater - 2nd Floor
1815 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140

Near Porter Square T stop.
Directions to campus.
Registration Required
Cost: $25, which includes a light supper and materials

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Primary Source Global Action for Social Justice Series Webinar

From Primary Source: Happy New Year! I hope all of you enjoyed pleasant holidays with friends and family.  I want to let you know that we have a webinar series beginning on January 18 and we welcome more teachers to participate.  Our Global Action for Social Justice series will includes sessions on human trafficking, the UN's sustainable development goals, and sports and human rights.  All details are below — please share with your teachers — they can sign up directly using the link at the bottom of the descriptions.  New for this year:  with participation in all three sessions (plus an assignment), teachers can earn 10 PDPs.

Global Action for Social Justice
3-part webinar series

DATES: January 18, February 15, and TBD 2017
TIME: 7:00 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. EST
PDPs: 10 PDPs for participation in full series and completion of assignment

Our three-part webinar series will introduce educators to global issues unfolding on many continents. This year we explore social justice tools and approaches that include the United Nation’s Global Goals for Sustainable Development, the international effort to eliminate human trafficking, and the global campaign to establish access to sports and play as a human right. Scholar experts will join the conversation to provide context for the issues. Classroom resources will also be shared.  Participants may register for one, two or all three sessions but PDPs are only provided for participation in all three.  Open to all K-12 educators.

Sports and the “Right to Play”: A Global Human Rights Issue
Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Gender, disability, sexual identity, race and religion have each been used in various ways and places to exclude people from access to sports. Eli Wolff of Brown University will speak about sports and the “right to play” as a global human rights issue. 

Teaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Led by a Primary Source staff member and K-12 teacher, this webinar provides an introduction to the key components and targets set by the international community to combat some of the world's greatest social, political, and environmental challenges and offers teaching strategies and resources to incorporate these 17 goals into the K-12 classroom.

Human Trafficking
March-April Date TBD

Hear from advocates, students and teachers involved in the 21st century “abolition” campaign to end all forms of coerced unfree labor and the traffic in human lives. Learn about the many avenues for informed action that are open to young people and the critical role that teachers can play in their classrooms and beyond.

Registration is free and open.  Go to to sign up.


Abby Detweiler
Director of Outreach & Program Operations
(617) 923-9933 ext. 120
Educating global citizens
Learn why we’re opening new windows on the world for K-12 educators and their students.