That’s my butterfly

20170110_201435.jpg“That’s my butterfly!”  

Marcus pointed to a butterfly drawing, part of an elaborate book project displayed in the 9th grade hallway.

Marcus is a 9th grader with a semi-permanent frown who had recently been suspended for fighting.  He’s originally from Honduras, has lived in New York for two years, and is self-conscious about his English– too self-conscious to notice that his English is far better than most of his classmates.*  He gives the impression, “I’m a loner– don’t mess with me.”     Continue reading

Good day, honorable teacher


Eric is running to his third period class, weaving between throngs of students.

He sees me.  He halts.  He stands squarely in front of me.

He bows deeply.

“Anyong haseyo sunsengnim,” he says with perfect Korean pronunciation.  Good day, honorable teacher.

“Anyong haseyo, hakseng,” I reply.  Good day, honorable student.*

He grins and walks to class. Continue reading

There’s a yellow M&M in stairwell six

wpid-wp-1444687672511.jpg“There’s a yellow M&M in stairwell six, on the second floor,” I said to a staff member.  “Could you find a student to clean it up?”

He smiled at me, but nodded.  I could tell he was thinking, “An M&M? Only an M&M?”  We’ve had much worse in our stairwells: milk cartons, used napkins, and my personal un-favorite: ketchup smeared on the banisters.

“Only” an M & M is progress: it means my staff is enlisting students to clean the stairwells throughout the day, which is exactly what I want them to do. Continue reading

Fair isn’t always equal


Yesterday, when I visited Mr. D’s English class, I didn’t notice Jose.*  This is notable.

I always notice Jose.  Jose is a student who normally disrupts classes, or wanders the hallways to avoid class.  We have spent countless hours trying to support Jose in behaving and learning.

Yet in Mr. D’s English class, I didn’t notice Jose.  Why?  Because Jose was sitting at a table, quietly annotating a text.  He worked throughout the period, causing no disruption. Continue reading