A few days ago I went to High Tech High Chula Vista, where I used to teach. It’s a trip that always takes longer than I intend, because there are so many people I want to see. I was just saying my last goodbyes because I was in real danger of being late to pick up my own children from school, when someone burst out of a classroom and shouted “Dr. P!!!!!”
It was a former student who I hadn’t seen since she was in tenth grade. She was back because she’s now working as an academic coach at the school.
It’s always a pleasure to see former students, but there’s something particularly magical when former students come to work in our schools. I’ve now taught two people both as high schoolers and as teaching residents in our credentialing program, and I hope to teach many more. There are all sorts of reasons that it’s a “good thing” to have people from our school system choosing to return as teachers, but the reasons it fills my heart to see them have nothing to do with institutional strategy, and everything to do with seeing awesome kids grow into awesome adults, and being able to reconnect with people who you fleetingly got to know very well during a critical moment in their lives. And, of course, to know that now they too are tackling the immense challenge, responsibility, and privilege of being an educator.
I was thinking about that encounter as I edited this issue. With my students-turned teachers in mind, we start off with practical advice for the teachers to facilitate learning gatherings: middle school teacher Sean Gilley explains how he “collaborates” with ChatGPT to plan his projects. Mike Cho explains his “never-fail” lesson plan that basically turns short story writing into a party game, and Geneva Clark combines standards-based grading with the Next Generation Science Standards. Then we move to advice for school leaders on cultivating a sacred learning space: Stephanie Antin shares the strategies she’s developed for welcoming parent into a school learning community, and Carol Battle and Curtis Taylor explore the conditions that enable Black teachers to thrive in schools. Michelle Jaconette tells the story of a “history dance” project from a teacher perspective, Drew Nelles tells the story of a filmmaking project from the student perspective, and Chet Flaum tells the story of… well you’ll just have to read that one to find out. Suffice to say it tells the story of an unusual approach to creating a “learning gathering.” Finally, Aneesa Jamal tells the story of a radically experimental school in India, and, in a piece that made me re-examine not just my time as a teacher but my own childhood as a student, Garrett Bucks reflects on the lessons he learned (both intended and unintended) as a young white male in school.
Thanks for joining us!