2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 22,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

“Being Our Best Selves” Guest Post: Leslie Ann Little

On Friday, August 19, Dean of Students Leslie Ann Little delivered a devotional assembly about being our best selves. Our audience is 561 middle school students and 82 faculty and staff. With Ms. Little’s permission, I am sharing her assembly notes below – she provided an excellent message about understanding our two selves – our worst self and our best self – and about striving to be our best selves.

Psalm 139

New International Version (NIV)

Psalm 139

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

We, each of us, possess but one self and yet we often see ourselves as two: our best self and our worst self.

When I was your age, my best self would offer to take out the garbage without being asked, would help my sister with a project for school, though being four years younger, even my best self could have made a mess of it. But at least I didn’t set my hair on fire trying to recreate the effects of a forest fire.  Who knew Styrofoam was so flammable?!  Yes my best self consoled a friend, or spoke up when someone was spreading gossip no one knew to be true.

But don’t get me wrong. My worst self walked hand in hand with my better self, and in truth, often led the way.  My worst self snapped at my mom, “I said I would do it!” My worst self teased my sister when she developed acne first, made many a snarky comment to even my closest friends and certainly could become engrossed in the latest gossip.

I would love to tell you that I have conquered my worst self, but that would not be true. I haven’. It’s a challenge I face each day. I will tell you what I have done…I have come to understand something.

You see, we all know our worst selves better than anyone.  We spend an inordinate amount of time with our worst self. In fact, we spend so much time dwelling on our worst self you would think we were best friends. We know when we have made a sarcastic comment, we know when we should have stopped to help, and we know when we forwarded on or contributed to the rumors swirling around someone.  And if we are not careful though, we spend so much time with our worst self, fretting over our shortcomings, we can become convinced that is the only version of ourselves.

What of our best self? We see ourselves as two, but we often believe that to be our best self means we have to be perfect. And when we naturally fall short of that perfection, we can become overwhelmed by  how imperfect we are.  We spend so much time tearing ourselves down that we forget to lift others up.  We can become so worried about what others think of us that we forget to think about others. If you consider what Mr. Adams said about looking out for our herd, because we sometimes only focus on ourselves, we lose sight of others and become a herd of one…and we are not even very fond of the one.

The psalmist reminds us that God knows us inside and out, best and worst self.

You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.

While I am not proud of some of the words that have been on my tongue, the psalmist goes on to say  in verse 14 that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  My WHOLE self!

We can even go all the way back to Genesis 1. As God looks at all of creation, God declares it to be very good.  No translation that I could find said that it was perfect.

So when we catch our worst selves looking back in the mirror, we need to offer ourselves the grace that God offers us.

Micah 7:19  reminds us that You will again have compassion on us; You will trample our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

So when we catch our worst selves looking back in the mirror and see the person who lashed out at a friend, the person who sent the mean text, the person who thought she was too busy to stop and help clean up because she hadn’t made the mess, the person who laughed at someone for being different…instead of fretting in self-absorbed self-criticism because we are not the perfect self, we need to remember God’s unfailing, everlasting and unchanging love, God’s grace not just for the whole of our lives, but for each and every moment that makes up our lives.

When we do, we let our better self step forward. Our better self will have the courage to apologize for lashing out, we will stop to think about the person at the other end of the internet message before we press send, we won’t worry about who might have left the mess, we will see the person who needs our encouragement, some we can learn to laugh with and not at.  We will take care of our herd.

Yes, I am still of two selves, but I do believe that the God of grace, loves my whole self. Yes, God forgives even my worst self so that I might too…that I might better hear the still small voice that daily calls me not to be perfect but to strive to be my very best self, the same voice that calls all of us.

At the Crossroads of Honor and Technology

At the start of every school year, the Junior High School details the community expectations of our Honor Code. One step in this detailing involves our Junior High Honor Council advisers reviewing the processes and protocols with the faculty. This year, because of an unexpected time constraint, we experienced less division-meeting time. Undaunted by this unanticipated time constraint, advisers Thomas and Fry employed their developing tech skills and leveraged their tech learning to produce the following (shared here with their permission)…[KUDOS to them! And how nice that I can share with others…including our parents!]

Good morning, wonderful faculty!

Mr. Fry and I, in addition to each of the 17 members of this year’s Honor Council are so excited to serve our community by helping preserve and uphold our Honor Code in the Junior High.

Our main goal is to EDUCATE and assist in the learning process, and we hope that we can begin by offering these few reminders to you in the enclosed video.  We had planned on sharing face-to-face time with you during Monday’s Faculty Forum division meeting, but alas, time ran out.

And so, in the name of trying and learning something new, we hope this video can be a helpful reminder for both now and throughout the year.

You can either access it via youtube here:

You can also access a written version of these reminders, along with the video posted on my blog:


Please know we are always here for you and your students, and we anticipate a magnificent year ahead!

With love and thanks,
Carter Thomas and Adam Fry

In the upcoming days, our student-led Honor Council will present the Honor Code and community expectations to the entire student body. I know they are already working on a great presentation of their own!

“Bright Spot on Flexible Faculty Forum” Guest Post: Sally Finch

When Dr. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, numerous other runners soon ran through the opening that he cracked in an apparent barrier. Perhaps we have a similar situation here. Thanks, to Jen Lalley, the 112-day wait time paid off, and It’s About Learning enjoyed it’s first Junior-High-faculty guest post. Now, Sally Finch has offered up an email that she sent to Dean of Faculty Thad Persons. THANK YOU to Jen and to Sally for their willingness and courage – to share with a broader audience.

I loved the ease of registering on the multi-colored spreadsheet!  It was so user-friendly and made so much sense.

I just read Bo’s blog about how he and Jill changed topics at the last minute and got a whopping increase in attendance.  This kind of flexibility for Faculty Forum, with an “expert” speaker working along with us, and with us teaching each other, is the best kind of choice for getting back to school.  Even those sessions I could not attend but wanted to (Sophie is just across the hall from me) can be an asset in the future.

The flexibility made it possible for Marjorie and me to work together on economics, and that was especially helpful since Jay was on jury duty.  I was getting a little nervous about the technology before Thursday, but feel much better now that I have taken some baby steps on some new things and know that I have lots of folks around to help.

Thanks for a great two days.

People often pick up the phone or pound on the e-mail to complain. Fewer (it seems) take opportunity to communicate about a bright spot. For instance, we call the help desk when technology is frustrating us, and we call Georgia Power when the power shuts down. How often do we call to say, “Things worked great today! Thanks for providing the tools and the electricity!” Such positive feedback goes a long way to building a record of what works, what helps, and what needs to continue. Thanks, Sally!

“Out of the Egg Crate” Guest Post: Jennifer Lalley

Last spring, I “offered my blog” to any and all Junior High faculty who might want to guest post. I thought it might be one small step on the journey of trying something new and thinking out loud with a public reflection – for some, like trying on clothes before deciding what to buy. Then, I waited. And waited.

Wait time is an invaluable tool in the educator’s tool kit, eh? (pronounced “A” and in honor of @gcouros). Since I extended the invitation, 112 days have gone by.

But learning is the constant – we should guarantee that people will learn…at high levels. Time and support should be the variables.

Thanks to the support offered at Faculty Forum, and perhaps some other support I am unaware of, a Junior High faculty member has submitted a guest post. Many thanks to Jennifer Lalley for taking this opportunity.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and we are all frantically trying to keep track of the influx of information coming our way. However, something about this year feels different for me (Jen Lalley). At the moment, I feel more energized than overwhelmed. Yesterday in the faculty meeting, I felt thankful for the time and space to speak openly and honestly about the changes here at Westminster. Although it’s hard, it’s valuable to have differing opinions on how technology is affecting our students and our classrooms. I left our meeting wanting more discussion. Can we continue it here?

Some of the themes thrown out…

– How do we find balance with screen time/non-screen time?
– How do we communicate to parents what we are doing in school?
– What is valuable about “traditional” teaching, and what needs revision?
– How is technology transforming pedagogy?

As said in the meeting, I echo how all of this boils down to “learning and sharing.” To me, that’s the reason we blog, MOODLE, tweet, journal, etc. Honestly, there are times when I’m working with other teachers when my individual spot in the “egg crate culture” seems nice and cozy and warm. It’s safe there, and I can move at my own pace.

There’s a problem with that statement, ”at my own pace.” It’s not really about me. It’s about the students. The moments I venture out of the egg crate have made me sharper, and most importantly, have engaged my students on a deeper level.