February 4 - February 11, 2018

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Special Message from the Editor

Dear Readers,

Four years ago, I started The Educator’s Notebook because I realized that different departments at my school read different news—and we would all benefit from sharing with our larger networks the insights we circulate with our closer networks.  Four years later, this sharing has sparked countless conversations, now reaching six continents, and I’ve been grateful for the feedback from readers near and far.

It was at around the same time, four years ago, that I realized that something else was missing in education: a seamless integration of research, news, and practice:  We read about developments in education research and pedagogy, and we seek ways to incorporate these lessons into our classrooms.  Similarly, we are buffeted by news of the world, and we seek ways to engage this news meaningfully with students. Seamlessly connecting these elements—research, news and practice—is one of the great challenges of excellent teaching, and the tools for doing this well and easily have been missing from the education landscape.  

What if each time we read an article about a pedagogical approach, we had examples from other teachers of ways we might apply that pedagogical approach in our own classrooms? What if every time we read about current events, we had access to relevant questions and activities for engaging students around those events?  Providing these links has been part of the vision for future steps with this newsletter.  Succeeding at this, however, requires a platform for aggregating and sharing classroom practices.

To this end, I have some exciting news—and an invitation to support a cause I’m deeply committed to.

Driven by the realization that the field of education has no professional memory, at around the same time as I started the Educator’s Notebook, I incorporated Athena, a free, online, 501(c)(3) nonprofit platform for teachers to share practices.  While doctors have thousands of years of practices gathered and recorded, and lawyers have hundreds of years of precedent, teachers reinvent the wheel every day.  We have lacked an open platform where if one teacher has ideas or creates a lesson in response to a current event or emerging pedagogical approach, others can easily find it and repurpose it for their own classroom.

Recognizing this need, a fellow educator and I developed a vision unlike what we saw in the existing landscape, and built a first prototype.  Feedback from teachers was enthusiastic.  Support from the Robertson Foundation enabled a second, more robust iteration, and further support from the E. E. Ford Foundation and four schools enabled the development of the current platform, which teachers have been using over the past year and a half.  

Feedback has been extraordinary.  One teacher wrote: “Athena is putting into action what I've been seeking as a teacher for years - a place to share and find resources, questions, best practices.”  And this past summer, we hosted an inaugural summer fellowship for teachers. “The best experience I have had in terms of connecting with other teachers online,” said another high school teacher.  Now, we’re starting a period of building efficiency in the system in order to bring it to scale intentionally and deliberately.

Next steps: As a nonprofit developed by teachers, Athena has been fueled by schools, foundation support and individual donations.  Now, it is beginning a new phase of growth.  I’m thrilled and deeply grateful to have been granted a sabbatical from Deerfield for the 2018-19 year to lend energy to launching this work, eventually leading to the hiring of an Executive Director to carry it forwards.  In the meantime, in coming months, we will be welcoming more teachers to Athena, and will be starting a fundraising campaign to deepen and expand what we can do.

This special message is a two-part invitation to learn more about Athena.  First, for more information about Athena’s origins or about the summer fellowship, click here or visit the links below.  And second, please consider supporting Athena, either through a direct donation or through making a connection with people you know.  In particular, we are looking for individuals, organizations, or foundations with an interest in supporting scalable technologies for connecting educators around practice.  Does this sound like someone or an organization you know?

As always, feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions or suggestions!



To learn more about Athena, visit: www.teachathena.org
To support Athena, visit: www.teachathena.org/support

February 4 - February 11, 2018


"The quest for knowledge is best driven by intense curiosity rather than utility. It requires not only structure but also passion. And as Flexner pointed out, what seems useless today frequently turns out to be exactly what one needs tomorrow. Education is the same. Of course education provides career skills, but like research, it is more than useful facts and skills. Students need to explore because they are themselves curious. They need to develop a thirst for learning. They need to be excited and passionate about knowledge. They need to learn unencumbered by the demands of utility."

"How many students chose slavery as the reason the South seceded? Eight percent... Textbooks and teachers tend to accentuate the positive, focusing on heroes like Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass without also giving students the full, painful context of slavery."


"How do we know whether School X is living up to its values? The answer is surprisingly simple, and yet many schools fail to do it: Ask the students."








"In reviewing the book before it was published, David Bevington, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago... called it 'a revelation' for the sheer number of correlations with the plays, eclipsed only by the chronicles of Holinshed and Hall and Plutarch's 'Lives'"


"Ending a case that electrified punctuation pedants, grammar goons and comma connoisseurs, Oakhurst Dairy settled an overtime dispute with its drivers that hinged entirely on the lack of an Oxford comma in state law. The dairy company in Portland, Me., agreed to pay $5 million to the drivers, according to court documents filed on Thursday."




"Finding Time For Collaborative Planning" [PDF] Education Resource Strategies
"We profiled four schools that, with an intensive focus on improving the quality of instruction through professional learning, have seen above-average results with a relatively high-need student population. These systems have replaced traditional professional development efforts, such as one-off workshops and general coaching, with a more strategic model."



The NYT Explains Snapchat New York Times





"With innovation's unending arrival on our doorstep, I thrill at the access and stimulation that have arrived with it, but I wonder about how we cope with it, about what we learn from it... I wonder, for instance, about schools with metal detectors. I wonder about airports with liquid-free travel and computers with parental controls; and I wonder why, in so many cases like these, we keep putting the training wheels on instead of taking them off."