To be a teacher at LREI is to be a designer of learning experience.

Our school, we feel is primarily made up of people, not of, instructors and pupils….

Our faculty and staff are warm and vital human beings primarily concerned with human values and eager to discover with children how best these values may be fostered. For this reason, we feel that progressive education lives not because of its theories or even its practices but because of the quality and caliber of its teachers. Primarily, of course, such teachers must understand children and be sensitive and responsive to their needs. They must be creative and inventive and resourceful; they must be stimulating, flexible, and fond of adventure. Each teacher should look forward to the work that lies ahead and backward to what has gone before. To be sure, each year a given ground should be covered in the academic subjects—adapted to the capacities and maturity of each group. But the program as a whole is constantly changing and emerging, growing out of experiences of the past, adapting to the present needs, and projecting into the future. 

Faculty at LREI are learners too

Reflection is an integral part of the LREI teacher DNA. In addiiton to ongoing professional deveopment work that may take a variety of forms, every five years teachers at LREI are asked to engage in a formal self-study in which they examine their goals, strengths, and needs as a teacher. This year “in reflection” balances individual work with the support of a cohort of colleagues who are also engaged in the self-study process. The self-study process seeks to develop, expand and sustain each participant's commitment to progressive pedagogy and reflective practice. It also provides an opportunity for faculty members to focus on a “gnawing question” about their practice and growth as a teacher, person and member of the LREI community.

List of 12 items.

  • Deborah Hodge: Bring Down the Wall

    Deborah Hodge (Fourth Grade Teacher) used a field trip she took with her class on the second day of the school year as inspiration to focus more on living out a LREI core belief that taking children out into the world is essential to their development. To this end, she spent the rest of the year examining her practice by focusing on deepening the connections to the world outside of the classroom by directly interacting with people, art, and events.
  • Gabrielle Keller: The Trip as Transformation

    Gabrielle Keller (Middle School Spanish Teacher) explored her reflections on close to 20 years worth of trips to Spanish speaking countries with her students. Her thoughtful examination of these learning experiences provided a lens for examining not only the evolution of the trips themselves, but also her own approach to the associated pedagogy of preparation for and learning "in the field."
  • Sara-Momii Roberts: “How to participate in the transformation of the world”

    Sara-Momii Roberts (Eighth Grade Humanities Teacher) used the work of Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire as a lens to explore what civic action skills and enduring understandings are eighth graders learning as a result of their practicing activism as part of the Social Justice Project. She then turned this lens on herself to ask: "What am I learning about my role as an educator having engaged in this type of work for so many years? Am I participating in my own positive (and empowering) growth? Where do both this project, and my own teaching, go from here?" As Momii notes:

    Turning the lens on myself has been the most slow going process of this self study. While it is important to identify what students have learned, where I connect to the work, personally, is critical to consider. So, what in my teaching might benefit from “changing outdated and oppressive language?” Where might “empathy” find stronger soil to take root? Where is the work with students “unjust?” And where are the places that “even a little bit” would make a big difference?
  • Stacy Dillon: Much More Than My Career

    Stacy Dillon (Lower School Librarian) used the self-study experience as an opportunity to reflect on her more than 20 years of work as a librarian and to tease apart the various aspects of work that lead to deeper meaning and personal satisfaction. In addition to this inwards looking work, she also surveyed librarians across the country asking them questions about their workloads, work lives, and professional aspirations.
  • Adèle de Biasi Pelz: Storytelling in the World Language Immersion Classroom

    Adèle de Biasi Pelz (High School French Teacher) explored how she teaches reading, which led to a deep dive into reading and the written word and how they both work facilitate storytelling in the World Language classroom. In turn, this helped her to examine what motivate her students to articulate, narrate, discuss and communicate their own personal narratives.

    What I have learned from my many years of teaching is that the students hold a great deal of power in their ability to learn and master new content themselves and that I can’t do it all for them, but rather need to facilitate their learning through the language, the culture, and the projects. 

    I have enjoyed doing this study immensely and at first was afraid it would be a significant time commitment, which it was, but the rewards far outweighed the efforts. It was all enlightening and best of all I was able to take a long and deep look at my own practice, what I do and how I can enrich it.
     
  • Beth Binnard: Seeking Balance

    Beth Binnard (Lower School Fours Teacher) used the self-study expereince as a lens to examine the complesxities that arise as committed teachers seek to find balance between the demands of work and home life. To contextualize this work she asked:

    “How do I cope with the pressure I feel after school with balancing my work, the needs of my daughter, and making sure she has some ‘downtime’ at home?” Basically, how can I create a better work-life balance for myself and for my child?

    The self study also resulted in some concrete changes. I think I became a happier parent and a happier teacher. It reaffirmed my love of teaching the Fours. It allowed me more quality time with my daughter. It gave me space to clear my head, even if just for five minutes before school. 
    Looking ahead, I see a need for the institution to continue to examine the experiences of our students in school, and also their time outside of school. How do we provide a childlike day for them? As a Fours teacher, how do I ensure that for my own students? Answering these questions will be a focus of my ongoing work.
     
  • Susan Now: Ways of Seeing — An Action-Research Project in Photography

    Susan Now (High School Photography Teacher): Susan's self-study was grounded in an action-research project in whihc she reconfigured her Experimental Photography curriculum and introduced three distinct exercises to visually demonstrate time-based explorations. She was specifically interested in slowing down the immediacy of the photographic process and several time-based strategies for exploration were introduced to the photography curriculum. This also provided a context for reflecting on her own practice as an artist and as a teacher:

    As a visual artist, personal artistic inquiry ls a driving force and a lifelong inquiry. As an artist/educator an integral part of generating ideas requires a commitment to artistic practice and endeavor. Dedicated time and space are essential in order to reflect and improve how we communicate our ideas as educators. The faculty tenure self-study created a space to explore and expand my teaching practice and methodology through reflection, research and action.

    Immediately after taking a photograph, we create history as what was captured has past. The fleeting moment hopefully has made an impression onto the film. In our ever changing world where we are surrounded and literally bombarded by images, how can we slow down and explore the passing of time visually? This is another idea I am interested in pursuing further that came from the research portion of my self-study.

    In the classroom I am committed to offering students projects designed to challenge them conceptually and technically, as a way of expanding what they know and how they see. Ample space and time is dedicated to guiding students through the process where they find their own answers and interpret their assignments personally. This same freedom to explore my own interests through this lens was the most gratifying aspect of my tenure self-study. I am excited to continue the process and explore and expand how to communicate ideas visually. Particularly interesting to me is exploring how our perception changes over time.
  • Michelle Boehm: The less I spoke the more I heard

    Michelle Boehm (Middle School Math Teacher): Michelle focused on her assessment practices with a particular interest on ways to create more authentic opportunities for formative assessment. Formative assessment provides learners with feedback that is given while a particular learning cycle is in process and therefore helps the learner (and teacher) to better monitor progress towards achieving particular learning goals. As part of this process, Michelle commented that:

    It has taken some serious practice and patience to control the urge to quickly correct thinking. Weighing in at the right time is a skill. I have had to force myself to pause and have even said out loud to students, “I’m going to stop talking. Your turn.”  Aside from giving students opportunities to learn from each other, I need to continue to find new and interesting ways to assess their understanding and to set aside time for them to respond to feedback. This must  happen in a TIMELY manner and can certainly include more formal peer feedback. I introduced two iPad apps, RECAP and Educreation, as a way for students to communicate understanding. The important part of this was making sure I gave the students enough opportunity to use the apps so they could have an informed opinion about using them. It was interesting to see the app preference of each student. They very much valued the immediate feedback I was able to give them because they were able to quickly identify a lack of in-depth understanding. This [self-study] reflection is not about offering a conclusion to a year-long focus. Rather, it will serve as a frame for the work that I will continue to do so that the students in my classes can continue to mature into the best math thinkers they can be.

  • Suzanne Cohen: Engaging in the (Un)democratic Process: Election 2016

    Suzanne Cohen (Seventh Grade Humanities Teacher): In reflecting on her work as a teacher at LREI, Suzanne decided to help her students understand and engage with current events for the purpose of navigating the contentious presidential election of 2016. Her self-study focused on connecting history to current events in a meaningful way. She believed that as seventh graders began to see the direct connection between what they study in Colonial American history and what is happening in the present that they would become more engaged with the world around them as active citizens in a democracy. In looking back over the year, Suzanne observed that:
     
    In the process of engaging in this work, I have become more self-reflective and adaptive in my teaching practice and curriculum. As a teacher, this is something I always try to do—adapt and change according to student need and interest—however, it can be easier to rely on things I’ve done in the past, making only minor modifications and adjustments along the way. This year, I used this self-study as a way to push myself to not only modify curriculum, but to work toward making more substantive changes. I also now see the benefit of getting more student feedback as I go. Even when students seem to be motivated by and enjoying the curriculum, student feedback allows for individual, nuanced responses.  I will continue to look for ways to incorporate this feedback. With a slight change of focus, my students eagerly engaged in uncovering the hypocrisy and contradictions in our everyday world: they relished learning the ways in which the democracy they have spent a year learning about—the one they learned that was grappling with ideas of pluralism, tolerance, equality, and freedom—is the same democracy that has always been layered with hypocrisy, racism, intolerance, and sexism. As a result of the self-study work, my students have better insight into how history repeats itself and have a stronger desire to be active agents in stopping this cycle. For me, uncovering these connections and contradictions is the entry point for middle school student engagement in the democratic process.
  • Natasha Hernandez: Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom

    Natasha Hernandez (Second Grade Teacher): For her self-study, Tasha looked at her own structures for social-emotional care and how this relates to social emotional learning in her classroom. This led to an examination of the structures that learners need to feel safe, to feel empowered to make good choices, and to respect others within their classroom community. As part of this study, she examined what she was already doing in the classroom and then investigated additional practices and activities she could incorporate as well. Parallel to this investigation was her reflection on how these classroom structures can also support the social emotional well-being of the teacher. As Tasha noted:

    One activity that stood out to me as very powerful was one that also helped me to keep things in perspective in my own life as well. We asked the children to draw balloons and then reflect on the things that made them frustrated that can be hard to let go of. They visualized these frustrations as balloons and placed their frustrations inside their balloon. During the activity, we also discussed ways to express and manage these feelings of disappointment, anger, fear, etc.. As a child or adult, thoughts may race through our mind on a daily basis. To see these thoughts on paper can be very powerful and insightful for all. We then shared strategies we could use to help us in to working through our frustrations. For example, we can’t control the things other people say, but we can control what we say to others and how we say it to them. We then wrote these things down on paper in two separate circles to bring awareness to what we could manage on their own, or with support, and what we needed to let go.
  • Ileana Jiménez: Writing #HSfeminism as moment, as movement, as memoir

    Ileana Jimenez (High School English Teacher): Ileana used the self-study as a lens to reflect on her work over the past 13 years at LREI as a designer of feminist pedagogy and practice and on her work connected to a variety of school-based social justice and activist initiatives. She also examined the arc of her blogging on her site, Feminist Teacher, and other published writing in both academic journals and book collections as well as her regular speaking at conferences, schools, and universities. Ileana reflected that:
     
    The LREI tenured faculty self-study gave me the opportunity to ask the following questions: what do I need to write next? What seems most pressing? I want to see how my #HSfeminism work is part of the larger narrative of how LREI has shaped the lives of students and their activism both within and outside of the school. Throughout the self-study year, I wrote a piece for another collection on youth sexualities and continued journaling about how I can engage in a separate stand-alone project that will likely be a memoir about feminist teaching. For this reason, I have continued the work of the self-study into the summer, and have been writing and journaling and reading various texts, including feminist memoirs and theory, to inform this larger long-term project.
  • Jennifer Hubert Swan: So many somewheres to go

    Jennifer Hubert Swan (Middle School Librarian): Jen studied the work journals she kept for the first 5-6 years she worked at LREI, and compared them to library department annual reports and the journal she kept this year to consider how her job has changed. She examined some examples of current “best practices” to identify the significant ways the role of school librarian has changed. In looking back over her year “in reflection,” Jen observed that:

    The main component that has affected my schedule in terms of making my focus more internal (meetings, Advisory) instead of external (conferences, library field trips, Pratt student visits) is being an advisor. There are many benefits to being an advisor. It allows me to connect with students and families in a deeper and more meaningful way and it is an enjoyable part of my job that I would never want to give up. But it does take away from planning/collaboration time and I would like to spend more time in the other grades’ classrooms. My time management is entirely self directed and flexible, which is both good and bad. Good because it allows me to time research projects and booktalks with teachers around their schedules and move across grades according to the needs of the curriculum. Bad because it can be a challenge to set priorities and do long term planning when the schedule frequently changes. I do think the new MS schedule, with a regularly scheduled Big Time and Independent Reading period, will help me see students in grades for which I am not an advisor more frequently.

Directory

Travel grants are awarded each year to up to three full- or part-time faculty who have completed five full years at LREI. A fourth grant is reserved for staff members (including Afterschool and Summer Camp) who have completed five years at LREI.

Approved grants connect to faculty/staff professional responsibilities and/or personal development, with the expectation that the recipient’s experience will enrich what he or she already does as a professional and member of the LREI community. The travel grant is intended to allow for the pursuit of an interest or passion. It may serve many purposes, including, but not limited to:
  • Exploring areas of personal or professional interest
  • Pursuing a personal goal or experiencing something new
  • Enhancing or extending what you already do as a professional and member of the LREI community
  • Refreshing and renewing your excitement for your work
  • For faculty, deepening your understanding of or connection to some aspect of your curriculum
  • Reinvigorating your professional practice
Please enjoy the various musings, insights and learnings from our travel grant recipients