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.

  • 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?

    I took two courses of action:  1) To find ways to simplify my daughter’s after school life; and 2) To find ways for me to decompress and be more mindful. Changing my daughter’s schedule was my first task. I switched her Monday activity to Saturday. I had helpful conversations with her teachers about homework. I pushed her bedtime back 20 minutes. Phase two was finding ways for me to have a better work-life balance. I am an avid knitter, but I needed other outlets. Going running in the park, taking pictures of the sky, and doing some weekend birdwatching became those outlets. These activities allowed me to “take off” my teacher hat and my mom hat for brief moments. They afforded me a little balance in life. 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.
  • Matt McLean: More than “Just an Experiment”

    Matt McLean (Middle/High School Music Teacher and Band Director): Matt was particularly interested in using the self-study as an opportunity to explore his long-running quest to find solutions that transform traditional instrumental music ensembles into more progressive-based environments. He focused on one aspect of this quest that was centered on developing pedagogies that offer a “differentiated learning” experience to his students. As he suspected, this quest went beyond just the pedagogy to include his overall teaching approach:
     
    So, in reflecting on my teaching practice there is a disconnect in how I think I am inspiring my students and the response from them when I offer this kind of opportunity that requires a certain amount of passion (and time commitment). Realistically I know that there are other real-world factors beyond my teaching (school/life workload of students etc.) but I am committed to expanding the time I spend in an inspirational, example-setting role. To his end, I created my own arrangement for the group, which I used as a teaching/inspiration vehicle. I am more committed than ever to take up this quest again in the fall. I want to more carefully craft the expectations of the project so that they are in alignment with our obligations as an ensemble. Additionally, I have learned some important lessons about the ways in which my teaching approach gave students the false impression that this was “just an experiment” and not a core part of our ensemble experience.
  • Peggy Peloquin: The Interconnections of School and Life

    Peggy Peloquin (High School Dance and Life Skills Teacher): Peggy focused her self-study on the redesign of core elements of the 9th and 10th grade Academy Life Skills curriculum. This involved an examination of the integration of social emotional awareness through mindfulness and meditation, expanding the social justice curriculum and creating a more inclusive sexual education component of the curriculum. In engaging in this work, Peggy was mindful of the challenges that arise as one simultaneously implements curriculum, reflects on its redesign and balances these demands with the many other professional and personal demands that are part of the work of being a teacher at LREI. As Peggy noted:

    The interconnection of school and life are not separate. I am grateful for the communities that I have been supported by and view all of life’s circumstances as an opportunity to experience what is means to be human. This self-study has been a time for reflection that reveals to me tremendous gratitude for my time at LREI and the excitement for the opportunity for a path to growth.
  • Pati Stolley: Unspooling Character Building, Community and a Growth Mindset

    Pati Stolley (Lower School PE Teacher): Pati explored the idea of what teamwork looks, sounds and feels like in her classes. She wanted to explore the question of  what it means to be a supportive teammate. As part of the self-study, she create a 2nd grade curriculum that examined the range of emotions and behaviors that arise from game play in the gym and coordinated this with an ongoing study of character and good sportsmanship in the 3rd and 4th grades. Pati reflected that:

    By unraveling the mantle of courtesy I found that the that heart and soul of cooperation is sharing, trying to understand another’s point of view, tolerance and treating others as you would want to be treated.  My students and I discovered that “people like to be around others who are nice to be with” and “when people are nice to each other they are happier and feel more comfortable.”  One way I integrated emotional intelligence into every lesson was through the practice of reflection.  Students discovered that making connections to and thinking about how their actions affected their performance and the performance of others was an excellent way to learn.  To help my second graders engage in this kind of higher level thinking, which reinforced and deepened their learning, I asked them to embark on a yearlong study of what makes a good or lousy partner.  The children’s sharing sparked conversations about the value of their work and effort and how as a community we can cherish and support this effort.
  • Michael Thandi: How Educating for Sustainability Led to a More Sustainable Teaching Practice

    Michael Thandi (Lower School Science Teacher): For his self-study, Michael looked at how the curriculum redesign process that he has engaged in over the past few years has impacted not only his curriculum, but his philosophy and approach as an educator. The goal of the redesign process was to develop, in conjunction with the middle school science teachers, a set of core scientific principles to use as the foundation that guided and connected the lower and middle school science curricula to help educate students for a more sustainable future. In the midst of the process, Michael noticed that, in addition to the curriculum changing and evolving, his approach to designing curricular experiences to help students achieve the desired learning outcomes was changing and evolving as well. As Michael noted:

    I have always believed in the idea of using content as a vehicle to teach students larger conceptual understandings, help them develop skills related to the discipline they are studying, and to cultivate sound habits of mind as learners. However, it has always been harder to put this idea into practice than it has been to agree with it in theory; that is until our curriculum redesign process provided me with a new framework for thinking about this work. One of the major outcomes of our redesign process was organizing student experience around "The Natural Laws." This helped me to make the practical application of using content as a vehicle feel more accomplishable. My goal was to have students develop a profound understanding of each of the laws by constructing meaning around each of the individual concepts that were related up the law. As a result, the concepts themselves become the essence of the curriculum, and the content emerged a vehicle to help teach these underlying core ideas. Working with this framework, I was able to adapt and customize the content based on my students' interests and choices. I believe that this has led to a more successful learning process.
  • Susan Now: Ways of Seeing — An Action-Research Project in Photography

    After twenty years of teaching traditional and digital photography, and with the ever present challenge of technology-driven distractions, Susan's main focus and the driving question of her self-study was,"How can I create dynamic assignments that ask students to explore what is relevant to them through the medium of photography while also changing the way they see and examine the world?" As the self-study progressed, the question became a metaphor for how she viewed her own growth as a teacher. As Susan commented: 

    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.

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