Saturday, June 18, 2011

Where Do I Begin?

When faced with a writing project, I always have a tough time actually getting started. I realize that this is a very common problem among people who write. I also know that once I finally get started I end up having more to say than I thought I would. Starting this blog has been difficult. I have thought and thought about this first post. I have finally decided to just start and give a little background about where I am now in my development as a teacher rather than write a typical bio piece that I might share with parents of my students.

I currently teach at Renaissance Elementary School. Renaissance is a magnet school. This means that it is a public school with a specific focus. Our focus is ELOB - Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound education. I found Renaissance several years ago when my husband and I were searching for a school for our daughter that matched our philosophy of education. After looking so closely at so many schools we knew this was the place for our daughter and I wanted to work there, too. One year after our daughter started there I got a job there as a first grade teacher.

You begin to get a feel for the philosophy of our school as you walk up the front sidewalk and into the entrance. The vision of our school is visible for all to see. Click on any photo to see a larger version of it.

As you move into the classrooms you notice our belief in the workshop model, building strong relationships through developing a community of learners and actively engaging students in creating meaning and deeper understandings.

We encourage students to move out of their comfort zone, challenge themselves, take risks and reflect on what they are learning about themselves as learners.

In all of my years of teaching (this will be my 18th year), I have never felt like my personal philosophy matched the philosophy of the school I taught at so well. Of course, there is still so much to learn and so many new things to try. That is why I have decided to start this blog. I want to have a place to reflect on my practice, to clarify my thinking and make changes that will really help my students to grow and develop.


  1. Wow, looks like a great place to learn. For both kids and adults.

  2. I don't think I realized that you taught at an Expeditionary Learning School. Love the photos and the connection to your philosophy. They all tell so much about your school. I can't wait to read more!

  3. It's great that you have a space to reflect on those connections and even those disconnections.

  4. It's great to have you blogging, Jill. I'm looking forward to reading and learning with you!
    I'm fascinated by schools with a focus, and your pics helped me to understand so much better where you and your class are coming from. Keep the good stuff coming.

  5. Dear Jill,
    I am so glad that you've taken that first step....because you work in a totally cool place and I think it would be wonderful to learn all about it.
    I loved when you said that one of the foci of your school is to build in risk-taking and fostering that spirit within your students. What a fantastic thing to nuture and something they'll need over and over and over again throughout their lives.
    I was wondering about this idea of a workshop model...building community. How is that different from the classroom build around class meetings and shared resonsibilities between the teacher and students? Is there another layer or is a remixing of what we know is best practices?
    Thanks again and looking forward to your future posts (and I was super impressed with all the hyperlinked extras in this first one!!!)


  6. Hi, Jill
    This is a lovely post and good for you for beginning!I saw it on Twitter through @frankisibberson's retweet. I hope you don't mind, but because I've recently posted on my blog about this very subject of beginning, I thought you might like to take a look to see how are posts complement each other's:
    It sounds like you work in a terrific school - and the students are lucky to have you.
    All the best ,
    Emma D Dryden

  7. Absolutely love the quote: We are crew not passengers. Great photos. Thanks for sharing. Nice beginning for your blog. It's always nice to hear when someone is really happy with where they work. I love my school too!

  8. Jill,
    Reading this post wove together a bunch of ideas, vague images, and thoughts I had about your school from your tweets and class blog. I really appreciate that.
    I'm thrilled to see you here. I know it will be a wonderful journey and we get to join along.

  9. Stellar as usual! Pictures really tell the story....REMS is lucky to have u

  10. I can understand why you wanted your daughter in this school and why you wanted to teach there. It's amazing what can be learned about a school's culture from simply walking in the front door.

  11. Ann,

    It is a great place to learn.

  12. Franki, Kathy (primarypreoccupation) and Jenny,

    Thanks for the kind words and support. The three of you have been so inspirational to me and I hope to continue to connect and learn from you as well.

  13. Kevin,

    It is great to finally have a space to reflect --other than in my own mind.

  14. Marsha,
    I love the risk-taking aspect of our school also. Starting this blog was a big risk for me and now I will be able to share that with my students.

    The workshop model that we use is a reading and writing workshop model. We do add a few twists to it for the Expeditionary Learning part but basically it is a remix of what we call best practices.

    The community of learners is built not only through our workshops but also through morning meetings, closing circles and other rituals like drumming as a group, All School Meetings, overnight camping and hiking trips, etc. We try to incorporate as many ways to build community as possible so all students will find ways to join in.

    Thanks for reading and engaging me in a discussion.

  15. Emma,
    Thanks for reading my post and sharing the link to your post. I commented on your post but I will share here, too, that I can only dream of being as eloquent as you are. You writing really spoke to me and how I feel as I write.

  16. Janice,
    I love that quote, too. Thanks for reading my blog. I am glad that you love your school, too.

  17. Thanks Noreene. Renaissance is lucky to have you, too. I have learned so much from you there. Thanks.

  18. Amy,
    Thanks for reading. I love that you can tell so much about our culture just by walking in the front door. I totally give credit for that to our principal, building resource teacher and our art teacher. They really help us live the vision.

  19. I'm glad you took the step and started. It's hard to write in a new space, isn't it? I love your last sentence. Happy writing, Ruth

  20. Jill~
    I am so impressed! Great first post! It's inspiring me to take the plunge sooner rather than later! It looks like your school is simply amazing. I love the philosopy and already kind of feel like I belong there. :) I'll look forward to reading more!
    Laura (Komos72)

  21. Ruth,
    Thanks for reading. It was hard to write in a new space. Thanks for sharing your writing with all of us and inspiring us to write, too.

  22. Laura,
    Thanks for reading my post. I think our conversation on twitter last night really helped give me the extra push to just go ahead and get started with this. I can't wait to read your future blog. Keep me posted about how it is coming.

  23. carcarr819 (Carolyn Carr)June 18, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Way to go! What a great introduction/first post. I look forward to reading more posts in the future. Time to get working on mine. Thanks for the inspiration!

  24. Carolyn,
    Thanks for reading. Please be sure to let me know when you get yours up. I would love to read it.

  25. Great start, Jill! and the number of comments you have is amazing. Keep it up. Blogging is time consuming but worth it.

  26. Great start, Jill! I look forward to reading your blog regularly.

  27. Yippee! Hooray! You did it!!!! And it's awesome, of course. Love the pictures and the way you explained our philosophy. Can't wait for more!

  28. Ms, Yingling, LF. and MarySue,
    Thanks for reading and commenting. Taking a deep breath before doing the next post. :-)

  29. Jill~
    YAY! So happy to see you here, it will be so nice to learn from you as we build our classroom connections! Your school has amazing opportunities for your kids and you as a teacher. It is obvious the whole crew loves learning at your school!

  30. Yeah! You 'started'....!!! got 29 responses and just just started! Absolutely love your Blog Title...that was biggest step to getting started! Oh...and I absolutely LOVE your school!

  31. I do LOVE your blog! Your first post made me smile because Renaissance really does have a special place in my heart. It will always feel like home to me. I am beyond excited to hear how devoted you are to the school because I truly need you to be there when Merrick is in 1st grade. I know you hear this all the time, but this is MY son we're talking about. You are such an enormous part of why this school is what it was envisioned to be, and with you there, I only see it getting better...(you are a big, BIG part of that red thread). You make all of the teachers and staff surrounding you better. Really, you're taking this whole teaching thing to an entirely new level. I continue to be amazed by you. You, in so many ways, are the teacher I aspire to be...someday. :)