Jump on in

There is an episode of The West Wing where President Bartlet says “lets dangle our feet in the water” and sends Josh on a mission to appoint FEC commissioners. As the story line of the episode unfolds, Sam and Josh are in meetings trying to accomplish things that both they and the people they are dealing with know the President isn’t serious about actually doing. Everyone is frustrated. At the end of the episode Leo challenges the President to be bold and put his authority behind his staff to accomplish his goals.

President Bartlet: You came to my house, and you said, “Jed, let’s run for President.” I said, “Why?” And you said, “So that you can open your mouth and say what you think!” Where’d that part go, Leo?
Leo: You tell me, Mr. President. I don’t see a shortage of cameras or microphones around here. What the hell were you waiting for?…Everything you do says: “For God’s sakes, Leo. I don’t want to be a one-term President.”
President Bartlet: Did I not say “put our guys on the F.E.C.?”
Leo: No sir. You did not do that…You said, let’s dangle our feet in the water of whatever the hell it is we dangle our feet in, when we want to make it look like we’re trying without pissing too many people off!
President Bartlet: You’re writing a fascinating version of history, my friend.
Leo: Oh, take a look at Mandy’s memo, Mr. President, and you’ll read a fascinating version of it.
President Bartlet: You brought me in on teachers. You brought me in on capital gains. You brought me in on China. And you brought me in on guns.
Leo: Brought you in from where? You’ve never been out there on guns. You’ve never been out there on teachers. You dangle your feet, and I’m the hall monitor around here. It’s my job to make sure nobody runs too fast or goes off too far. I tell Josh to go to the Hill on campaign finance, he knows nothing’s gonna come out of it…Sam can’t get real on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, because you’re not gonna be there, and every guy sitting across the room from him knows that.
President Bartlet: Leo, if I ever told you to get aggressive about campaign finance or gays in the military, you would tell me, “Don’t run too fast or go to far.”
Leo: If you ever told me to get aggressive about anything, I’d say I serve at the pleasure of the President. But we’ll never know, sir, because I don’t think you’re ever gonna say it.
President Bartlet: I have said it, and nothing’s ever happened!
Leo: You want to see me orchestrate this right now? You want to see me mobilize these people? These people who would walk into fire if you told them to. These people who showed up to lead. These people who showed up to fight. (points to CharlieThat guy gets death threats because he’s black and he dates your daughterHe was warned: “Do not show up to this place. You’re life will be in danger.” He said, “To hell with that, I’m going anyway.” You said, “No.” Prudent, or not prudent, this 21 year old for 600 dollars a week says, “I’m going where I want to because a man stands up.” Everyone’s waiting for you. I don’t know how much longer.
Source: tvtropes.org
It’s one of my favorite episodes and the end is certainly moving. I’ve been thinking about this lately. The other day I was using the phrase “dangle my feet in the water” in reference to using design thinking in my classroom. I thought it was clever. But the more I thought about the connotation as exemplified in The West Wing episode, the more I realized it was wrong.
I have jumped in to using design thinking. It’s something that I am committed to understanding and using well. I am gathering materials to have a makerspace, and I am seeking out resources (people and readings) to help me understand and successfully implement design thinking.
Today was my second run with the Manila Folder folder challenge. I did it with my 11th & 12th grade Economics class. The benefit to this is that now all of my students 9-12 have been introduced to design thinking and I can continue to use and develop it in all my classes (I’m also teaching a Christian Apologetics class and a small section of British Literature). This run was different. I felt more confident facilitating the session, but I noticed that the kids struggled a bit more than my other class did. I’m still not entirely sure why, and I need to spend some more time reflecting on that.

While they were slow to get inspiration, they it was neat to see the inspiration come and see the focus with which they tackled developing their prototypes. They did a nice job with the challenge, and I’m looking forward to getting into content connected design challenges with them.

The question for the Manila Folder Challenge is “How might we bring joy to someone using a manila folder”. What brings joy to me is seeing high school juniors and seniors, at the end of the day, carrying home with them the manila folder light saber and basketball court made for them by a classmate.

Dangling My Feet into the Waters of Design Thinking

I first learned about design thinking at EdCampWesternMaine in 2016. Dan Ryder (@wickeddecent) led a session where he not only explained the design thinking process but also took us through a flash lab. It was intriguing, but I just didn’t quite get it. I didn’t have a maker cart and I didn’t really see how I would be able to implement it. Plus I knew I hadn’t really wrapped my head around the whole thing. I have been learning to not jump right in with every shiny cool idea I learn about on Twitter and at EdCamps–I guess I’m maturing.

Over the past year design thinking had been on my back burner. I’ve seen Dan share out the challenges his students do, and I’ve continued to be intrigued–especially by the tiny house challenge he does with his students when they are reading Of Mice and Men. I decided it was time to learn more about design thinking and see if I could implement in my classroom.

Many EdCamps, when you sign up, give you a chance to say what you’re hoping to learn. Usually I go without an agenda, but this year when EdCampWME rolled around, I was eager to learn more about design thinking. They ended up with two sessions on design thinking; one a general “this is design thinking” session that was quite packed, and a smaller session focusing on design thinking in upper level English classes. I attended both.

This time around I got it. The pieces clicked into place for me and I saw how to introduce, structure, and incorporate design thinking into my English class. I just need to find the right moment to begin.

I started graduate school this semester. I am in Antioch University New England’s M.Ed for Experienced Educators Problem Based Learning using Critical Skills program and I am loving it! An assignment for my class on facilitation was the perfect push to get me started on design thinking.

Using the Manila Folder Challenge, I introduced my 9th & 10th graders to design thinking. In the discovery stage we brainstormed what brings joy and what steals joy. This class is a 90 minute period, and we had done some work on reading the Odyssey during the first part of the period, so I wanted to get them up and moving. They did their brainstorming on sticky notes and put them on the white board. For the empathy interviews I had already decided the pairings. They were a little put out to not be able to work with their chosen friends, but one of the points of the challenge was for them to work with someone they might not know as well. Most of these kids have been in class together for years. The pairings worked out really well. I was watching the clock–I needed to give them a time constraint, but I also didn’t want to run out of time for the entire lab. I ended up rushing them a bit. When we moved on to the experiment stage, most of the students actually skipped the doodling/sketching of ideas and went straight to producing. Again, they were rushed.

It felt a little chaotic, though not out of control–I have a small room. I need new markers. I wasn’t able to observe everyone the way I wanted to. One of my goals as a facilitator was to guide without interjecting my own ideas. I was pretty confident I’d be able to do that as I had no preconceived notion of how the end products should look. I had one student that I needed to remind of the creative constraints, but overall the students took to the challenge. Several of the results were incredible creative. Some students were frustrated with the lack of time and others with the lack of good markers. The time constraint was necessary, but it still felt too rushed. I was amazed at the end when students started cleaning up without me having to ask them. Many of the students kept their manila folders (I have seen them hanging in their lockers), and the post activity reflections on Seesaw have been thoughtful.

Future labs I will do earlier in the period so that we still have the time constraint, but not in a way that limits the students’ creativity. I succeeded with not interjecting my ideas, but I would like to be a better observer of more of my students. I felt there was a lot going on that I was missing. I also think that as we do labs connected with literature and other ELA topics, there will be more challenge to me as a facilitator. I will need to use boomerang questions as students wrestle with abstract representations. Using design thinking is going to help my students develop their abstract thinking as well as their critical thinking and their ability to analyze literature and support their analysis. I am thrilled with the success of this challenge and my students’ response to it. I am excited to continue to develop design thinking in my classes.


Not The Teacher I Want to Be

There is a book out right now, I haven’t read it yet, but ads for it keep showing up in my newsfeed on Facebook. The Teacher You Want to Be: Essays about Children, Learning, and Teaching by Matt Glover and Ellin Oliver Keene.


I want this book. Because each time I see that ad, I am reminded that I’m not the teacher I want to be. I am struggling this year. I am spending much of this year in survival mode, not just at school, but in my home life as well. Cancer does that. My husband is doing remarkably well, but our new normal is very different, and we never know when it’s going to change again.

I’m sad to say, that for a large part I’m not enjoying school, I’m enduring school. And honestly, part of that is having to teach a science class. I thought it was going to go well, I thought I was going to enjoy it. I found some solid information on the importance of teaching foundational skills and some great activities that would teach those skills and get us out of the classroom. Things have not gone as hoped or planned. I’ve had resistance and criticism from parents and students, and a lack of engagement and co-operation from the students. What little time I have for lesson prep and correcting is spent on the science class, causing my English classes to suffer. If I had a better grasp on the science material, I would do better with my classroom management and trying to get the students engaged.

But I’m not being the teacher I want to be. I’m struggling to turn it around, but have reached the point of just trying to make it to Christmas Vacation and then the end of the semester. I’m not proud of this. But it’s the reality.

I don’t mean to paint a completely negative picture. It’s not all negative. I have some classes that are going quite well and relationships with students that are going well. I have classes that I really enjoy and even my tough ones have good moments.

But I know I’m not the teacher I want to be, and that frustrates me.


I was getting ready for a new day the other morning when three 8th grade girls marched into my room and announced they were there to make my day by getting books. 10 or 15 minutes later I had to ask them to leave because the high school teachers were arriving for morning prayer. They left with books in hand and smiles on their faces.

On a regular basis several of my freshmen browse the shelves after class. As Alex says, “I just need to look at all these beautiful books.” 

Friday morning Joey announced to me that he has finally become a reader. He’s already finished Night by Elie Wiesel, our current whole class read, and is nearly finished Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, “I’ve been reading in the morning; it’s a long car ride to school. I just had to find the right books. I’m a reader now.”

These are just a few of the reasons I love being an English teacher and why I feel a classroom library is important. Today I went to the Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale; an event I look forward to every year. I am grateful for a husband as obsessed with books as I am who helps me select great books for my classroom. Some of the books I got today we will read before they make their way into the hands of students. 


D.C. Trip Reflection by K.W.


On the high school trip to Washington D.C. , we saw some amazing things. We actually got to see the things we’ve been learning about in books since elementary school. We saw the Capitol Building, went to the Smithsonian’s, visited the Marine Corps Museum, went to the Lincoln Memorial and various other important places for our country. Being there was truly a great experience.

In the Capitol Building, we toured around and saw amazing architecture and saw where the senate used to meet. Also we got to see where many presidents and various other leaders from our country sat and made the decisions that built our country to what it is today. Another things we saw, was the famous artwork and statues of people and events happening in our nation’s history. Although our feet were sore, that didn’t take away from seeing all the historic pieces.

Also on our trip to our country’s Capital, we visited two of our country’s Smithsonians. The Natural History Museum and the American History Museum. These both were cool things to walk through and see and help understand our country and the things in it better. The artifacts and models of old animals that exist and used to exist were cool to see.

On the last day we were in Washington D.C. , we got to go through various simulations and see many different items that were included in many of the battles that were fought by our nation’s men and women. We also got to see the planes, tanks, and tons of rifles that were used and they still use. It gives you a different kind of respect for our war veterans.

Also on our final day in Washington D.C. , we visited the Lincoln Memorial. Even though this place was amazing to see after years of seeing it in movies like Night at the Museum, most of my time was spent taking selfies with Allison and Abe. But, he really is amazing to see in person like that.

Overall, it’s difficult to put into words the places we visited. The ones I mentioned were just a couple out of all the different places we go to go to and experience. Personally, I think hearing about the different monuments and buildings doesn’t justify how it is to actually go and see everything D.C. has to offer.

DC Reflection by T.H.

Washington DC was very fun. We went to a lot of historical places. Old places like Mount Vernon were really cool. I mostly enjoyed the old houses but I also liked a lot of the museums. This trip helped me more understand the history of the United States.  I also Learned that DC has some very outrageous prices. Even when we were not exploring museums, buildings, and memorials. The city in general was cool. Every building you could see was made out of stone. The Holocaust Museum was one that you can never forget; everything in that place had a story of its own.

Reflection by K.T.

The past week some of us who attend WCA stayed in Maine and helped at a homeless shelter, a VNA home, and more. I would also like to point out that I almost got married. So since you might be wondering why a 15-year-old almost got married, I’ll start with that. Some of the students from WCA went and volunteered at a homeless shelter. It was very fun for me as I like to connect with the homeless people and give them hope and a smile. Well I was there a man around 20 or so had clearly just moved here from a different country. He was volunteering too. Well we were preparing food and such he came over and randomly offered me a chocolate bar. I later come to find out that in his country that was their way of asking for a lady’s hand in marriage. Thank goodness I said no when he offered. But we all have that one friend who would take it right ?? Well Brandon almost took it from the man. What did I learn from that you might ask? To never take candy from foreign guys. I love serving at homeless shelters. I can connect with them and it’s a gift from God that I truly know was given to me. I also want to a nursing home and got the chance to talk with Delmore. A 90-year-old man who served in world war 2 has been married 50 years and has kids of his own. I got to talk about God with him and I know I planted a seed that will hopefully grow. I enjoyed the most being able to spend time with my classmates and get to know them better.

Washington, D.C. Reflection by S.S.

The places we went to in D.C. were really enjoyable and exciting. We started out the first day in D.C. by going to the American and Natural History museums. The museums were really nice and interesting. I found the American history museum to not be completely enjoyable, but seeing all the stuff that went on in the past helped to reassure me that the time I’m living in now is all because of the men and women who gave their lives for this country. With the natural history museum, I found all the artefacts, animals, and amount of objects in the building sheerly amazing and enjoyable. Seeing everything in the past as well as present together in these museums is great!

Another amazing place we went to was the Arlington National Cemetery. The fact of seeing all the graves and memorials there was very humbling. My favourite section of the cemetery was the changing of the guards. I got to see the changing of the guards right up close and seeing it done in person gave me the feeling of security. Knowing that our troops take that much care and attention to just one tomb makes me wonder and think of how much care and attention they put into our country.

Being able to go to such places like the American and Natural History museum, Arlington National Cemetery, the Holocaust museum, Mount Vernon, the Marine Corps museum and many other places has changed me as a person and how I view some of History and how I see my country. Going on this trip was a huge privilege and blessing in many ways.

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April 27-May 30 Reflection by B.B.


It’s quite easy to hold onto personal beliefs so dear they might as well be set in stone. I previously was not one to let go of deeply rooted principles that had stemmed from long, drawn out, periods of thought. I suppose it’s fair to call me ignorant, because this characteristic still hasn’t been completely scraped off, like how gum or anything tacky can leave a residue when you try to remove it. When I debate and find I’m losing, or a moment comes where I find what I once thought was the only thing that could float in the vast sea of “truth”, has holes throughout and the water is spilling in, I realize these are not necessarily waters of truth, but of ignorance. That’s when life changing moments occur for me the most, when I admit that I am wrong and my once deeply cemented beliefs are chiseled out and questioned. April 27th through May 1st was one of those times.

Before that week, I had a preconception of negativity, and it didn’t take much for me to gain a cynical perspective, toward America and society. It seemed to me that everywhere I looked there was greed, corruption, immorality, and a general sense of hopelessness. “It’s all about consumption here,” I said.

On our first day back to school, Monday, I went with the remaining people of my high school, of whom did not go on a trip to Washington D.C. with the other students, to the Preble Street Soup Kitchen in Portland. My experience there reinforced this negativity. Even the 300 or so homeless people, who came to be fed, were selfish and greedy, only wanting the best of the best desserts, and apples, and not being happy with the amount of food they were given, which was all free. The majority of these people, no doubt, had little money, and did not get a chance to eat warm food like this often, and if they did, it was most likely because they lived off the food of the soup kitchen. You would expect them to be thankful for the times they can come in and get a warm meal. After serving, I left there with a sense of hopelessness for the homeless, and I felt as though how those people acted was the pinnacle of how humankind acts when there is nothing holding them to a standard of cleanliness or morality. All I could see from this experience was the negative aspects.

The next day, however, was much different. I went to the Maine Veteran’s Home, with the group from the day before, in South Paris, where I met a man named Gunny, who was a zealous, genteel, gregarious, elderly man. He had served in the Marine Corps and he shared with me humorous story after story, and if the premise of the story wasn’t all that comical, he still made it so. He had truly the grandest old-time in the Marine Corps, as part of Tank Company. He had driven tanks and amphibious vehicles, played soccer, and loved the food he was served during his time there. I always saw the military as dismal. He made the military sound so eventful and enjoyable I almost felt like joining myself. We then went off the topic of military, and he shared with me amusing details of his current life. I found that even though he didn’t live in his own house, he was without a lot of privacy, and could not go off the property of that veteran’s home often or at all, he still appreciated everything he had. He told me, “I like this place.The food is good, I’ve got a bed to sleep in, and I got a roof over my head, and that’s all you really need.” I went away from Gunny, reluctantly, but also pondering on all these new cognitions I was formulating in my head. This man was so thankful in the face of his circumstances, but if I were in his place, I would be miserable. He clearly is a man who strives to get the most out of every situation. Overall, his optimism was infectious. I understand it can be hard for elderly people in Gunny’s situations to be as positive as he was, but knowing someone who didn’t care about the negatives and only the positives gave me the sense that I should focus more on the positives of life.

The day after the veteran’s home, I watched a movie with the same party called “America: Imagine a World Without Her”. The movie started out by listing all of the negative affairs America is associated with and how people can easily focus only on these matters and develop disdain for this country. However, later, the narrator went on to give logical explanations of why if America did not do the things it did, we would not have the benefits of this grand country we have today. In the instant of finishing the movie, an immense impression of patriotism. I realised there were so many positives to America, and the reality of the fact that I lived here opened my eyes to see this great country in a new light, a positive light. I have a great life, and I’m sure I have a lot more than most people my age would love to have. I’m truly blessed, and Gunny’s grateful heart rubbed off on me.

When I came into that week having been pondering all the problems and issues our society faces, I forgot the concept that deserved my attention. I forgot to be grateful.

Gratefulness brings you, not just one step closer, but two steps closer to positivity. Even before that week I struggled with having a more positive outlook on life and the people around me. I wasn’t grateful for my peers because I, ironically, focused on their lackadaisical attitude and their pessimism. I spent the worthless time to pick out all the flaws I could find in everything and anything. I needed all of these collective moments to spur me into realizing my attitude. I needed to humble myself and recognize that my judgmentalness was not making my life more valuable. I had this condescending demeanor that, “I had my act together and I knew right from wrong”.  I finally realised that life is too short to waste time on being so petty. I have to focus on the positive and see the good. How can I expect my life to be good if i only focus on the opposite? After that week, I truly believe I discovered a concept of life as marvelous as finding the holy grail. I learned that if I looked at everything through the lenses of positivity, life would regain its quality again. Of course there will be hardships and, simply put, lousy moments in life, but that doesn’t mean I should dwell on them. I learned that I have to stay positive no matter the circumstances. By the end of the day, it all boils down to this, why not be positive at all times?

The Dash- DC Reflection by A.H.


Every morning into DC, our tour guide Mary chose a student to read a poem. The Dash Poem speaks about how it is up to you on how you live your life. In the end, will you be proud? Or will you be ashamed of how you lived the life that our Creator gave you the privilege to have. Click on the link where you will find the poem we heard on the bus one morning.

“The Dash” by Linda Ellis

This poem has inspired me to live life to the fullest. It sounds cliche, we hear it all the time, but after hearing The Dash Poem, there are dreams and goals I have. This poem asks, how will you being spending your dash? Well, I may be young, but 15 year old me has dreams. One thing I got out of the entire trip was the renewed decision of attending college. Mary said going to college will teach you to think. She is totally right about that. Once I graduate high school I would love to go into the medical field where I can save lives. It’s not even about the money I will be making, it’s the gratification of helping people. That is where my heart currently stands. We hear all these terrible things happening across the globe and I just want to make a difference, whether it being in another country, state or my home state. I’ve always known that my dreams were in that direction but going to DC solidified it. I will be spending my high school dash learning more about His character. As a freshman in highschool, I am already beyond excited for my college dash. I’m hoping college is as great as I’ve heard.