Archive for the ‘Mission Hill School’ Tag

Speaking of my Salary…   Leave a comment

The Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary School (K0-Grade 5)

This week, I will be returning to the school where I began my career as an Educator back in 2006 exactly 10 years ago. I moved twice during my first year at the Holmes within the first five months of the school year. I worked there as a Paraprofessional for six years before budget cuts resulted in me moving on to two other schools after the 2010-11 school year. Now I will be returning to my first school community once again as a full-time staff member.

The Holmes School is in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. The last time I worked at the Holmes school, I lived in Roxbury between two bus routes that got me close (22 and 23) but I could walk straight there if I wanted to. Now I live in Hyde Park next to Dedham. To get to the Holmes, I’ll walk from my house to the Fairmount Commuter Rail Station, which is a short walk from Cleary Square on River Street. I’d then take the train two stops Inbound (to South Station) to the Talbot Ave. station, which was under construction during my first tenure at the Holmes. From there, it’s a short 5-minute walk to the school.

I’m intentionally not giving away exact locations since I don’t want to give away too much about how I travel to and from work. Plan B would also likely be a one-way trip going Inbound: I usually do my mid-week shopping after work so…yeah. Massive detour to Downtown Crossing and/or Back Bay! The tradeoff with that is I could just hop on the Orange Line to Forest Hills from either travel hub and take a taxi (usually do if I’m out past 8:00PM) or the 32 to get home.

Getting back to the main topic, the Holmes School uses an inclusion model and it’s where I learned what an inclusive classroom is supposed to look and feel like. The difference between the Holmes and Mission Hill is one is K0 to Grade 5 and the other is K0 to Grade 8. The Holmes actually also has more classrooms than Mission Hill despite having less grades: Before I left the Holmes, the school had 6 kindergarten classrooms: One K0 and 5 K1-K2 classroom. The school has three classrooms for grades 1 to 5, totalling 21 classrooms total (5 x 3 = 15 + 6 = 21). The Holmes also does not have multi-grade classrooms, which Mission Hill does. The benefit to two-grade classrooms is students will have the same teacher for two years. This is why Mission Hill has less classrooms than the Holmes in comparison despite going to Grade 8: One K0-K2, 3 K1-K2, 3 Grade 1/2 and Grade 3/4 and two Grade 5/6 and two Grade 7/8 Classrooms, totalling 14 classrooms. That’s a 7-classroom difference. Having worked in both schools for several years, I can make that comparison.

The one thing I want to stress is for the return to the Holmes, I’m alot more experienced than I was 10 years ago. I’m a lot less naive for one. I’m also much more focused like I was during my last year at Mission Hill. Focused on the work that needs to be done and what I need to do. I’m also less stiff and rigid, which is always handy =D

The 2015-16 Boston school year begins this Tuesday!

EDIT (6-24-2014): Looking ahead at Fall 2014   Leave a comment







Edit 6/24/2014: In light of a recent development at work, I edited this post.



Some of you may remember this blog post from last month. As of June 12, my name was not among the announced staff members who will not be back in September. In short, it would be safe to say I will be back at the same school next year. If I wasn’t, I definitely would have known by now so…yeah.

I do want to comment on something I touched on when I edited the above referenced blog post: Due to the unique and important nature of the School where I work, while staffing for next year was being decided I was asked to remove the name of the school from that blog post. I also removed the name of the school from two other blog posts as well. Even though my colleagues at the school knows by now I would never say anything detrimental about the school on my blogs, it was a simple and easy request I was more than happy to oblige.

Now that I am almost certain I have somewhere to return to in September, I have a secret I’ve been keeping from prettymuch everyone until now:


I’ve started the application process at Northeastern University as an Undergraduate. I still have to get my transcript from Mass Bay Community College but other than that, I should have my application for Fall classes submitted by early July. The plan is to take three our four evening courses throughout the week, possibly one or two a day. Unlike Mass Bay, NEU is WAY more accessible and it would be a short commute from work as well.

I still have a few connections at NEU that I hope to exploit come next month to expedite the application process so we’ll see.

As for what I intend to pursue, after I get my Associate’s Degree I’m going to change my Major to Journalsm. I like writing stories and articles and and I also like listening to the life stories of others. After that…well, who knows.

I could go on and on but I think that’s better left to a separate blog post ^_^

Before I forget: The picture at the top was a commission my Artist Friend made for my class. It looks even more impressive in person than it does in that picture. It will bring it to work for the last day of school but I will take it home over the summer for safe keeping. Depending on how things go between now and September it may return to my school.

I think it’s time we revisit an important subject: School Bullying   Leave a comment

It’s a topic ALL schools think about. Some folks might find it hard to believe but even before Columbine, it’s something schools have been trying to minimize for decades. I think it would be fair to say the explosion of school violence in America during the late 1990s was the tipping point. I know simplifying the chain of events from a troubled young person with access to weapons who is bullied to their decision to respond with violence is often characterized a certain way by the media but it’s never that “simple”.

As I’ve said in past blogs and YouTube videos I was bullied as a kid and teenager. I’ve been bullied as an adult, yes but I want to keep the focus on how bullying affects children and teens. First, let me back up a second and explain two things. The first is unlike my past blogs and videos on the subject nothing has recently happened that led me to talk about this now. Second, I think it’s an important topic for those who either don’t have experience with bullying, are in the Education profession, have children or a combination of all three.

First, I want to say something to those who have little to no experience actually working with children in a school: Speaking for all of the school communities I’ve been a part of over the last 10 years (including the schools I worked in when I was in City Year), I don’t think I’m wrong when I say ALL schools take reports of bullying either at school, on the bus or on school sponsored field trips very seriously. There seems to be a growing belief by many outside education–and even some inside the education industry–that schools today aren’t  doing enough to address “the problem”. At the same time, there is another camp that believes gun violence is so deeply engrained in American culture it’s impossible to really be free of bullying and/or violence.

Both viewpoints are wrong and I’ll tell you why.

First, kids are human. They’re still trying to figure out their emotions let alone everything else. As educators, caregivers and beyond it is our duty to help them understand what they’re feeling, why they feel the way they do and help them express their feelings in a way and place that is healthy and safe for them and those around them. The key is actually making the time to do it. This is something that is often talked about at the Mission Hill School where I work. If you’re going to do something, you need to make the time to see it through. The first step is making the time to sit down and have those difficult conversations, preferably long before an incident occurs to necessitate the conversation.

As for the second viewpoint, the conversation needs to shift from impossible to what is possible. For starters, how many families, classrooms and/or school communities are talking about it? It’s not enough to say “this is not okay”. We also need to say why we feel it’s unacceptible for a Second Grader to be playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Call of Duty Ghosts and Grand Theft Auto V along with why these and other similar games have the Mature rating. For those who don’t know, that’s the equivalent of the R-rating for movies. One feature added a few years ago to The Entetainment Software Rating Board’s website–or ESRB for short–is the ability to look up games and see why exactly every game gets their particular rating.

I’ve linked you to the ratings for those three games in particular not just because they were all released in the last few weeks and are very popular but because of the depictions of violence in all three games most families would not knowingly expose their children to had they known in advance. Most families really don’t know what is in some of the games they buy for their children and as someone who’s bought video games over the last 14 years, you won’t get much help from the box or the video game industry (other than the usual jargon about their games not being marketed to younger audiences) when it comes to the question “is this game ok for my child?” and by ok parents mean “is there anything in this game I don’t want my child to be exposed to?” To their credit, the ESRB’s website goes above and beyond in explaining what exactly is in many popular games. It’s really up to families to be vigilant about what kinds of things they want their children to be exposed to.

Having answered both extremes in detail and within reason, I’ll sidestep the various causes of bullying for now and instead talk about how the Mission Hill School addresses a few instances of bullying. As for why I’m sidestepping the causes right now, I want to give that a separate conversation because of the numberous factors that may or may not be involved. The reason I’ve chosen to talk about how the Mission Hill School addresses bullying is because I feel it’s something that can be implemented not just at any other school but in at home, too.

First, the two parties meet with an adult who facilitates the conversation. They discuss what happened, and what steps can be taken to either avoid or stop the undesired behavior. Next, the class community(ies) the students belong to hold a meeting to discuss what happened mediated by an adult, usually a classroom teacher. This isn’t a time to put the offender’s feet over the fire. It’s  a time to talk about why what happened had happened and how the offender’s actions hurt the community. Finally, the community help the offender come up with steps to avoid landing in the same kind of trouble again. If they are unable to come up with an action plan at that first meeting they can revisit the conversation at a later time.

Involving the class community it not only important but it’s also powerful. It shows both the offender and the offended they are valued by their peers as members of the class and school community. It also shows the community they have a say in how both parties fit in the community.

Kids are not adults. They can’t process things the same way (most) adults can. That’s why it is out duty as educators and families to help the understand the world around them. When there is reported undsired contact between two students, the offended student needs to tell the offending student about the contact and how it made them feel. Even if it was an accident (and in most cases no harm was intended) it’s important both of them understand that. This speaks to the belief at Mission Hill that when two sides have a dispute–student, adult or a combination of the two–they talk about it until it’s been a resolved in a way that is satisfying for both sides. usually a hug, handshake or high-five.

Believe it or not this IS possible. I’ve seen it done with 3-year olds. The key is making the time to do it and making it a part of your daily routine. Two of the main reasons disputes happen are a lack of a willingness to try to understand one another and a lack of a willingness to try make the time to understand one another. If everyone took the time to try one they will automatically get the other.

As a whole, the Mission Hill School has two rules: Be Kind and Work Hard. Generally speaking, everything you can think of falls in one of those two categories. Anyone can be kind and anyone can work hard.

Moving on from Education   Leave a comment

I originally drafted this on April 4 and after reviewing the three paragraphs I’d written so far, I’m glad I decided not publish it at the time.

One thing my trolling incident reminded me last week is at times, I overreact in situations where it isn’t warranted. At the same time, I underreact in siuations that warrant a much stronger reaction. The only grandfather I ever knew died two weeks ago. It didn’t even sink even though it’s been a week since he was buried in Trinidad. I felt absolutely nothing when I learned of his death even though he meant alot to me. That’s just speaking for my more recent personal struggles.

I know I’m known for long monlogues so I’ll give the short version:

When this school year started I lost much of my confidence in the classroom due to some things the happened with me the previous school year at another school. Those collective things (which I will not discuss in detail either here or in my longer explaination) were the reason I decided to leave that school community after one year. Going into this school year at the Mission Hill School gave me the fresh start I was in need of in the aftermath of the previous school year. If I had gone to MHS last year instead of this year I would have stayed on for longer than I did.

As I hinted at above several things happened last year that led to me leaving the school where I was after just a year. By the end of the first week of school this year I had made the decision to part ways with Boston Public Schools at the end of the school year. The little confidence I’d been able to muster was swept away by the end of that first week. I’d been working with children 11 years going into this is school year. For the first time since my time in City Year I found myself doubting mysellf and my ability to be productive in the classroom more times than I’m willing to admit. Not just that first week throughout the year. In every other area I was fine but once I stepped in the classroom I could literally feel the confidence in my skills shatter to pieces. I consider myself fortunate I not only realized it so early on but I was able to kept the cloud from ruining what was otherwise an opportunity of a lifetime.

The Mission Hill School is known to education communities all over the world. I have wish only continued success to the MHS community moving forward.

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