Archives For author

Registration is now open for the 7th Annual Progressive Education Summit on Saturday, January 27th.  The Summit is our annual conference with over 40 workshops, 3 master classes, a delicious lunch, and this year a resource fair and ignite talks.

Why come to the Summit? There are so many reasons! Just to get us started, here are the top three reasons to come to the Summit this year:

Because you are an educator who wants to keep learning. You see children as powerful, capable, and worthy of the deepest respect, and you are determined to continually hone your skills, build your network and create for yourself an environment of learning, growth and well being.

Because you love to hear from inspirational people. Keynote Ron Ritchhart is an important thought leader and you enjoy hearing from people in the field. You will come away with new ideas, new practices, new connections.  You want to be around folks who know how to put theory into practice and believe things like this:

“A culture of thinking produces the feelings, energy, and even joy that can propel learning forward and motivate us to do what at times can be hard and challenging mental work.”

― Ron Ritchhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools

You know that in the midst of the winter days it will be wonderful to gather at the Summit.  You will be at City Neighbors with hundreds of educators, non profits, parents, students, and more…and feel the warmth of being with so many people who care passionately about teaching and learning. We need each other.

Do you have more reasons you would like to add?  Please add your comments below.

Register Here!

More about the Summit on the City Neighbors Foundation Website.

See you there!

– The City Neighbors Summit Team

Dr. Shyla Rao, Principal, City Neighbors Hamilton

This year at City Neighbors Hamilton (our 2nd City Neighbors school, K-8 est. 2009) we welcome Dr. Shyla Rao as our new school leader.  Already Dr. Shyla (as the kids call her) is deep in the work of getting to know the students, connecting and supporting her teachers, and focusing on the health and well-being of the community. She has entered into our fast-paced environment right in stride – literally! On a recent Sunday, Dr. Shyla offered a walk around Lake Montebello for any parents and students who wanted to connect. It was a beautiful day. Dr. Shyla said it led to some great conversations, fresh air, and the fun of being out in the community together.

Here’s another fun detail about Dr. Shyla: Every week, she sends out a faculty bulletin to her staff that includes all the nuts and bolts, a calendar for the week, meetings, notes, and of course a quick message.  I asked her if I could share the message from Week 1.  She calls her bulletin: “What’s Good?… For Staff. The idea of taking good care of yourself – straight from Dr. Shyla Rao.” Here’s the first message of the school year:

Faculty Bulletin   September 5-8

Welcome to a brand new school year!  Let’s all begin this year with hope, optimism, and focused attention on our learners.  Let’s make decisions based upon what’s best for the students, and remind each other to maintain a work-life balance for ourselves.

“What are you doing? You ask.

“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”

“You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”

“Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”

“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it will go a lot faster.”

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically.  “I’m too busy sawing!”

Covey, Stephen R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Please take time to sharpen your saw.  I hold true to my Sacred Saturdays (no work, no email, no work texts) every weekend, except for the first and last of each semester. What do you hold sacred for yourself?


How wonderful to start the journey of a new school year, and a new leader, with such an inspiring message of well-being and mindfulness. As much as our students need these messages, so do our teachers and school leaders. We all need to take care of each other. And, as Dr. Shyla is demonstrating, we can have fun doing it!




Giovanni’s Cafe sign (made in the Fab Lab)

This week please welcome guest blogger  Sajida Davis, teacher of Language Arts at City Neighbors Charter School.

Last May, I was convinced to move into the old library space on the third floor attic like space of City Neighbors and leave the comfort of my huge classroom on the second floor with lots of natural light, multiple desk arrangement possibilities, and the plush white curtains that I picked myself. But, when Bobbi asked, “If you could design your classroom so you could teach the way you’ve always wanted to teach,  what would it look like?” I rubbed my chin and begin to ask myself several questions:

  • Where is the best place to read and write for adults in the world?
  • Is the space I have in mind feasible for what I want to do, what I teach, and how I teach?
  • What do I want students to think of and feel when they enter?
  • What will I have to give up or let go of in order to attain this?
  • What will I do differently for the space to be real (rules and procedures)?
  • And of course – What will it be called?

After I realized that the space I was moving out of and the space I was moving into were probably the same size, I realized that I did not want to take all the desks and chairs upstairs with me. The new space has carpet and feels more like a gathering or meeting space. So, I immediately thought of a cafe style of setting. I love to read and write, or just people watch at Starbucks and Barnes and Nobles. So, I decided that I wanted to create a very comfortable space with big seats and chairs for my students.  A Cafe like setting.  Lets call it Giovanni’s Cafe′!

I wanted the authority in the room to not be noticeable and wondered if any was needed at all.  Would the students to be on task working and learning in the new cafe′ like setting if I gave up the command center at the front of the room?  I knew that in order for these things to work, to have the cafe that I imagined, I would have to give up a few things – and now I realize what they are.  Giving up the traditional set up of desks and chairs caused me to submit to the space my authoritative position in the room.

There is no “front” of the room in Giovanni’s Cafe.

I’ve learned a lot this year about the authority of the classroom.  Now, students are allowed to move about the room on their own and without permission.  Students are also allowed to go to the restroom and for water without permission. (You wouldn’t need permission at Barnes & Noble.)  Over this past school year the students and I have become used to our new setting.   We use the space for performances and open mic’s that are sometimes planned and sometimes happen just naturally (like it might at a “speak easy”). The space is laid back and relaxed, a place where I often hear students having open cypher-like conversations on current events and topics they’re passionate about.  When it gets too loud, instead of telling kids to stop talking so loud, I play music in the background, and just slightly increase the volume of the music (which grabs attention), then turn it back down. Because they are so used to the music being in the background, this cue allows them to know when to bring it down.

Teaching from the front of the room? Those days are over. I now teach from one of the big comfy seats and converse with the kids. I stand in front only as another presenter that is “informing” them and offering notes.  Even the walls are used differently in Giovanni’s Cafe′.  I now have a whole wall that is a white board. Student-artist work always lives here and is welcome.  Students know that this is a wall that WE all use to present works, it isn’t just for the teacher.

Now, the management of this space is in the quiet unknown procedures that we all support and enforce together.  These new procedures allow me to focus on the work of my students and have extended time to really talk.  And, I think that it has also changed my relationships with my students.  They come to talk to me all the time now.  They are very comfortable just lounging in the cafe during recess or when there is no class,  just to work on school work or whatever.

Now, I couldn’t imagine teaching in any other space but Giovanni’s Cafe′.

Stay tuned for the next episode of Giovanni’s Cafe…


Thoughts and ideas on great public education in Baltimore City

Stories of U.S.

Connecting communities through data-centered storytelling.

On the arts and education

with Chris Ford, Director of Baltimore School for the Arts


This site is dedicated to education, philosophy, spirituality, leadership, management, social commentary and self-actualization.


This site is the bee's knees


Just another site


once upon a time in a world that is not yet our own...

The Huffington Post | The Full Feed

Thoughts and ideas on great public education in Baltimore City

Deborah Meier on Education

Views on Education