Sean TeachingWhen I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day? In a series of detailed drawings and simple language, Scarry illustrates a variety of jobs around Busytown.  He invites readers to be workers and reveals how different people are connected through the work they do.

I still think of that book often. Some of it may be outdated, but that essential question sticks in my mind. “What do people do all day?”

As a high school teacher, I engage with students continually, managing and monitoring learning for around 100 young people with unique interests and individual needs.  Then, in the single hour I have without students, I rush to plan lessons, create resources, evaluate students’ work, reflect on our progress and needs, design individualized accommodations and modifications, check emails, make copies, contact families, consult case managers, attend meetings, go to the bathroom, and, if I’m lucky, catch my breath. Because that hour is never enough, I work through lunch, stay late, and come in early.

Asking myself, “What do I do all day?” helps me stay efficient and motivated. What do I do all day? I work with young people and facilitate learning. What a great way to spend my time!

Now, let’s ask, “What do students do all day?” When I was a new teacher, I had a mentor who would comment on my lesson plans, “I can see what you’re doing, but what are students doing?” To find success in the classroom, I had to stop thinking only in terms of what I would do, what instructions I would give, or what questions I would ask. I had to start thinking in terms of what my students would do, what instructions they would need, and what questions they would ask. In short, I had to start asking, “What should students do all day?”

At City Neighbors High School, a typical student attends five different classes on five different subjects, takes a lunch break, and then joins her pod (an extended advisory) for an hour. Asking myself to consider what students do helps me empathize with teenagers who spend the day watching their “to-do” lists grow with limited time to organize, prioritize, or catch their breath.

Imagine working hard all day, always being told what to do, and never getting a break. At City Neighbors, we’re fortunate to have time to address as many needs as we can in our extended advisory pods. In our efforts to make every minute count, we need to remember the big picture, to consider what people do–and what they need to do–all day.

“What do people do all day?” It’s not just a question for Busytown. It’s a question for all of us. It’s a question that, while deceptively simple, is absolutely essential. At least, it always has been for me.

~Sean Martin, Teacher, City Neighbors High School~


kuanaWhat is Inclusion? By definition, it is the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.

What does inclusion look like at City Neighbors? Inclusion is essential to who we are. It’s woven into the very fabric of our schools. Our model has a pure inclusion form where every child, no matter of ability, is in the classroom learning with their peers as much as possible. There is no division between abilities, no “special” classroom.

Why is this important? One of the best predictors of a child’s success as a student is how they feel about themselves and their capabilities. When a child feels included on all levels they strive to excel. It allows students to learn that not all people learn in the same way or at the same rate, but everyone’s thoughts and ideas are meaningful and necessary to make the classroom the best learning environment it can be.

Inclusion Testimony: I have a child with a learning difference who attends City Neighbors Charter School.  He was diagnosed with this difference in first grade, and he has no idea that, in some schools, he would have been taken away from his peers to learn in a “special” classroom. When he sees his friends striving to make educational goals, it motivates him to reach those same goals. He understands that it may take him longer to reach the goal or he may have to achieve it in a different way, but he wants to continue to grow and push his intellect and ability. This is all possible because of intentional inclusion at City Neighbors.

~Kuana Holley-Burris, Board President, City Neighbors Charter School~

megan dash picIf I had a dime for every time a parent rationalized their child’s difficulty in math with their own, “but-I-was-always-bad-at-math” story, I’d be able to retire already! Some students find learning math to be difficult because of its concrete nature and building block structure.  Others find it comforting for the same reasons. Overall, children of all ages, grade levels, and genders report hating math. Inside of the classroom, not only do we fight the “I-hate-math” attitude, we continue to fight gender stereotypes about the subject–boys are good at math and girls are not.

Larry Martinek, founder of Mathnasium, wrote, “Children don’t hate math. What they hate is being confused, intimidated, and embarrassed by math. With understanding comes passion, and with passion comes growth – a treasure is unlocked.” (Mathnasium LLC, 2018)

So, how can we change your child’s attitude about math, their “MATH-itude”? Here are 5 easy steps you can take right away:

Eliminate math from the naughty words list.  When talking about math, you don’t have to be overly excited, but it shouldn’t be a curse word in your home. Make your problem-solving and mathematical thinking visible to your child.  Explain your thinking, your challenges, and your solutions. Understanding the process may make the solution seem less intimidating.

Ask for their mathematical assistance.  Students retain math skills best when learned in context. Ask your child to help you solve a real-life math problem to solidify mathematical problem solving and creative thinking skills. For example, how many gallons of paint do you think we will need to cover all four walls in two bedrooms? Why do you think the speed limit decreases when we are going downhill? What is the most efficient way to rearrange the furniture in your bedroom to allow for the most open play space?

Share your love of learning.  When you are excited about learning–not just math–your children notice it.  They seek engagement and modeling. Take mathematical risks and share them with your children.  Invest money, deposit the coins you’ve been saving, try a new recipe but convert some of the measurements as a fun challenge!

Praise them. It’s okay to acknowledge good grades, but we don’t praise grades, we praise people! Ask about and discuss your child’s EFFORT, not their grades. Success isn’t always about the end result, rather the process, which leads to a richer learning experience. When children share their thinking and hear adults praise them, they begin to believe what they are saying is true.

Measure your math-itude.  What kind of message are you sending your child? Identify what is making you confused, intimidated, or embarrassed and acknowledge it out loud. Then actively and openly look for a solution. Be an example of perseverance and embracing the process.

And remember, “If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Maya Angelou

 ~Megan Dash, Special Educator, City Neighbors Charter School~


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