Fall Semester Week 3

A Slow Start to the School Week . . .

This past Labor Day is the first one I haven’t worked at least a half day catching up on schoolwork perhaps in my 20-year teaching career. Usually after 2 weeks of school, I am already behind on grading, and I want to get ahead on planning.


This year I am relying on last year’s plans, and I let go of working as much at Prairie School, so I am not running as behind as usual. Plus I didn’t get to bike ride with my brother the last time I visited my parents, so I chose to make plans to drive to my brother’s to bike ride. He lives a few hours away, I picked him up to go to a forest preserve, we rode for a few hours, hung out a bit and I drove home. I had left around 8 am and got back around 4.


I used a little bit of that evening to prep for class and answer emails, but that was it. It was really nice taking that day off.


Rock Turtle at a park near my house

The Experiment . . .

Last week, I wrote about how my classes used a nonviolent communication process to create some class practices. One class decided that in order to feel happy and included and fulfill our need for contentment and bonding, we would have a hot coffee/ iced coffee/ hot chocolate/ cider/ tea Keurig bar. I thought this was a nice, specific, doable class practice and I set to purchase the materials.


On Tuesday, I brought the Keurig, cups and distilled water I had bought over the weekend to class. I showed them the model I bought and asked if it was a good one. They said yes, that’s the type we needed. Then, I asked them if they wanted to pool money together to buy coffee pods or if they just wanted to bring in their own. They decided on the latter.


On Thursday, then, I got to class early, set up the Keurig, put out the cups and water and waited. Did anyone bring coffee? Nope. They forgot, which is totally what students do, so it cracked me up. So we’ll have to wait to see if this class practice helps us fulfill our needs for contentment and bonding.


This same class also created another practice we used both Tuesday and Thursday. It is:  In order to feel comfortable and at ease and to fulfill our need for connection, we will spend 5 minutes at the beginning of class to just mingle. I believe this practice was successful, though I’ll have to ask them if it is helping them feel more connected and gain some ease before we get started on our work. I’ll also want to see if 5 minutes every day is needed and if we need the full 5 minutes to mingle.  


Attendance . . .

Something else that is starting to creep up is attendance issues. Out of my 85 or so students, probably 80 of them have attended every class period so far. The Tues/Thurs classes have met 6 times and the Mon/Wed classes have met just 5 times due to Labor Day. I think I have 2 or 3 students who have missed 3 classes so far and 1 who has missed 4.

I’ve told a few friends about the absences, and they have been floored. 3-4 absences out of 6 classes?! Unfortunately, the students who have been absent don’t have the same response. They typically feel bad about the absences, apologize, and want to know what they can do to make up the work. I tell them what they can “make up”, what the can’t “make up” and that the max number of absences they can have and pass is 6.

Structure in park near my house

Should We Even Do School?

The last thing I’d like to mention this week is that I’ve been reading a book called Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom by Kerry McDonald. The premise is that formal education is outdated and more harmful and helpful. I think the concerns are legitimate though a bit over generalized. I am not sure I’m ready to throw out all schooling (or formal education).


The book is helping me think about what I believe about freedom and choice and learning. It’s helping me question how much structure is useful for learners. The book is mostly focusing on preK-12 education and hasn’t yet touched on the issues in college. It’s helping me think about them, though.


I think most of what adults do when they are out of school is learn what they want to learn and need to learn when they need it. That’s a type of unschooling, I think.



All in all, it was a pretty good week. 


Peace Out (and In),






  • Margo

    Hi Julie! I love following your journey week by week and I love the pictures of the park near your house. I’m interested in seeing how the Keurig and mingling crew proceed – I feel affection for them as they test out putting their needs forward and following through on them, however that looks! What a great opportunity. Also, so happy to hear you are taking more time for yourself, less for planning and prepping. As I think you know, the premise of the book you are reading resonates deeply with me, and I am interested in how the unschooling ideas play out in your thinking and practice. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience!

    • Julie

      Thanks Margo! I may write a post about the park by my house. It’s supposedly a very special thing–made of all natural materials as opposed to the plastics we see so much in parks now.

      Thanks for your reply on everything. It’s wonderful to hear your interest. ~Julie

  • Deb Snyder

    Interesting post and I really enjoyed the pictures.

  • JMFL

    Really interested to read how your experiments continue to go. I think bringing the coffee pot (not going to try and spell that) has an important meaning, even if they keep forgetting to use it.

    • Julie

      I agree. I want students to know they were heard and someone took action to try to fulfill their desire. We can also reflect on the Keurig in the future and see if that was a useful strategy to try to fulfill the needs.

  • joan

    Thanks for the written thoughts and great pictures. I’m glad you took a day off to go bike with your brother. Sounds like fun. Keep up the good (non) work. I laughed about the students forgetting their Keurig pods, even college students. Glad school is off to a good start.

    • Julie

      Yes, college students are probably a lot like high school students in a lot of ways. They crack me up. 🙂

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