The Peripatetically Published Journal of The Progressive Education Network - Summer 2022

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The Peripatetically Published Journal of The Progressive Education Network

Summer 2022


amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to

create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.

EDUCATION MUST... encourage the active


participation of students in their

Greetings from PEN

and in the world.

Go to Alabama

learning, in their communities,


respond to the developmental needs of students, and focus on their social, emotional,

intellectual, cognitive, cultural, and physical development. EDUCATION MUST...

honor and nurture students’ natural curiosity and innate

desire to learn, fostering internal motivation and the discovery of passion and purpose.


Why Every 8th Grade Class Should


ProgEdNet@Distance: NEW PEN


Announcing the Next Cohort of NEW PEN


Lessons the Pandemic Can Teach Us About Homework


Student Teaching Experience


“Oh, You’ll Learn”


Our Zoom Clubhouse is Open!


Caring in the Age of Coronavirus


PEN 2022


Support PEN


Meet Your Journal Committee Members


Submissions for Future Issues



emerge from the interests,

experiences, goals, and needs

of diverse constituents, fostering empathy, communication and

collaboration across difference. EDUCATION MUST...

foster respectfully collaborative

ON OUR COVER: Images from Prairie Creek Community School in Northfield, MN. Images on pages 3, 10, 19 and 20 are from Prairie Creek Community School. Images from page 11, 12 and 13 are from Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School in Columbus, OH.

and critical relationships

between students, educators, parents/guardians, and the community.


Newsletter Design by Julie Winsberg

PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

Education must amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world Greetings, PEN community! I think back to a moment etched in my memory from December 2020 that captured the essence of what it meant to be teaching through a pandemic. I was on a Zoom call with my 8th grade English students, wary of the wobbly Wi-Fi that was chipping away at my already shaky levels of confidence; around the corner from my cozy little office that was doubling as my classroom was my high school freshman daughter, on her own Zoom class, making the best of a situation that she was relegated to endure; while upstairs was my other freshman daughter, experiencing college from her bedroom after her university’s dormitories were abruptly closed for the remainder of the academic year. We were all doing school in ways that weren’t how things were supposed to be. And I’m sure each of you has similar stories, similar memories, of teaching in the time of COVID. Now, after we returned to what we do best, after weathering Omicron and staff shortages and students learning how to be together again, we continue to face an uncertain future. Where safety has become politically charged, where the teaching of honest truth is met by some with fear and disinformation. When the call for submissions went out in the Spring issue of the newsletter, we asked you to reflect on the experience of teaching and learning Progressively during the COVID pandemic, with an emphasis on connecting your stories to the PEN Principles of Progressive Education. Our hope was that by drawing upon the experiences and learning gained, we could share in our collective struggles and unexpected joys. And you responded. We are pleased to share with you a recollection of one’s coming to understand the meaning of progressive education as a student teacher; musings on what it means to care in the age of COVID; an essay on rethinking the purposes of homework; a look back from a veteran teacher on the importance of experiential learning; and finally, a thoughtful consideration of how our students can be challenged to contemplate American Democracy. We hope these reflections by our generous colleagues will encourage you and spur you forward as educators in this continued pandemic landscape. For me, so much has changed, yet so much feels familiarly unknown. My daughters and I completed the year on our respective campuses, still vigilant and aware with COVID on our minds, but with hopeful anticipation for richer experiences. We hope the same for you all wherever this finds you. — Onward, in solidarity, David Fuder on behalf of the PEN Board

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WHY EVERY 8TH GRADE CLASS Should Go to Alabama We are grateful for the permission to reprint this piece which originally was published on Mia Henry’s work is an embodiment of all our PEN Principles, but particularly to “amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.” Thank you for your leadership and vision, Mia. — by Mia Henry

Artifacts and symbols of our democracy may reside in D.C., but the struggle for America to live up to its ideals is found in the Heart of Dixie.

8th grade students from the San Francisco School with Civil Rights Movement Veteran Joanne Bland in Selma. They are holding up stones from the original pavement where activists began the 1965 Voting Rights March. Image Credit: Nancy Nagramada

Each year, thousands of American eighth grade students from across the nation take a class trip to Washington, D.C. The impact of those trips can be life changing, especially as young people bond with classmates and prepare to chart different paths toward high school and adulthood. While a trip to D.C. is considered a rite of passage for many, I believe that student travel to Alabama can better tell a story of the United States that speaks to today’s youth.


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

The story of American democracy is not complete for anyone without understanding the events that led up to and unfolded during the Civil Rights Movement. The study of this history shows how democracy is not static but a dynamic struggle, one that requires organizing and participation. Further, the Civil Rights Movement is an ultimate case study that reminds us democracy depends on the ongoing work of everyday people, people who insist this country be true to what it says on paper. Some of those everyday people are my own parents and grandparents who resisted white supremacy in the form of legalized racial segregation through protests, building community, telling stories, raising families, and finding joy while surviving Jim Crow in Alabama. I grew up learning about what it means to build social movements not in schools, but from the people who did it and in the places where it happened. Now after years of working with young people as a teacher and in nonprofits, I lead civil rights tours to the South so others can learn this way as well. I am able to connect my love of education, my respect for young people, and my heritage of activism through this work which I believe is critical to an American education. As I reflect over 10 years of leading dozens of groups and hundreds of participants, I believe some of my most impactful trips have been traveling to Alabama with eighth grade classes. Not only do I love the curiosity and energy of that age group, but I’ve also come to appreciate the foresight of the teachers and administrators who make these trips happen. They have taught me that Alabama, more than places like D.C., deeply resonates with Gen Z students and brings their humanities curriculum to life.

Left: Sign in 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham. Middle: 8th Grade students talking with 1961 Freedom Rider Catherine Burks Brooks. Right: Sign in Selma on the route between Brown A.M.E. church and the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Image Credit: Author

“This helped me understand our country’s racism [on] another level and the movement that fights against it.” — Will, 8th grade, Edmund Burke School

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In Alabama, we see democracy in action. In Washington, D.C., students can visit monuments, and even see the actual U.S. Constitution and other founding documents enshrined behind glass. But in Alabama we get to see the holes and the hidden levers of this foundational document. We stand in places where everyday people used those levers to expose and partially fill those gaps. Collective struggle has been and continues to be required for everyone to have access to the promises of American democracy. In Birmingham, Montgomery, Lowndes County and Selma, we learn about many of the major campaigns that dealt fatal blows to the system of Jim Crow within a mere 10-year period. In Alabama, we understand that voting rights are not guaranteed. We face the stark fact that in America voting was not a reality for Black people in the South for 100 years after passage of the 15th Amendment. In Alabama we can walk from Brown A.M.E. church to and across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. As we walk, we remember the first, second and third attempts to march those 53 miles, from Bloody Sunday to the culmination of the third on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. We understand this work (along with Black organizing in Mississippi) laid the foundation for the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) and that challenges to the VRA today also require organizing and resistance.

Left: Students at sign at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Right: Sign advocating to fight for voting rights in 2020. Image Credit: Araceli Quezada

In Alabama, we learn about the history of policing. We see how policing has been used time and time again to intimidate people, suppress dissent and stop social movements. The police murder of unarmed voting rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson is the inspiration for the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. It is just a fact that state violence through assault, surveillance and incarceration is a part of every single fight for justice during the civil rights era in this state of the United States.


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

In Alabama, we encounter a humanized MLK. Traveling through the state brings nuance to the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We not only learn about King’s visionary leadership, but also his struggles, his doubts, his incarceration, his critique of white moderates, and the constant threats on his life and his family’s. In Alabama, we connect the dots between slavery and prisons. We face how the racial hierarchy in this country has been enforced by brutal dehumanization and violence, which remains with us today in the system of mass incarceration. We directly confront this legacy in Montgomery at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum, established by the Equal Justice Initiative under the leadership of Bryan Stevenson. I believe not only 8th graders but every person in the country should pay a visit to these sites in their lifetime.

Students at the Equal Justice Initiative Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery. Image Credit: Araceli Quezada

In Alabama, we confront the history of racially motivated mass shootings. We can touch the walls of 16th St. Baptist Church, an official location for mass meetings during the 1963 Birmingham Campaign. This church was an organizing space used to plan marches, boycotts and other forms of civil disobedience. In September of 1963, it was targeted and bombed by white supremacists on a Sunday morning killing four girls and blinding a fifth. We not only mourn their deaths but also see how hard it is to find “justice” in the wake of racial violence. After this visit, I’ve seen students grapple with the more recent memory of the Charleston Church Massacre, the mass shootings Pulse Nightclub and the Tree of Life Synagogue, and other attacks in what were considered safe spaces for oppressed people.

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In Alabama, we see young people lead the way. Today, young people are speaking up and taking action. They are not passive about the daily news cycle but directly addressing today’s most pressing issues, including racial injustice, climate change and gun violence. It is in Alabama where we see this is not new. Young people have been leaders for justice for decades. When many adults were tired and scared, marchers as young as 8 participated in civil disobedience, where they were met with police violence and mass arrests. In Birmingham, monuments in Kelly Ingram Park honor the courage and leadership of young people of the Children’s Crusade. Walking through this park, eighth graders can see their own reflection.

Top left: 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham Top Right: Statue at Kelly Ingram Park. Bottom Left: Students on campus tour of Tuskegee University. Bottom Right: Two students take a moment before following marchers’ steps in Selma. Image Credit: Araceli Quezada

“I learned a lot. I will make my mom do this.” — 8th grade student, San Francisco School


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

For eighth graders, Alabama only makes sense. I understand that Washington D.C. has become a destination of choice for many because it aligns with curricular standards that include study of the philosophy behind and the development of the U.S. government, of foundational documents such as the Constitution, and of the role of citizenship. The belief is these standards help young people understand U.S. history and its claim to exceptionalism. But Alabama also tells the story of our nation, and, arguably, a more complete one. This story is also about citizenship, what it entails and who gets to claim it. It is the story of how and when the government failed to govern everyone. It shows how our foundational documents have been tested. More than mega monuments and sprawling museums on the Potomac, sites related to the Civil Rights Movement and the Black freedom struggle offer us an incredible amount of insight about who we are and where we are as a country today. Of all the work I do, nothing is more rewarding and impactful than seeing how these trips can transform and shape young people’s perspectives as they begin to imagine the role they will play in the greater world. I don’t want to knock D.C. This city is also a must-see, especially the National Museum for African American History and Culture. But when I want young people to really understand the history of America, I cast my eyes to Alabama. If you are currently preparing for an eighth-grade class trip in 2022, you should, too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mia Henry (she/her) is the founder and CEO of Freedom Lifted, a consulting firm that supports social justice leadership development with training, facilitation, training, and coaching. Through her distinctive approach, Mia has created learning spaces and practical tools for just and ethical leadership for more than 45 companies, schools, and organizations across the country. In addition to pioneering innovative work through Freedom Lifted, Mia has also served in several leadership roles in justice-oriented organizations, including as the Executive Director of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College and the founding director of the Chicago Freedom School. You can follow Mia on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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ProgEdNet@Distance: NEW PEN — by Andrew Williams Once a month in the fall of 2021, I headed home after a day at the schoolhouse

energized and excited to hop onto a Zoom. This would surprise most of the folks who know me – I tend to not enjoy sitting in front of (and talking into) a laptop.

These Zooms were special. I knew that I would laugh a lot, and be both affirmed

and challenged by the conversation. They were the monthly meetings of NEW PEN, a cohort of educators new to progressive education and, in some cases, to the field of education.

For four months I had the joy of helping facilitate the NEW PEN meetings along

with fellow board members, Sven Carlsson, Kavan Yee and Jaime Danen. Together

we worked with the small but mighty group of teachers – from New York to Hawai’i, at all grade levels – who gathered to build a community of colleagues new to the day-to-day of being a progressive educator.


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

At each 90-minute meeting we centered on a topic: learning spaces, connecting teachers with students’ home lives, building relationships, and dealing with stressors. Each month the cohort built upon the

shared vision of a safe space, creating relationships with each other and honestly sharing and asking.

Rarely have I laughed as hard and been as inspired in the same Zoom.

Engaging with the documentation of other’s learning spaces, hearing what was going well and the

challenges people were facing, and having the sense of connection with other progressive educators was invaluable to me. I found, often, that a question or

comment raised in the evening’s discussions would shape the way I approached something at school in the following weeks. Looking at other folks’

documentation of the way they communicate the

learning that happens in their classroom genuinely changed my communication for the better as I

incorporated their successful approaches into my weekly(ish) emails home.

Summer 2022 The Journal of the Progressive Education Network PEN 11

Based on the participants’ reflections, I was not the only one to find value in these meetings: along

with practical suggestions and stories of real classroom experiences, we all benefited from sharing that refreshing, safe space to discuss needs, question efforts and receive validation.

In reflecting on last fall’s NEW PEN experience, I find that I miss those energizing conversations. I look forward to reconnecting and expanding the cohort when the next round of NEW PEN is beginning to

take shape. I am excited to see this forum grow, to really inspire new-to-progressive (and experienced) educators,and to connect and foster the networking part of PEN. I am hopeful that we will strengthen

already existing relationships and build new ones on the common foundation of being practitioners of progressive education.

About the Author Andrew Williams is a 4th and 5th grade multi-age classroom teacher at Wickliffe Progressive Elementary School in Upper Arlington, Ohio. He also serves as the Secretary of the Board of Directors of PEN. He can be reached at


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

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Announcing the Next Cohort of NEW PEN ESTABLISHING AN INTENTIONALLY PROGRESSIVE EDUCATIONAL SPACE Are you looking for a community of like-minded educators who have fewer than 5 years of experience and are eager to inspire their students to be curious, empathetic, justice-minded community changers? 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Central on ZOOM on the following Thursdays: 2022 August 25 September 22 October 27 November 17 * December 22

2023 January 26 February 23 March 23 April 27 May 25

* date moved due to Thanksgiving

The cost is $100 for the series. Scholarships are available.



PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

LESSONS the Pandemic Can Teach Us About Homework ­­— by Lauren Porosoff It didn’t take long into the pandemic for teachers to start dreading the terms synchronous and asynchronous. But these aren’t just pretentious ways of saying classwork and homework. Classwork and homework describe where learning occurs, while synchronous and asynchronous describe when and with whom. In synchronous learning, all students learn at the same time, which pre-Covid usually meant being together in a classroom. In asynchronous learning, each student learns independently at different times. It has always been important to honor the time students spend with family and friends, pursuing interests beyond school, taking care of themselves, and engaging with their communities. The pandemic has only underscored these needs. We’ve also learned that what we previously called “homework” isn’t only what we ask students to do in their homes. It’s also what we ask students to do independently and on their own schedule, as opposed to what they do together at the same time. A key aspect of progressive education is that education must “emerge from the interests, experiences, goals, and needs of diverse constituents” (PEN Principle #5). Let’s assume, then, that we should not assign asynchronous work just to keep our students busy outside class, but rather that any work we ask them to do should be meaningful. The question becomes, Meaningful for what? In order to determine whether an asynchronous assignment is meaningful, we first need to determine its function within the unit it’s part of. In Teach Meaningful (2020), I describe three types of units, and as we’ll see, homework plays a different role depending on the type of unit it’s part of. 1. In an inquiry-based unit, students explore the content, often guided by an essential question. Inquiries foster curiosity, observation, close reading or listening, discovery, contemplation, analysis, making connections, and asking more questions. Each learning task works with all the preceding tasks to build students’ understanding. 2. In a rehearsal-based unit, students develop a skill set through repetitive and cumulative practice. Rehearsals foster fluency, independence, self-awareness, and the motivation to pursue more complex material. While some rehearsal-based units end in a test, others culminate in a final performance so students have something meaningful to rehearse for. Each learning task gives the student a new opportunity to maintain existing skills, increase their repertoire, or both.

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3. In a project-based unit, students create meaningful work products, learning necessary content and skills in the process. Projects foster creativity, collaboration, risk-taking, sustained effort, empathy, and awareness of the community or field. Projects often begin with foundational lessons so students understand the project’s requirements and their own options. Once the work is underway, teachers might offer mini-lessons about key content or skills students need, but most of their time is spent creating or refining their work products. Some units combine multiple types. When I taught English, every unit began as an inquiry. Guided by an essential question, we read a book and sought to understand its structure and themes. Then, students created their own pieces of writing that analyzed the text itself, used the same genre, or explored the same theme. This writing phase of the unit was project-based, as students created their own stories in verse, spoken-word performances, vignette collections, comics, and essays.

QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN ASSIGNING HOMEWORK IN DIFFERENT TYPES OF UNITS As we consider whether to give homework, in addition to considering other important tasks students attend to (including the task of relaxing) and time requirements for any given task, determine which type of unit you’re teaching. Then ask yourself, Which parts of this unit should students do by themselves, on their own schedules, and which parts should they do at the same time, with their classmates’ and teacher’s support? If the unit is inquiry-based, which parts of the inquiry can students do alone—perhaps by seeking, receiving, and processing information on their own—and which parts must be done in class, where they can receive information with or from one another and create ideas together? If the unit is rehearsal-based, what must students rehearse in class, where they can get immediate feedback from you and from one another, and what can they rehearse on their own to get as much or as little repetitive practice as they need for fluency? If they rehearse on their own, how will you hold them accountable for developing the skill, as opposed to doing the work for the work’s sake? If the unit is project-based, which parts are best completed at school, where students have access to resources and feedback, and which (if any) parts are best completed asynchronously? If any students lack access to the time, space, and materials they need to complete the project successfully when they’re at home, is the project worth the time it would take for students to complete it at school? If not, is there another project that would serve a similar purpose and that does have parts that students can do asynchronously—and equitably? Finally, when designing any assignment for any type of unit, keep in mind that what you consider meaningful depends on your values. Another teacher might think a different assignment would be a more meaningful use of students’ time. And since each student


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

has their own values, what they consider meaningful—in its own right and relative to other possible ways of using their time—will vary. If we can take any lesson forward from remote teaching, it’s the importance of honoring what matters to the students themselves. Designing learning tasks that affirm students’ identities and experiences, and using protocols that help students connect their academic learning with their values, are two ways we can dignify the time and effort students put into homework and classwork. If progressive education is about “fostering internal motivation and the discovery of passion and purpose” (PEN Principle #4), our work must include empowering our students to understand how all assignments function within their units, and how they can make their work serve their own values. Synchronous or asynchronous, at home or at school, students deserve to make their work a source of meaning and vitality in their lives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Lauren Porosoff (she/her) was a teacher for 18 years in independent schools, most recently at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York, and now she writes and presents about how to make school a source of meaning, vitality, and community in the lives of students and teachers. Lauren’s work draws from evidence-based psychological science as well as her personal and professional experiences as a committed progressive educator. She is the lead author of EMPOWER Your Students (2018), Two-for-One Teaching (2020), Teach Meaningful (2020), and The PD Curator (2021). Learn more about her work at and follow her on Twitter at @LaurenPorosoff. e-mail:

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Student Teaching Experience — by Morgan Land My experience with progressive education started with student teaching at Wickliffe Progressive Elementary in Upper Arlington, Ohio. I spent months anxiously waiting on where I would be placed for student teaching and never did it cross my mind that the school would follow a progressive philosophy. When I received the email that stated I would be placed at Wickliffe, I immediately googled what a progressive school was. Google gave me very basic definitions of what progressive education is and I just couldn’t believe that this isn’t something we learned more about in the course work of my masters program.

“I now look at education as a chance to create a community with my students where we can learn from each other and not one where I stand and lecture for six hours a day. ”

My wonderful host teacher was supportive in helping me understand what it means to be a progressive teacher. Through readings, such as Loving — Morgan Land Learning by Tom Little and Katherine Ellison, I slowly started to grasp what progressive education was, but when I was asked by peers what it was, I couldn’t give a specific definition until after I was immersed in the practices. Throughout the three months of student teaching, I learned more about progressive education and myself as an educator than I could have imagined. I have never experienced school the way I experienced it at Wickliffe. Students were a part of the decisions within our room, it felt more like a community than it did a classroom. When I was an elementary student we were given the classroom rules, told how the room was run, and given assignments to do without a choice. This is not how Wickliffe was run, students were a part of every decision from classroom rules to helping come up with activities for our lessons. The school was entirely student-centered and that inspired me as an educator to continue this way of thinking into my next position. Wickliffe did more for me than just cross off a requirement to graduate. This school taught me that students should have a voice in their education and rather than playing the role of the teacher, I can play a role as a peer and mentor in our classroom community. When I am asked now for a definition of progressive education, I smile and think back to my time at Wickliffe. I think about my host teacher who let me be myself and learn with the students. I think about every single staff member at Wickliffe who is passionate about progressive education and inspired me anytime I walked into their classrooms. I simply tell my peers who ask me about progressive education that it is a community where teachers and students work together to develop skills based on our interests and talents. Now I teach in a traditional school setting, but every decision I make comes from what I learned during student teaching in a progressive setting. It has changed who I am as an educator; I now look at education as a chance to create a community with my students where we can learn from each other and not one where I stand and lecture for six hours a day. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Morgan Land is a 5th grade ELA/SS teacher for Southwestern City Schools in Columbus, Ohio. She is a first year teacher who graduated last year with a Masters in Education from Western Governor’s University. E-mail: 18

PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

“Oh, You’ll Learn” ­­— by Wayne Jenning I’m an enthusiastic advocate of experiential learning having

graduated in the 1950s in a teacher prep program with a major

in core curriculum. Core was a progressive education approach emphasizing an integrated curriculum, goal-setting, personal learning plans, use of community resources, experiential activities, life competencies, and the like.

The core curriculum—nothing resembling today’s nationallytouted curriculum core—was an outgrowth of progressiveoriented research such as the Eight-Year Study during the

1930s (info about the study on the Internet). Its results were

lost as a result of World War II. After the war, scholars reviewed the study and found it valid and relevant. Their comments

were disregarded during the McCarthy era when progressive educators were considered “red” or communistic.

Core featured school practices then, now touted as new. It was fortuitous that I received training in the late 1950s for progressive education. That prepared me for experiential learning to displace textbook-bound practices that I came to believe fallacious.

Early in my teaching career at Phillips Junior High School, Minneapolis, before the two-week winter vacation, my ninth-grade students planned a winter party. They pushed chairs to the room’s periphery and played a game in the center with much enthusiasm and noise. I stepped into the hall for a brief respite from the spirited action.

There was Mrs. Kennedy, who taught across the hall. I could see her class through the open door. Students

had a paper napkin squarely on their desks and a cookie centered on the napkin. They were waiting for Mrs. Kennedy’s signal to eat the cookie as their party celebration. It was totally quiet. I asked Mrs. Kennedy how she did that (the order and pin-drop silence). She said, “Oh, you’ll learn.” Sensing my doubt with her scanty answer, she continued, “Here’s how. See that kid in the back with the

green shirt? I could tell from the first day he was going to be trouble. You will learn to spot that. So, I waited for the first instance. Sure enough, he dropped his book on the floor with a loud bang. I wasted no time heading over to him.”

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I pictured her footfall. It probably seemed to the seventh-grade students as if the building shook. She

continued, “I said: Who do you think you are? This is my classroom, and you do what I say. Now stand up. Do you understand me? Now, sit down on the floor for the next ten minutes since you seem to like your book

on the floor. Understand, I wasn’t just talking to him. The whole class was watching, and I knew that none of them wanted to be the next target. That’s the way you do it.”

I decided I didn’t want to use her method of classroom control, as effective as it appeared. Rather, I aimed

for student self-control instead of “other” control. True, I wanted a well-behaved class, but one that grew from productive activity.

Eventually, I got my sea legs with an orderly classroom. Instead of the issued textbooks, I used experiential activities such as weekly meetings with Robert’s Rules of Order (officers, committee reports, real treasury), daily news, classroom trials, trips, letters, writing a book about themselves, studying controversial

community topics and student-chosen issues like youth delinquency when one of their classmates was arrested for a serious crime.

One day near the end of the school year, I gave a final exam (as required by the school district). I handed out a sheet that looked like a flyer. It invited people to come to a meeting to address the problem of air pollution. I had a student read the flyer aloud so that everyone had the same information. It said Terry

Alan would be the convenor. I took a chance picking Terry. He hadn’t done much that year—no trouble, just passive. I said that I would be taking notes

and would not be participating unless they got hopelessly stuck.

Terry moved to a center position in the circle of

desks (my usual arrangement) and said in a clear

voice. “Welcome everyone. You all know what we

are here for. We’re going to start an organization to work on polluted air. I’m only a convenor and we

need to elect officers.” He then proceeded to lead the group in choosing a president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.

The newly elected president said, “I know some of you are interested in this problem, so we should form some committees. I suggest a constitution

committee to establish our purpose. What other

committee do we need? Sara, will you write them on the chalkboard?” The “organization” created other committees: fundraising, publicity, reaching more people, and pollution’s effects.


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

Students then volunteered for committees and the president

balanced committee memberships for the number of students. The president then said, “Our committees will meet for the

“It’s a different class, no textbooks, class meetings are fun, take part and you will do well, Mr. Jennings will like you—he’s a good teacher, we learned a lot.” — quote from student to next year’s class

next hour. Then we will reconvene and hear reports from the committees.”

You, the reader, may wonder how ninth-graders could cope conceptually and operationally and then determine how to implement the challenges.

The secret is that we had done most of these actions in one way or

another during the weekly meeting and other activities throughout the year. This session was an experiential test to check for the integration of learning.

As with the weekly class meetings, I observed and noted with

hash marks on a class list each act of participation by a student.

In the past, I often shared these, showing the great differences in

participation of students. Some had many hash marks, some few or none. Discussion would follow about the importance of everyone’s ideas and opinions and how to involve shy nonparticipants.

We also discussed the real-life problem of people dominating discussion. I taught when new learnings were

needed. For example, I taught how motions were processed, and at other times commented on their actions. Before the end of the year exam, I invited my principal to observe. He said he was very busy but would drop by for a few minutes. I took a chance that the event would not bomb as he watched. He was tickled and stayed the entire two-hour block.

I didn’t think everything had to be learned by graduation or from textbooks or teacher lectures. I wanted

lessons that would be remembered for the rest of their lives. I wanted the outcome to be students as active

lifelong learners during their school years and as adults. That’s even more attainable in today’s informationoriented world.

Mrs. Kennedy was right. I did learn! ABOUT THE AUTHOR Wayne B. Jennings, PhD a retired teacher, principal and recipient of the John Dewey Society award, is the author of School Transformation. e-mail:

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OUR ZOOM CLUBHOUSE IS OPEN! FEELING like you’re the only one thinking progressively? WANTING TO CONNECT with other progressive educators? LOOKING for like-minded people to plan, brainstorm, and create with?

WE INVITE YOU TO: SIGN UP to host your own ProgEdNet@Distance Zoom conversation! CREATE A TITLE AND DESCRIPTION for a Zoom gathering that YOU want to host. SEND it to our board for approval.

Once approved, we will invite the 3,000+ educators in our network to sign up for your session. Last year we piloted three Zoom gatherings on: Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture, Multi-Age Classrooms Roundtable Discussion, and Outdoor Classrooms.


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

CARING in the Age of Coronavirus ­— by Greg Chalfin On March 10, 2020, I turned in my dissertation to my graduate school committee at the University of Northern Colorado. Three days later, our school, Stanley British Primary School in Denver, Colorado, closed for the rest of the academic year. Like everyone else, we had no idea what exactly to expect on the roller coaster to come. A few weeks into the pandemic, I successfully defended my thesis on Zoom. Entitled “Caring about more than grades and test scores: The work of reputationally caring teachers,” my qualitative research study examined the narratives and experiences of four teachers in four separate educational environments spanning the worlds of independent, public, and charter schools. The participants of the work were those teachers in a school that everyone can’t stop talking about. When you ask a community member about a teacher who goes above and beyond in having a positive impact, students, parents, colleagues, and administrators repeatedly bring up the same names. Over time, by reputation, they earn trust in a community, and trust begets immense impact on student learning, social-emotional health, and in becoming a joyful, lifelong learner. When I began the study, I expected to find that the teachers had some special method of how they assessed their students. One does not often find ideas of care intermingled with assessment practices, and I sought to learn more about how these teachers navigated the world of metrics and measurement that has enveloped much of K-12 education. What I found, however, was that the way reputationally caring teachers approached assessment had little to do with assessment at all. In practice, these “reputationally caring” teachers approached all aspects of their work as empathic mentors. These teachers aren’t just teaching, and they aren’t parenting our students. They are doing something in between. Caring for their students is as central to them as breathing, eating, and sleeping. They understand boundaries, but they see themselves as more than only a student’s math teacher. Frankly, for these teachers, it’s the only way they know how to orient themselves to their work. As the pandemic has raged on, I’ve been thinking about teachers like my study’s participants and about how hard it has been and will continue to be for so many teachers to feel fulfilled through a screen. When caring for the whole person, when believing relationships between students and teachers are immersive and continuous, when taking on the emotions, weights, and even traumas of their students, teachers struggle to sleep at night under the best of conditions. A pandemic like this one only exacerbates the weight on those caring individuals’ hearts.

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When you are a caring teacher in a world of COVID, you also need to be provided the space to immerse yourself in those relationships. Online, that requires a new orientation to the way schools work. Instead of giving teachers a student load of 60, 80, or 100 students, schools should focus on allowing teachers to immerse themselves in getting to support fewer kids, really understanding who they are and how they learn. Instead of having students become experts in executive functioning skills, learning to juggle a litany of classes and activities, school should allow students to immerse themselves wholly in doing fewer things well. This fall, my school, Stanley British Primary School, embraced a new model of education in our middle school. Inspired by schools like Colorado College and Cornell College (IA), our students will be taking a modified version of the block program, engaging deeply with two classes for an approximately four-week block. Teams of teachers will teach part of the day alone and part of the day together in a cross-disciplinary fashion, intentionally bridging disciplines in ways we have not been able to before. We’re using this pandemic as an opportunity to further align our practices with our school’s mission, vision, and values, and while we are all nervous about returning, we couldn’t be more excited to delve deeply into curriculum and meaningful relationships. As we began the school year, we keep coming back to our philosophy to guide our school and to fulfill our vision of a community of joyful, lifelong learners prepared to make a positive difference in the world. But how can joy happen in a world so fraught with hostility and fear? I draw inspiration from the work of Tom Little and Katherine Ellison and their book Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools. As Little and Ellison write, there are foundational progressive strategies that have been passed down from philosophers like John Dewey, Francis Parker, and others that can help guide us to a more inclusive, caring, and thoughtful vision for all kinds of schools, whether we’re in-person or online. These are simple strategies. Set in motion, they can help guide educators through this inflection point moment. These strategies include seeing the whole child, relying on students’ interests to direct learning, focusing on deeper learning instead of testing, grades, and class rank, studying topics in an interdisciplinary fashion, and perhaps most importantly, providing “support for children to develop a sense of social justice and become active participants in America’s democracy” (Little & Ellison, 2015, p. 52). If we’re going to truly care for our students, whether in-person or online, tenets like these principles can help us all become caring teachers and our schools to become caring institutions. We have owed it to our children for a long time to not view them through the prism of numbers and metrics. Now is the moment to make that caring approach a reality. Let’s use this opportunity to show our students how much we truly care.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Greg Chalfin is the middle school head at Stanley British Primary School in Denver, Colorado. e-mail:


PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022


PEN 2022

Transformative Education: Disruption, Innovation, and Regeneration in our Learning Communities

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON OCTOBER 7-9, 2022 When COVID fully disrupted in-person learning in the spring of 2020, we focused on managing the crisis on a day-to-day basis. Now, we are tired, strong, adaptive, and ready to reconsider how we do our essential work as educators. Join us as both a teacher and a learner so that we can work together to build it all better at our first in-person national conference since PEN gathered in Minneapolis in 2019. Come join us in Seattle this October!


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SUPPORT PEN: These are unprecedented times, and our work at PEN continues. We would love your support at any level, which means giving financially, connecting with us online through our social networks, purchasing a little PEN swag and sharing this journal with your friends and colleagues. Amplifying the work, especially now, is powerful and important. Thank you!

Some of the ways your donation supports PEN: •

Planning and executing our next national conference

Creating and publishing this journal & other digital communications

Keeping our dynamic website up and running

Supporting our professional development workshop (NIPEN, NEW PEN and PEN Mondays) & Independent Workshop Series (Institute for Imaginative Inquiry)

+ Support PEN with Super Cool Swag! Support PEN *and* show everyone what a

progressive educator looks like this summer with swag featuring our colorful logo! All

purchases go toward the Fund for Access,

helping more educators attend our National Conference and NIPEN.

Visit and purchase one or two or five!

Thank You! 26

PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

got ideas? Do you have a story to tell but aren’t sure how best to frame it? Got an amazing idea for a feature article but not sure if anyone else will think it’s amazing? Got writer’s block...or

fear of writing...or just want a writing buddy? We are here for you! We strongly encourage ALL readers interested in contributing to the PEN Journal to contact the committee with

questions and/or suggestions. We would be delighted to collaborate with you to help get your ideas to publication. OUR MISSION: TO UPLIFT A DIVERSE RANGE OF VOICES!

MEET YOUR JOURNAL COMMITTEE MEMBERS KRISTIN SHERMAN (she/her) lives in Los Angeles and owns a preschool, teaches early childhood education at UCLA, is a developmental editor and has published industry articles to support the role of education in forming a healthy society. Editing for PEN

since 2021, she contributes to a collaborative effort for bringing educator voices into a broader conversation around the rights of citizens in the world. SUNG-JOON (SUNNY) PAI (he/him) lives in Boston and recently completed 22 years

working in Boston Public Schools as a teacher, principal, and high school administrator. He is now the Director of School and Professional Programs at Hale Education, Inc. He

has co-chaired the PEN Journal Committee since 2018 and is currently President of the PEN Board of Directors. He loves having this space as a way for progressive educators to share their work and thoughts with the world.

ANDREW WILLIAMS (he/him) is a 4th and 5th grade classroom teacher at Wickliffe

Progressive Elementary School in Upper Arlington, Ohio. He has co-chaired the PEN Journal Committee with Sunny since 2020 and serves as the Secretary of the PEN

Board of Directors. He is passionate about helping classroom teachers share stories of the great learning they do every day with their students.

HEIDI BYRNES-CLOET (she/her) is a pre-K through third grade literacy specialist at Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, IL. She has held teaching and leadership roles

from preschool to middle school in Australia (her first home) and the US (her current home). She joined the PEN Journal Committee in 2021 and is excited to collaborate

with educators seeking to share their ideas with the wider progressive ed community. DAVID FUDER (he/him) lives in Chicago but still considers Michigan home. An

8th grade English teacher at Francis W. Parker School for 20 years, he also coaches

basketball, softball, and slam poets. David joined the PEN Journal Committee in 2021 and is committed to amplifying the voices and stories of progressive educators.

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How will you use what you’ve learned during this pandemic to further the principles of Progressive Education?


PEN: The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Over the last two years, you have tackled myriad new and not-so-new opportunities and challenges. As you

continue to reflect and grow your way into 2022-2023, we encourage you to share your best stories, images (of the process and/or the product), lessons learned and lessons hoped for.

What learning can we take from our pandemic experience to grow our teaching practice going forward? Please submit your ideas with the subject “LEARNINGS FROM 2021-22” and cite the specific PEN Principle/s you

are highlighting. In addition, we invite you to submit to any of our regular series of features (~750-2000 words + accompanying images if available):

“PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE” Featured articles describing how one or more of the six PEN Principles of Progressive Education (listed on page 2) live out in your classroom “REFRAMING THE PROGRESSIVE PANTHEON” Archival material and/or critical essays foregrounding the contributions of progressive educators and theorists of color to progressive education “CONTEMPORARY CONTRIBUTIONS” Featured pieces that foreground the contributions of an influential, contemporary progressive educator who explores contemporary practices. “WHAT PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION MEANS TO ME.” Short essays from students and from classroom-based educators articulating personal commitments and/or experiences “PRINCIPLES IN ACTION” High-resolution photos from your work in schools, accompanied by brief captions

The deadline for submissions for the next issue is FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16TH. Please provide written submissions as Google Doc or Microsoft Word files. Please upload high-resolution images to Google Drive, Dropbox or Box, and share a link with us. Please direct all submissions to 28

PEN The Journal of the Progressive Education Network Summer 2022

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