The hardest thing about professional reflection is doing it.

funny-fat-cat-looking-mirror-what-done-with-my-life-depressed-unhappy-picsTwo competing findings in the world of learning:

  1. One becomes a master after 10,000 hours of practice.
  2. Learning requires reflection.

We have a notion in our world that to get good at something, you have to practice, practice, practice. And if you think of your teaching as a craft like any other, then you’ll conclude that it will take a lot of hours in the classroom to reach mastery.

If you teach 4 or 5 hours a day, and your school has 170 or 175 days of instruction per year, you should hit mastery somewhere around year 13 or 14.

That, believe it or not, is the good news.

The bad news is that deeper research shows that it is not sufficient simply to accrue hours in order to learn a  body of knowledge or a skill set. The learner must reflect — that is, turn back, turn in, and ask: what am I doing? What did I do well? What did I do wrong? How do I fix it? And how will I know it is fixed?

And reflection, while important, is not usually fun.

  • It’s easier, after a successful class, to bask in the glory of a job well done.
  • It’s easier, after a class which flops, to forget about it and hope that whatever went wrong never happens again.

carl_cat_red_dot_mirrorBeyond this, the school day is set up not to allow you to reflect. Teachers dash from class to class with barely enough time for the bathroom, let alone five or ten minutes of reflection. And if you do have time, technically, then you also have a pile of other responsibilities to address, all with varying levels of urgency. So you don’t have time.

A beautiful quote from the classic the Mishna (a Jewish text) sums it up: don’t say “When I have time I will learn –” you will never have time.

So, too, for reflection.

The solution of the ancients was to build time for learning into each day. A few minutes, a few hours – whatever it is.

For us, we build time for reflection into our day – or at least our week – and ask: “How did I get here? Do I want to be here? Where do I want to go, and what will it take to get there?”

  • Do this in your head, walking out of class, every day. Jot down one “takeaway” when you get to your desk.
  • Do this over coffee, once a week.
  • Do this with a journal every Sunday evening.
  • Do this with a colleague every other week: take turns reflecting.
  • Do this with your department head once a month.
  • Spend an hour on this at the end of every quarter.

It takes 10,000 hours to become a master.

It takes 10 minutes of reflection to become better than you were.

Differentiation in Baby Steps, Part 1: Don’t Differentiate Yourself Into Insanity

differentiate cartoonHave you ever seen this cartoon before?

I have — about two dozen times, and it frustrates me; it’s often the first slide in a presentation on differentiated instruction in the classroom , and while yes, it makes a point, it raises some serious concerns.

If I understand the logic: the goldfish should not be asked to climb a tree. Let her, um… do a modern interpretive swim.

The idea behind differentiated instruction is simple: different students have different abilities and limitations, and rather than expect all students to learn and to work in the same way, we should tailor our teaching, assignments, projects, and assessments to be as inclusive as possible. (For in depth reading on differentiated instruction, check out some books by the guru, Carol Ann Tomlinson. She’s written a book on about every angle you can imagine – from problem based learning to focusing on the humanities.)

Sounds good, right?

I’d like to complain about this cartoon, however, and in doing so, make a couple of points to help new educators step, in a balanced way, down the path of differentiating in their classrooms.

burnoutThe First Caveat to the Cartoon: A burned-out teacher who differentiates is worse than a healthy teacher who doesn’t… yet.

The cartoon suggests something which, in the ears of a well-intentioned, eager, beginner educator, can result in disaster: if you don’t differentiate, you might as well be asking a fish to ride a bicycle. Or climb a tree.

This is a problem; while the premise of differentiation is simple, the execution is beyond complex. A teacher can tweak any element of the students’ class experience in numerous ways – from daily work to the final project.

This creates great opportunity! Hooray!

This also can create mental and physical collapse for the beginner educator.

kittenMy first two years of teaching, I never knew when enough was enough: staying up late enough. Familiarizing myself with enough texts. Including enough activites. Designing enough adventures. Two o’clock in the morning, in the blue glow of my computer, still dissatisfied with the unit plan, I would shake my fists at the ceiling and yell, “How is a mere mortal to teach?!”

That is not a sustainable model for a career of teaching.

And that was before differentiation came to town.

The Second Caveat to the Comic: Students are cats

3catsThe second caveat to the comic is that a room full of students is generally not a monkey sitting next to a horse sitting next to a goldfish. It’s more like… three different kinds of cats. One is the jumpy cat which zings under a bed when you walk into the room, the second is the cat that won’t get up off your lap even when you stand up, and the third enjoys raking his claws across every cloth surface he can find, including your shins.

Yes, students are unique. Yes, you should take steps, when the time is right, to learn differentiation. Yes, eventually, you will include many forms of differentiation for many types of cat.

Learning to reach the next plateau of any life stage involves discovering that it’s much more complex than you ever would have expected. No worthy growth goal can be tackled in a single, frenzied dash.

karatekidAs my most significant teacher mentor once said, “Daniel-san. First learn walk. Then learn fly.”

Then, learn climb tree.


To continue to Part 2 on this series, click here.

Defusing Unnecessary Conflict / Avoiding Power Struggles With Your Students

assembleThis post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.


Sometimes, students will resist instructions because something is immoral or unethical. This is good. As a first year teacher, a student called me out for mocking a regional accent. I was defensive at first, but she was absolutely right.

But sometimes, students resist because that’s what they do.

In some cases (like class policies), as long as the policies are thoughtful, your best bet is to listen and then use some sort of formula like, “Well, unfortunately, in our school, a hall pass is not a choice. Please use it.”

In other cases, however, student resistance can undermine a learning goal: suddenly, you’re locked in a battle with a single student about a concept that is not even the point of a lesson. And everyone is getting annoyed.

Here are three classic case-studies of how to defuse student resistance. All three draw from a simple fable: a tree and a reed argue about their relative strength – but when the storm winds come, the stubborn, brittle tree is uprooted. The reed bends with the wind.

treePre-warning, affirming, joining – and redirecting:

The scenario: you are studying a story where a character exhibits behaviors, traits, or values the students will find objectionable, but it’s beyond the scope of that class to get distracted by those objections.

The solution: warn the students before they read that they will not like some of the things they see. Tell them that their objections are founded and justified. Join with them in agreeing that the behaviors are problematic.

Then, say, “However, we’re going to put those objections in the parking lot. We may get around to them. But we may not. Our goal is not going to be taking Character X to task for how he acts, which is pretty bad, we have to admit. But our goal in this particular class is to look at the circumstances that led him to those behaviors.”

If a student, mid-discussion objects to Character X’s behavior, reaffirm:

“Exactly, and that’s what I meant when I said that there were problematic things about that Character. I wish we had a whole class to dig into that, but I’m afraid it’s beyond the scope of this lesson. So, back we go to the historical circumstances.”

Set up the resistance as a straw-man and then “pretend” the best:

The scenario: a new policy in the school has raised student ire. You feel that students have complained enough about the unfairness of the new policy. You want them to reflect on the potential benefit of the new policy and not turn your allotted five minutes into more griping.

orpheusThe solution: in your question or prompt, suggest exactly what the students are likely to have concluded, and then redirect:

“The new policy is either total hoo-hah, designed to put you into a prison for your minds, or perhaps it speaks to a conflict of two real values that we can probably agree are both important.  For the moment, let’s just pretend that the rule is not designed simply to take away your rights and make you miserable. What might have been the intent of the principle when she composed the new policy?”

Affirm frustration, relieve the student of needing to argue further, and offer a new option:

The scenario: a student has missed a deadline and has a lousy grade as a result. She has come to argue with you about the grade. You want her to stop fixating on the grade and think constructively about the future.

The solution: meet the student where she is, and paint the picture about what’s coming down the road.

You: “Look, tell me if I’m not getting you. You felt like you put in a ton of work on this step of the project and the deadline ruined your grade, right?”

Student: “Right.”

You: “And it’s a bummer because why should the deadline affect the grade for the product, right?”

Student: “Right.”

You: “So look, on the one hand, I don’t expect you to love the late-policy of this class. That’s not your job as a student. You being upset about it makes total sense. If I were you, I’d probably be upset, too. But my job is to have policies that are fair and consistent. That’s what I’m expected to do as a teacher, and the policy can’t change. And we may not see eye to eye on that, but we’re going to need to be okay with that. But more importantly, my job is to help you move past this setback and plan for how the next phase of the project is going to go, and make sure it’s a huge success.


Patrick Learns to Speak: Design Thinking for Teaching Compassion, Team-Work, and Creative Process

prototype 5The challenge: in our world, many people are unable to relate to the needs and lives of others. That said, teenagers, with limited life experiences, and with their tendency to see the world through a rather narrow scope, are paradoxically poised for some of the most powerful connections a human can know.

What does a 15 year old at a private school in San Francisco have in common with Patrick?

Patrick is a deaf 15 year old in a rural area of Uganda. He spent the first 15 years of his life cut off from others, communicating only with crude gestures…until a teacher named Raymod Okkelo taught him sign language. His story came to me via Facebook, and it moved me.

I teach a course called Mystery of Connection. It’s about the pitfalls and paradoxes of human relationships. They are both necessary and impossible, the best and most challenging things in our lives, the source of heartache and joy. Teenagers want desperately to understand and process their own relationships. Thus, the class.

I had already designed a unit, inspired by a Silicon Valley design company called IDEO. They produced something called Design Thinking For Educators, and while I have many criticisms, it lead me to design a unit in which students explore a well known Hebrew Bible story, explore the themes in their own lives, and produce a work of art in three stages: sketch, prototype 1.0, and prototype 2.0.

The students were ready to share their second prototypes, but today was the day before Thanksgiving break. Many students were missing. And I’d been struck by Patrick’s story. An idea came to me, on the spot: let’s do an exercise on empathy, art, brainstorming, creativity, and teamwork.


Phase 1: Students Watch Video.

Text, Self, Philosophy TrianglePhase 2: Students use SELF, TEXT, PHILOSOPHY/THEME triangle to design a sketch in under ten minutes. In short, the sketch must:

  1. Show the imagery, words, or phrases in the Mt. Sinai text.
  2. Demonstrate or describe one of the themes of the text, as students had already explored in the major project, a week earlier.
  3. Make the piece about Patrick – his past (as presented by the video) and his future.

(Their Anchorwork – work to be done while waiting for next steps) was a paper revision and / or a worksheet.

prototype 3Phase 3: Students are paired up to share their drawing. They had 10 minutes to create a sketch that was a hybrid of the two sketches. As I walked around, students speculated about Patrick’s life – the silence and loneliness of his past, his smiling as he connected to others in the story, and his future – and all the new possibilities.

Phase 4: Pairs are combined; groups of 4 have 5 minutes to create a hybrid of all their work.

Phase 5: The two teams of 4 then present their work to each other.

prototype 1Phase 6: The whole group of 8 debated how to create a single work, including elements and ideas from all 8 students.

Phase 7: Two students (one from each team) drew the final design on the board while the other students worked on Anchorwork.


patrickThe Final Product

The final product is a design that combines powerful emotion, with images of loneliness and connection: ears and eyes, hands and motion, fire and a mountain, and out of the top, a brave and powerful fist breaking forth.

Students seemed amazed that they had come up with this.

We spent some time talking about Patrick and the power of his new speech.


This Thanksgiving, I will be mindful of voices – the voices of people in the world, and in our own nation, silenced by oppression.

But this Thanksgiving, I will also be thankful: of the privileges and blessings in my life, for the power of words which brings me closer to the people around me, for my students, for trying something new.

And for the teacher who opened up Patrick’s hands – and his world.

Eating Your Pets: When To Hearken to Category Confusion. (Parshat Vayera)

eat your pet

The following piece sits at the intersection of two loves: Torah and Education. I welcome those unfamiliar with the Jewish world of Bible Exegesis to enjoy an unusual spin on an ancient text.


Kosher duck is delicious.

I’d never eaten duck before. I have owned ducks – I grew up on a farm outside Milwaukee and we had a chicken-coop full of ducks who were, basically, outdoor pets who flew away, each fall, right at the point in time when we were of sick and tired of them. Then, come spring-time, a trip to the farm-store, and we had fluffy, adorable ducklings in the aquarium, ducklings in the kitchen sink, ducks in the chicken coop.

But recently, a friend acquired a free-range, kosher duck from Grow and Behold, so in my head, my childhood pet was about to become food. This didn’t sit well with me. I had some very serious category confusion.

Category confusion is the uncomfortable feeling you get when you encounter something not only out of context, but also in a situation antithetical to the usual association. Two potentially good things, slammed together, become one uncomfortable thing: we’re all familiar with that awkward moment when social boundaries get mixed up. Or even just ideas, jumbled: a big sandwich in the bathroom. A nun with a harpoon.

In this week’s Torah Portion, Abraham and God appear in two scenes, replete with category confusion: the first shows God, who Abraham associates with justice, threatening to destroy the entire city of Sodom. The second shows the same God, asking Abraham for an offering; it just happens to be his son.

peeprs

Mr. Peepers. Pet duck … or dinner?

Abraham’s responses to the two moments of category are as essentially unlike as…well, as the concept of “pet” and the concept of “dinner.”

In response to God’s threats to destroy Sodom, Abraham steps up to confront Him, embarking on an almost absurd journey of bargaining: 50 righteous people in the town will spare it…all the way down to 10 righteous people. In response to God’s request of Abraham’s son, however: nothing. No apparent discomfort. No category confusion. Or at least, none that we can see with the naked eye.

That said, the verse reads:

And Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife; and they went both of them together. (22:6)

Yes, Abraham does ultimately take the equipment to sacrifice his son, but this story is already so terse. Why the unnecessary (underlined) details? If I was to suggest a rewrite, I could make this already concise story even more concise, excising the underlined portion: “Abraham took Isaac his son and the knife; and they went both of them together.”

What is lost, by cutting these seemingly extraneous details, is a sense of Abraham’s inner world. In Abraham’s mind, he wants the knife to be as far away from Isaac and Abraham as possible. The placement of the words mimics his internal world. In his mind, and in his relationship with his son, there is no room for a knife. This is an intolerable category confusion.

This particular reading goes deep into details to extract a particular interpretation, but it speaks to the way that we spend a great deal of energy, in our lives, saddled with all sorts of category confusions.

  • Our society want our children to be safe, to thrive, but teenagers are the most at risk group for depression and suicide.
  • Our society wants the next generation to be empowered and educated – but the economic realities that schools ensure are, in many cases, quite anti-education.
  • Our society wants clean air and water for our children…and also all the comforts of a hyper-industrialized lifestyle.

It’s beyond the scope of this piece to solve the category confusions of living complex lives with competing demands, but the Biblical language suggests that if we read closely, we may discover our true priorities.

Who knows what might have happened if Avraham had spoken his mind to God, the very words he spoke after learning of Gods plans to destroy Sodom:

“Far be it from you to do such a thing–to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Ex 18:25).

 

Perhaps the relationship between Sarah, Avraham and Isaac – effectively terminated by this watershed moment – could have been salvaged? Perhaps childrens’ well being would dwell more sacredly – and with more behaviors and laws to back up that values – at the center of our society.

Sometimes, category confusion is good. It tells us what we value… although in the case of the duck, once I grew accustomed to the idea of eating Mr. Peepers, I had to admit: my pet was delicious.

Teaching Writing Part One: The Best Way to Give Students Feedback On Their (awful) Writing

This post was originally featured on Thought Partners,a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.goats


“Garbage.”

“Disaster.”

“Stinkolicious.”

“BRILLIANT!”

With a stack of papers in front of us, students who (in class) engender sympathy, patience, and compassion suddenly earn nasty epithets – behind closed doors, of course.

Q: Why is it so frustrating to grade students’ writing?

A1: Unlike class-time, when you and the students are face-to-face, your encounter with the student is moderated by his or her work. The students’ work appears out of the context of the student him or herself.

A2:  It takes longer to grade a paper than many tests, and the more problems the paper has, the more time it takes. And one thing teachers never have enough is time.

A3: It comes down to the apparent lack of progress many students make in their writing over the course of a year. When a student struggles with a unit, after the test, the effects of the struggle may not be apparent once there is new material (though math, science, and language studies may differ in this).

With writing, however, you take the time to boldly circle every split infinitive in the essay (see what I did there?) and write “split inf.” He or she may do a second draft. And the next paper? The student returns to annoyingly include (see what I did, again?) more split infinitives.

Does he not care? Does she not want to improve?

Hooligans!

Well, it’s not a defect in character that makes the student make the same mistake, and it’s not a defect in your character that causes you to be frustrated. It’s that you haven’t found a salient way to help the student see, understand, and catch the problem. 

While the student is not interested in learning to not split infinitives (see what I did, again?) The average student is not inherently interested in any of the feedback you give. So with no accountability, s/he is free to make the same mistakes.

This is not a matter of shouting loud enough, or scrawling in large enough red pen. Even if you threaten to boldly beat them with a Star Trek DVD box set, (again!), they will still not remember ornotice when they make the mistake. All you will do is make them anxious and ineffective.

And you will be irritated.


The Solution:

Ok, so it’s simple, but requires discipline.

If you’re new to teaching this grade or level, hand out a list of writing part fouls: these are things which every high school student should know:

For example:

  • too vs. to vs. two
  • it’s vs. its
  • Capitalizing names
  • spelling errors which even the spellchecker catches

If a student misses three “party fouls,” I note on ClassDojo with a badge, “More careful proofreading.”

Beyond this, I suggest coming up with 3-6 main writing growth areas common for students at the level(s) you teach at.

For example:

  • Run ons and sentence fragments (9th grade)
  • Passive voice (10th Grade)
  • Completes arguments effectively (11th / 12th grade)
  • Sentence structure variety (12th grade)

Whatever your subject may be, formulating your ClassDojo writing badges brings an opportunity for meaningful collaboration with other departments, establishing a consensus of the main areas where students are already expected to have achieved mastery and/or may require reinforcement.


Next Steps:

On a simple level, as you record feedback on students’ writing, you create a cache of data you can incorporate into your summative narratives and reports:

“Madison needs to work on improving her use of active voice and using correct citation.”

“Maximiliian needs to work on completing his arguments and avoiding sentence fragments.”


Further Steps:

The “grand slam” of using feedback to help students progress in their skills is to help them reflect on their own, personal writing goals before they sit down to write. For example, with access to ClassDojo’s records, Madison can review the feedback from the previous term and, in a required pre-writing statement, articulate her goals:

“I will focus on avoiding passive voice and will proofread my work for spelling errors.”

With that step in place, your feedback to the student, besides the actual edits, can touch on whether the student hit their personal writing goal. You may consider offering up to 3% extra credit for any student who successfully addresses their goal – or, alternatively, include this as part of a student’s Student Ethic Modifier.

With effective strategies for holding students accountable to clear, constructive learning goals comes a reduction in frustration and “proofreader’s animosity!”

Less: “This is a travesty of the English Language! See me!”

More: “You met some goals! Here’s what to continue working on!”


I invite readers to visit

Teaching Writing Part Two: Providing Google-Outlines

Teaching Writing Part Three: The Best Way to Encourage Revisions


Hot Spots: don’t wait until the end of the semester for student feedback.

hot spotsMy inner voice upon reading student evaluations of my courses at the end of each semester: “Aw, man. I wish I’d known about these issues earlier.”


Assessments go into 2 categories: Formative: low stakes quizzes and “dipsticking” to see if students are on track; to give us a “heads up” for students who need intervention or additional support. Summative: the final exam. In many schools, teachers get a summative assessment in the form of course evaluations. But it’s hard to do anything about it by the end of the semester. After four months, we’re locked into our habits: good and bad. Whatever troubles our bad habits have cause are entrenched. Lets do formative assessments on ourselves! Low stakes, simple, easy check-ins!


Hot Spot Check-in

hotspots

Just as a “hot-spot” is a place where your shoe is rubbing and about to form a painful blister, a hot-spot is something you’re doing (or not doing) in class that students want to bring to your attention.

I use Socrative every three weeks for this purpose. It takes three minutes to do, builds trust, and allows you to improve your practice month by month, and not just year by year.


One note on anonymity. I have always been a fan of feedback with names. (For an interesting article on the down-side of anonymous e-feedback, click here).

Before the first hot-spot check in, I speak with the students about the goal of the check in. I tell them I hope to gain their trust so that they can be honest with me, that no harm will come from sharing their experiences, and that they are assisting me in my growth – as I assist in theirs. We talk about my response to the check-in. I may offer more support, “parking-lot” the complaint to see what happens down the road, or immediately change my approach.

It also allows me to send an email like this:

Dear (student) Thanks for the honest and open feedback today!

Would you like to come in for an apt. so I can give you clarification on: (insert issue here)?


Q: Students and teachers learn and teach each other?

A: You betcha.


If you would like access to a Google Form version of the Hot-Spot Check in (to copy and adjust for your own needs), click here. 

I Hope I am Not Your Favorite Teacher

This is so spot on. It’s tempting, in a career, with few extrinsic rewards, to let these compliments feed the ego…but so much better to think of all teachers as a sacred community. We fail together or we thrive together.

Pernille Ripp

image from etsy

“Mrs. Ripp, you will always be my most favorite teacher…”

“…I will always remember you as one of my favorites…”

“You are the best teacher I have ever had…”

The comments from the kids, who I get to call my kids for another 4 school days, envelop me every day.  Words like love, best, favorite, most awesome wrap around our classroom as I get ready to release them from the cocoon of fifth grade.  I smile, thank them, and think, “But I’m not.”  I am not the best teacher ever.  I hope I am not your favorite.  I hope I am not the teacher that you loved most, because if I am then that makes me sad.  I am only a fifth grade teacher, which means you have years of “best” teachers ahead of you.  or so I hope.

I hope that the title of best teacher…

View original post 196 more words

Video

Stop the Shaming! Discipline subtly.

The fastest way to shame a student and cause them a) not to like you, b) not to like class, c) not to like learning, and most sadly, d) not to like him/herself is to shame him/her publicly.

Agreed?

So, how do we shift problematic behavior?

Subtly. For a model of a real situation I’ve dealt with, enjoy the cartoon, above – created on www.goanimate.com. 

And share your ideas, below. I’d love to turn your wisdom into a cartoon, too!

How not to bite your student/child’s head off

From G-dcast.com

From G-dcast.com

  • There are days when a certain student might walk by you and he’ll stick out his hand for a high five.
  • Weeks, pass, and that student refuses to look you in the eye.

What happened? Perhaps you refused to accept a shady excuse for late work. Perhaps you busted her for cheating. Perhaps you told his parents about a problematic outburst in class.

Parents, too, know this feeling — the same son or daughter who, last week, snuggled with you on the sofa now won’t sit next to you in the front seat of the car.

Angry words were exchanged. The word hate may have emerged. The parent, it seems, has ruined the child’s life. Oaths were made: the child promises she will never forgive the parent.

The parent may remain silent…or perhaps the feeling is mutual. Either way, there are at least 15 minutes left to the trip to the orthodontist. It will not  be a pleasant 15 minutes.

Well, that was horrible. Now what?

What do we do with our feelings of rage and anger in moments when the most important people in our lives have betrayed us in the most unimaginable ways? The student or child who once was so adorable, you wanted to “eat him up!” has now nearly provoked you to bite his head off off!

Jeremiah Lockwood, singer of the Sway Machinery, (and grandson of the esteemed cantor Jacob Konigsberg) brings a solution to this dilemma, complete with haunting soundtrack and animation, in this week’s Torah portion Bechukotai on G-dcast.com.

Lockwood points out that parshat Bechukotai contains a mixture of blessings and curses. If the people maintain their covenant with God, Moses tells the people, then their crops will grow, and there will be peace across the land. If God is forsaken and the covenant is broken, well, the list of curses, Lockwood says, “is nearly too unseemly for mentioning in polite company.”

  • Boils.
  • Fever.
  • Carnivorous Animals.

Lockwood pauses before uttering the final curse: parents will eat their own children.

Immediately, he says, the topic of the parsha shifts,  and the rest of Bechukotai is occupied with tax codes.

Why the shift?

A better question is how the shift, and Lockwood suggests that throughout  the list of punishments, God’s rage mounts, and then through doing this, the rage is spent, clearing the way for love and mercy and, I’d add, some semblance of normal conversation.

While it can be unwise to indulge in fantasies about the harm that should come to those we love who have hurt us, I’d like to suggest that another message emerges from the juxtaposition of the horrible and the mundane.

After a wrathful conversation, after accusations and bickering and screaming have run their course, not only can there be a return to normalcy, but there needs to be a return to normalcy.

Bitter students need to be complimented on their excellent topic sentences. Furious children need to be invited down for dinner. Even spouses need to employ the commonplace structures of day to day life; they can become redemptive when returned to after the un-utterable is uttered: walks.  Meals. Email check-ins. Washing dishes. Driving. Laundry. It’s the job of the teacher or the parent to wait it out, to keep safe structures in place. Show that even un-utterables are only words, and that when followed by consistent, dependable acts of love, support, and compassion, they can fade into the past.

Next time your child or student speaks to you like he or she would like to chew your head off, perhaps you can remember that in Bechukotai, even God felt that way.

And even God got over it.