Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ms. Maggie Hawk Honored with 2014-2015 Milken Award for Maryland!

I was proud to be part of a very happy occasion yesterday as Ms. Maggie Hawk received the Milken Award for Education for the state of Maryland for school year 2014-2015!

This time, I sat by Joni Milken-Noah, who asked another former winner and me if we wanted to know which teacher it was who was going to be receiving the award or if I wanted to be surprised. At Michelle Johnson's award ceremony a couple of weeks ago in DC, I didn't know who was getting the award, and it was kind of fun to look around the room and guess. This time, it was even more fun to look at the woman in the blue shirt and glasses, and know that her life would change in just a few minutes, as mine did 11 months ago.

Mike Milken's presentation to the group of really cute elementary students at Yellow Brook Elementary School in Frederick was, as usual (I've seen three of them now), engaging and charming. I love how he puts students in the spotlight, and how he discusses the responsibility that teachers have who receive this award, to represent teachers all around the country. In a job where few get recognition, I definitely count myself among the lucky few who have, as part of the Milken family I've been so honored to join.

If you follow me on Instagram (@epiphanyinbmore), you were able to see the video of the moment of announcement from perspective up front. If you saw the news reports or the video on Youtube, however, you saw a shot of me awkwardly videotaping as the announcement was read. There was a reason, I promise! And I was just asked to stand, I promise! Ha ha, what can you do but laugh at yourself when something silly like that happens? I will have to make sure to get out of the camera shot next time if I'm taping like that, which I don't think I'll do again (Milken Foundation has that covered).

I found Ms. Hawk's speech after her award (after some moments of tears and to compose herself) to be very moving, about how she was a student who struggled in school and how her 1st grade teacher inspired her and it made her want to give back. She also gave a major shoutout to her team members who she teaches with. She was very composed and articulate.

All in all, it was a very happy day for her and for the MSDE. I'll look forward to more events as the years progress!

Mike Milken gets on the ground level with the kids before the presentation.

Mike Milken presents to the students before Ms. Hawk's award. He's really great at these presentations! 
MD' 14 winner Maggie Hawk hugs Mike Milken after being surprised by the award. Looking on is Lori Milken, Mike's wife, who announced the award. This photo is courtesy the Milken website.

Scott Pfeifer (MD '93, the first year Maryland had a winner), Madeline Hannington (MD '11), myself, Maggie Hawk (MD '14), Mike Milken, Deidre Austin (MD '04), Dr. Darla Strouse (Executive Director, Partnerships and Recognition Programs for MSDE), and Joni Milken-Noah, Mike's sister.  This photo is courtesy the Milken website.

Ms. Lori Milken, Maggie Hawk, and Mike Milken pose with two students from Yellow Creek Elementary. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Watching Diary: December and January

The Comeback, Season 2: The first season of The Comeback was a revelation, an ahead-of-its-time comedy that did the whole grimace-while-laughing thing better and earlier than such shows as The Office did later. Lisa Kudrow is incredible in the role; in a performance that calls for so much on so many levels, she mesmerizes. I'd watched that first season two or three times (yes, I own it), so I was very excited to see the show picked up for a second season, eight years after the first, based upon popularity since it aired way back in 2006 (it was canceled after its 1st season, but has gained notoriety and fans since then). And I wasn't disappointed. The culture is different now, and reality shows are more pervasive, but Kudrow and company had a fresh take on it. Her performance is heartbreaking and deeply funny, and while I thought the show had a bit of a lag in the middle of the season, it reached new heights of dramedy in its finale and made good on its unique show-within-a-show-within-a-show concept. I loved it and was sorry to see it end.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: The middle film of a trilogy probably doesn't deserve to be as good as this one was, an exciting and surprisingly thoughtful film about war propaganda and the dissonance of a revolution. There were some spots of predictability in the film (no, I haven't read the 2nd and 3rd novel), but enough intrigue (what is up with Alma Coin?) to make up for it. Julianne Moore brings an undercurrent of mystery (malice?) to her role as Coin, and the lamented late Phillip Seymour Hoffman is also very good. But my favorite character is probably by Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinkett, who does her  best drag impression in a hammy role that is a lot of fun. I can't wait for the 3rd installment. These films have been very good.

Inherent Vice: Ever since 1998's Magnolia, which came on the heels of the excellent Hard Eight and Boogie Nights, P.T. Anderson has been my favorite film director. I'll go see anything he directs, from the amazing There Will Be Blood to even his missteps, like Punch Drunk Love, are interesting. (Oddly enough, I haven't gotten around to seeing The Master yet; it's sitting on my shelf, and, somehow, Hoffman remains alive until I watch it.) After this snoozer, though, I've lost some faith; I absolutely hated it. From the opening scene with the mumbly Joaquin Phoenix, who I only understand about three-quarters of the time, I lost the thrust of the story, and never really recovered; I couldn't follow the narrative and didn't care about the characters. It's overlong with about a dozen endings too many, and I'm so sad to report it.

The Fall (Netflix from BBC): Gillian Anderson plays a detective who just oozes intelligence and sensuality, and she's matched by Jamie Dornan, who plays the serial killer she's trailing. I loved every minute of this series, except its ending, which left too many unanswered questions, and, for the second year in a row, left the viewers hanging pretty severely at the end of the season. But, until that point, I was intrigued by the performances (wow, is Anderson ever amazing), the moody direction, designed to make the audience feel as uncomfortable as possible (at one point, Dornan turns to the camera after torturing a victim on tape, and screams, "Why are you f____ watching this?" or something to that effect). Great story, great location shooting, great characters: just the writers don't quite know how to wrap it up within the confines of its short 6-episode seasons.

The Killing (Netflix from AMC): I totally missed everything about the initial run of The Killing on AMC, and discovered it around the same time as I discovered The Fall. And with its attractive female red-headed detective in the lead (Mirelle Enos), slow pacing on one case, and moody direction, it has much in common with that series.  And I'm only about halfway through the second season, but I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I'm annoyed by some of the subplots (I'm not sure why they felt the need to give the lead character a son) but intrigued by others (I love Billy Campbell in a role as a mayoral challenger; I'm sure I'm among the only people in America who remember him from the TV show Moon Over Miami). I also love the interactions of the family of the murdered teenager; Brent Sexton, as Stan Larsen, has the type of regular-guy persona (and body) that you rarely see on TV, and his wife, played by the great Michelle Forbes of L.A. Law fame, is magnetic. I'm intrigued very much by this series, even with its setting up of obvious cliffhangers at the end of every episode.

Selma: This is a masterpiece. Powerfully and subtly directed by Ava Duvernay, a great new voice in American cinema, and featuring a dynamic lead performance by David Oyelowo, it succeeds because it humanizes the participants beyond Dr. King, and because it portrays Dr. King not only as a hero, but as a calculating and flawed man. This makes the moments of immense violence and unrest to feel even more powerful.

Election: It was fun to re-watch this film recently on Netflix. Certainly one of the best movies ever made set in high school; it doesn't feel dated at all despite being 16 years old. Reese Witherspoon is tremendous, like should-have-been-nominated-for-Best-Actress tremendous. Alexander Payne has continued to be an interesting filmmaker (Nebraska, The Descendents) but this is his best film.

The Heat: I don't know how this movie came and went so quickly, but I definitely slept on it and maybe you did too (looking up the box office, the film did well, so maybe I just slept on it and you didn't). This Melissa McCarthy-Sandra Bullock vehicle is right up there Bridesmaids and We're the Millers as a great modern mainstream comedy. The story is silly, but this is probably McCarthy's best starring vehicle so far (definitely far better than Stolen Identity or Tammy), and she and Bullock made great foils; both actresses are just fine with going full-out for a laugh. I loved its raunchiness and silliness, and laughed throughout. On HBO Go.

Looking: This unassumingly great HBO series has been of my more recent discoveries. I'm all caught up with all the episodes (as of now, through episode 3 of Season 2) and continue to be drawn to this show's characters and story lines. The show is funny, sweet, and authentic, with well-rounded characters exploring different aspects of gay life in San Francisco. I spent some time in San Francisco a couple of summers ago, and it's cool to see the on-location shots. This year, the Patrick-Kevin romance is dominating, these two characters are just as sweet and perfect together as Patrick and Richie were last season; it'll be interesting to see how these two story lines converge. I'm impressed that the show, this year, added a couple big guys (Bashir Salahuddin as Malik, the show's first Black character, who is in a straight relationship with Doris; Daniel Franzese from Mean Girls as Eddie, an HIV-positive bear who may or may not be about to embark on a relationship with one of the show's supporting characters, Agustin). It's a fun show, with many levels, and hopefully the diversity continues.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blogging My Cardiomyopathy: An Update

My initial diagnosis of ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy in September led to a cardio cath in October, which revealed no blockages. A bunch of blood tests -- liver tests, HIV test, other viral tests -- revealed nothing that should have given me the condition, so my cardiomyopathy falls under the category of 'unexplained': it could have been a random virus that I caught and moved to my heart, or it could have been congenital. But the results were the same: my ejection fraction sits between 35 and 40%, significantly below normal, and bordering on heart failure.

After the clear cardio cath -- the minor surgical procedure that involved cutting open my arm and running some dye through my artery to make sure it went through the ventricles okay -- my cardiologist's next pieces of advice were to stay under 1500 mg of sodium a day, take the medications he is prescribing, and to see him in 6 months; my next appointment isn't until spring break in April.

But, lately, I've decided that wasn't enough. I feel like I get shorter of breath quicker than before. I can do 45 minutes on an elliptical machine without a problem, but carrying something heavy up some flights of stairs might make me light-headed and so out of breath I have to double over. I'm a little bit worried about the upcoming baseball season of coaching, about how I will manage to do what I'm used to doing: exercising with the kids, throwing batting practice, etc. I'll have to really test it out and be careful.

On Saturday, I went to the gym, my first time visiting the gym in over a week. The workout was crap: my legs felt heavy (fluid in the legs is a primary symptom of those with a heart condition, mine are usually tender to the touch and noticeably swollen), and I barely managed 30 minutes on an elliptical before I called it a day. It was depressing, because I love the gym, and even with this condition (and, yes, the cardiologist wants me exercising, as long as I don't get out of breath or strain myself too much), I hadn't lost that love. Saturday was the first time. I went home and joined a bunch of cardiomyopathy support groups on Facebook, and found a lot of comfort in hearing other people's stories. My 35-40% ejection fraction is pretty much right in the middle for those on the support group, and I felt thankful I wasn't in the 15% number as some people were, and thankful that this is my only condition and that it's not joined by other conditions, as some people in this group were.

I was already thinking about getting a second opinion on my condition, and talking with others confirmed this. It's not that I don't think that I have it -- I definitely do, my body is not right -- but the 6 months in between appointments seems strange. Others in the support group reported seeing their cardiologist monthly after the diagnosis, or every two months. Six months seems a lot. And it would be different if my cardiologist was a little more available: I liked him a lot, but ever since my Primary Care Physician started communicating with me via e-mail, I realize how much I value this sort of open electric communication with my doctor. My cardiologist doesn't use e-mail with his patients, so my mode of communication is through phone calls that might take a bit of time to return, especially since he works at several different hospitals. And, honestly, since I'm a teacher, I can't usually take calls during the day.

And because I live a short distance from one of the best hospitals in the world, Johns Hopkins, I thought it was kind of silly not to at least try them out. I called their scheduling office for the cardiomyopathy and heart failure office yesterday, and while East Baltimore's location (5 minutes away) couldn't see me until March 14th, I was able to get into to see a cardiologist at the Columbia branch this Friday. I'll have to take an unexpected day off of school, which is a bummer, but peace of mind and confirmation that my treatment program is appropriate will be worth it.

After the crummy workout on Saturday, I felt good at the gym on Sunday and Monday, and will try to go more regularly, even though my exhaustion is pretty profound these days, which is a symptom of this condition. Of course it is, since my heart is working at around half the pace of everyone else's. "You look terrible" or "you look tired" is a pretty common thing to hear at school, and I do a lot more teaching from my desk than I ever have before. But, I think the gym will give me more energy, though, and remain hopeful that this feeling isn't a new normal, but, rather, that I can get better, at least a bit. I might have had to cross "Run a Marathon" off my bucket list, but there's still a lot on it, not the least of which remain in the classroom for, say, about 25 more years.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Update: Juniors and Seniors in Baltimore City can now see Selma for free, too!

An update to my earlier post about Baltimore City students being able to see Selma for free at area movie theaters: now Juniors and Seniors can see the movie too!

This is great news. More info here: All Baltimore City students, grades 7-12, can see the movie for free, thanks to local donors.

It's a terrific film, full of excellent performances, sensitive yet taut direction by Ava Duvernay (criminally not nominated for an Oscar for Direction), and beautiful cinematography. The film could very well have been cheesy or preachy, but in its even-handed depiction of a great man (but also a man who was not absent of calculation or flaws), it was very powerful. Certainly one of the best films of the last couple of years.

Baltimore City students can see the film for free at The Charles, Cinemark Towson, White Marsh AMC, or Owings Mills AMC, with a valid student ID, report card, letter from principal, or a combination of these.

Please say NO to Any Maryland Law Forcing Schools to Open after Labor Day

There's a bipartisan effort to create a Maryland law to start school after Labor Day, and I don't like it at all. This law would increase the infamous "summer slide," widen the gap between rich and poor students, and make Maryland students less-prepared for standardized external assessments that have unchanging dates. Maryland should be going the other way, doing what research and common sense says is best for kids and their education: moving to more of a year-long school school schedule with more short breaks rather than the one long layoff, rather than increasing the effects of the summer skills erosion that disproportionately affects poor and working-class students.

When I began teaching in 2001, BCPSS started after Labor Day but, shortly thereafter, the system realized that external testing dates didn't change based upon the start of the school year. Accordingly, the system moved the start of the school year to the week before Labor Day, to allow for the extra instruction to prepare students for the now-defunct Maryland High School Assessment (and other assessments) in May.

Even though the test has changed, this philosophy shouldn't. And now that I teach externally-assessed world exams in the International Baccalaureate program, my students and I would be adversely affected if we lost out on a week of instruction because of this law. The IB exams are always the first week of May, regardless of when Maryland or the BCPSS decides to start school. The same goes for the AP exams; they are going to be the same date. Again: why would we give Maryland less class time than other states around the country to prepare for these exams? I'm not positive on Common Core PARCC exams, but I assume the same: the test date window will remain stationary regardless of when states or districts start schools. Again, because it bears repeating: why handicap Maryland with a blanket-sized rule governing the start of school and allow for less preparation time for these exams? (This is one reason teachers should be widely opposed to this law change; because Maryland teachers are now being evaluated based at least partially on student growth, how can we allow the state to give us less time to conduct that growth with our students?)

And, beyond this clear issue, I like the way the calendar works right now, with a 3-day weekend after the grueling 5-day week in late August. Why start school after a 3-day weekend? A 3-day weekend at the end of summer break isn't a weekend at all; it's just an extended summer vacation.

And therein lies the real problem: summer vacation in itself, which is an old-fashioned relic that should be rethought in modern educational policy reform. Maryland, and other states, should be going the other way in school calenders, moving towards year-round school.  Additionally, educational advocates in Baltimore City and other urban school districts should be most vehemently opposed: studies have shown this "summer slide" to be more pronounced in urban students whose parents can't afford to, for example, send their kids away to educational summer camps. According to a Johns Hopkins study of Baltimore City Schools, for example, summer vacation causes city students to lose more than two months of reading achievement, while their middle school peers make small gains during the summer. This isn't just about the rise of standards; this is just about what's best for kids, especially poorer kids. Why would Maryland want to increase effects of the summer slide and increase the gap between urban and suburban students by creating this law? This goes against the trends nationwide that are working towards increasing student achievement and decreasing the achievement gap; Maryland should not be leading this backslide.

For those who argue that summer vacation isn't shortened, it's just moved: I beg to differ. Education on June 10th vs. education on August 25th isn't the same. There are hard days of education and there are soft days. December 23rd is a soft day of education, with students' and teachers' minds on the holiday break. The day before Thanksgiving is a soft day for similar reasons. But, the first week of school definitely is not. After Memorial Day, though, energies and attention lags as thoughts drift to summer vacation. Buildings are hot and students have been sitting in the same room for 10 months, which makes it feel hotter. Extending that time of fizzled energy and decreasing the time of high energy at the beginning of the year is not good for students.

They say it's about the economy, but I don't buy it. Businesses adjust. Maryland doesn't need to over-legislate and over-regulate this. This decision should be left up to the school systems about what is best for its students, because this law forcing bad educational practices on them isn't it. If a school system is full of wealthy families who want to send their students for weeks of camp at a time, then that school system should be allowed to maintain the dates that they set. But if a school system is like Baltimore City, it shouldn't be hurt by overzealous lawmakers proposing a one-size-fits-all decree.

Please say no to a law forcing schools to open after Labor Day.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Baltimore City students can see Selma for free!

The prospect of making a biopic of such an American hero as Dr. Martin Luther King is daunting, but Ava Duvernay somehow pulls off a masterpiece with Selma, showing us a warts-and-all portrayal of a complex man at a critical juncture in our nation's history. At times, the film is overpoweringly emotional, such as the depiction of Bloody Sunday, which is brutal and made me cry; at other times, the humanizing touches, such as a small moment with a grandfather at the morgue, standing over his grandson's murdered body, add layers of characterization to the masses of people engaged in protest. One thing that struck me was actually how this wasn't the entire city of Selma marching, but only a few; others are eating at diners while the protests are happening. This was even more inspirational to me, as I saw the protesters as being extra brave; it made me think that modern protests with a few hundred people weren't too much different than back then. 

I loved watching the inner-workings of the Civil Rights movement; Dr. King was a great man, and also a calculating one; the film depicts his choosing of his fights and reacting to pressures from other groups who felt like his national movement left cities as the television cameras left. That's why Duvernay's film is so brilliant; it's an even-handed, not idolizing, portrayal of Dr. King. 

Besides David Oyelowo's revelatory turn as King, I especially enjoyed Stephan James's turn as a wise-beyond-his-years John Lewis. I think the controversy over the depiction of Lyndon B. Johnson is a lot of smoke; historical films have always taken dramatic license. In the film, President Johnson was a politician, not a villain. If there was one scene that didn't sit well, it was J. Edgar Hoover and President Johnson talking about bugging and framing Dr. King together. It doesn't seem like this is backed up by history, but this doesn't diminish the impact of the film overall.

Because, it is a superb film, one of the best I've seen in the last couple of years. It's an absolute crime that Ms. Duvurnay wasn't nominated for Best Director, and that Oyelowo wasn't nominated for Best Actor. The cinematography and art direction are also incredible.

Anyhow, this blog post is to help spread the word that Baltimore City students can go see Selma for free between now and Feb. 1. The information is below. I wish my seniors could go (not sure why Juniors and Seniors don't get the same deal; the film ties in nicely with just-completed James Baldwin and current Song of Solomon in my senior class), but I'll try to convince my 9th graders to do so. I am very appreciative of the efforts to get our students to see it. 

UPDATE: Tickets NOW available for Juniors and Seniors! 

But, indeed, every American needs to see this film. Even if you're not in grades 7-10, go see it. It's an incredible cinematic experience.

SELMA for City Schools Students 

Local funders have generously donated money for City Schools students in grades 7 to 10 to see the movie Selma for free at participating theaters for a limited time. Please help make students and their families aware of this opportunity.
To be admitted free, students must present proof that they are in grades 7 to 10 at Baltimore City Public Schools by showing a valid student ID, report card, letter from the principal, or a combination of these. Please note that not all student IDs include a student's grade or the school district's name, so some students may need to present both an ID and one of the documents named above. Students can attend any screening at any one of the participating theaters.
Time period
Friday, January 16, through Sunday, February 1, or until the ticket offer sells out.
Participating theaters
The Charles Theater
1711 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Cinemark Towson
111 E. Joppa Rd.
Towson, MD 21286
AMC Owings Mills
10100 Mill Run Circle
Owings Mills, MD 21117
AMC Loews White Marsh
The Avenue at White Marsh
8141 Honeygo Boulevard
Nottingham, MD 21236

Actual shot of John Lewis on Bloody Sunday
Show from Selma. Look at the attention to detail!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

In Praise of the IB Literary Commentary and Discussion

Example of poem annotation
It's semester transition time in Baltimore City Schools, which is the busiest time of the year for many teachers, despite our 3-day weekend for the MLK Day holiday. In my case, I spent all last week conducting IB Oral Commentaries and Discussions with my seniors; these are 45-minute individual oral exams (the students get 20 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to deliver, recorded, to me). This weekend, I've been grading 9th grade midterms almost non-stop, and also on the agenda is planning a tight 2nd semester for both classes; I have 64.5 class days left with my seniors before their IB Exam on Monday, May 4.

Please don't misread my tone, though: I do love this part of the year, both the renewal of a new semester and the wrapping up of the previous one. Plus, the IB Literary Commentary and Discussion is the most authentic assessment I've ever done or likely will ever do with students, and is one of the reasons why IB English is superior to AP English, which has no oral component and relies heavily on multiple choice. I see the assessment as a true culmination of both the skills and the content I taught my seniors in the first semester, and all the weeks delving into the non-fiction work of James Baldwin and the dramatic implications of Macbeth, plus our month studying the poetry of Louise Gluck, comes to a head for this assessment. I realize in the era of standardized high-stakes testing, many teachers don't necessarily like or believe in the assessments for which they prepare students. For example, I found the now-defunct High School Assessment for Maryland to be a small-picture examination of the minutiae of English, rather than the most important elements; this was particularly true once the writing component was dropped. To prepare students for a weak assessment is a frustrating experience.

But, this is not that. The IB Literary Commentary and Discussion is a really amazing assessment, one that truly assesses both the skills and content of the course; additionally, the assessment itself prepares students for the types of actions students will have to engage in during college and even their jobs and lives. It's set up like this: each student is slated for overlapping 45-minute individual time slots (20 minutes to annotate one of 30 poems drawn from sealed envelopes; 20 minutes to record one-on-one with teacher). The first 10 minutes is called the "commentary," which is basically an organized defense of a thesis about the poem they've randomly received (one of 30 in sealed envelopes amongst those we've studied that semester), examining how the poet's choices create meaning.  This is scored based upon interpretation of the poem, appreciation of the writer's choices, and how well it is organized. The second 10 minutes is called the "discussion," which is a conversation about the literature we have read that semester. The student doesn't know which genre (Non-Fiction or Drama) he or she will "get," so needs to be prepared for both, and this is scored based upon knowledge of text and answering the questions in an genuine and independent manner. All of the 20 minutes is also scored on language, whether the student speaks in a scholarly manner.

We conduct our assessment away from PA announcements that could interfere with the recordings, in a couple of unused offices in our library, which happens to be closed this year in hopes of raising funds for renovation. Each of the 91 students enrolled in our IB English HL program conducted this assessment last week, with me doing about half of them, and the other instructor for the course doing about a quarter of them, and me getting help from two colleagues as well for my remaining students. In my six years teaching this course, I've never received help with listening to the commentaries, but this year, with an increased load of IB English students (last year, there was 63; this year there is 91) and my decreased health (I really should be taking it easier as I learn more about my heart condition), I was lucky and thankful to get some help, and this doesn't even count the teachers who help supervision of text annotation. It will be interesting and exciting in upcoming years while we try to conduct the assessment with more and more students as our IB program expands, how we will create systems for this assessment to work for double or triple the amount of students.

But it's worth it: this assessment is also one of the primary reasons IB English is superior to AP English, which has no oral component and has a heavy multiple choice component (IB English has no multiple choice; it's assessed with timed and untimed writing and time and untimed oral assessments).  I like that this assessment involves both quick, on-the-spot preparation, but also assesses deep study of texts throughout the year. I also love that it involves working with literature just like "real people" do: we read books and we talk about them. The fact that this conversation (importantly, not an interview) with a teacher is externally assessed after it's recorded is so special to me because it feels so real; it's like our (admittedly one-sided) teacher-student book club has been recorded and sent along to scorers around the world. While I'm listening to my student discuss either Macbeth or Baldwin, I'm listening for interesting and accurate answers to the questions and strong use of specific textual evidence: exactly what I think a good book club would value. Our students largely do very well on the assessment, and I think it's a testament to their strong engagement in the texts we read.

But, really, think for a moment what these students do. They have a 20-minute recorded oral exam with their senior English teacher. Personally, I can't imagine doing something like that in high school, or even college. Yet, our students here in Baltimore City do it, and they do well. This is another year of being very proud.

So, as I recover from my week and dive into 9th grade essays deeper and deeper, it was important for me to sit back and reflect on a pretty successful week of commentaries and discussions, and thank myself for my awesome students and being able to teach in the IB program.