Summer Reading for Parents


I struggle to find time to read for pleasure. I have, on occasion, tried to rise early and read. My boys have caught onto that and quickly interrupt the peace and quiet. Once I get into bed, any pages I read invariably have to be reread the following night as I don’t remember a single thing. While I once relied on vacation for reading time, even that, as you all know, becomes a challenge with young children. This summer is different, though. I have two weeks of vacation with… cousins! I am counting on my eight to fourteen year old nephews and nieces to buy me some good reading time.

Here is what I am looking forward to reading.

Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir

I love memoirs. From Agassi’s Open to J. R. Moehringer’s Tender Bar, I love learning about the lives and inner-lives of others. Educated looks like memoir meets John Krakauer non-fiction.

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William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

I recently read Jaimal Yogi’s All our Waves are Water when on vacation – with cousins, of course – and that book reminded me how much I enjoy surfing and surf life. While I have only gotten in the water one day this year, reading about surfing brings back wonderful memories.

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Wendy Mogul’s Voice Lessons for Parents: What to Say, How to Say it, and When to Listen

This one is reading for pleasure meets reading for work. We are hosting Wendy Mogul here at MTS next fall for a book talk on October 23. You can join me in reading the book before she arrives or get a copy that night and join our first MTS community book discussion in early 2019. If you haven’t read Julie Lythcott-Haims’ How to Raise an Adult, consider starting with that one and then read Voice Lessons after Mogul’s talk.

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Anthony Wolfe’s The Secret of Parenting: How to Be in Charge of Today's Kids

Robin, my wife, has read a number of books about early elementary children. As Harrison heads into Kindergarten and Huck figures out how to “use his words,” Robin suggested I read this book.

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“We Came to Win”

Okay, so this is a podcast and not a book. However, my second week of cousin-powered vacation is in Whistler, B.C. and I am going to be leaving Robin and the boys in Seattle for an extra few days of exploration. That means that I have 14 hours of solo drive time. This podcast by Gimlet Media has me, not a soccer fan, hooked on the World Cup. I am saving episodes for that drive. For those who also have long car trips ahead, I highly recommend all of the Gimlet Media podcasts. Younger MTS students might particularly like “Story Pirates” and my boys now brush their teeth for two full minutes because of “Chompers” a two-minute long podcast.

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“Battle Sheep” and “Dimension: The Spherical Stackable Fast Paced Puzzle Game”

As long as I am veering from books, I want to quickly put a plug in for a few of the games that we are going to be playing as a family. Games and card-games are a great way to keep math and STEM skills progressing over the summer. Battle Sheep and Dimension are two such games. You can see a more complete list of math and stem-oriented games here.


We encourage our students to read over the summer. There is no better way to inspire your children to read than to do it yourself. Whether these books or others, consider joining me in turning off the phone and returning to long-form reading “for fun.” Or, more accurately, "trying" to return to long-form reading for fun.

Introducing Engineering to Lower School Grades

Introducing Engineering to Lower School Grades

Our STEM curriculum in the 5th and 6th grades has been a resounding success. In February of this year when the Discovery Museum Try It Truck came to campus, our kindergarten through fourth graders had the opportunity to participate in a range of STEM activities. The engagement of our students during the Try It Truck week and the importance of hands-on engineering experiences led us to hire a new engineering teacher to support our students in grades K-4 starting this fall.


When we talk about preparing children for this ever-evolving future, we want our graduates to enter the next phase of their lives with the confidence to tackle novel problems. Exploring, developing, and refining these skills starts from the first day our students walk into kindergarten. This is why we’re infusing more project-based learning into all of our curriculum and why next year our kindergarten through fourth grade will take an engineering course alongside their science, technology, and math courses. The engineering process – repeatedly planning, sketching, prototyping, testing, and critically thinking–is another way our students will grow and develop into innovative thinkers.


Teaching this new course is Anastassia Radeva, our first Lower School Engineering and Math Teacher. Prior to joining MTS, Anastassia was a driving force in developing the Discovery Museum’s Try It Truck program, and she comes to us with a natural instinct to captivate elementary age children. We asked Anastassia to fill us in on her background in the interview below.   

Q: In your last position, you were heading up the Discovery Museum Try it Truck, which came to MTS this past spring. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, how the Try It Truck came to be, and your role in its program development?

AR: The Try It Truck has definitely been a labor of love for the last two years! Two years ago, it was an idea and a question: knowing that there are many barriers that keep elementary school students from being able to access the high-quality STEM education that the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) provides, how can we create something that can bring those experiences straight to their schools? Specifically, how can we engage elementary school educators, students, and families in the “E” in STEM – engineering – which can be intimidating and alienating to many? Our answer was to purchase and build out a vehicle of some kind that could travel directly to children and families and bring a fun, educational, hands-on engineering experience to them. While I had no previous experience in building and equipping a truck, I was able to bring my background in classroom teaching at the elementary school level and learning space design to this challenge.

I joined BADM to develop and start this new engineering-lab-on-wheels and was able to write the curriculum for the program, test drive and purchase the truck itself, participate in a collaborative graphic and interior design process, and then pilot the program at 10 schools and 10 libraries last year. This school year, I’ve been more focused on building out the program with more curriculum, establishing deep partnerships with schools – like MTS! – and libraries in all 9 of the Bay Area counties, and, of course, teaching during programs. While there is much still to be done in really establishing this mobile educational program, I am excited and proud to leave it in great hands here at BADM and to still be able to continue partnering with BADM for field trips as a classroom teacher.


Q: Your amazing rapport with kids was evident when you were working with MTS students during the truck visits. What’s your previous experience teaching primary age students?

AR: Thank you for that praise! I had an absolute blast at MTS in January and loved working with all of the students in grades K-4. I first started out as a kindergarten teacher through the Teach for America program at a school in San Jose and quickly learned a lot about classroom management, curriculum planning, and the importance of establishing a positive, collaborative classroom culture. After several years there, I took a year off from teaching to complete the Learning, Design, and Technology Master’s program at the Stanford Graduate School of Education before jumping back into teaching at BADM for the last two years as the Try It Truck Program Manager. My favorite thing about teaching STEM at the elementary school level is that it allows me to work with students from many different grade levels and always pushes me to think about what’s best for a specific group of kids and to differentiate and modify lessons based on student needs.

Q: What are you most looking forward to with the new role at MTS?

AR: I have loved visiting over 50 elementary schools throughout the Bay Area with the Try It Truck but the thing I have missed most about being a classroom teacher – and what makes me most excited to join the MTS team – is being a deep part of one single school community. I can’t wait to truly get to know students, staff, and families at MTS, to learn about traditions that already exist and to start new ones, and to help define what engineering education can look like at MTS.

Q: Are there any projects you’re currently developing that you’re particularly excited about? How do you see the work you did on the Try It Truck translating into a STEM class curriculum for K-4 students?


AR: I’m working on expanding the hand tools stations that we offer to young students beyond hammering and using screwdrivers to take apart electronics. I’m thinking through how we can have children working with hand drills and power drills! I think that engineering is really creative problem-solving with math and science, and I know that students love learning how they can use tools to solve problems in ways they cannot just by using their hands. I’m definitely going to be integrating hand tools, measuring tools, and gardening tools into the MTS engineering curriculum. If you have experience with woodworking or tools – please get in touch with me next school year, I would LOVE to collaborate and welcome families' ideas! I’m also planning to really focus on the engineering design process and how it can be used to solve real-world problems in our own backyard and community so that students can participate in tangible problem-solving on topics and problems that matter to them.


Q: What programs went particularly well on the Try It Truck? Were there any projects that didn’t go so well when you first started the program?

AR: Some specific stations that are always student-pleasers are our hammering station, our fort building station featuring PVC pipes and old cardboard boxes, and our water pollution station that engages students in taking plastic trash out of the “ocean” (aka the water table). There have definitely been projects that didn’t go as well, such as our first try at bridge building (all the blocks got stomped on or broken so easily!) or our first iteration of a 3-day program (it was WAY too long for young students!).

Q: What has impressed you most about seeing younger age students getting involved in hands-on STEM projects?


AR: I’ve been amazed at how powerful it has been for students to truly drive their learning during Try It Truck programs by choosing which stations they want to go to, how long they want to spend at a station, and which students they want to work with. While these can be high expectations for young students, I’ve seen that when students feel in control of their learning, they are focused, creative, and enjoy the experience.

I think that as a society, we can sometimes get really nervous about giving young children very open-ended problems to solve because we are worried they won’t get the “right” answer and will feel disheartened by that. My work in early hands-on STEM has shown me that given the right supportive environment, young children are more than able to make mistakes, fail, or crash their first prototype and then dust themselves off and jump right back into redesigning and trying again. For them – and for me – the process of making a plan, building a solution, testing it out, and redesigning is often far more important than the actual prototype a student builds.

Q: Is there anything that students and parents might not know about you?

AR: I am a first-generation immigrant to the United States and bilingual. I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 8 years old from Sofia, Bulgaria and could not speak a word of English when I first started 2nd grade in the U.S. Since then, I have lived in Florida, Ohio, and New Hampshire (talk about swing states), and have called California home for the last six years. I live in San Francisco with my fiancé – who is a fourth grade teacher – and feisty dog named Poncho!  

Q: Anything else you’d like to tell us?

AR: As the school year kicks off, I will absolutely be looking for ways to connect with families and would love to partner with you all to find meaningful ways for you to be involved, particularly with the school garden! Please look for information about this in September, and don’t hesitate to get in touch.


The Orff Approach to Music

The Orff Approach to Music: Introducing Our New Music Hire, Lilianna Parker


We are excited to share that our newly hired music department faculty member, Lilianna Parker, will be taking our commitment to the Orff Approach to the next level. Lilianna has been teaching music for 20 years, and using the Orff Approach with music students for 10 years. Thanks to generous “Fund A Need” donation, the School is purchasing a swathe of xylophones, ukuleles, and rhythm instruments to support Lilianna’s program as she broadens the scope of what students are learning in music class.

The Orff style of teaching is a play-based, fun, and collaborative way of working with students that makes music-making accessible to everyone regardless of musical background or ability. It was developed by the German composer Carl Orff and his colleague Gunild in the 1920’s. This child-centered approach to music education combines movement, music, and creativity. In the Orff approach, every individual is considered inherently musical. Through the lessons, children develop confidence in making music, improvising, and expression.

When Lilianna came to Mount Tamalpais School during her interviews and taught third and eighth grade students, it was immediately clear that she had captivated and engaged them. The Orff approach emphasizes the experience of making music through creativity and expression, rather than flawlessly playing a Bach prelude, for example. The opportunity for exploration and play allows students to learn and understand music from an instinctual and emotional level, rather than a potentially stressful one focused on the end-product. As we continue to emphasize the “creative and process-driven” elements of our program, we are looking forward to Lilianna joining our faculty. We sat down and talked with her to learn a bit more about her background and teaching style.

Q: What’s your background? What led you to teaching music?

LP: Ever since I was in middle school, I knew that I wanted to teach music. At that time, I thought that I would teach high school band. Although I never ended up teaching at the high school level, I have been teaching music for 20 years in grades K-8.

Q: When and why did you adopt the Orff Approach?

LP: Cutbacks to music education during the recession brought me to a new school that sent me to an Orff training. That was the start of a brand new exciting world for me and for my teaching. I fell in love with the process immediately and took many other trainings after the first one.

Q: How is it different than other styles of teaching music, such as the Suzuki method?


LP: The Suzuki method is an ear training method in which students listen to pieces and learn to play them by ear. Students learn each note exactly as the composer created it. While there is some aspect of ear training in Orff and many of the traditional skills are still taught such as vocal quality, reading music, and chord structure, it is primarily focused on being improvisational. Students make music as a class, learn to accompany themselves on xylophones and other instruments, and re-invent the songs with both music and movement to make the song unique for each class. The approach invites creativity. 

Q: What are you most excited about with your new role at MTS?

LP: I’m most excited about working in such a wonderful community. I have enjoyed all of my initial experiences with both staff and students. Everyone has been so welcoming and enthusiastic. I look forward to developing these relationships. I am also looking forward to developing my skills in teaching Orff and to building a comprehensive music program.

Q: What is something students and parents might not know about you?

LP: In my personal life, I am a wife to an amazing husband, Anthony, who is a guitar teacher. We are raising our two sons, a 14 year old, and a baby who will be one in July. We love to go hiking, make music together, and visit hot springs.


The Visual Arts Process

It’s easy to be seduced by the finished product and rush to our imagined goal. The creative process is, however, just that – a process. As with any creative endeavor be it writing, composing music, acting, dancing, or painting, creators must lose themselves in the making in order to discover something new along the way. And in that journey, they look for and find inspiration, which results in the unexpected.

Many of us are wowed by the end product of the MTS art room. What we don’t often see is the process and creative choices that go into making the artwork. In this issue we highlight two recent projects, one an MTS tradition and one new, that shed light on the role that process plays in art at MTS.

"The creative process is a process of surrender, not control." - Julia Cameron



Kindergartners and Dino Land


“What’s the first thing you do with the clay?” asks art teacher Evy Packer of the kindergarteners sitting around her at the table. Students respond with various answers, and she echoes it enthusiastically, “We roll out the clay into the shape of a burrito!” The “Dino Project” that kindergartners work on in Tyler Bewley and Evy Packer's visual arts class is an MTS tradition. The beauty of the project is two-fold: most obvious is the ceramic dinosaur which many students  cherish for years to come (8th graders often still have and talk about theirs), less obvious, but just as important is the creative process.


Students start out researching, looking at pictures of and drawing their favorite dinosaurs. Next, they create clay versions of the dinosaurs from the drawings. After creating the 3-dimensional version, students look at the unfinished clay model and make another drawing - this one to envision the colors they’d like to glaze the dinosaur. The kindergartners then have the opportunity to mix the colors and glaze their dinosaur, which is baked in the kiln. Once they have their final dinosaur, which they all give names – this year’s include Isabelle and Rainbow – they create a second dinosaur out of clay to be a friend of the dinosaur. After going through similar steps to create the second dinosaur, students then work together to create a “Dino Land” where the dinosaurs can live among volcanoes, trees, rocks, rivers, and waterfalls. The entire process allows students to experience multiple ways of looking at the same idea, a dinosaur, and to watch their creation go through various phases before they have the final dinosaur in hand.

Weaving in the 6th Grade


Local Oakland artist, Alicia McCarthy, is the inspiration behind the Weaving project 6th graders are working on this spring. Considered an integral member of the Mission School, a group of young artists associated with San Francisco Art Institute in the 90’s particularly known for graffiti art, McCarthy has developed a style of painting that weaves interlocking colors in a grid-like fashion in simultaneously casual, yet structured compositions.

McCarthy’s process is central to this project. After learning about McCarthy’s work, the students started by writing down their thoughts about what might inspire them to make their own compositions. They were encouraged to think about what feeling they’d like their work to elicit, and they looked at color wheels to help figure out a palette that would best reflect that feeling. Next, they began to sketch out ideas for what their weave patterns might look like before setting out to work with strips of paper to create their own woven compositions with the idea that the notes they’re taking are part of the final piece. Like McCarthy, the process included numerous, intentional creative choices along the way.

In an interview McCarthy had with SFMOMA about her early graffiti days, she says, “There wasn’t a preciousness about what we were doing, where we were doing it, or what materials we were using. It wasn’t about a particular end. I didn’t necessarily go paint on the street wanting other people to see it. It wasn’t about showing. It was just an activity that was thrilling and freaky and fun… It was about the act of doing it, and it was also a way of digesting the urban environment…” In a similar way, Evy and Tyler encourage MTS art students to find meaning in and lose themselves along the way of a project, to see each step as an integral part of what they’re making, and to take pleasure in and learn from those steps as much as they do from their final, woven piece that they hang on the wall.

Writer's Workshop

“The perfectionist in me has a really hard time with the fact that writing is messy at first. I want my first draft to read like my last draft, and it doesn’t happen. Writing is rewriting…” - Shannon Messenger, Author of “Keeper of the Lost Cities”


Understanding the writing process, including rewriting, is critically important when learning how to write. Writers must learn that we can always continue to revise and improve – writing is never really done. The writing process comes to life in MTS lower school classrooms through the Writer’s Workshop. The Workshop has a very specific, structured approach for guiding students through the process of writing, as evidenced in the recent progression in 2nd grade humanities class. During a project that focused on opinion writing, three discrete steps, called "Bends," were introduced. During Bend I of this unit, students learned how to write about some of their favorite books in a way to persuade others to love them as much as they do. The unit kicked off by teaching students how to form opinions about the books they read by thinking deeply about the characters. Students also learned how to state an opinion clearly and support their opinion with evidence.


Bend II of the unit focused on raising the level of their letter writing. Humanities teacher Rachael Olmanson coached students to engage in close reading as a way to spark new ideas to push themselves to deepen their thinking. Students used Post-it notes to mark the parts of their favorite books that they could elaborate on as evidence in their opinion pieces. The class is currently wrapping up this bend with the students participating in punctuation inquiry and application to incorporate the conventions they notice in published books into their own writing. 

In the final bend, Bend III, students will shift toward writing letters that convince their readers that the books they are reading are worthy of awards. They will also learn how to stretch their thinking and writing by comparing two books. This step-by-step process guides students along, one technique building upon another, allowing them to take what they’ve already written to a deeper level or to build upon what they’ve learned and try writing about a similar topic in a new way.

No matter where students are in the writing process, at the core of Writer’s Workshop is the “mini-lesson,” a ten to fifteen minute teacher led focus on a particular technique or tool for writing that is used in all grade levels. Recently the 5th grade class focused on the mini-lesson, “What makes a quote powerful for opinion writing?” After some class warm ups, Ally Svirsky, 5th grade humanities teacher, gave a personal example to help get the conversation moving, and then the students took the exercise back into the pieces they had already been writing, using quotations to bolster their point.

In later writing assignments, students may or may not use all the writing techniques they are taught in these mini lessons, but they will have these tools in their writer's toolbox to draw upon. Students write every day, practicing and building up a broad range of  essential writing skills. While the interactive mini lessons keep the students excited about writing, they also instill the process of review, rewriting, and revising their work. This practice places little emphasis on the end product and highlights the beauty of enhancing their work. The celebration of writing happens throughout the writing process, as students take the time to share parts of their writing they are proud of. As Rachael puts it “By the end of each unit, students have a plethora of skills they can utilize to better develop their writing. This process has really kept writing exciting and slowed down students from wanting to rush to the “publishing party” at the end. I really love the way it inspires students to outgrow and improve their writing again and again!”

Creativity and Constraints



The MTS mission statement now hangs on a wooden plaque in the entrance to school opposite the student-curated digital display – a physical manifestation of our tagline “where tradition meets tomorrow.” The mission’s physical presence has inspired me to reflect on it more regularly; I often read it to students who are waiting to be picked up early and ask them what parts we do well and what parts we could do better. As you will hear in my upcoming State of the School on April 18th, some words and phrases in our mission statement are deeply resonating with me as I head into the next three years of my leadership at MTS. One of those phrases is “creative and process driven.”  


Visitors to MTS often comment on how well-kept our campus is and that our program seems highly structured with students moving every forty to eighty minutes. Those who are in the classrooms, from math to art to PE also note the impressive discipline of our students.  Order and discipline are not what most of us think about when we envision creativity and process.

Doesn’t an improvised, changing schedule or messy studio yield greater creativity? As we strive to further live our mission, does our structure and discipline keep us from offering a “creative and process driven” education? I do not think so. In fact, I believe that we are onto something that many great creatives know, creativity needs structure. Four years ago I wrote a piece titled “ISIS, Latin, and Middle School” about just this. That essay was inspired by David Brooks’ New York Times article “The Good Order”  in which he shares the ways that “creative people organize their lives according to repetitive, disciplined routines.” From Maya Angelou to John Cheever, Brooks writes, “They think like artists but work like accountants.” Poetry, particularly the sonnets of Shakespeare or the haiku of Basho, is further evidence that structure and limits, breed creativity. And it is not just art that needs structure. The same applies in Silicon Valley. Research on “organizational slack,” lack of structure, shows that too much “free time” is counterproductive to innovation.

As we focus on offering a creative and process driven education, we do not need to lose our structured identity. In Brooks’ words “order and discipline are the prerequisites for creativity and daring.” Our order and discipline, though, does not guarantee creativity and daring; it is only a prerequisite. In the months and years ahead, we will be looking at how we work within our creativity-inducing structure to ensure that we are living the “creative and process-driven” call of our mission. There is outstanding creative and process-driven work happening on campus each day – some of it documented in the two articles in this month’s MTS Too. Is there room for more? Absolutely, and we have the right structure in place to see that creativity realized.

Thoughts on Technology in School

We spoke with Mike Taverna, Director of Instructional Technology, and Lauren Mayer, Middle School English teacher who uses technology in her classroom, to learn more about the School's approach to the use of technology. 

A conversation with Mike Taverna, Director of Instructional Technology


Q: We are fond of saying that technology at MTS is intentional, not ubiquitous. Could you talk about this? What does that mean in practice?

MT: One of the reasons I like the approach toward technology at MTS is that we focus on what the main goal is: what are we are trying to teach- that comes first. What tool can help me do that? - that comes second. If it’s the other way around, with technology first, not second, then you’re developing a program that needs to be justified. I’ve seen this kind of approach at other schools I’ve worked in the past. Here at MTS, we have technology options available for use, but it’s not considered the end-all, be-all. The school values more personal, hands-on approaches when applicable such as reading books, talking in a circle, and the value of human interaction in social emotional learning tools.

I’m an advocate for technology given my role, so it’s possible I may come across as a “pusher.” My job is to find ways to help teachers utilize tools that are available to improve their lessons. “What is the end goal of the lesson? What do you want the students to learn? What tools might be available that could help you with that?”


Teachers sometimes have fears and anxieties around using technology. They need training. I try to ask the questions to guide teachers in how and where technology might be useful by asking certain questions – “Where’s your most problematic unit? When are your students tuning out? Where are you using up too much time?” I then ask “What’s the lesson supposed to do? What are you trying to teach? What do you want the students to think about?”

In general, I like to think of using technology in a way that fits into one of these categories: Efficiency, Engagement, and Enhancement. In other words, is it efficient? - making lesson plans quick to put together and also making good use of class time; is it engaging? - making sure we keep the students interested; and does it enhance or improve the lessons to make our teaching more effective? If you decide to use a digital learning tool, it needs to fall into one of those categories. At MTS, we want to develop a culture around the idea that technology is available to help by giving teachers the opportunity to attend workshops, so they can see and understand the options that are available. It’s really all about balance.

We also need to understand the curriculum development and the progression that students are making with regard to the kinds of digital tools they should know how to use. How can we best prepare them for high school and beyond in terms of the real world application of technology? What technological skills will they be expected to have in high school, college, and the work force? It’s important that we help students develop the basic skills and productivity tools that will ensure them future success. 

Q: What are the concerns around using technology in school?


MT: Is it reliable? Teachers worry about this. They decide to take a risk, plan a lesson using technology, and then it’s not working the day of the lesson. Maybe the internet is down or the application isn't functioning correctly. These types of issues discourage teachers from adopting and planning around it.

Another concern is distraction and classroom management. If the students are on devices, will they get distracted and off-task? Do they have easy access to the internet? This can be difficult to monitor.

For some teachers, the use of technology is counter to their philosophy. And then there are some subjects that you simply don’t want to use a technology solution. It feels like it's at the other end of what you're trying to do. For example, in social emotional learning, you don’t want to replicate human interaction with a piece of equipment. Not every teacher needs to be using it, not every class, and not every lesson. There's a real need for balance.

It's become such an integral part of our culture that it's important to teach what’s acceptable, using common sense, and keeping in mind that we're responsible for creating a healthy environment. Our job is to be sure that balance is achieved somehow. If we’re putting a laptop in every kids' hands, is it too much screen time? We all have to work on it, parents, teachers, and students alike. And in order to ensure that we're intentional, as teachers we have to know that part of teaching is showing how and when to use the tool by describing how and when it should be used and taking ownership of it.

Q: What’s your role at MTS?

MT: When I started, and an ongoing part of my role, is focused around systems and infrastructure. I make sure all the school's systems are working as they're meant to. The other fundamental part of my role, and the area I'm most excited about is laying the foundation and helping shape the culture at the School around technology. I'll be reviewing the students' curriculum from K-8 to see where we might implement specific workshops and programs that can help the faculty understand where and how they can use technology.

A conversation with Lauren Mayer, English


Q: How do you use technology in your English classes?

LM: In 7th and 8th grade English, we primarily use technology to support and facilitate the writing process. Google Classroom is a great platform for many reasons–as a teacher, I can easily send out assignments to students, post upcoming due dates on a class calendar, track student progress, and provide timely feedback on essays. Classroom makes it easy for students to submit drafts, read teacher comments, and revise their work, as well as have a digital copy of their assignments. When students sign up, the platform automatically creates a folder in their drive that stores all their work and keeps it organized.

It’s efficient for both students and teachers as both can access it anywhere with internet, and it allows for and tracks the natural back and forth process of writing and going through multiple drafts. I can give faster feedback for writing, because I can just type it instead of writing it down on paper, and then it’s all captured digitally and can be accessed later at any time through the process, making it easier to track a student’s progress. The platform even has an audio record option, so I can dictate feedback, and the students can listen to it later.

As the teacher, I can easily pull up global summaries of who has turned in assignments or I can organize summaries according to each student. I can post announcements, and upcoming assignments, or I can pose questions with the  discussion/comments feature. I can post questions to all the students as a group in a forum-like fashion, or I can ask “closed” questions to get feedback from students where only I can see the answers. I can see previous assignments and can repost old assignments to a new class without having to re-do everything from scratch. I don’t use it for everything. For some lessons like grammar and vocabulary we still use a pen and paper, but the digital platform definitely has its place.

Q: How has this proven successful? Have you encountered any challenges?

LM: I think students really enjoy using Classroom. They can access assignments at home, collaborate with classmates for peer editing, and have immediate access to a digital “portfolio” of their major assignments. Classroom links directly with Google Drive and other Google Apps, which helps students organize their work and easily review prior teacher feedback. We occasionally run into glitches, but overall it’s been very helpful.

Q: How do you see the use of technology as beneficial to the students? Do they like it? Does it improve the lessons you’re trying to teach?

LM: I think the greatest benefit of Google Classroom is the ability for students to readily access their assignments, organize their work in a centralized location, and receive timely and specific feedback from teachers.

Q: How long have you been using this teaching method for your English classes? Did you use this in previous teaching positions?

LM: I have been using versions of G-Suite for about five years, and it’s been exciting to see how Google has updated their program to directly influence classroom learning. The platform is constantly evolving and improving, making it better and better to use. It’s more and more student and teacher “friendly.”