Warm winter greetings, friends

Do you have your own yearly cycle of internal seasons?

I think I’m realizing I do: spring is a time of anticipation, lengthening light, new growth, and inspiration.

Summer finds me kicking back, slowing down a bit (I’m not a hot weather person), sitting still in rivers as the water flows around me, and ruminating.

Fall is energizing time, getting back to routine, a time of new beginnings, my own personal New Year. (Maybe yours too, educator?)

And winter: winter both invigorates me and sees me draw inward a bit.

Sometimes at the same time; my happy place is alone on my skis in the woods. It’s also a time for connecting: long cold nights call for warm food and a kitchen full of friends. As part of my winter greetings, I am grateful to report that I’ve been able to do a good bit of all of that this season.

I’m especially invigorated by the workshop I went to last week on the Compassionate Systems Framework at MIT. This approach blends systems-awareness and systems-thinking with something called systems-sensing. That is, tending to the social-emotional aspect of people and relationships in our work to improve and transform (school) systems.

It was amazing, y’all! I mean, this kind of stuff is totally my jam (is it yours, too? Get in touch, I’d love to share what I learned!). We were introduced to systems-thinking tools to help us analyze events and get at root causes, we explored our own responses to events by looking at the Ladder of Inference, but what stood out to me most was the caring and connected way we developed as a community.

There we were, 70 strangers from around the world, and at the end of those three days, we were a community. We had created a generative social field — which was not only one of the core concepts of the workshop but an essential element of a healthy system. We had co-created a vibrant, connected culture. Through mindful and skilled facilitation we deeply listened to one another, held space, and connected. It was sublime.

This is what we’re aiming for in our own classrooms, too, right? And it doesn’t happen by accident there either. My greatest joy in the classroom was nurturing these relationships with and between my students. Teaching my students to listen and hold space for one another, seeing and being seen. The time we spent in Morning Meeting getting to know one another, laughing together, and playing games.  These investments paid dividends and allowed us to work together like a well-oiled machine. Well, most of the time!

  • How do you build community in your classroom?
  • How might you deepen the relationships with and between the students you serve?

For my winter greetings, I invite you to reflect and reinvigorate your practice. LMK if you want a thinking partner.

In gratitude,



Emily Hoyler

Emily Hoyler has joined the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education as a Professional Development Coordinator after nearly two decades working as an educator, including five years as a sixth grade teacher, and three years as the Curriculum Specialist at Shelburne Farms. Emily’s current interests include designing concept-based interdisciplinary curriculum, mindfulness in the classroom, and creating rejuvenating professional development experiences for fellow educators. Emily is a nationally certified facilitator for The Origins Program’s Developmental Designs workshops and served as a Visiting Lecturer in Education Studies at Middlebury College where she taught community-connected courses on elementary methods and Education for Sustainability. Emily lives at the top of a mountain in Ripton, Vermont, with her husband and many Wild Things, including three children, three chickens, a dog, a cat, and various other untamed critters.

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