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About Tara Waudby

Tara Waudby is a teacher, poet and storyteller with a great passion for learning. Currently a high school principal, she is in her 17th year as an educator with experience at the preschool, middle and high school levels. Tara defines herself as a generalist and holds certifications in administration, secondary education, ESL and special education. She has a BS in Psychology, a BA in Education, an MA in Educational Leadership, a Technology Certificate and she is currently finishing an MFA in poetry. Having grown up in Stockholm and Arizona, she began her teaching career in Phoenix, and quickly migrated back overseas where she has spent the last 14 years teaching in Taiwan and Kuwait. Tara believes in innovation in education and is excited to be exploring concepts in “unschooling” by breaking down existing barriers and changing paradigms. She believes that educational technology is the tool by which we can transform education. Through her blog Behind the Closed Door, she confronts truth and presents an alternate reality.

Why Poetry?

The Gaelic Harp traditionally symbolized poets and musicians. Some rights reserved by Neneonline

I’ve just spent a month in Ireland writing poetry in a land of poets. Bliss for someone who loves poetry in a world where poetry is largely tossed into April for National Poetry Month (a practice which I detest, but that’s a different blog post). The reason I was in Ireland for the month was to finish my course work for my MFA…in poetry.

As I’m finishing my degree soon, poetry is at the forefront of much of my conversation of late, and recently someone asked me a brilliant question:

How does poetry inform your work?

He thought it was a common question, but no one has ever posed this question to me, and to be quite honest, I’ve always framed poetry as my indulgent degree. Truly, I have embarked upon my MFA to improve my craft. And yet, upon reflection, poetry most definitely informs my work.

So why poetry?

  • Poetry is beautiful. It allows you to think in images, possibilities and imagination.
  • Poetry is concise and precise. It forces you to be specific, use precise words and foster an economy of language.
  • Poetry is reflection. You aren’t supposed to get it right away, so it forces you to think deeply, reflect and reread for deeper meaning.
  • Poetry is creation. In a world where creativity is making a huge comeback, I love the fact that I get to spend my free moments using words to create something new. And though poetry is a more conventional form of creativity, thinking creatively in one genre transfers to other realms of life.
  • Poetry is the essence of literature, society and language. Yes, I know this is a big claim, but look at how many cultures value poetry, either today or in history, as the foundation of culture, language and politics. I always started my English classes with poetry, for, as I told my students, if you can analyze a poem, you can analyze anything. And if you can write a good poem, you can most certainly write a good essay or story.
  • Poetry is problem-solving. A great professor once told me that writing is 90% revision. Revising poetry is definitely an exercise in problem-solving. Form must serve function. There has to be a balance of heart and head, a “foot on the ground and a foot in the clouds.” Writing a poem can take 10 minutes. Revising a poem can take 10 years. It is a series of deliberate decisions. It requires thought, separation and perseverance. It is the ultimate exercise in problem-solving.

So there it is…my attempt to answer a thought-provoking and valuable question. My work requires creative problem-solving, imagination, patience, reflection, perseverance and a range of other skills that the act of reading and writing poetry give me on a daily basis.

I love bridging connections between distinct areas in life, and now, I have new inspiration for why we should all embark upon a bit of poetry in life.

My Blog, My Philosophy

We are developing an online portfolio, and as a part of it, we’re including our Educational Philosophy.  I’m happy to say that in reviewing the most recent philosophy I wrote a few years ago, it’s still valid.  However, a statement of philosophy can’t possibly encompass everything and so I have added a sidebar to my philosophy page with posts from my blog.  I share them here, organized by topic.  
On Technology & Engagement
On Assessment & 21st Century Skills
On Trying Something New
On Collaboration and Partnership
Resources to Share 

Flipped Faculty Meeting

Lots of people have been asking for resources about flipping meetings.  I am far, far from expert but I am experimenting.  We’ve done Moodle meetings for discussion and a couple of other things, but this is my first attempt at a video meeting.  The information isn’t really relevant for anyone but our faculty, so it’s not gripping information.  However, it might be a nice resource in terms of format and design.

YouTube Preview Image


My Morning Working

My Morning Working

You may have noticed my absence of late. I’ve been writing…just not to my blog as I’ve just finished major revisions on my MFA Thesis in Poetry.  I’ve submitted my first round of revisions, so I’m back.  Much of my Spring Break last week was spent on the revisions, and I relished in days spent writing.

However, I also spent lovely days with my daughters. We went swimming, took long walks, lunched and brunched with friends, spent mornings and afternoons at the playground, had dinner out, went shopping and had an all around fun, event filled week. Mia even had her first sleepover when her friend Claire spent the night, and she met another friend out for a movie.

Yet, yesterday, when asked in her KGI class what she did over the break, Mia answered, “I stayed home and played with my sister while my mommy worked in her bedroom.”


MimadOn one morning, I holed up in my room to work on my poems. It was also the day I took them swimming and took Mia on a movie date later that afternoon. Yet, that is what she remembers – mommy working in her bedroom.

I’m wowed.

I’m humbled.

I’m reminded again that what others think is totally beyond my control.

At least Mia seemed happy about her story. Perhaps, she remembered it because it was the least normal part to the week. I can only laugh at the irony and remind myself to be graceful in my acceptance of her perspective, for, be it at work or home, regardless of my intention, I cannot control what others think.  And that’s okay…

Water, Water Everywhere

Expats love to compare.  In every place I’ve lived, I’ve spent time with expats who sit around lamenting all the differences between “this place” and “home.”  When I lived in Asia, the general lament was the lack of common sense, when in reality, there is no common sense that is not culturally loaded.  Even the common sense of my American self as opposed to my British husband is completely askance.

I’ve never bought in to the comparisons…there is, after all, a reason why we aren’t home.  What I prefer to do instead is focus on the positive.  I know, it’s very Pollyanna of me, but standing on the Corniche, watching my children play with a wooden Dhow on the beach, in mid-March, with palm trees swaying under clear blue skies and the Arabian Gulf in the distance is, to me, a moment of perfection.

WF1Another instance of perfection are the fun and unusual water fountains peppered around our city.   Each of these fountains has a metal cup chained to it, with the intention that water should be available to everyone.  It may not seem like much to those of us used to fancy bottled water, but the notion that drinking water should be readily available and accessible to anyone is super cool.  Especially in a desert where water is hard to come by.  It is small moments that equal happiness, and every time I drive by one of these numerous water fountains, I am reminded of the intentionality of generosity.  And the simplicity of water that many of us take for granted.

What is cool and unique about your city?  

What small things makes a big difference?   


I am not a runner, but I run.
I am not a public speaker, but I speak publicly.
I am not a natural nurturer, but I nurture naturally.

I am a poet, yet these days, I write mostly nonfiction.
I am a reader, yet these days, I read far too little.
I am a natural at yoga, yet these days, I’m far too inflexible.

I am not a cyclist, but I spin.
I am not a ballerina, but I dance ballet.
I am not techy, but I am a tech fanatic.

I am an introvert, yet these days, I’m with others constantly.
I crave solitude but I also crave friendship.

I am not a runner, yet
I have found joy in running
while listening to podcasts
that inspire ideas for writing
and mothering
and innovating.

I am not a runner, but I run.

Flipping the Why

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In every area of my life, I am bombarded with “Why?”

My five-year old loves to ask why and then say no.  My two-year old loves to ask why, over and over and over again.  She doesn’t listen  for an answer, but simply asks why again.

  • Why is Puff (the dragon) sad?

  • Why is Mia grumpy?

  • Why is the baby sad?

  • Why, why, why…?

At school, students want to know why.  And teachers.  And that’s great because asking why demonstrates critical thought.  It demonstrates a lack of blind compliance.  It demonstrates autonomy.  And that is what I want of my children, of my students and of my colleagues.

And yet, I am exhausted.  Sometimes, I don’t want to have to answer why for every single detail.  Sometimes, I don’t want to have to explain, especially when the information is readily available.  Sometimes, I want blind trust and faith.

As a poet and an English teacher, I have spent my life teaching “show don’t tell.”  And yet, I find myself in a lot of telling situations.  And we all know, when someone “tells” others don’t listen.

So, I am flipping the why.  I am no longer telling.  I am asking.

  • Why do you think you can’t do that?

  • Why is Puff sad?

  • Why do we need to…?

  • Why?

Last Thursday, I had to keep a lot of our students out of an area in which they wanted to go.  And when each of them asked why, I asked why back.  And they answered. Because when they reach within, they know why – we all do.  We had great conversations; my why generated connection and it built relationships.  Plus, I had a lot more fun and a lot more company than if I had stood there and told each student why individually.

I urge all educators to flip the why.  Involve the questioners and help them to find their own answers.  Ask them to “show” you why.  It leads to greater acceptance and less questions later.  It supports 21st Century Skills.  And it builds positive relationships.  So rather than answer why, ask why.

And Madison can tell me why Puff is sad…even if she does forget again five minutes later.

“But we have to…”

There is one thing that continues to astound me in discussions about assessment and that is our attachment to teaching “responsibility” and our commitment to “fairness.”

“We must assign zeroes.”

“We cannot award credit for doing nothing.”

“It isn’t fair to the students who turn work in on time.”

Doug Reeves knocks it out of the park in his article “The Case Against the Zero.”

Yet, time and time again, the conversation turns to responsibility.

CCSS SS InfographicI am all for teaching soft-skills. In fact, we have committed to ensuring we are mission-based and focused on teaching those skills that don’t always show up in our standards: creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and etc. This summer as I was combing through Common Core resources, I was thrilled to see how often some of these terms actually do show up in our standards documents. Yet, in all of my work with soft-skills, I have never seen responsibility turn up. It is not one of the 21st Century Skills on which we are meant to focus, and yet, we educators are very committed to it.

Am I saying I don’t believe we should turn out responsible students?

Absolutely NOT!

I believe responsibility is an essential skill for success.  I also believe it is a skill we learn with natural consequences. However, it is not in our standards, and therefore, it should not drive our assessment practices. I know many responsible professionals who miss deadlines and get no penalty whatsoever. It’s called the real world, and the real world begins in university, a place where I have been given grace many times by professors.

21 C SI don’t know why our great commitment as secondary educators to teaching “responsibility” but I would urge us to focus on more essential soft skills – creativity, collaboration, critical thinking – ones that actually do show up in our standards and ones that will motivate and engage students, essentially leading  them to exhibit more responsible behavior.

Is It Ever Okay?

In looking at the above clip, at the behavior of Ortiz in this baseball game, and I wonder, is it ever okay to behave in this fashion?  In anger?  In the heat of the moment?  Is it okay to lose control?  Is winning worth more than character?  What is the cost, not only to the individual, but to the team, the spectators, those watching on television?  What are we saying when we behave in this way?

Recently, I listened to a morning show on gratitude hosted by Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino and the conversation turned to sportsmanship, Little League and what we model for our children.  Sadly, many parents behave in anger and outrage even at Little League games, so is it any wonder things like this happen at Red Sox games?

Apology or not, of which there wasn’t (only some sad justification), I don’t see how it’s worth it.  I’m married to an athlete and a coach, so I know the stakes are high in sports. And I know emotions run high.

Still, we’ve got to get past anger and learn how to model a better form of disappointment. Because essentially, this great man, this nationally recognized star, was disappointed because he struck out.  And rather than accept blame or fault, he blamed the umpire, threw a temper tantrum and then ranted on about how it was justified.

How on earth does this contribute to a positive, well-functioning society?  We adults must recognize our own flaws and emotions, and then decide how we want to portray ourselves because we are all role-models and no one deserves to see this.  And even if the umpire was wrong, isn’t there a better way to solve the problem?

So if it isn’t right in public, is it okay in private?  Is it ever okay to get this angry?  To break things?  To yell and scream?  How do we get past anger and operate from a place of love and gratitude?  In all that we do?  No matter how much it tries our patience?  Or our pride?

What is Your Why?

Some Rights Reserved by by Ksayer1

Simon Sinek tells us to start with why in our leadership practice.  He claims that “it doesn’t matter what you do.  It matters why you do it.”

Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino challenges us to pause, stay in the moment and listen to our heart because “our heart talks to us alot and tells us what our why is.”

Perhaps “listening to your heart” sounds new-agey and a bit kooky.  Interesting though, that be it in your heart or your head, why is the essential question!

“Why” extends into all areas of our life.

Why are we who we are?
Why are we different people in different areas of life?

Why do we do what we do?
Why don’t we do what we want to do?

Why are we happy?
Why are we unhappy?

Why did we have children?
Why do we make the parenting choices we do?

Why do we exercise?
Why do we eat what we eat?
Why do our days look as they do?


Living with purpose requires us to slow down and reflect.  It  requires us to be intentional in all that we do.  It requires us to wonder why.  And then answer the “why.”

What is your why?

What further questions can we ask of ourselves?  Please post more “Whys’” for us to answer!