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I should’ve taken the time

Yesterday during a teacher observation, a student asked me to step into the hall and talk with them. At the time, it didn’t seem urgent. With this student in particular, we have talked often. Sometimes it was important, other times—from my perspective—it didn’t seem that urgent. 
When I asked her if it could wait 10 minutes, she shut down. I could see the change in how she sat and participated, withdrawing into her desk and no longer asking for help from those around her. There was a noticeable difference in how she interacted with her peers the minute those words came out. 
When I noticed the change, I tried to drop everything right there and talk with her. Let’s go talk, right now, I said. No, it’s fine, she replied. And despite my multiple check-ins while she was working independently, she declined the opportunity to talk again that hour. 
Without even realizing it, I had damaged our relationship. 
We ended up talking later that the day. I saw her as she walked to her next class period…
Recent posts

Handwritten Cue Cards in the 21st Century

I just stumbled upon this behind-the-scenes clip of Saturday Night Live's cue card process.

This is intense writing. This is writing that is dependent upon trust and checks and balances.

Over a short period of time, skits are written, drafted on cards, revised, and the cards revised over and over again.

I also really love that SNL continues to use cue cards and not a teleprompter. Like Wally points out, technology can fail. Handwritten cue cards ensure the show goes on.

Comedy is hard work. Writing is hard work. Changes are made up until the last minute to get things just right. This is a form of real-world writing.

How Changing My Car’s Battery Made Me Think About Education

A lot of people write about how educators use the summer to “recharge their batteries,” which is true. It’s nice to have some down time to reflect and plan for the next year. It’s the one time of year when there aren’t constant demands for teachers’ and administrators’ time. No concerts, no after school events, no evaluations to prepare for.
Part of this time allows me to catch up on things that I didn’t have time for during the school year, like changing the battery in our Jeep, which is our only vehicle that has roof racks for us to transport our kayaks. We were able to get by this winter by jumping it a few times when it was really cold out, but my wife and I both knew it would eventually need to be replaced. My wife and I also knew nothing about replacing a battery.
So I turned to YouTube. And I watched video after video of someone changing car batteries in order to figure out what to do. I learned about “core charges” that auto part supply stores charge. I learned that batterie…

Making Time to Struggle

I recently traveled to Northern Ontario with family to fish for four days on Lake Wabatongushi. Aside from “unplugging” for several days, fishing with my wife and our family reminded me of how important it is for educators to put themselves in situations in which they are not the experts in the room and where they must engage in productive struggle in order to figure things out.

So let me start by saying that I am not a fisherman. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy fishing. I used to go fishing with my grandfather when I was really young. Heck, there was even a time when I remember exuberently telling my grandmother how we “went fishing with no poles” when I was six or seven. But despite that, I hadn’t really gone fishing since I was a teenager and would occasionally fish from the riverbank at my grandparents’ house.

So I knew that even agreeing to go on a fishing trip would put me in a situation where I would have to be vulnerable, ask questions, and try many times in order to figure things…

'Embarrassment' Review

I just finished Thomas Newkirk's Embarrassment: And the Emotional Underlife of Learning. Like anything by Newkirk, I devoured it and found that so much of it rang true with my philosophy and feelings when it comes to teaching.

Here are ten lines that stood out to me in the book (in no particular order):


"Unless we can get beyond this reluctance, we never put ourselves out there to learn--we never become the novice we need to be to learn." (15)"Schools face what might be called the paradox of offering help... you need a designation for that group, and that very designation may be so stigmatizing that students would rather forgo the help than to accept the label." (33)"We need to look beyond the posture of indifference, or just see it as a posture." (61)"We are happy, gratified to offer help--that is a big part of our professional identity. But we (or at least I) are far more reluctant to receive help." (63)"Failure or disappointment is le…

Remember to Sweep the Floor

I just finished reading Ryan Holiday’s Ego Is the Enemy. This book might easily make my top five books of the year because of Holiday’s ability to take history and make other people’s experiences helpful as we try to understand our own lives.

Holiday’s work serves as a reminder of two things for me. The first is that what we do is more important than who we are. He discusses Bill Walsh, former coach of the 49ers, when explaining the concept of a “Standard of Performance” (108). When we focus on what should be done and when and how, we can instill excellence. And Holiday argues that it’s this attention to exacting standards that is more impotrant than a grand vision. Like Walsh has said, if we pay attention to the small details, “the score takes care of itself.” Holiday ends this chapter with this: “Instead of pretending that we are living some great story, we must remain focused on the execution–and on excuting with excellence” (113). If we focus on the former, then ego gets in the wa…

Kids Wielding Critical Thinking

I first heard Cornelius Minor speak at NCTE’s convention last fall, and I was instantly impressed. He very quickly had dozens of adults moving around the room, jumping rope, making lists—learning in some of the most engaged ways.
I recently subscribed to the Heinemann Podcast and I found myself devouring the series of episodes featuring Minor. Trust me. You don’t want to miss these.The episode on “The Over-Engaged Student” is one of them. Through the story of “Prez,” a nickname given to one particular student, Minor explores ways that he is able to “turn the volume down” “but respect his enthusiasm” on the type of student that we have all encountered. You know, the one who always seems to have a comment or contribution to make, even if, at times, it might not seem relevant. And that’s when Minor says this: “One of the things that we never want to do is silence kids.” That made me stop and think about all the times that I’ve asked kids to “hold that thought” and then never returned to …