Thinking About Education

I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think. ~Socrates

Robin Johnston

Wife, Mother, Educator, Administrator, Philosopher, Tree Hugger, Tutor, Literacy Specialist, Consultant, Seller on Teacherspayteachers.com. Attended Chapel Hill High School (NC), Vanderbilt University (with concentration in Philosophy and English), UNC-CH: Master's degree work in Philosophy, National Board Certification in English Language Arts, UNC-CH: M.Ed K-12 Literacy, UNC-CH: Master's of School Administration. Have worked as an educator in one capacity or another for over 20 years, the last 17 were spent as a middle school core Language Arts teacher. I now mentor beginning teachers in Durham, NC. I also continue to develop and sell my teaching units on TeachersPayTeachers.com

Cell Phones in the Classroom: Just Say No

Almost all educators agree that cell phones are one of the biggest detriments to student learning today. Yet, they are ever present in classrooms. Where have things broken down? Teachers give up on controlling cell phones in the classroom for a number of reasons: ~Almost every student has one ~Many students are attached to using them all day; some addicted to them ~Teachers feel they can’t control them because they can’t take them.. Read More

Out of the Mouths of Babes

As a teacher mentor, one of the first things I do after meeting and greeting a new teacher is to visit a class and give the teacher comprehensive feedback on their teaching from fresh, objective eyes. I tell them all the good things I see them doing and describe their best qualities as teachers and people. Then I tell them the main areas they should work on to improve their practice. Later, I.. Read More

Honeymoon Over? Consult the Little Prince

An excerpt from that wonderful treasure, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “That is strictly correct,” I said. “But why do you want the sheep to eat the little baobabs?” He answered me at once, “Oh, come, come!”, as if he were speaking of something that was self-evident. And I was obliged to make a great mental effort to solve this problem, without any assistance. Indeed, as I learned, there were on.. Read More

Tiger Basketball

  Inspired by one of my young students, this poem is especially for children who prefer visual art expression to reading and writing   TIGER BASKETBALL   I see the lines I see the color   They are bold And they are bright   I see a tiger in the basketball I see a panther in the night   I love to paint I love to draw   It doesn’t matter If “was” is.. Read More

The Discrimination Behind “Easy” Grading Practices

  There seems to be a growing trend to revise grading practices so that courses are easier to pass. Some have called such practices the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” but how is bigotry ever soft? When inflationary practices began several years ago at my middle school, teachers and administrators were quiet about them; they weren’t sure they wanted parents to know that, for example, if a student turned in nothing or made.. Read More

Data Central = Bad Karma

  Public schools in my area have developed a new karma over the last decade: data central.  It was student central for a while, but alas, like many other movements in education, it was replaced by something perceived to be bigger and better. What could be more scientific and certain than basing decisions on data? And which data are the most important?  Student performance data, of course. We measure our schools by how.. Read More

“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future in life.” ~Plato

  There has been a lot of talk about how best to evaluate teachers lately, especially with the “new” movement to include student test data as part of a teacher’s evaluation. Diane Ravitch’s blog has provided much evidence about how student test data has been shown not to be a good measure of teacher quality. So what is a good measure of teacher quality, and why is this question one we find it.. Read More

Eduspeak: “Authentic” Reading

  I have another story to tell about reading–a story about educational trends that may lead us astray if we get too caught up in them. “Authentic” reading is one such trend in Language Arts. I have heard principals deny programmed reading materials to Reading and Language Arts teachers because they were not “authentic,” and current “best practices” dictate that we use only authentic texts in our classrooms (these are texts that readers.. Read More

The Lost Art of Storytelling?

  My parents are the most literate people I know. They are in their 80’s and still attend a monthly book group where group members, including retired English professors, discuss an important book they have all read. They still learn and grow from such an experience. As a group they understand, connect, enrich, and enlarge upon the stories they read and tell. There is nothing quite like a discussion of a good book.. Read More

I. A. Richards and Reading Diagnosis

  Reading teachers, diagnosticians, interventionists, tutors, and all readers interested in honing reading skills might appreciate reading (or re-reading) the classic work Practical Criticism by I. A. Richards—at least the part where he explains the principal difficulties of readers. His list deals specifically with reading poetry, and the difficulties his students have with critiquing poetry, but I think the same difficulties can occur in other types of reading as well. Interestingly, his book was.. Read More

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