Thinking About Education

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

A Definition of “Story”

Good definitions can be enlightening in themselves. I came across this one in a writing class I took. I think it was the one taught by Joyce Allen here at the Carrboro ArtsCenter: Story – a journey, actual or metaphorical, involving a person (or person equivalent) the reader engages with for whom something is at stake. The person finds problems and meets them in some way so that by the end something has.. Read More

Bursting the Balloons of Grade Inflation

Many school districts—I wonder if this is true across the country?—are encouraging and even requiring teachers to inflate their grades. I was told I should give no grade lower than a 60 to my students, even if they earned a 0. I was also encouraged to give easier tests to students who did not perform above a certain standard and to reduce the amount of work I gave them (I am disregarding students.. Read More

Subjects OR Students?

We overuse dichotomies in education. We taught “subjects” for years and then someone cried, “I teach students, not subjects!” There was a major shift in education after that. The student became the touchstone for everything. Don’t we teach subjects to students? Parker Palmer has a compelling argument on this issue in his book The Courage to Teach. He describes a paradigm where the subject sits in the middle of the classroom so students and teachers.. Read More

“We Murder to Dissect”

  Rest of the world take note: The language ARTS are dead Each year they are valued less and less They want us to teach social studies instead   It doesn’t matter that literature is life Or that it teaches character or enriches our souls Nonfiction is the curricula rife Twenty-first century automata the goal   They will keep the reading and writing But excise the content of art The skills are all.. Read More

EOGs (End-of-Grade Tests)

  I always know when they are coming Discipline referrals soar Teachers’ complaints and voices are louder Some even break down, yelling or crying   The tests begin Tension is still high But it lowers all week Until emotions are back to normal   But the scores are so important That the rest of the year we re-teach And re-test So students have ample chance to do their best, Again, And then Summer.. Read More

Disciplining Students

As an administrative intern, students were referred to me for misbehaviors of all kinds.  I struggled at first with how to deal with them all in a way that was consistent, fair, and that addressed the need being expressed in the misbehavior instead of just the fault. I wanted to establish a consistent process that would result in discipline (as opposed to punishment), so that hopefully the students were changed in some positive.. Read More

The Freedom to Fail

I was complaining recently to my best friend from 7th grade who now (40 years later) lives across the continent. I said I failed to get the job I wanted and felt I had earned. She reminded me that failure was nothing new to me, so what was I moaning about?  And then I remembered so many failures…and all the wonderful things I learned from them: Choosing to ride the Tower of Terror.. Read More

Fixing Only What is Broken, a.k.a. Data-Driven Education

Recently, I asked my friend, a physicist who likes fixing things, if he thought he might be able to repair my washing machine.  He embraced the challenge and began taking it apart to see what was wrong. Methodically, he disassembled each layer: control panel, back, wiring, motor. I confess was a little concerned as I hardly recognized my machine and was not confident that all the pieces could be put back exactly as.. Read More

Natural Differentiation

Two seventh-grade boys with baseball caps on are seriously engaged in Chinese brush painting in their Language Arts class. Their caps are well worn, fit snugly on their heads, and the bills are curved just right. The students are not speaking but are examining their pictures with heads bent while adding more brush strokes of black paint on the white paper. Their faces are relaxed and other paintings are lying around—previous attempts using.. Read More

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