Thursday, August 10, 2017

My #TLAP moment last year

Block one, College Composition II, Thursday morning was the best class period of the year.
And I wasn’t even there.
Last April, I received an invitation to chaperone a trip to UMC’s career day for our entire junior class.  Though I hate to miss class, I signed up to help out.  There was something intriguing about seeing a number of students outside of the classroom and being there to help guide them in researching possible careers.  I’m happy to say that I had half a dozen juniors who attended the education presentation for prospective teachers!
The trip was going to keep me out of school for the first two blocks of the day.  The first block, College Comp 2, featured student generated lesson plans for the book we were studying, Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist.
The book is a student-favorite, mostly because it’s short and quite visually creative; thus, it’s a quick, fun read.  To drive home the book’s main point I asked students to sign up for the one chapter they liked the most.  Once this was done, I had two students for every chapter.  I tasked each group of students to teach the main idea of the chapter to the class.  I shared with them the lesson plan template our principal has all teachers use to craft their lessons (state the learning target; list the classroom activities; list the homework; and then state the evidence of learning).
Finally, I advised them to be as creative as possible in generating their lessons.  Many students were hesitant and unsure, for they have rarely ever been asked to teach their peers anything!  I wanted to change that.  So I reminded them that they were all experts on lesson planning.  They’ve been suffering through “lessons” since they were five years old!  They had well over the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell states in Outliers it takes to become a “master” at something.
When that relieved their fears only a little, I said simply, “think back to the lesson or lessons you enjoyed the most.  It doesn’t matter if it was in elementary or middle school or even here.  Steal from that lesson and apply it to your chapter.”
When that made them feel a little more confident, I offered them one last bit of advice: “You sure as hell know what boring lessons are, right?”  I saw heads nod and eyes roll.  “So no lame Powerpoints where you just read the text on the slide.  So no lame cross word puzzles that have nothing to do with your lesson.”
A student smirked and added, “God, I hate busy work.”
“Exactly,” I said.  “No freaking busy work.  Only include work that matters.”  I saw more heads nodding and relief washed over more faces.  “Just be creative with it.”
Uh – oh.  I should have said the dreaded “C” word.  The fear returned.
“Don’t give me those looks,” I said. “Remember, Pinterest is your friend.”
Instantly, faces lit up and the laptops popped open.  They went to work brainstorming their lessons.
That morning before I got on the bus to head to career day at UMC, I typed up my sub notes and wrote that two students, Blake and Brandon, would be presenting on the chapter “Be Nice (the world is a small town).” I left my laptop there in case they had a slideshow or video they wanted to show as part of their lesson.
Luckily, my sub was going to be Helen, a beloved health/phy ed teacher who retired several years ago.  She loves kids.  I knew my class was in good hands and that she’d have a blast with the lesson.
Then I was off to the career day.
When we returned four hours later, I hurried from the bus back to my classroom to see how things went.  As soon as I walked in the room, Helen was beaming.  That’s always a good sign when you have a sub.
“That was awesome,” she said.  “Please be gone more often.  I could sub for your classes all the time!”
“Great,” I said.  “I’m glad things went well . . . right?”
That was when Helen told me about Blake and Brandon’s lesson on “Be Nice (the world is a small town.”
“It was so much fun,” Helen said.  “They made my husband cry.”
What?  I stopped dead and just stared at her.
“It was an amazing lesson,” she said, relieving my shock.  Then Helen explained in detail.
Blake and Brandon tasked each member of the class, including the sub, to think for a minute about someone who had a great impact on them.
When the students (and sub) had their person in mind, Blake and Brandon instructed them to take ten minutes and write that person a letter telling the person about the impact they had on them.
Helen said the class was silent and totally engaged as everyone went about writing or typing their letters.
After the ten minutes, Blake and Brandon then hit the class with the real kicker of the assignment: they wanted the students (and sub) to call the person and read the letter to them!
Helen said students were hesitant.  Why couldn’t they just email them or text them instead?
Blake and Brandon were firm.  They had to read the letter.  It was important for the person to hear their voice read the words.  That was the most important part.
Reluctantly, students began to disperse to corners of the room or head out to the hallway to make the call.
Blake and Brandon even had Helen do it.
At this point, Helen looked me in the eyes and said in a hushed voice that she had written a letter to her husband, Rory.  She wrote about how they had met decades ago during sno-fest week.  She was so happy when he finally asked her to the big dance at the end of the week.  Then she wrote about their wedding day, when their kids were born, how proud she was of Rory as a husband and father.
Helen said that she went out in the hallway to call Rory, who was subbing in Goodridge.  She didn’t know if he would be able to answer, but he did.  He was on his prep hour.  Helen said that she had to read him something and went right into her letter.
Helen said that after a few minutes, Rory’s breathing slowed.  She could tell he was sobbing.  She said that it was all she could do to keep it together so she didn’t start crying out there in the hallway.  She said she didn’t want to walk back into the classroom with mascara running down her cheeks.
She did hold it together, finished reading the letter, told Rory she loved him, hung up, and walked back into the class.
Helen then began asking students to share their letters – or at least the people they wrote about.  Since she was a remarkable teacher, Helen didn’t shy from sharing her letter with the class when it came her turn!
I was in awe.  These students had given their peers – and the people they had read their letters to – an amazing gift.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more out of a class.
I quickly texted Blake’s mom how proud I was of her son.  Then I explained their lesson to her.
A few moments later, Blake’s mother texted me back saying that she had to run to the bathroom at work because she was in tears!  She was so proud of her son and their lesson.
And the best part of all, it had nothing to do with me.  I wouldn’t have thought of that assignment (though you can be sure I’ll be stealing it from now on).  I simply gave the students freedom to learn and create on their own.  I gave them a few loose parameters with which to work.  Then I got out of their way (quite literally).
Teaching is a balancing act.  Sometimes I’m the sage on the stage.  More often I’m the guide on the side.  And when possible, I get to be a student in my very own room.  And I think that’s the best kind of teaching possible.
The next day when I spoke with Blake and Brandon, they were so full of pride about their lesson and the reactions it generated.  I told them to appreciate what they had done because they gave not only the students gifts, but they also gave gifts to people the students called.
When I said that, William, who was sitting at the same table as Blake and Brandon, joined the conversation by adding, “When I got home from school, Mom told me that when she listened to my message, she started crying.  She gave me a big hug and teared up again.”
Blake grinned at Brandon, and Brandon couldn’t help but laugh.  “That’s awesome,” he said, clearly proud of himself, their work, and their lesson.  
Real learning can’t be inspired by a state generated standard or measured by a high-stakes, multiple-choice test.   Real learning occurs when one person cares enough to take a risk to make an on another person.
I’m still letting the lesson of that lesson sink in.

Dave Burgess talks about how PIRATE teaching is an intersection of standards, methods, and presentation.  

I learned that sometimes (maybe quite often, actually) students are ahead of me when it comes to presentation. There is so much I can learn from them.

That's why I always answer the question - and I believe this comes from George Couros' The Innovator's Mindset - "Would you want to be a student in your classroom" with this simple statement: "I am."

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Finally! Football is back . . . even if it's just the Pre Season

Still.  It's football.


It's been forever since the NFL draft.

What I have always loved about the NFL pre season is that hope springs eternal for every team.  All teams, except the two chosen to play a week early in what is the Hall of Fame Game (tonight), have four preseason games.  Of those four games, there is really only one that matters: the third game.

Teams will only play their regulars for one series in their first pre season game.  And if you're an excellent team, like the Pats, for instance, there really isn't even a need to suit up your superstars for that first exhibition contest.

In the second pre season game, NFL teams will give their starts are quarter or so as prep for the all-important third pre season game.

In that third game, starters will likely play all of the first half and even a series or two in the second half.

The fourth game is the most meaningless really as no starters get time and the teams are just trying to get through the pre season healthy.  This is heaven for diehard NFL fans - like me who know this is the only time they'll really ever get to see the fourth string cornerback get a chance to play significant reps.

Hope springs eternal in the pre season because - even if you lose - there is still hope because the starters weren't playing full time and there's always time to get it straightened out.

I just hope the Bengals - my beloved and beleaguered favorite team- can get through healthy.  Last season health was a huge concern as AJ Green, Gio Bernard, and Tyler Eifiert (about 85% of the offense in 2015) missed significant time with major injuries.

If healthy, the Bengals have added some real weapons via the draft - namely John Ross III and Joe Mixon - to make their offense explosive.

Couple that with some much needed experience for last year's receivers - Tyler Boyd and Cody Core - and this could rival the offensive power of the 2015 and 2013 teams.

Defensively, with a healthy Andrew Billings and Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals should be back to being a solid unit that - if all goes well - can sneak back into the top ten.

Hopefully, the Bengals can stay healthy and get contributions from their top draft picks, which is something they haven't had since 2011 (AJ Green and Andy Dalton) and 2012 (Kevin Zeitler). Otherwise, top choices like Tyler Eiftert, Darqueez Denard, Cedric Ogbuihi, William Jackson III, and Andrew Billings all missed due to major injuries.

If they stay healthy, an 11-5 record is quite possible.  We shall see!

Bring on the 2017 season which pretty much starts tonight!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

This is a great idea for when students don't submit homework: having them craft a letter (in business letter format) detailing why they didn't get their work in on time.

I'm going to use this next week.  I just wish I would have come across this sooner, for I had several students who really fell behind.  Having them craft letters home to their parents explaining why they didn't do their homework accomplishes several things I love: First, it holds them accountable.  I mean if I miss work, I have to come up with an explanation and then I have to do the work of getting sub plans ready.  Second, it keeps their parents informed, especially when it comes from the child.  Third, it teaches them culpability, for they are (trying to) take a modicum of responsibility.  Fourth, it gives them practice in letter writing and communicating with adults, which is something that will come in handy in both the workplace and in college.  Fifth, since I will be CC'd in the letter, maybe a student has a legit excuse for not being able to get their homework done, and I will be persuaded to give them an extension.  Sixth, students will be getting practice at argument and support in crafting their explanation.


I'm going to tweak it just one way: I'm going to have them first send a text right away to their parents (in front of me) simply stating "I didn't do my homework for Mr. Reynolds.  I'll email you explaining why in a few minutes."  I will watch them text this and send it.  Then I will help them craft their letter.

An interesting aside - if you read the comments in the blog post, you have a few folks spouting indignation at the author.  I laugh at this.

"I’m still reflecting on the strategy. It is borderline punitive, “if you do not do this…then I will tell your parents.” Have you considered sitting down with student and determining why they did not do the assignment before contacting parents? If this intervention doesn’t work, I can see getting parents involved but bringing them into the situation prematurely seems to destroy any relationship and trust a student has with you."

First, these people have clearly never taught real high school students before.  Second, as a parent, I would love to see a teacher force my student to take some responsibility for their lack of effort.

I just shake my head at the person who worries that this is punitive.  Of course, it's punitive!  They didn't do their homework.  What work are you living in?  What's wrong with a little punishment?

And only a person who has never ever set foot in a real classroom would ever through around a phrase like "destroy any relationship and trust a student has with you."

Puhlease.  Parents can check their kids' grades any time.  There's actually an app that allows them to get text messages when an assignment comes in.

The real point of having students craft the letter is not to punish them.  It's to hold them accountable.

Another person wrote this wonderful comment -

"Your strategy incorrectly assumes that all students have control over their learning environment and productivity. 
What about those students whose ineffective parents prevent them from completing or submitting work. How do you avoid making home worse for those kids? Even if the kid has good parents, that doesn’t mean those parents have the skills necessary to help students improve their writing productivity or proficiency.
You also assume that all kids produce writing at the same pace. Have you thought about asking students to log their progress during class and monitoring their writing strategies? Building metacognition will more effectively improve all students’ writing.
How can you make your learning environment more conducive to that child making progress?"

Again.  This is someone who has never ever set foot in a real classroom.  Parents are allies, not enemies.

Only someone who has never set foot in a real classroom with real high school students would only utter the jargon "incorrectly assumes that all students have control over their learning environment and productivity."

That is called enabling.  Stop it.

Hold students accountable.  If they can't work at home, go to the media center.  Or if they are in a class like mine, make use of their in-class work time to draft.

The author of the blog has a beautiful response to the critic above -

"Your comment about all of the assumptions I’m making about my kids suggests that you may not be familiar with my work or my approach to teaching. I wonder if after reading a bit more about my work and my current program if you would be asking me to think about how I can make my learning environment more conducive to supporting my students in making progress. 
That is what I call - boom. roasted.


10 Ways to Help Kids With Learning Differences That Could Benefit all Students

I love this idea.

Last night at our podcast club meeting, we talked about how the best professional development comes from within a school.  We have experts all around us.  There isn't always a need to pay thousands of dollars to have someone come up from Minneapolis to teach us.

This article is a great example of that.

There is so much we can learn from our special ed teachers that we could apply to our regular ed classes.


Speaking of the Podcast Club, here is the podcast we listened to and discussed last night: Living an Inspired Life with John O'Leary.

This is powerful.  It is well worth your time.  I promise you that you won't forget it.

There was so much that I liked about it.  Here are some of the highlights for me.

I love the quote he referenced from a holocaust survivor - if you know your why, you can endure any how.

I love that.  And it's so true.

Another thing I loved was his take on three simple questions.

When things are going rough for people who don't know their why, they tend to ask these three questions.

First, "Why me?"  Why do I deserve this?  Why did God do this to me?  It's all out of their control and they feel like a victim.

Second, "Why me?" leads to "Who cares?"  When things go from bad to worse, it seems like those people who are overly negative or lack their why, default to this question.  Something bad has happened to me, so who cares about how I respond to it.  Who cares about these little brats for kids that I have?  Who cares that my I visited my elderly parents for three months?  Who cares that I'm late for work every day?  Who cares that my students aren't being challenged?

Third, the first two questions lead to the last - and most devastating question: "What's the point?"  O'Leary knows where this one leads: deep depression and, often, self-harm or even suicide.

But O'Leary, who recovered from horrific burns to live an inspired life and impact the lives of many, says when you know your why, those questions take on a totally different meaning.

First, "Why me?"  Yes.  Why me?  Why did I get a job teaching students?  Why did I survive my car accident?  Why am I blessed with the ability to get up every moment and do what I love?  Why am I lucky to have an amazing family?  Why did God choose to take my parents from me at such an early age?  (Because I can now value my own health and family all that much more).

Second, "Who cares?"  My family.  My friends.  My students.  Everyone cares.  It matters what I do with my life and my why.

Finally, "What's the point?"  The point is to live an inspired life and positively impact as many people as I can.

That leads me to believe, I am so lucky that I was gifted my why, my family, my faith, my job, my friends . . .


This week we will listen to one of my all time favorite people for our Podcast Club: Seth Godin.

Good old Seth.  One of my heroes.

In this podcast, the host, Ken Coleman, asks Godin to reflect on something Coleman did as a parent.  Coleman explained how his son, a fifth grader, was a student in a class who goes to this job fair that is set up like a town.  Every student is then given a job, based on their interests and passions and talents.  

But, Coleman, adds that his son was given the job of a "meter man" where he would go from home to home and check the electricity meters.  Coleman explained how his son was devastated by this.  He has a passion for something else entirely, namely video editing.  So Coleman explained how - instead of having his son do the assignment - he pulled his son out of school and brought him to Ramsey Solutions, where Coleman works, and had him follow his passion and play around with video and editing.

Godin handles it well.  As a teacher, I was a bit offended.  I mean Coleman always talks negatively about helicopter parents and about how stupid it is to follow your passion and how there is dignity in all work . . . but when it came to his son . . . well - magically - those rules just don't apply.

Nothing like living your core values, right?


I would like to think had he talked with the teacher and the school, they could have made an accommodation.  

Had I been the teacher, I would have had Coleman and his son make a video on what it is to be a meter man and why they are still relevant in our world today.  That way, he'd be doing what he loves (video editing) but also still completing the assignment for class.

Godin said, had he been the father, he'd have made his son do the assignment and had his son find a way to be the best meter man he could possibly be.  I love that answer.  For it still empowered the teacher and the school and it would have taught Coleman's son a valuable lesson: all work matters and sometimes we have to do things we don't like in this world.  I mean Coleman always raves about how stupid it is to follow your passion and how young people just need to find a job and make their way in the world instead of following their passion (listen to his interview with Mike Rowe to hear first hand).

But I guess that applies to just other peoples' kids.


Speaking of parenting, here is an interesting read on helicopter parents and how they are ruining the work place.

Michigan State University surveyed more than 700 employers seeking to hire recent college graduates. Nearly one-third said parents had submitted resumes on their child's behalf. One-quarter reported hearing from parents urging the employer to hire their son or daughter for a position. Four percent of respondents reported that a parent actually showed up for the candidate's job interview.

This reminds me of when I was part of the scholarship selection committee at LHS.  We received an application from a student.  It was hand written instead of typed.  Now, I happened to have had this kid in class so I was familiar with his handwriting.  When I looked at the scholarship application and the accompanying essay, it was clearly not his handwriting.  It looked like a woman had written it: his mother!

Needless to say, we didn't accept that scholarship application, nor did we accept any of the others that she had filled out for him!!!

The next time you criticize a young person, just remember we played a crucial role in making them the way they are!


I found this on my desktop.  On the first day of class, instead of giving students my expectations for them, I have them list their expectations of me as their teacher.  I had to take a picture of this one because it inspires me every day.


This is why I love people!


Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Podcast Club

Several weeks ago, a good friend of mine, Brian Loe, who is our dean of students at Challenger, texted me wanting some leadership/personal development titles to listen to as he worked on his father in law's farm over the summer.

We have shared titles and books and links over the past few years, so I quickly went to my go-to professional development podcast: Entreleadership.

There are well over 200 podcasts now.  I stumbled upon Entreleadership several years ago when I was reading Simon Sinek's Start With Why.  I listened to the very first podcast and was hooked.  I have learned more about teaching and leadership and building culture from this podcast than any PD speaker/presenter I've witnessed or education course I have ever taken.

I sent Brian a list of about 15 episodes that I thought he'd find relevant.  It was then that Brian had a great idea.  He texted me suggesting we start a "podcast club."  We'd run it just like a traditional book club: we'd select an episode from Entreleadership, listen to it and take notes on it over the course of a week, and then we'd select a time to meet in person and discuss it.

As we kicked the idea around, Brian asked who we should ask to join.  So we came up with some names of our colleagues who, like us, are leadership, professional development, and personal improvement junkies.

Then we decided to meet and see who showed up.  July17th was our first meeting at the Evergreen.  We focused on this amazing podcast from Lee Cockerell who once was in charge of running Disney World.

Here is the link if you are interested.  It's well worth the listen.

There was a total of four of us.  The hour and a half we visited seemed to go by in about 20 minutes.  I became a better teacher, leader, and colleague because of it.  I was on a high for the next few days.

For our second meeting, which was on July 24th, we chose to listen to an episode featuring Dr. Tim Elmore  about leading the next generation of students and workers.  I read this book Generation iY last summer and was blown away.

Here is the link to our second podcast, if you are interested.  This too is well worth your time.  I can't believe I ever taught without having heard this information.  This was a real eye opener for me as a teacher and parent.

There were again four of us, (Brian couldn't make it this time and Kelly was traveling) but we picked up a new member (Kelsey).  We had another amazing conversation, which was great since we had teachers from the high school (Kali and me), middle school (Josh), and the elementary school (Kelsey).  Again, two hours went by in about 20 minutes.  

Now we have selected, at the request of Josh Watne, to listen to an episode on Living an Inspired Life featuring the amazing John O'Leary.

We will meet again at the Evergreen (in the Pine Cone Pub) to talk leadership, living an inspired life, how to be the best teachers we can be, and how to positively impact the lives of students around us.  

As I think back to this group and all that I learn from them, a compliment our outgoing principal paid me a few weeks ago.  I emailed him to get his thoughts on a new assignment I was thinking of doing in my College Comp classes.  In his feedback, he wrote,  "Remember, you chose a long time ago to be more than a teacher of English"  

When we discuss these podcasts and apply them to our craft as teachers, we are clearly focusing on more than just teaching our disciplines.  Our quest - as idealistic as it sounds - is to change the lives of our students.  How can't that get you fired up?

If that sounds like you, please meet with us on Monday at the Evergreen.  I'll be there at 6:50 sharp after an 8 hour meeting as part of our Building Leadership Team talking about our strategic plan for LHS.  That's what I call, living the dream!

Seriously, this is just so much fun.  Monday nights at seven at the Evergreen.  I don't know how much longer we will continue to meet once August wears on and school eventually starts, but, right now, I'd take this group over watching Monday Night Football any day!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

The fear of failure.

So often we (not to mention parents) want to try and insulate kids from failure.  But this article finds that mistakes prime kids for better learning.

Shock. Shock. Shock.  Right?

How can you learn if you don't make mistakes?

I found this passage particularly interesting -

Most of us can remember a moment like this from our school years: the teacher poses a question – maybe it’s math, maybe history. You raise your hand, you give your answer with full assurance. And then? You’re shot down. You got it wrong.

We remember moments like this because they brim with some of our least favorite emotions: shame, humiliation, self-recrimination, and that gutting sense that you want to melt into the floor. Ah yes, I remember it well.

As it turns out, though, such moments are ripe with learning opportunity. Contrary to what many of us might guess, making a mistake with high confidence and then being corrected is one of the most powerful ways to absorb something and retain it.

I love this.  I can recall several times where I thought for sure I was right . . . but in the end I was wrong or I was doing something incorrect.

Once I got over my hurt feelings and sense of guilt (for failing and letting others down and doing it wrong), I was able to recover and succeed.

The author goes in depth how American teachers tend to focus less on mistakes and focus on what students do right instead.

This isn't always bad.  In fact, I've had a lot of success in teaching writing by focusing on the strengths of my writers instead of focusing on all that they do wrong.  The thinking is that they will eventually do more of what they are good at and less of what they struggle with.

But - then again - I teach our real high flyers, so this approach might not work best for all students.  And - now that I think about it - this approach my work best early on in the semester.  But later - as students' skills grow - they need more detailed criticism and feedback to truly grow.

The author notes that Asian teachers, though, take a different approach.  In math especially, instead of being shown one way to solve a problem - as tends to happen in American class rooms - Asian teachers allow students to find numerous ways to try and solve the problem.  Along the way students struggle and receive feedback.  Little praise is given.  Students are being taught that hard work and struggle are part of learning, instead of compliance and conformity, which one of my favorite people in education, Ken Robinson, has ripped American education for.

I think what is was work here is the growth mindset.

And it makes a great deal of sense to me.


If you listen to anything, listen to this amazing podcast from the incredible John O'Leary on how to lead an inspiring life.  And, really, what other kind of life is there to lead?

We are listening to this as part of our "podcast club" (a few leadership/personal development junkies from the district).

One of my former students, Brian Loe, who is Dean of Students at Challenger, texted me (and he has for years now) about interesting books and podcasts to listen to over the summer while he farms for his father-in-law.

I suggested several episodes from the incredible enterleadership podcast series.

A few weeks ago, Brian and I were texting our thoughts about the various episodes when Brian suggested starting "podcast club" where we choose one podcast to listen to.  We'd have a week to listen to it and then get together to discuss what we thought of it, how we'd use it in class, and how it might impact students.

Then we invited a few others who we thought were also leadership and personal development junkies like us.  Next Monday will mark our third meeting.

This week's episode - featuring John O'Leary - was suggested by Josh Watne.

I couldn't have picked a better episode if I wanted.

Give it a listen and join us seven o'clock at the Evergreen if you want to discuss it!  We'd love to have you.


I cannot tell you how sad this makes me.

Why would you value home life so little that you wouldn't go out of your way to help.

This horrific story works as a great juxtaposition to the O'Leary podcast, for O'Leary talks about the team of doctors, nurses, janitors, athletes, and community members who went out of their way to help a little kid who was burned over 95% of his body.

Yet, these teens can't even call 911 or throw something to this drowning man?

I hope they are tried for murder.


From questioning my faith in humanity to restoring it:  This officer shows up for a tea party for a little girl who he helped deliver on the side of the road.



My colleague, Lisa, and I received a grant at the end of the school year last year for flexible seating.

I can't wait to get started.  Luckily for me, KoKo is going to help me rearrange my room.

Here is an interesting article on one teacher's quest for flexible seating . . . or as she puts it, turning her class into a "learning lounge."

Which classroom would your rather spend your day in? OR what classroom would you rather have your child spend their time in?





I'm stealing this stand up desk idea from Kayla Delzer.  I just have to enlist KoKo to help me with it.  This will free up so much room in my room as well as provide me with extra storage space, which, if you have seen may room, you know I need all the storage space I can get!


A must read for all teachers and parents: Steps for Cultivating a Love of Reading in Young Children.


Not good.  Not good.  Not good.

On either side.

I saw this on Facebook and didn't have time to check it out until now.

Apparently, this woman is angry at some Somalian girls who parked too close to her car at a Wal-Mart in Fargo.

When the lady asked the girls to move - according to the lady - they were very disrespectful to her.

Not good.

This, apparently, sent the lady off on a racist tired where she said that "We're gonna kill all of ya . . ."

Not good.

We live in a world where things like this can go viral in a second.  And it has.  I believe one of the Somalian girls posted it on Facebook . . . and you can imagine how things took off from there.

The woman, of course, apologized and said it wasn't the Christian thing to do AT ALL.

Of course, it isn't.

I just wonder about this.  I'm a Christian.  I get angry just like anyone else.  But what does it take to go from being a Christian when everyone is watching on Facebook to screaming that "We're going to kill all of ya" when you are angry?

Not good.

We were discussing this at work this morning and one of my colleagues said that if the white lady would have been smart, she would have reversed the tables on the girls and as soon as the white lady saw the kids were parked so close, she should have begun filming them.

Then she would have clear evidence to show their disrespect toward her that incited the racist remarks.


Finally, this is an excerpt from Frank McCourt's memoir, 'Tis. It focuses on his move to America and his struggle as a high school English teacher.

This part is when - after some years in the field - McCourt realizes the folly of teaching just the curriculum instead of teaching students.  It is at this moment that, or so I believe, McCourt really becomes a teacher.

From 'Tis: A Memoir -

I followed the teacher’s guides. I launched the prefabricated questions at my classes. I hit them with surprise quizzes and tests and destroyed them with the ponderous detailed examinations concocted by college professors who assemble high school text books.

Everyday I’d teach with my guts in a knot, lurking behind my desk at the front of the room playing the teacher game with the chalk, the eraser, the red pen, the teacher guides, the power of the quiz, the test, the exam. I’ll call your father, I’ll call your mother. ,I’ll report you to the governor, I’ll damage your average so badly kid you’ll be lucky to get into a community college in Mississippi. Weapons of menace and control.

A senior, Jonathan, bangs his forehead on his desk and wales, Why? Why? Why do we have to suffer with this shit? We’ve been in school since kindergarten, thirteen years, and why do we have to know what color shoes Mrs. Dalloway was wearing at her goddam party and what are we supposed to make of Shakespeare troubling deaf heaven with his bootless cries and what the hell is a bootless cry anyway and when did heaven turn deaf?

Around the room rumbles of rebellion and I’m paralyzed. They’re saying Yeah, yeah to Jonathan, who halts his head banging to ask, Mr. McCourt, did you have this stuff in high school? and there’s another chorus of yeah yeah and I don’t know what to say. Should I tell them the truth, that I never set foot in a high school till I began teaching in one or should I feed them a lie about a rigorous secondary school education with the Christian Brothers in Limerick?

I’m saved, or doomed, by another student who calls out, Mr. McCourt, my cousin went to McKee on Staten Island and she said you told them you never went to high school and they said you were an okay teacher anyway because you told stories and talked and never bothered them with these tests.

Smiles around the room. Teacher unmasked. Teacher never even went to high school and look what he’s doing to us, driving us crazy with tests and quizzes. I’m branded forever with the label, teacher who never went to high school.

So, Mr. McCourt, I thought you had to get a license to teach in the city.

You do.

Don’t you have to get a college degree?

You do.

Don’t you have to graduate high school?

You mean graduate from high school, from high school, from from from.

Yeah, yeah. Okay. Don’t you have to graduate from high school to get into college?

I suppose you do.

Tyro lawyer grills teacher, carries the day, and word spreads to my other classes. Wow, Mr. McCourt, you never went to high school and you’re teaching at Stuyvesant? Cool, man.

And into the trash basket I drop my teaching guides, my quizzes, tests, examinations, my teacher-knows-all mask.

I’m naked and starting over and I hardly know where to begin.