Education

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” ― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Thirty Seconds. Every Student. Every Day

It’s hard to be a teenager. On Thursday, some of my students were trying to process their fears about what happened in Florida while others were dealing with the no less real pain of hearts left just a little battered by Valentine’s Day and the pangs of unrequited love. Whether it’s the fear that their schools might not be safe places or the world...

Best Reads of 2016

While this was the year I finally read the Harry Potter series and revisited some old favorites like Jose Saramago’s The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, I also managed to read a collection of surprising and interesting titles that were neither about wizards and witches nor books I had read and loved before.  Of the 80 or so books I read this year, these were...

Mark Slouka: Dehumanized

Tomorrow, we’ll be discussing one of my favorite articles, Dehumanized by Mark Slouka. In it, he writes, The humanities, done right, are the crucible within which our evolving notions of what it means to be fully human are put to the test; they teach us, incrementally, endlessly, not what to do but how to be…. They are thus, inescapably, political. Why? Because...

Ten Books That Have Had the Most Lasting Personal Impact

A number of my friends on Facebook have recently shared lists of ten books that have had the most lasting impact on their lives and challenged others to do the same. I decided to cheat a little bit, and post a separate category for childhood favorites and those that endured into adulthood. That there is no room on the list for The Great Gatsby, Invisible Man...

The More I Know: Should I Recommend a Career in Education for My Students?

This year marks the 25th year of NBC’s The More You Know campaign of public service announcements on topics ranging from alcoholism to turning the lights off to save energy. In the course of reading this interesting article about the series, I came across an early TMYK ad from Bill Cosby, in which he suggested that young people consider a career in education. I’ll...

On the Importance of Teaching Edge in Writing

The Sisyphean task of teaching a class of students how to write interesting argumentative essays has begun again in earnest, with the first essay of the year assigned to my AP Language students. The topic I’ve chosen(the role of media violence in actual violence) certainly isn’t groundbreaking, as some told me they’ve already written it before, but I tried to dress...

Wallace Stegner and Chief Seattle

Two letters in class today, one from Wallace Stegner to a government agent, and one from Chief Seattle to President Pierce. I’ve always struggled with whether I should teach the “Seattle” letter, given its doubtful provenance, but the message seems to resonate with my students. From Wallace Stegner: “Something will have gone out of us as a...

Common Instruction is Uncommonly Bad for Our Students

The year was 2014, and everybody was finally equal. I’ve been a teacher for fourteen years, thirteen in the Helena School District, and I’ve never been more nervous about my future as an educator. In the time I’ve spent as a teacher, I’ve endured some principals with dubious qualifications, a vacuum where a curriculum should have been, and more changes in District...

On the Occasional Frustrations of Being a Public School Teacher

I wrote this post six years ago today. For some reason, it was on my mind again. It hasn’t been a good week here at the blog–my apologies for denying any of you who visit the opportunity to read snarky commentary about Brad Johnson. I know you miss it, but I’ve just been feeling a bit overwhelmed with school the past week, and haven’t had the...