Great teaching? Only if they’re learning

He’s a great teacher, but when he was explaining calculus, I really couldn’t understand it. He ran a good workshop, but when one of the teachers didn’t get something, he just explained it the same way again. Is anyone else confused? I heard both of these comments this summer — just part of casual backyard…

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When model students become the teachers…

Were you the kind of high school student who always did your homework? Who always studied for tests? Who came to class prepared? Or were you kind who procrastinated? Who scraped by on what you could pick up in class? Who was too busy or distracted to pick up a book or notebook at home?…

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High-engagement activities make for a strong end to the school year

What do you do with your class after an AP test? Amuse the students with movies and games Engage the students in a high-interest project or lesson Count down the days till school is over Nothing at all Some AP teachers are done teaching on test day, thanks to their schools’ mid-May graduations. But for…

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Could design thinking help us design better school policies?

I’m reading Tim Brown’s book Change by Design, part of my prep work for my job as Chief Educator-in-Residence at Quarter Zero, and I keep wondering: What if we used design thinking to tackle everyday problems in schools? For example, tardies. Tardies drive high school teachers and administrators crazy for so many reasons, but here…

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Schoolwork deadlines: Are they valuable, or just arbitrary rules?

Few issues spark more disagreement among teachers than late work. On one side: The real world has real deadlines. High school students need to learn this lesson now. On the other: Grades should reflect what students know — not their ability to meet arbitrary deadlines. Both sides have good points. The real world does have…

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Help students learn to manage stress during ‘testing season’

The ACTs and state testing are just behind us, and AP tests, final projects and final exams are right around the corner. Remember what it felt like to be a high school student under that kind of stress? Even teenagers who don’t have a mental illness, like anxiety or depression, can feel overwhelmed and stressed…

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Memorization isn’t understanding, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad

Now that we can google every fact, formula, date, direction, definition and synonym, many of us deride memorization as a pointless exercise. Instead, we focus on building understanding, developing critical thinking and scaling Bloom’s Taxonomy. To a large extent, I agree with this shift. I think our students are far better served by learning to…

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We talk about equality of opportunity, but do we really demand it?

In February, I wrote a blog post about the difference between social justice and socialism. In it, I defined social justice as “the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.” One skeptical reader responded: “There is literally NO ONE that disagrees with that definition of social justice. Everyone wants equality…

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Be a good role model — because your students ARE paying attention

In the past few weeks, two former students (both female) told me I had been a role model to them — but for different reasons. One, who had suffered academic bullying in high school, said I had shown her how to be a strong woman. She emailed to tell me how she had finally stood…

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Five questions for parent conversations

For teachers, parent nights and parent phone calls are often a deep source of stress. It’s never fun to be the bearer of bad news — and there will be some difficult conversations when students are struggling. We want to communicate with our students’ parents, but we don’t want to say the wrong thing, and…

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