What can I even say?

It feels ridiculous to write about anything but the Parkland shooting this week. It’s on all of our minds in every single high school in this country, even as we try to keep things normal yet again for our too-vulnerable students. How could we not think about it when we locked our doors yesterday for…

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Not giving up on homework yet

When I first started teaching in 1994, assigning homework was a no-brainer. It was part of the Madeline Hunter model — “independent practice” — and part of preparing high school students for independent learning in college. It’s also how I was taught. In high school in the ’80s, I spent hours each night doing math…

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Living the 1970s dream: A lesson in critical thinking

Are Americans’ lives getting worse? Or does it just seem that way? One of our core responsibilities as high school teachers is to help our students develop critical thinking skills, learn to question assumptions and challenge “common sense”. It’s something we humans are bad at — as a rule — for all sorts of complex…

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Overwhelmed by exceptions

Cartoon from http://theprocessconsultant.com/  If you’re not a teacher, it’s easy to think a teacher’s job is three things: Design and deliver effective lessons Check students’ understanding through daily work, and Evaluate tests and various sort of papers, like essays and lab reports. But that’s just the easy part. Our job is really about managing ambiguity, trying…

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Kids can learn online, but they often don’t

Is Khan Academy or Crash Course (or something like it) going to drive public schools out of business? Online competition has already dominated our traditional ways of doing almost everything –planning vacations, looking for jobs, watching TV, playing games, meeting dates, talking to friends, consuming news. Just ask my former colleagues in the newspaper business.…

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Are we ready for student speech?

“Do you think high school students have the same right to free speech as adults?” This warmup question, which I used for years as an introduction to teaching Tinker v. Des Moines to my Civil Liberties classes, sparked a heated discussion among teachers at a workshop I led earlier this week. No issue is more…

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A solution – or a new problem?

Yesterday, I received an email from “R” saying a parent was requesting that I join 55 other teachers at my school who are “already using Remind.” This struck me as odd. Was the request really from a parent? (“R” came with no last name or email address.) Are parents demanding this, or is it clever…

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A cynical take on the value of school

Last week, a Slate.com article on a new technology to track mental engagement (Pay Attention!) raised the issue of boredom in school, quoting this stat: “82 percent of U.S. high school students report being sometimes or often bored in class.” Like me, the writer Mary Mann (also the author of Yawn: Adventures in Boredom) clearly…

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Like so much that’s worth learning, trade is complicated

Teachers spend a lot of time trying to break down difficult concepts and make them easier for our students to digest, but what about when the truth is just complicated? How can we combat the crisis of oversimplification in this country and get our kids to muddle around in complexity? This weekend, I taught my…

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‘Flush with funds’ sounds nice

My school district spends about $13,000/student each year. President Trump’s children went to private schools that cost $30,000-$50,000. Baron’s elementary school in New York charges $47,000 per student this year. So I wonder what our president means when he says our public schools are “flush with funds”? I wonder what it would be like to…

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