Why a brand-new master schedule isn’t the solution

Note to readers: I try to post every week, but a summer full of PD workshops has turned out to be busier than the school year! I hope you’re having a restful July.  In the past few weeks leading AP summer institutes for Macro/Micro teachers, I’ve had a lot of discussions about the “school day.”…

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What do we do when students don’t know seemingly everyday words?

When is the last time you encountered words (in English) that you didn’t know? How did it impact your understanding? How did it make you feel? I encounter unfamiliar words once in a while, but I honestly can’t recall a recent example. The last time I was truly stymied by vocabulary was my sophomore year…

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Let’s give our students better role models – and more ways to pursue ‘success’

This was a difficult year at our high school. We lost two students and several recent graduates to suicide. The losses weighed heavy on our community, and students responded with petitions and other initiatives calling for less stress, more understanding, and more help dealing with mental illnesses, especially anxiety and depression. The student newspaper ran…

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End this year on a thoughtful note

It’s the end of another school year, and that means lots of lists, lots of dotting i’s and crossing t’s. Check in the textbooks. Box up the classroom shelves. Try to impose order on the chaotic school-year filing system. Then, return the IEP/accommodation plan binders to the office. Turn in final grades. Report progress toward…

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Our students want to do work — when it’s work that matters

I love this story from last week’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune about North High students presenting research on social issues at a recent University of Minnesota symposium. One student presented his research on police brutality. Another her work on disparate maternal mortality rates for black women. Other topics included domestic abuse, poverty and immigration. The students surveyed…

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Teaching writing is everyone’s job

Nothing is more difficult to teach — at least at the K-12 level — than writing. You can teach kids vocabulary terms and math formulas and scientific principles all sorts of ways, both good and bad. You can lecture, assign reading, assign videos, hand out worksheets, develop experiments, create matching games. But no one can…

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Why I actually like AP season

There are a lot of reasons people hate the AP (Advanced Placement) program. To start with, the stress of AP testing season, which is upon us. Then the fact that some colleges no longer give credit for passing AP tests, so it feels like wasted money. Some people hate AP because they don’t believe high…

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College admissions IS a mania, but that doesn’t negate the value of hard work

It’s college decision season, so the internet is filled with chatter about the insanity of the current college application process. The main themes are anxiety and frustration. Anxiety driven by the fear that nothing short of a perfect GPA, multiple leadership positions, a resume full of volunteering and a patent will ensure college admission and…

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The grading is the hardest part

For all the time we spend talking about assessment, we don’t spend nearly enough of it talking about time. I mean the time it takes to grade everything. In an ideal world, our work would look like this: Students learn a new concept, like the flaws of Keynesian fiscal policy. Students have several opportunities to…

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Moving to PBL is a challenging (but worthy) task for teachers

Changing the way we teach is hard. At times, almost overwhelmingly hard. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I was invited to sit in with a terrific group of New Richmond, Wisconsin, teachers who are using my book (Beat Boredom) for a book study. The 20 teachers in the book study are meeting for…

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