Late work IS still a problem

A good friend recently returned to teaching high school, after a long hiatus. Now she’s kind of like Rip Van Winkle, waking up to see how the world around her has changed. The biggest shock so far, she told me, is the idea that due dates don’t matter much anymore. She can’t wrap her head…

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Do SMART goals limit teachers’ vision?

Writing SMART goals — “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound” — is now a fall rite of passage for public school teachers, right up there with crafting a syllabus, assigning seats and putting up bulletin boards. This process always strikes me as perfunctory. Do SMART goals really get us anywhere? Or is this just another…

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It’s not about obedience anymore

What do puppy training and teaching have in common? More than you might imagine. A month ago, we adopted a new dog, Taffy, into our home. She’s two years old, a terrier-ish “rescue,” described by her foster family as “very high energy.” (We also have Star, another terrier-ish “rescue,” who is about five years old.)…

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Kids work like crazy when they have a purpose

What does motivation look like? I saw it in the faces of about 40 kids at Irondale High School (MN) on Saturday morning. They were the KnightKrawler robotics team members, gathered in the library at 9:30 a.m., waiting for the “big reveal.” Saturday was the day when organizers of the global FIRST Robotics competition announced…

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The elusive promise of ‘choice’

School-choice advocates are cheering the nomination of Betsy DeVos to head Trump’s Department of Education, while public school proponents are worried about what her leadership would mean for the future of public education. What is it about charter schools and voucher systems, which DeVos unabashedly supports, that makes them so divisive? Why do many conservatives…

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83% get a diploma, but what is it worth?

What should a high school diploma mean? What should 12 years of public education add up to? In my view, it should mean you are ready for a job or for general postsecondary training. It should mean we have given you the appropriate skills for your next academic step. Not every graduate needs to be…

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Motivation, without the guilt

At the end of last year, when I was stepping down as newspaper adviser, my student editors put together a surprise “tribute” page where they shared nice comments about me. One that really stuck with me was this: “She always pushed me to work harder and never made me feel guilty for not finishing something.”…

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All kids deserve to compete

Taking my students to competitions — like the Junior Achievement Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. this week — is rewarding because they work hard and perform well, and sometimes they win. It’s also humbling because I get to see how much energy teenagers will devote to an activity they love. In class, kids might…

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Fail fast… or not at all?

It’s been a few years since I have failed a student. Usually, the extensive scaffolding, phone calls home, opportunities for retakes and frequent attention/harassment I provide are enough to keep everyone on track, at least enough to earn an honest D. In the few cases where they are not — the student who rarely comes…

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Any questions??

If we want our kids to become “lifelong learners,” one of the most important skills we can teach them is how to ask questions. Once you leave your formal education, the world isn’t going to spoon feed you information anymore. You actually have to find your own answers, whether it’s “Where is the bathroom?” or…

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