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…Read More
All articles filed in incentives
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…Read More
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…Read More
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.)…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More
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.”…Read More
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…Read More
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…Read More