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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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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New grading schemes seem logical, but do they improve student learning?

I have one question for anyone promoting an overhaul of their high school grading system: How will it impact your students’ mindset, motivation, and learning? OK, maybe that’s three questions wrapped in one. But I feel like these are questions nobody is asking, and I want answers. If we’re investing time, money and teacher energy…

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We have so much to learn

What did you read over break? As usual I plowed through a few fun books, like Ruth Ware’s The Lying Game, Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. But I also set aside time for a few “good” books — you know, the ones that require a little more…

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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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Lean Startup: Powerful for teachers

Last week, I had the opportunity to teach the Lean Startup/Design Thinking method of entrepreneurship to an inaugural group of Minnesota teachers. It was the most fun I’ve ever had leading a workshop. (The image above is from a pitch deck designed by several of the participants.) The feedback I got from teachers was similarly…

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What we need – and don’t need – from PD

If I’m going to dedicate an hour of my life to professional development, I want one of two things: Insight into a challenging part of my course content, or New strategies I can use to help my students learn Anything else feels like a waste of my time, so I try to keep that in…

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What I wish I knew starting out

This weekend, I was asked: What do you wish you had known when you first started teaching economics? Although there are plenty of economics concepts I wish I’d understood better back in 2002, like the relationship between bonds and interest rates, how to calculate terms of trade, what a liquidity trap is (I told kids…

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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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Teaching teachers? At least model good teaching

It’s bad enough when someone puts up a PowerPoint and talks at me for an hour about a dull topic like ACT test prep, choosing a textbook or the school’s new tardy policy. But when a conference presenter who promises a session on “inquiry learning” puts up a tiny-font PowerPoint and lectures me about how…

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