“What are your thoughts on student motivation?” my principal recently asked. Knowing that I have an interest in motivation, as well as a love of working with at-risk students, he wanted to know my thoughts on why our achievement gap wasn't narrowing. As a teacher, I of course had many thoughts. But, the many thoughts … Continue reading What Kills Student Motivation? We Asked Them.
It's coming. Soon. Before you know it, we'll be back in school trying to bolster up our mental fortitude for that one reoccurring event that taxes our patience and our joy: The dreaded staff meeting. Soon we'll be jammed into a library or cafeteria, forced to awkwardly create those collegial good vibes and hurrahs. If … Continue reading Survive your upcoming school year with Staff Meeting BINGO!
My favorite event of the school year is graduation. But it's not the graduation you are picturing. I love the graduation ceremony of our local alternative high school, the kind of school at which many teachers scoff. You know the one: filled with the “problems” and misfits that weren't smart enough, motivated enough, good enough … Continue reading A Graduation that Taught Me About Student Resilience
We sometimes find ourselves in a culture of product-based praise. The A's, the high test scores, the right answers: These are our educational celebrities. But we lose sight of the process, the effort, the risk it takes learners to achieve those great scores and grade point averages. In doing so, the message is sent: The product is … Continue reading 7 Ninja Moves for Increasing Academic Risk-Taking
When I first started teaching, I actually gave stock to the garbage of an educational aphorism, “Don't smile until Christmas.” I remember thinking, “I'm young . . . I look even younger. I need to lay down the hammer early so kids don't mess with me.” And there I was, reading the syllabus with a … Continue reading Don’t Smile ’til Christmas: A Teacher’s Worst Advice
Picture a baby. A fresh one. Straight out of the womb. It's probably making a bunch of noise. It's probably gross looking (let's be honest: this whole “cute newborn” thing is a myth). Despite the grossness of this baby, it came into the world wired with a certain skill set. On a résumé, this baby … Continue reading How Academic Risk-Taking Dies in the Classroom
Twenty-four of my students are failing. Only two are passing. They are failing in the grade book. They are failing in mastering content. They are failing in overcoming the abyss of apathy that is a characteristic of the students I teach. And, because of this, I am failing. I have tried dozens of techniques and … Continue reading An Open Letter to Myself: Don’t Give Up
How am I going to transition to the next lesson? What's that smell? What am I going to have the kids who finish early do until the bell rings? Do you think any of them actually like this book? I hope our staff meeting doesn't go long; I've got to get home to my puppy … Continue reading Staying Present in the Classroom: Practicing Mindful Teaching
The voice comes from the center of your chest. "You should become a teacher." As it settles in, warm and satisfying, a counter-voice calls from the surface of your brain: "Are you sure you want that as a career? I mean, is it worth it?" For you, this question, with its conflicting answers, hovers, a haunting phantom of past, … Continue reading To Teach or Not to Teach: Is it Worth the Money?
Nothing is worse than not having a driver’s license as a teen. Other than having to wait around for your mom to pick you up. Which is my life right now. Waiting. Watching every other jerk get picked up from driver’s training. They’ve all been scooped up by their timely parents. All except me. And, … Continue reading The Lesson of Every Conversation: Encouraging Teens to Have Meaningful Interactions