Don’t Smile ’til Christmas: A Teacher’s Worst Advice

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…

An Open Letter to Myself: Don’t Give Up

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…

To Teach or Not to Teach: Is it Worth the Money?

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,…

Three Questions Worth Asking

The following is adapted from a 2014 National Honor Society induction speech I was asked to give to the students of Plainwell High School. Read on ’til the end for a personal challenge.   ————————————– There’s a saying in education: “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”  Have you heard this before?  I think…

Something Deeper: On Teaching with Heart and the Poetry of Teaching

Teaching is poetry. It’s the creation of something deeper, something sleeping below a classroom structure.  Its meaning is buried underneath flash cards and Power Points, grade checks and rubrics.  The surface seems simple and direct — we see the quizzes and cold-calls as clearly as pure rhymes.  The bells ring and the lines break and we prepare for…

Going beyond grades: Why we HAVE to do better.

What do you think is the lowest G.P.A. I need in order to get into a good retirement home — one of those fancy ones with never-ending soft serve ice cream and Jeopardy tournaments in the common area?  How many gold stars do you think I need in order say, “I’m happy”?  Oooh, most importantly,…

Dear Kill-Joy, Take a Breather.

Glance around your classroom, or house, or job. If you work with groups of kids, chances are you’ll notice some things. – You will notice one kid picking his nose. Hard. If he’s older, he may be trying to hide it. Under 10 years old and he is proudly showcasing his gold. Regardless, no nose…

The “L” Word: Education’s greatest disease (and no, it’s not Lupus)

Hundreds of yawning, red-eyed students are crammed in pairs, stretching the school gym.  A dull hum, like distant locusts, murmurs the space as pencils scratch hundreds of little bubbles.  It’s state-test day, and there is an air of anxiety among more than just the students.  We teachers have one thought on our mind: “How are…