Learning to Balance with Education as a Thermostatic Activity

“Education is best conceived of as a thermostatic activity. From this point of view, and stated far too grossly, education tries to conserve tradition when the rest of the environment is innovative. Or it is innovative when the rest of society is tradition-bound [….] The function of education is always to offer the counterargument, theContinue reading “Learning to Balance with Education as a Thermostatic Activity”

Car Problems Seem Easier to Engage but the Harder Problems Are Still Worthwhile

“External objects provide an attachment point for the mind; they can pull us out of ourselves. But only if they are treated as external objects, with a reality of their own.” –Matthew Crawford in The World Beyond Our Head. I’ve written about Matthew Crawford before, but I was reminded of his helpful insights on the SaturdayContinue reading “Car Problems Seem Easier to Engage but the Harder Problems Are Still Worthwhile”

Things Come Together with Things Fall Apart

Although our quarter-block schedule disrupted much of my best work with junior and senior high school English courses, it did afford me the opportunity to refine the units and learning tasks as I taught them a second time each semester. I’ve found that Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and several other resources connect well to concerns about culture, justice, and humanitarian aid in the modern world, inviting a host of questions that left my students more thoughtful about complex issues.

An Extended Post on Coaching Inductive Close Reading in a Distracted Age

Despite the many criticisms of standardized testing, as I look back on my honors and AP English students and their recent assessment challenges, I’m still convinced that teachers should coach all students to get better at independent, inductive close reading with complex texts. Rather than a reductionist testing skill or an esoteric English classroom concern, such close reading abilities are important for helping develop thoughtful young people who will become thoughtful adults.

Maybe Administrators and Teachers Could Get Better at Coordinating Their Respective Essential Things?

An EdWeek.org article helps me believe that we could more effectively discuss some version of our administrators’ handful of essential things along with our teachers’ handful of essential things. Furthermore, we’d benefit from ongoing discussions about how the two sets of essential things are doing in terms of coordination and practice throughout the year. I bet we can get better at keeping such first things first.

Start and Finish Better Next Year with Your Replay Notes

The biggest improvements in my teaching and my students’ learning are traceable back to notes I make this time of year and little experiments in instruction that I try out before the year ends. I am never more tired than I am at this point, but I am never wiser than now after a year of experience with real students in real contexts with real challenges. Here are some brief notes about the importance of such replay notes.

May 4th with Us: Freedom Riders during the Cold War Are Much More Important than Star Wars

Regrettably, I’ve been neglecting the significance of May 4th as the first day of the Freedom Rides in 1961. As much as I enjoy the Star Wars Day theme of “May the Fourth Be with You,” I can work more at helping my students appreciate the historical milestones of the Freedom Rides as encouragement for us to keep working out the “better angels of our nature” in terms of justice, dignity, and mutual respect as human beings.

Review by Reaching Back, Reaching In, and Reaching Out with Texts

Here in the homestretch of the school year, I’m working with my students to continue learning while also effectively reviewing and integrating previous learning. Lately, I’ve been emphasizing some informal interleaving strategies as my senior students continue to read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart in our final quarter of the year. These strategies can work well with a wide variety of texts and topics.

Mere Philosophy with Finite and Infinite Games at Play in Shakespeare’s Drama

While sampling Simon Sinek’s recent book The Infinite Game, I began musing about the ways that Shakespeare intensifies the dramas of Henry V, Hamlet, and Othello by layering in life-after-death metaphysical and ethical issues that his characters face. For the sake of my reflection here, I characterize the finite game and its play with the secular dimension of life, and the infinite game of life and its play with the spiritual dimension of life. Thinking about these metaphysically and ethically has all sorts of implications for interpreting our lives and our literary readings.