Do We Oversell SEL?

Yong Zhao’s “Another education war? The coming debates over social and emotional learning” is worth taking some time to read and reflect on. Zhao explores claims from champions and challengers of social emotional learning. For me, Zhao’s thoughtfully documented article basically shows that SEL has potential benefits when modestly and wisely used, but it can also distract educators from effective education by becoming a “nonacademic common core,” as one of his sources asserts. That sounds like just about every trend in education. I’d love to share more reflections on this important topic and its relevance to my current context, but I’m currently in the midst of trying to wrap up a course, so that’s it for this short take.

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”

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.

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.

Adapting the Liberal (& Conservative) Arts for Long-term Flourishing in a Fractured Republic

An ancient Roman philosopher and a twentieth century African American civil rights leader can have more in common than we realize. It is both the similarities and differences that are important for us to consider in these difficult times. Last week, I briefly explored the adaptable role that really old books could have in tackling modern problems, especially in terms of our blind spots and shortcomings. In our fractured republic, we also need to situate the study of books and ideas in the context of what is often referred to as the liberal arts. The liberal arts seem more important than ever for personal and mutual public flourishing.

Ancient-Modern Arguments That Passion Is Overrated in the Pursuit of Long-term Flourishing (&Read Some Older Books!)

Concerning the popular focus on finding one’s passion, I appreciate the discernment recently expressed in Cal Newport’s post on “Ancient Complications to Modern Career Advice.” He points us toward thinking more wisely about responsible living and long-term flourishing.

Seeking to Know Seven Great Ideas for Learning and Long-term Flourishing in Conflicted Times

“Philosophy is everybody’s business.” –Mortimer J. Adler  Educator and philosopher Mortimer Adler made several important points about philosophy in the twentieth century that still apply to our time. Indeed, philosophy is everybody’s business and so are ideas. Among the 103 Ideas that Adler catalogued and explored with others, he asserted that there are six greatContinue reading “Seeking to Know Seven Great Ideas for Learning and Long-term Flourishing in Conflicted Times”

The Lindy Effect and Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits: Help for Educators to Grow Better Individually and Collaboratively (For the School Year and for the Summer!)

Collaboration: Done well, with a durable knowledge-rich and a knowledge-building focus, collaboration can empower educators. Done poorly, collaboration becomes a purgatorial experience. I believe that the Lindy Effect’s notion of longer-lasting knowledge and Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People can help educators envision much better individual and collaborative approaches to effective education.

Five Reflection Points about Two Months with Remote Emergency Teaching for High School

Emergency Remote Teaching has been challenging for these last two months, but there are some important takeaways for teaching during crisis and non-crisis times:
1. Introverts need community too.
2. Extroverts need introverted skills.
3. Existing online tech tools can be helpful if used with discernment.
4. Distance planning is good for non-emergency course planning too.
5. We’re way over-scheduled during our “normal” non-emergency times.

A Senior Graduation Speech from Every Student: If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

For this posting, I’ll briefly share my approach to a final activity for my senior English courses: A senior graduation speech from every member of my class. (This year, the activity is getting some streamlining due to our social distancing, but it’s still a good time to reflect on the full process of working with my students for future use during normal times.)