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In Praise of Coaches

In Praise of Coaches

I have never liked trick questions because I don’t enjoy feeling like a fool.  Even today I shy away from certain types of riddles or “brain teasers” because I suspect that I will feel foolish at the end of the exercise.  You can imagine, therefore, what it was like for me in high school when [...]

Where does the apostrophe go at?

Where does the apostrophe go at?

Teachers of children!  Take heed!  It’s time for a revolution in basic grammar!  Will you join me? Today’s subject involves only two points of English mechanics and grammar that set my teeth on edge.  Both have reached epidemic proportions in our beautiful east Tennessee region.  Frighteningly, there is evidence that these abuses of our common [...]

Beyond the Common Core

Beyond the Common Core

I am a fan of the Common Core, but my reasons may surprise you.  I support this national initiative not because it raises the bar or guarantees student success or moves us back-to-basics or improves our standards or is simply “tougher”.  It is not, and doesn’t do, any of these things.  And in fact, not [...]

Thank you, Teacher

Thank you, Teacher

Spoiler Alert!  I’m naming names here.  My recollections of teachers are strong, and I remember all of them.  Mrs. Kiser (room 103) taught me the “ball and stick” method of printing the alphabet; Mrs. Donohue unveiled to me the mysteries of phonics;  Mrs. Bunnell opened my eyes to the world of literature.  The list goes [...]

Are You A Genius?

Are You A Genius?

According to my research, there is no precise scientific explanation for genius, yet we all recognize it when we see it.  The Latin plural for this word is genii (like the guy in the bottle who grants wishes), and it found its way into Latin partly from ancient Arabic by way of Old French.  But [...]

Failure as Success

Failure as Success

The hardest balance to strike in a classroom is that special zone where a child learns from a failed attempt  . . . and doesn’t take the failure as a measure of his self worth!  You may wonder where any of us would get the idea that failing at a task has anything whatsoever to [...]

The Fool and Experience

The Fool and Experience

There are two kinds of people in the world:  those who like aphorisms and those who don’t.  In case you missed it, the “there-are-two-kinds” introduction is a sort of prequel to aphorism!  With this in mind, you intuitively know that I like them!  Our own Benjamin Franklin continues to this very day to be the [...]

Is Your School a Marketplace of Ideas?

Is Your School a Marketplace of Ideas?

World events, particularly those involving war, are always more complex than we would prefer.  Even the very best reporting on (for example) the Syrian civil war tries to force a reading where we only must choose in a contest between the good guys and the bad guys.  The ease of naming the good guys and [...]

Doing Battle in Love

Doing Battle in Love

One of the key features of common law is called the “adversarial system.” Simply put, a prosecutor argues with a defense attorney. Justice is considered complete when the judge or jury is convinced by the more effective adversary. Some historians trace this system back to the Middle Ages, where justice was served by “trial by [...]

EBBOM!

EBBOM!

“Engage Brain Before Opening Mouth”, or EBBOM, has made it into our slang dictionaries.  It’s good advice, of course, and most people can at least respect the wisdom driving such a saying.   Notice, please, that I said “most”.  There is one identifiable age in all societies where this wisdom simply resists application.  It’s not for [...]

Interviewing for Pain

Interviewing for Pain

Among teachers there is perhaps no greater pain than hearing a parent ask his child, “What did you do in school today?” We find it painful because we know what the answer will be in most cases. I’m not sure why this happens (perhaps the effort of recalling the entire day is simply too much!) [...]

Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm

A mere 300 years ago it would have been a grave insult, perhaps enough even to initiate a duel, if one were called an “enthusiast.” In the years following the “Glorious Revolution” (the overthrow of King James II of England) displays of enthusiasm were simply not acceptable. It was believed that any such exuberance would [...]

The Rules of Engagement

The Rules of Engagement

The single most important element in learning is to become engaged with the subject. The single most important element in teaching is to engage the student with the subject. Merely presenting information (or merely taking notes) is neither teaching nor learning. Alas, this non-teaching and non-learning event is taking place in some classroom somewhere today. [...]

The Most Human

The Most Human

Last Sunday I was sitting high atop a ridge (about 3,400 feet!) in the Cumberland Mountains, having arrived at the spot only after a grueling 18 mile backpacking experience. But it was wonderful! I was with a large group of friends, and together we pondered the glory of the natural world. As I was sitting [...]

Attention Deficits

Attention Deficits

Just in case you missed it, the jury has returned a verdict. There really is something called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The jury is not “still out” on this subject. The jury made its announcement years ago! You can probably tell that I’m tired of discovering folks who still want to deny this impediment to [...]

The Ethic of Reciprocity

The Ethic of Reciprocity

The challenge for schools is clear. A school can either reflect a culture or it can affect a culture. When I was in elementary school it was common for many students to have wooden rulers with the words “The Golden Rule” emblazoned upon the back. I have no idea whether local boards of education provided [...]

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