& TeachingArguments Archives (&TeachingArguments Archives)

Day 11 of Pensées for Today (Is Ordinariness Underrated?)

“The strength of a man’s virtue must not be measured by his efforts, but by his ordinary life,” says Pascal. I find such a tension at work in myself and in culture between trying to be great and learning to be ordinary. My best work, relationships, and sense of self tend to come from just focusing on being good at being ordinary, asking how do I simply just care for the people and things right here and right now. Pascal’s quote above dovetailed with other writers who warn against over-inflated attempts at greatness rather than embracing the stewardship of the ordinary.

Day 10 of Pensées for Today (Is Cynicism Underrated?)

I wonder if I need to rethink my negative assumptions about cynicism after reading Arthur C. Brooks’ “Live Like the Ancient Cynics.” Brooks qualifies his approval of cynicism by distinguishing its modern variant from its ancient form: “The modern cynic rejects things out of hand (‘This is stupid’), while the ancient cynic simply withholds judgment (‘This may be right or wrong’).” I wonder if the conceptual net that Brooks casts is a bit too wide for what can count as healthy practices of cynicism that he believes can be found in Indian traditions, Greek philosophers and skeptics, stoicism, Christianity, and Buddhism. I’m pondering Pascal’s thoughts related to such matters.

Day 7 of Pensées for Today (The Difficult Art of Healthy Skepticism?)

How strange it is to think about how we know, or think that we know, what we know! Pascal and other great writers of the past might help us learn to practice healthy skeptical thinking so that we can become more honest and humble about knowledge. With social media, divisive politics, and confusion over what constitutes reliable science, we could all benefit from practicing some healthy skepticism about what we think, feel, desire, hear, and think we know.

Day 5 of Pensées (Will or Weal of the People?)

The 17th-century writer Pascal is so interesting to imagine as in dialogue with those who’ve come before him (some of whom such as Descartes are specifically alluded to in the Pensées) and as in dialogue with those who come after him such as the existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre or Frederick Nietzsche. Pascal’s evaluation of the self at work desiring, willing, choosing, and influencing others seems to address and surpass the insights from these other thinkers.

Day 4 of Pensées for Today (Writing Burdens)

The phrase “writing burdens” intentionally carries a double-meaning here. In one sense, Pascal’s Pensées reflects the help found in writing about the burdens of trying live well in the face of wretched challenges throughout life and the larger need for grace in order to flourish. In another sense, the Pensées reflect the burden of trying to write well.

Day 3 of Pensées for Today (Helpfully but Unpleasantly Challenging Our Sense of Self)

“In a word, man knows that he is wretched. He is therefore wretched, because he is so; but he is really great because he knows it,” says Pascal in his Pensées

What a fascinating life coach and mentor Pascal would make for each of us! If he coached and counseled each of us in the manner of his unfinished Pensées, we’d constantly be challenged to rethink our spiritual, mental, social, and material sense of balance.

Day 1 of Pensées for Today

“Almost all good writing starts with terrible first efforts,” says Anne Lamott. That seems fitting as I embrace yet another blogging restart with Some part of my soul has been bemoaning the utter lack of coherence and completion concerning my independent writing projects. Having moved from the mountains and re-sorted the best of the best books for my shelves, I’ve been struggling with mixed impulses to just stay silent in the face of so many good books, writers, and scholars versus trying to express my messy, ambivalent, and conflicted joys and frustrations with the thoughts those writers communicate and explore.

Read to Flourish in Any Stage of Life

For the not-to-distant future, I anticipate packing up my books and relocating to a lower elevation with a bigger population here in Colorado, even though 34+ years of being connected to this small mountain community has been good in so many ways. Many changes are ahead for me. In light of my past, present, and future blessings that have come from reading all sorts of things, my website will be shifting in name and emphasis to “” I’ll still have an archive link for everything from Meanwhile, “Take up and read; Take up and read.”

Slowing Down for Happier Thanksgivings

Much of our misery comes from trying to get too much too quickly. The “too much” focus may relate to material items as well intangible qualities. Spiritual traditions, literary works, and life lessons all invite us to take heed of signs that tell us to slow down. Here are some thoughts about slowing down for happier thanksgivings throughout our lives.

Discerning Teacher Challenges: Demoralization versus Burnout

After musing last weekend about teacher burnout, Marin Luther’s spiritual reformation, and Dilbert, I’ve come to realize the importance of discerning demoralization from burnout. Doris A. Santoro’s “The problem with stories about teacher ‘burnout’” provides this helpful distinction: “Burnout suggests that a teacher has nothing more to give. However, teachers whom I would characterize as demoralized were most frustrated because they could not teach the way they believed was right.” As educators, we need to think more about this distinction and its relevance for current personal, professional, and public challenges.

Cynical Teachers Anonymous: A Pilgrim’s Regress

For some of us, maybe the deeper issue behind teacher depression, anxiety, and burnout has to do with drifting into cynicism as a worldview and lifestyle. In trying to deal with dread and anxiety about the upcoming school week, I find myself increasingly disappointed by self-care and support strategies that I’m encountering these days from well-meaning folks.

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 wanted to share more reflections on this important topic and its relevance to my current context, but I needed to wrap up my courses for an extremely short straight-block quarter, so that’s it for this short take.

Isn’t Everything Rhetorical?

While rethinking my junior and senior English courses this year in a straight-block schedule context, I’ve been struggling with how to balance unity and diversity as well as breadth and depth in the curriculum, hopefully having an engaging, knowledge-rich impact on students that will aid their long-term flourishing. I’m finding my stockpile of varied sources on rhetoric helpful for these improvement endeavors.

With Apologies to Bob Carter: Apparently, Poor Planning on Someone Else’s Part Does Constitute an Emergency on My Part!

That’s a great saying from Bob Carter: “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.” I used to have quite a bit of optimism that I could study time management, productivity strategies, leadership, and plenty of thoughtful resources to get better at working with the chronic crushing Chronos of my setting. (Unfortunately, I don’t have time to blog about Karios versus Chronos modes of time, and how well that distinction could fit with a more humane I-Thou versus I-It approach to time, leadership, and culture.) I’m finding that I can only try to get through it.

A Simple Intervention for Internal Chatter: Good Morning, [Your Name Here]…. Get to It.

Returning for my 28th year of teaching high school English, I’ve been struggling with internal and external conflicts about teaching that often drive me to unhealthy introspection and self-doubt. Psychologist and researcher Ethan Kross calls this inner noise “chatter.” It’s a hot mess of negative self-talk that can sabotage our mental and physical well-being. KrossContinue reading “A Simple Intervention for Internal Chatter: Good Morning, [Your Name Here]…. Get to It.”

These Six Paradoxes for Teaching, Relating, and Long-term Flourishing

Teaching is paradoxical in many ways, and I tend to do best when I work with Parker Palmer’s six teaching paradoxes in mind. (Actually, these six paradoxes can help with all sorts of relationships.) Palmer believes that the spaces in which he teaches need to have room for these six areas of paradox: 1. boundedContinue reading “These Six Paradoxes for Teaching, Relating, and Long-term Flourishing”

Marveling at Shakespeare’s Work: What If the Texts Were the Standards?

As a high school English teacher who has endured at least three rounds of educational standards reform in almost thirty years, I can’t help but think we should actually look to the great texts of the past as our educational standards. This summer, I’ve been purging, recycling, donating, and reorganizing my materials and books–at home and at school. The vast majority of disposables involve state standards and instructional strategies while the collectibles and keepsakes tend to include content-rich material as well as the rich content of thoughtful authors from times past. No doubt there are other authors and works beyond Shakespeare to include as part of those enduring standards, but three very good recent books about Shakespeare have me thinking about the Bard’s role in developing better education.

The Courage to Teach When You’re Losing Heart about Relationships

Here are more gems from Parker Palmer about heart-centered purposes for teaching in a subject-centered classroom: “Many of us became teachers for reasons of the heart, animated by a passion for some subject and for helping people learn. But many of us lose heart as the years of teaching go by. How can we takeContinue reading “The Courage to Teach When You’re Losing Heart about Relationships”

Being Amateur-Professional Liberal Arts Educators

There’s a lot packed into that title, and it invites consideration of the balancing work topic in my last posting. Other more competent writers and educators can cover the importance of professionalism and the liberal arts, but I wanted to take a little time to reflect on the importance of being an amateur educator. Here are are a few relevant and important points about being an amateur educator.

Learning to Balance Education with Postman and Crawford

Educators should revisit Neil Postman’s arguments about education on a regular basis to help us gain sanity and perspective: “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 innovativeContinue reading “Learning to Balance Education with Postman and Crawford”

Car Problems Seem Easier to Engage but the Harder Relational 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 Relational 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 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. e and infinite gameplay with the spiritual dimension of life. Thinking about these dimensions metaphysically and ethically has all sorts of implications for interpreting our lives and our literary readings.

Mere Philosophy for Better Thesis Writing (Moving from “Whatever!” to “So What?”)

High school and college English teachers frequently admonish their students to get their writing to answer the question: So what? Mere philosophy can help in coaching students to make better thesis connections in their writing. There might even be healthy motivational side-effects for teachers and students as we compose ourselves in the process.

Mere Philosophy for Thoughtful End-of-the-Year Speeches with Juniors and Seniors

Our school is doing a quarter block schedule that I’ve got mixed feelings about. The strangest part of the experience is having some of my seniors do their end-of-the-year graduation speeches at the end of the third quarter, which was last week. This year, I also had my juniors do a reflective speech on how their personal philosophies developed through a year of dealing with COVID. Despite the quarter block scheduling’s weird timing, I was delighted with my juniors and seniors’ content, thoughtfulness, and delivery this year. Here, I follow up with a few reflections.

Monkeying with Productivity Metaphors

I was recently reading part of Cal Newport’s helpful book on A World without Email. In one part, Newport  analyzes our complex, evolutionary relationships to Baboons and productivity while trying to work with our email challenges. I couldn’t help but remember another far less philosophical book on productivity that I read in the 90s: The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Kenneth Blanchard, William Oncken, Jr., and Hall Burrows. The monkey metaphor represents any given project and still helps me think productively and humorously about our work as teachers and students. (No actual monkeys were harmed in the drafting and launching of this blog post.) 

For Colorado’s Meat Out Controversy, Here’s Some Helpful Humor from Baxter Black’s “A Vegetarian’s Nightmare”

Recently, our Colorado governor issued a “Meat Out Proclamation” for March 20th, recommending that Colorado residents take a day to abstain from eating meat and consider the potential health benefits of other dietary choices. The proclamation has led to some unintended consequences, instigating a day of special deals on burgers and leading the NY TimesContinue reading “For Colorado’s Meat Out Controversy, Here’s Some Helpful Humor from Baxter Black’s “A Vegetarian’s Nightmare””

Food for Thought with a Better Wisdom Pyramid

Francis Bacon said, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” Brett McCracken’s The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World is a good book to chew on, and it’s a good book to help us reflect thoughtfully on our mental, social, spiritual, and experiential dietary habits.

Fifty Years Later, John Wooden’s Three Things Still Matter for Good Teamwork (a.k.a. Good Collaboration) in Our Institutions

Just this morning, I heard an excerpt from legendary basketball coach John Wooden’s speech at UCLA in the 1971 NCAA Championship Game. Truly, the three things of his philosophy of coaching work well for good collaboration in schools and classrooms. I found this especially timely after writing about collaboration last week, using somewhat similar connections from about thirty years ago. Wooden’s emphasis on conditioning, fundamentals, and a team spirit helps essentialize our work as educators.

Thirty Years Later, Good Collaboration Still Requires Well-Prepared Individual Students (and Educators)

Just a little short of thirty years ago, I was taught several “cooperative learning” strategies via our small school’s informal yet thoughtful approach to professional development: Have experienced teachers share knowledge, skills, and wisdom. Old timers back then knew that good cooperative learning also requires good individual preparation and accountability. The same can be said for our mostly synonymous notion of collaboration these days.

A Star Trek Captain’s Wisdom for Dedicated Teachers: Avoid Promotions, Stay in Charge of Your Ship, and Stay away from the Nexus

When I think of opportunities I’ve had to become an administrator, I often recall a scene in the 1994 movie Star Trek: Generations where next-generation Captain Picard meets the legendary Captain Kirk of the previous generation through a mysterious, wish-fulfilling, destructive space anomaly called the Nexus. The scene and the space anomaly provide apt analogies for teachers to consider as they face temptations to move to administrative positions beyond the classroom.

Journeying under the Sun and through the Smoke with Ecclesiastes while Teaching and Learning in a Public High School

I had a much different topic ready for today, but I read Dave Stuart’s timely and encouraging post on “The Teacher’s Journey.” That got me thinking about the cycles of disorientation and reorientation that are so much a part of my life and work as a teacher. In terms of struggling through such cycles, I’d say that one of most formative books for my own journey so far is Ecclesiastes. It’s an ancient wisdom book that deals with inner and outer cycles of learning, teaching, and working through life’s messy experiences. Ecclesiastes is a bit like C.S. Lewis’ characterization of Aslan: The book grows bigger as the messy cycles of life and teaching frequently grow bigger and more wearisome.

Mere Philosophy versus the Fickle Flea Market of Ideas and Tools: Part II (Better PD?)

In the previous post, I shared my concerns that a sort of unhelpful flea market approach to education has become too common, characterizing it as a philosophy “of” education. In contrast, I advocated that we need a sort of mere philosophy “for” education that will guide us into more effective and coordinated teaching and learning efforts. A mere philosophy approach helps coach my students to make meaningful connections with their learning and long-term flourishing in my English courses. If we could get mere philosophy working for professional development thinking, I believe we’d have healthier and more inviting schools in which to teach and learn.

Mere Philosophy “for” Education as an Alternative to the Fickle Flea Market of Ideas and Tools: Part I

Instead of the commonplace exercise of just developing a philosophy “of” education, educators of all ages need to develop effective philosophies “for” education to offset unhelpful institutional, cultural, and personal habits. I find that most philosophies “of” education resemble flea markets of scattered ideas and practices. Adapting a theme from C.S. Lewis for the public high school context, I might call the alternative “mere philosophy.” Here are some initial thoughts about the value of mere philosophy as a guide “for” better learning and teaching.

Essentialism Tested by Fire: Anne Bradstreet’s Puritan Poem and Our Local Wildfire

Anne Bradstreet’s “Verses upon the Burning of our House” became way too relevant to my students and to me in the fall of 2020 as the East Troublesome Fire roared through our county. I found myself rethinking my recent, somewhat flippant comments about “2020 being a dumpster fire of a year” and how our local wildfire might become “some version of Lord of the Ring’s Mordor.” On a Wednesday night I looked out my front door and saw a scene that looked way too much like Mordor.

Better Modes of Coaching, Teaming, and Philosophizing for High School Teachers Who Want to Go the Distance

“John, I made it thirty years, and here’s how: I didn’t coach.” That was advice from Larry in my first or second year of teaching, but Larry did coach: He coached students in how to learn science as a discipline and teachers in how to live a balanced life. I was also mentored by some educators who did coach athletics. These educators went the distance for over three decades of teaching. Many of those teachers still worked as substitutes, coaches, and mentors well into their retirement years.

How I Attempt to Escape Bad Versions of Groundhog Day as a Public High School Teacher

At 27 years of teaching high school, too many days feel like badly directed versions of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. Not too long ago, a good friend texted to ask how I’ve made it this long. I was tempted to answer that it was probably due to a head injury. Actually, a big part of making it this long has been with the support of such friends who love to learn and love to promote learning but struggle with our cultural and institutional settings that seem absurdly obstructive to learning.

Three Educational Takeaways from Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman stirs my thinking about education and long-term flourishing in fresh ways. The play has been a close companion from my first reading in college and through much of my teaching career. Although it’s a tragedy, it makes us keep thinking about the problems that can get in the way of pursuing the grace of everyday experiences and relationships. So, here are three takeaways from two rounds of reading the play with students this fall.

Debugging the Grace of Great Things with Kafka and Other Great Writers (“Teaching with Great Writers in Mind” Continued)

For me, Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis reads like an existential parable about how people can lose their humanity by mindlessly going through daily life and relationships. I don’t want that to happen to any of us in real life. It’s one of those stories that I use with the students and simultaneously use to warn myself away from just going with the flow of public school teaching.

Teaching with Great Writers in Mind: Rilke, Palmer, and the Grace of Great Things

As educators and thoughtful human beings, we really should be subject-centered and thereby more relationally-minded in our teaching, living, and pursuit of long-term flourishing. That sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true and helpful. Under the influence of poet Rainer Maria Rilke, Parker Palmer explains in The Courage to Teach that subject-centered teaching is the best way to approach teaching and learning. Rilke and Palmer are just a few of the many thoughtful writers who compel me to assert that good subject-centered knowledge rightly guides better relationships.

Too Many Inputs & Outputs

With the challenges of teaching a semester’s worth of upper-level high school English knowledge in a quarter, I’m painfully aware of too many inputs and outputs in a teacher’s life; hence for this week, I have a blog entry about the length of a Tweet. Life & learning continue.

Who’s Afraid of Talking about Political Rhetoric in High School?

I thought the 2016 presidential debates were embarrassing! After last week’s presidential debate, one of my junior students told her mom that we have much better debates in our classes. Nevertheless, there still are many pockets of excellence and signs that we can do better. Samuel J. Adams of The Dispatch points to data suggesting “that mostContinue reading “Who’s Afraid of Talking about Political Rhetoric in High School?”

How a Motorcycle-Fixing Philosopher Can Help Educators Start to Rethink and Repair Modern Knowledge Problems (Who’s Afraid of Epistemology? Cont’d)

In philosophy since Descartes, western civilization seems to have lost its ability to understand the value and nature of philosophical common sense. In our time, the motorcycle repairman, philosopher, author, scholar, and tinkerer Matthew Crawford can help us do some much-needed rethinking of our philosophies of knowledge, ethics, attention, and learning in the light of reality and in the pursuit of long-term flourishing.

Addendum #10: Empathy via Thoughtful Maintenance versus Hyper Design and Innovation Trends

In light of hearing teacher concerns near and far about starting this school year, I’m thinking that the dynamics of credibility between teachers and administrators work much like they do between teachers and students. Might we be a bit more considerate of teacher concerns about focusing so much on design thinking and innovation? Ken Sande’sContinue reading “Addendum #10: Empathy via Thoughtful Maintenance versus Hyper Design and Innovation Trends”

Addendum #9: Eleventh Hour HyFlex Planning Notes for High School Courses

This is one of those brief, barely-hanging-on posts. I need to take a detour from my series on “Ways of Knowing” for learning and teaching since remote-teaching-readiness is occupying my mind in light of recent news reports of districts being open for only a few days or a few weeks before shifting to remote learningContinue reading “Addendum #9: Eleventh Hour HyFlex Planning Notes for High School Courses”

Coaching Students to Engage Knowledge with Aquinas’ Scholastic Method (Who’s Afraid of Epistemology? Continued)

In this post, I explore some student-learning applications of Thomas Aquinas’ approach to argumentation via his thoughtful questioning and charitable disputation method as modeled in The Summa Theologiae. (Also often referred to as part of “the scholastic method.”) Aquinas’ method of charitable disputation serves well as a way to coach students to more thoughtfully summarize, analyze, and argue knowledge claims. Modern argumentation approaches, such as the Toulmin model of argument, can also be integrated.

Deliberately Sorting Out Knowledge with Aristotle for Better Learning, Teaching, and Long-term Flourishing (Who’s Afraid of Epistemology? Continued)

Even with many limitations of his 4th century BCE context, Aristotle can assist our pursuit of long-term flourishing (synonymous with his use of “eudaimonia” as the highest aim of life) through his methods of rationally deliberating topics of knowledge. For education and public life in our fractured republic, we need philosophical help from good thinkers and good methods in order to effectively pursue inclusive long-term flourishing.

Who’s Afraid of Epistemology? Socratically Seeking Knowledge for Learning, Teaching, and Long-term Flourishing

As I start my series on epistemology (or theory of knowing) for better learning and teaching, I want to emphasize an approach to rational knowing in relation to a very important ancient Greek thinker: Socrates. He believed that knowledge and virtue are inseparable, and therefore the search for knowledge is a search for virtue and vice versa. Socratically, teachers and students should strive to be virtuous in their pursuits of knowledge. What does virtue mean? How does one acquire virtue (and knowledge)? Why, those are just the sort of questions Socrates wants us to thoughtfully explore throughout our lives for long-term flourishing.

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.

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.

HyFlex Course Planning Strategies for High School Teaching and Learning: Consolidating the Right Questions for Crisis and Non-Crisis Times

Although it’s an extremely demanding approach to course planning, HyFlex course design invites important questions about effectively teaching students with flexible alternatives to interaction, which could work well in four important scenarios: face-to-face learning, face-to-face intermittently mixed with distance learning, complete distance learning, and sudden shifts from face-to-face to complete distance learning. HyFlex isn’t a silver-bullet solution, but it does concentrate educators on essential questions about instructional planning for best and worst-case scenarios.

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.)

Engaging in Academic Research about Popular Culture and Practicing Interleaving

The celebration of Star Wars Day this week was well-timed as I’m having my seniors start work on a research project that explores popular culture through the lens of at least one serious academic discipline that they would not typically study in high school. Their review of knowledge related to the research process includes elements of interleaving. The project is a good way to wrap up our time together (at a distance) this year.

Teaching about Better Arguments in a Fractured Republic: Reflections and Resources

About this time each year in my high school English courses, I get encouraged listening to my students engage in debate and discussion activities. Those lively discussions are one of the things I’ve missed most due to the stay-at-home restrictions. That got me thinking about resources that I’ve found most helpful for teaching students about good, bad, and ugly approaches to arguable topics.

Addendum #6: Advanced Placement English Thinking Is Highly Relevant to Emergency Teaching, Real Life, and the Pursuit of Long-term Flourishing

“What are the most important values to consider for guiding one through crisis times and toward long-term flourishing?” I brainstormed that synthesis prompt this week as I was considering what we’re not testing in the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition exam this year due to the COVID-19 crisis. As a teacher, I’m working onContinue reading “Addendum #6: Advanced Placement English Thinking Is Highly Relevant to Emergency Teaching, Real Life, and the Pursuit of Long-term Flourishing”

Addendum #5: A Way to Use College Board AP Review Videos + Interactive Lecture Strategy = A Step Toward Effective Curriculum and Instruction Coherency

As I’m talking with colleagues, several of us are grateful for the Advanced Placement Online Classes and Review Sessions. These resources are helpful for our emergency remote teaching and learning conditions, but they’re also important as a reminder and a model of what coherent and effective curriculum and instruction can be.  As an experienced teacherContinue reading “Addendum #5: A Way to Use College Board AP Review Videos + Interactive Lecture Strategy = A Step Toward Effective Curriculum and Instruction Coherency”

Addendum #4: Literature + Reader-Response Questions + Google Classroom Can Restore Some Sense of Relationship

As my seniors finish their reading and response work with Octavia Butler’s Kindred this week, I’ve especially appreciated the spot for private comments on student postings in Google Classroom. With the platform and with student postings, I can get the gist of how students are reading and thinking about these last parts of the novel,Continue reading “Addendum #4: Literature + Reader-Response Questions + Google Classroom Can Restore Some Sense of Relationship”

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