Sorry it’s been a while since I last wrote. Along with most of you at this time of year, I’ve been deep in the Stuff. Grading mountains of papers, saying good-byes, grading mountains of papers, distributing yearbooks, calculating final grades, moving stuff out of the room, telling kids to put away their yearbooks, haggling with kids about their final grades, signing yearbooks, exporting grades, going to end of the year luncheons, wondering if I should have changed so-and-so’s grade, hauling boxes of books around… you know. Stuff. On top of the usual maelstrom, I’m getting ready ...

I’ve told my colleagues and my kids, and now I’m telling you. I’ve accepted a position for next year as Dean of Students and teaching 8th grade English at The Congressional Schools of Virginia, an independent preschool-8 school in nearby Falls Church. Like Voltaire’s Candide (blogged about by some of my tenth graders this year), I am leaving a fabled land of riches. Diamonds aren’t strewn on the ground like pebbles here at TJ, but you can’t spit without hitting a remarkable student or teacher. I’m blown away daily by the eagerness and ...

This Memorial Day weekend, my family went to a Pow-wow hosted by the Upper Mattaponi tribe of King William, Virginia. There I gave away a boat and got a gift I will never forget. Readers of this blog may recall that I met tribal leader Ben Adams at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival last summer when a dugout canoe my tenth graders made at Mount Vernon with the help of the Alexandria Seaport Foundation was on display near John Smith’s shallop. Ben offered the canoe a permanent home at the Sharon Indian School, Virginia’s oldest Native school and now ...

I predict there will be at least 38 comments on this post. My kids do their homework, that much I know. I’m not so sure they all freewrite right. I take some of the blame; I’m not sure I’ve peeled back my skull enough in using this technique in class so as to make them understand just how undisciplined and generative the technique can be. Regular readers of this blog will know that one of my favorite teacher tricks is the “quick write.” I use it when we are discussing or doing or watching something. At a ...

I just finished teaching freshman comp at the local community college. Getting back two nights a week is welcome, but I will miss the mix of adults that offered such a stark contrast to the technocrats-in-training I teach on the day gig. At the beginning of the course and at the end I asked students to write a “position paper.” The before and after snapshots let them and me see how far they’ve come. Below are excerpts from a few of the thirty four students’ papers. This is first draft writing, which I’ve reproduced unedited to preserve voice ...


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