What kind of teaching force do we want, anyway? Are we looking for a diverse mix of candidates--those who grew up in the tough neighborhoods where they want to teach, those coming to the classroom after success in another career or raising children? Do we want content experts? Passionate advocates for children? Role models? How do we test for those things?


There are lots of reasons to oppose the Common Core. But disaggregating the good reasons from the outright baloney is important. When we join the crazies, we reinforce their craziness and further muddy the discourse, if that's even possible. Opponents of the Common Core might get what they want--the end of the CCSS --but other, very negative consequences in addition: further damage to, and fear-based withdrawal from, public schools, for starters.


The kids I worry about? The ones society has decided are not worth the effort. Who are usually in schools where the arts and lots of other programming once considered essential are nonexistent.


I feel as ambivalent about blog numbers as I do about achievement data. I've read some passionate, articulate thinking on education issues from virtually unknown teachers--and found some pieces with thousands of re-tweets shallow and poorly written. What feeds me is reading. All kinds of reading.


Courtney, a HS junior, after her class saw "12 Years a Slave:" If we don't learn about how terrible these events really were, how can we learn FROM those events and do things differently? We have to face the history so we can face ourselves and hopefully make America and the world a better place.


What I find disheartening is the gearing up of the Faux War on Christmas, using public schools as staging ground for stirring up unnecessary and phony conflict. Getting all huffy about greetings, menorahs and nativity scenes feels like uncivil, bullying behavior, something we shouldn't be gleefully modeling for students.


Flunked. Held back. Retained. It's failure, no matter what you call it. Imposed by adults, some of whom honestly believe they're instituting a kind of academic tough love--or at least, raising collective achievement data. Suffered by children who struggle with learning, for any one of a galaxy of reasons. And a call that should be made by teachers and parents, not at the statehouse.


Four random things I'm grateful for: My perch at Education Week; the recent groundswell of interest in curriculum, instruction and assessment; regular opportunities to hang out in thriving public schools; and the fact that I seldom encountered the "coddled" students out there needing a dose of grit.


I was relieved when my tenure as National Teacher of the Year ended because I heard a school bell ring and I was able to answer it. I returned to my classroom and to those who most needed me in their dysfunctional lives. I cannot answer the question why I teach without telling the story of my life because my story is written on the pages of the lives of too many children. My story is the story of the students whom I teach and mentor. And that is why I remain a classroom teacher.


Kids do need to own their own boredom, because it's an individualized, internal response to outside stimuli (or lack thereof). What's mind-numbing to one child may be inspiring to another, so teaching children to dissect their own boredom--and, yes, deal with it--is an essential life skill.


The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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