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.

We should teach students that boredom, like any problem, can be your friend. Brushing your teeth is boring, too, but that doesn't mean you should stop.

I like a snappy multiplication-facts rap as much as the next guy, but the fact is--it's not easy to integrate rich arts practice or content into science and math instruction. Especially when the assumption is that good curriculum begins with "core subjects," the arts acting as a kind of color commentary.

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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