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February 14, 2017

Famous School Choice Pundit vs. Ordinary Teacher

While I toiled away at what you termed the retail level, you, Checker Finn, studied the research, analyzed the data, and made pronouncements impacting education across the nation. It's interesting to think that you have, in many ways, shaped the work that I actually did. For decades.

January 12, 2017

Students: You're the Reason I Come to School Every Day

School talk today is generally around rigorous content and 21st-century skills and how we can measure those to make schools accountable. There is, however, a much more powerful, if subtle, set of factors that makes going to school worthwhile for both students and teachers.

August 30, 2016

Colin Kaepernick and Every Marching Band Director in America

Every school music teacher in America has wrestled with the national anthem. Hard to sing (covering an octave and a fifth), written in an unfriendly key signature, lyrically confounding and attached to a disreputable tune, it nevertheless maintains a strange hold on public sentiment. We expect to hear it, for some hard to trace reason, every Friday night at football games, and a raft of other occasions. We expect citizens to show reverence for this music (although singing the words is considered optional, even embarrassing).

August 06, 2016

Ten Non-Standard Ideas About Going Back to School

I had a colleague who spent most of August sorting books into leveled baskets, going steady with the laminating machine, and running up colorful curtains for the door to her classroom. Her husband, conversely, would mark the beginning of the school year by wandering around the house, trying to find his thermos. This was immensely irritating to her, of course. But it's hard to say who was the better teacher.

June 16, 2016

Teachers, Tragedies and Politics

It's times like this that I'm glad not to be in the classroom on a daily basis. It would be hard for any teacher to pretend to be calm, neutral and gracefully able to push the world out of the classroom in favor of the spelling list and converting fractions into decimals. Like all teachers, I've experienced days when the curriculum was--whether you chose it or not--about what was going on in the world, your town or your school.

February 24, 2016

What's the Matter With Detroit Schools, Pt II: Charter Conversion 'Solution' Fails

So there's the micro-question: What does it take to keep something successful and amazing going--providing the same critical services, contributing to the value of the Detroit community and students' lives? Do you do whatever it takes, and deal with the consequences as they come? Then there are the macro-questions: When resources from a public system build something wonderfully useful, addressing a social need with persistence and imagination, what do you lose when you turn over control and management to a private company? What strings are attached when you supplement public monies with private funding?

December 07, 2015

My Dinner With Alfie

This was not an optimistic conversation. I don't have a list of all the things we touched on in my dinner with Alfie Kohn--from data mining to innovative curriculum to building better teachers--but there was little about which we disagreed. This is not a golden age for public education--or for the public's valuing of education (two different, but interwoven, things). We talked as two professionals--a veteran practitioner and an education thinker--deeply concerned, deeply worried about the direction that America has embraced, in an effort to improve our education system.

October 29, 2015

Let's Blame the Parents!

Just try to read an editorial or feature piece on education, via any media outlet at all, without coming across a commenter who wants to righteously and indignantly toss all the problems--from low test scores to Security Guards Run Amok--back into parents' laps. It's as if the rest of American society didn't exist. As if grinding poverty, political corruption, greed, cultural debasement and racism had nothing to do with the so-called failings of students and their families. Let's blame the parents.

October 14, 2015

Are There Edu-Tribes? Are They at War? Who's Winning?

I am in full agreement that we would be better off if people across the spectrum in Ed World started with a vision of what public education could be, rather than going for the next big win, as is our habit in matters of public policy. But. I spent 30 years in the classroom, serving as test subject for high-flown political rhetoric and ill-advised policy. The idea of a "personalized, relevant, and real-world-situated" classroom for every child is not even close to new.

September 07, 2015

The Most Wonderful Blog of the (New School) Year

Education is not simply about constructing efficient delivery systems for the transfer of information--books and computers can do that. Education is about the building of relationships--between students and teachers, and among learners themselves. And schools, in all of their messy, noisy, confusing chaos, do this spectacularly well.

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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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