I’ve reached that manic stage of pre-school preparation where I’m slapping together documents with the reckless abandon of a... well, of a teacher before the first week of school. Syllabi, letters home, program reports, field trip requests. If only I were paid by the word for this sort of week. Certain paragraphs, at a time like this, tend to get used more than once. For example, here’s a pithy one about the canoe which is more or less the abstract from the original grant proposal penned last spring: Our tenth grade Humanities class will get a boats-eye ...


365 not-very-simple days. At this time last year, I had just joined the faculty at a school new to me, TJHSST, but not new at all in the sense that it was stocked with 30-year veterans at the top of the public school teaching heap. You couldn’t spit without hitting a PhD or someone who was known in their field-- for running a conference say, or being a nationally recognized expert in xyz. I had no clue how being at that school would rock my teaching world, throwing me back to rookie status in many ways and forcing me ...


We learn to trust it so we can teach it.


The summer institute of the Northern Virginia Writing Project draws to a close, and next week I will be the last presenter from our group of nearly thirty teachers. Being on staff this year has rekindled the transformative enthusiasm I experienced when I was a fellow here in 1997, at that time wondering if this was really the job for me after four years in the classroom. Now, after thirteen years there, both my presentation topic and my relationship to the profession have changed. The first time my project was called “Jazz Is... Writing Three Ways With Jazz.” I remember ...


When I was growing up, the goal with your records was to not scratch them. I learned how to hold the black orbs by the edges between my palms as soon as I started raiding my older brother’s Who collection. Billy Joel smiled at me from the Italian restaurant on the cover because I cleaned lint from the needle before I spun The Stranger. I might have worn a groove in Give Me Three Steps, but there was never an unwanted pop or hiss on either disc of my first double album, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gold & Platinum. At some ...


The NVWP Summer Institute is in full swing, and in this post I want to tell you about Jessica’s presentation, create the inaugural post for the institute’s blog (I’ll post this entry there, too), and pick up again with Entry 4 by considering the institute as an “achievement.” As you may recall, the SI is a five-week intensive program for teachers of all grade levels and subject areas to study their craft and work on their own writing. We study our craft by making presentations about some aspect of the teaching of writing for an audience of ...


(or whatever World Cup game you happen to be watching) to bring you breaking news. Okay, so it started last May, when Newsweek came out with a list of America’s 100 best high schools based on Washington Post journalist Jay Mathew’s Challenge Index. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, where I teach and widely considered one of the best schools in the country, didn’t crack Newsweek’s list. I wrote a reply to the list which appeared in Education Week’s June 14 issue under the headline, "Ranking America’s High Schools: A Few Quibbles ...


Last week I began brainstorming possibilities for Entry 4, in which I will list up to eight achievements to show that I’ve met three standards (XIV. Self Reflection; XV. Professional Community; and XVI. Family Outreach). I had combed my resume for what I thought were the most impressive items, but upon receiving feedback from a couple already certified teachers, I think I might be polishing some of the wrong apples. In fact, polishing apples might be the wrong approach entirely. For example, NBCT Cathy writes about this blog, “you show yourself as a leader, but can you show a ...


I love telling students, with the straightest face I can muster, that “B.S.’ing” is one of the most crucial steps in the writing process. Sometimes I just write it on the daily agenda and wait for one of the sharp-eyed ones to call me on it. In all seriousness, I do believe that brainstorming is indispensable before writing. Whether one does it via free-writing, a web or outline, or just a good old-fashioned list, a writer must generate a number of ideas before committing to one. Analogously, students should generate a lot of “low-risk” writing (more than a ...


My approach to the foot of the NBPTS mountain has been more arduous than anticipated, and both blog ideas and morale are on the wane (things should perk up once we make it to summer vacation). The mountain itself, you may recall, takes a year to scale, including as it does the traversing of four crevasse-ridden portfolio entries and then, to attain the summit, the dreadfully exposed final pitch, a day of assessment behind a computer keyboard at a testing center. I began my approach blithely enough last February, setting off with a bulging pack from a colorful town in ...


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