Charlie “Youngster, you don’t know shit.” At one point or another, what teacher or parent hasn’t thought something like this about a teenager’s attitude? The thought consoles us in an adolescent’s particular moment of petulance. Programmed by nature, the adolescent is pinging us and, damn, sometimes we want to ping back. Remarkably, I know ofContinue reading “Charlie”

The Forest

The Forest Hiking through the forest, studying the leaves . . . “Forest” learning begins with large wonderings. “Leaf” education focuses on curricular leaves while (unintentionally) disregarding much of the forest. Below are ten examples of rich, forest-based, senior wonderings from North Lawndale College Prep High School in Chicago. As students walk through the interdisciplinaryContinue reading “The Forest”

Large fish

Large fish “Large fish in small bowls…” was how she put it. A junior in a creative writing course, she and her classmates had been tasked with developing a metaphor to describe their own eyes, then somehow to create a poem around that image. Her poem, a lucid and highly imaginative extended metaphor grappling with self-understandingContinue reading “Large fish”

Tidal Arguments

Tidal Arguments “Write the book, will ya!” For a while now, many colleagues and friends have urged me to write a book. You know this type of book. Narratives about my experience as a teacher of so many young people in such vastly different urban contexts: secondary public (charter, magnet, and test-based selective enrollment), Catholic, andContinue reading “Tidal Arguments”

What if

What if . . . …we have had it all wrong? To start, what if we rightly assumed that America’s vitality necessitates a thriving middle class? A sine qua non. Further, what if we have built our society’s basic structures — education, jobs, housing — to edify the vitality of that middle class? But, what if, whileContinue reading “What if”

Deno’s Senior Project

Deno’s Senior Project Sometimes, human stories that are spoken and recorded, then edited and aired, can illuminate more than written stories, where black letters sit on the white of a page or screen. A colleague of mine, Heidi Curran Bojorges, has produced just such a spoken story, Deno’s Senior Project, for Vocalo, “the cool sisterContinue reading “Deno’s Senior Project”

Ghosts in the Water

Ghosts in the Water Ghosts? Really now? I am way too rational to believe in that stuff. Proof is necessary if I’m to tremble. Nonetheless, a spirit does haunt me. For some time now, Beloved has wandered my margins. As in the novel, Toni Morrison’s wisp is restless, long for everything and nothing at all, really, quite so veryContinue reading “Ghosts in the Water”

The business of education

The business of education To be perfectly clear, public school teachers need the unifying protection and collective bargaining of unions, history has proven. And, to be perfectly clear, history is showing that America’s urban public school district administrators occupy some of the most conflictive public sector positions, balancing the ever-increasing social/emotional/cognitive/physical needs of students andContinue reading “The business of education”

The Graduate: “What Forest?”

The Graduate: “What Forest?” This post represents a departure from this blog’s usual style. With due reason. This post illuminates a spot-on piece by Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune columnist, who writes about the leaves and the forest. His contention: today’s college students are not learning critical thinking skills. In “Has College Become Too Easy?” he separatesContinue reading “The Graduate: “What Forest?””

Hunger Games: The Parable

Hunger Games: The Parable She scrunches her eyes at nothing in particular. Two more tears, one to each cheek, roll slowly. I sit down across the table. “He was in the back seat. In the middle.” As if on the movie set of her life, upon her a radiant late September sun casts through theContinue reading “Hunger Games: The Parable”

A Pirate

A Pirate Teachers are always stealing. Teachers steal one another’s ideas, strategies, projects — sometimes even elements of one another’s persona, the public image a teacher projects within the classroom and building. Whatever helps the good teacher become a better one. Maybe it’s a well-kept trade secret, but within the world of teaching, thievery isContinue reading “A Pirate”

In the Lost and Found Box: Critical Thinking

In the Lost and Found Box: Critical Thinking Going through an elementary school’s Lost and Found at the end of a school year can be like an archaeological dig. One June, my mother, patience stretched by the antics of three young boys, refused to abide by my joy for the reclaimed, a prized windbreaker jacket. “Barry, really, youContinue reading “In the Lost and Found Box: Critical Thinking”

Antonio and Annie, meet Alfie

Antonio and Annie, meet Alfie Welcoming students as they enter the classroom is a great joy of teaching. So many present and past colleagues and I enjoy this ritual. The welcome is a small, sacred beginning to the daily process of learning. To my way of thinking, light humor and warmth prevail; to my students’ waysContinue reading “Antonio and Annie, meet Alfie”