5 Vows Every Teacher Should Make For The New Year

I love end of the year self-improvement articles – especially if they come in list form. Imagine my surprise when I found teaching advice that’s more than 100 years old, yet still pretty fresh as well as easy to listify.

Among the many wonders of the Internet is Project Gutenberg where you can download several lifetimes’ worth of free ebooks. Which is how I came to know Craftsmanship in Teaching by William C. Bagley, published in 1912.

Bagley was an elementary teacher before becoming a professor of education at the University of Illinois and later Teachers College at Columbia. 

Surely, I thought, this old book would be something to laugh at over a glass of champagne while I keep myself warm burning worksheets in my fireplace. Continue reading 5 Vows Every Teacher Should Make For The New Year

Just One More Hit Off CrackBook

So, here I am on a bright, shiny morning and what am I doing? Scanning Facebook. That I just scanned 20 minutes ago. And I checked it before I fell asleep. I’m feeling queasy in that way that feels very much like when I eat raw cookie dough. The beginnings of shame and sadness begin to bloat within me. Why? It’s just post after post of happiness, right?

mullet shame

 This is shame in hair form

I can see why Facebook makes people more depressed. It’s easy to compare yourself to not only a handful of acquaintances, but 40 or 50 at one scroll. And make no mistake that our culture encourages comparison and its current offshoot, the humblebrag. You know what I’m talking about: So didn’t get the right size luggage for this trip to Spain! #notgoodwithestimating #hadtocheckit #hopeinVuitton. And I’m only slightly altering a real post from my feed.

Christmas is a ripe season for humblebragging about where you’re vacationing, what cool stuff you got, how attractive your family is, how attractive you are and how intelligent you are because you’re writing your own blog post and not just linking to someone else’s take on the same topic.

Oh yes, when I point the finger, three more point back at me – me, me, me so cute.


But dang, those are some gorgeous fingers

I’ve noticed that Facebook is replacing those commonalities that I used to have with other people like tv shows, songs on the radio, etc. Our new common reader is Facebook. I get a lot of local news from Facebook as well as tips on really great reads and funny stuff. Maybe the all the humblebragging and such is the price I pay, kind of like annoying local advertising, to get to the good stuff. The accumulation of it, however, is still depressing. And being constantly updated and notified that someone is commenting or liking something creates a sense of  the junior high lunchroom. Why are you liking her post but not mine? Why do you never acknowledge my comments? Why did you accept her friend request, but not mine? And so on. I’d like to say that I’m above this, but I’m not. I’m still a 12 year old at heart. Yet here I am clicking back on it to see if I have any notifications. Why WON’T you accept me?


Why her? Is is because of my hat? My cholera? 

There’s actually good neuroscientific reason for my feelings. In a troubling article, researcher David Rainoshek explains how Facebook creates a dopamine loop that makes our brains feel like we’ve just eaten something we love, had sex, or taken really good drugs, or a combination of all three. And Harvard researchers found that talking about ourselves feels pretty dang awesome too. Add to that the semi-horrifying research that shows that Facebook also rewires our brains to shorten our attention spans while increasing our proclivities to narcissism.


A helpful scientific graphic

What’s an envious narcissistic squirrel to do? Maybe unplug for a minute and look out the window. Or put on some shoes and go for a walk. Or call someone I haven’t talked to in a while. Or pet my big fat cat. Or sit for a moment, breathe and be grateful that I am here, in this shaft of sunlight on a gorgeous December morning.

But I know good and well I’ll be back here in an hour or so checking to see if anyone read this.


Images courtesy of Flickr’s Beth Kanter, Jennifer Boyer, and Wikipedia

Be Here Now

One of the biggest differences between teaching and other careers I’ve had is the sheer amount of decisions to make. When I was a journalist, I had a few decisions for an entire day: Which story will I work on first? Who do I need to call? Should I leave this lede or change it? This is not the case with teaching. Teachers sometimes make as many as five decisions a minute: Yes you can. No you can’t. Let’s start here. It’s right there. Get into your groups. Do you remember where we stopped yesterday? And on and on.

Continue reading Be Here Now

A Question For You

where is your passion


When things get really dark and drag me down, I ask myself this question: “Where is your passion?” When I live and teach out of my passion, so many other awful little subfeelings fall away. The question refocuses and re-energize me.  Continue reading A Question For You

Peer Conferencing About Writing

This is a demonstration of a revision technique created by Peter Elbow called “Summary & Say Back.” The writer reads her piece twice while a listener listens to summarize and say back what he heard in the writing. The listener responds in a way that helps the writer know if she is achieving her purpose in the writing. This is a good way to give and get feedback after you’ve written your first draft.