Report from a Teacher: Teaching Bell to Bell Often Sucks

I often feel like my half-cup of coffee
and a pair of eyeglasses are extensions of my being.
The principal pulls me into her office one particularly balmy afternoon after the second-period bell. Her office is spacious and decently accommodated. I gravitate towards the plush leather couch, but take my seat in the leather chair instead.


Poem: "Feet in the Sun"

image credit: Greig Roselli © 2010
If a foot dangles
From a deck chair
Does the heart know
That the body knows
Those rays are from a star?

Teacher's Review: New York Times Learning Network

Read a review of the New York Times Learning Network and find out how it can help you as a teacher in your classroom - and help your students!
     I want to rave RIGHT now about the NYtimes. The Banks School of Education tag teams with the newspaper to make some impressive, timely lesson plans for teachers struggling to find meaning in their instruction.

     The New York Times Learning Network is chock full of informative, engaging lesson plans for K-12 teachers. I recently used a New York Times lesson on getting students to write complaint style essays. In class we wrote complaint essays on a variety of topics; some people wrote about personal space, sexual discrimination, disturbing others in the class, chalkboards (how much they disdain them), and starting a story without finishing it. What I liked about the lesson is how the lesson plan stressed teaching how you say something is sometimes just as important as what you say. Teaching etiquette in this lesson when you are annoyed by something in society is crucial. And teaching that what annoys us should not just be wrapped around ourselves, but we should try to find a solution within society itself is a valuable life lesson. For example, as the above graphic about grooming in public shows maybe the reason people brush their teeth on subways - an act repulsive to many - is because the same people are used to seeing similar displays of private moments in public spaces on reality TV so they internally figure it is okay to do it on trams and at stop signs in their car. The article in the lesson plan prompted good discussion.
     I have used dozens of New York Times learning lesson plans. They range from discussing mobile technology in the classroom, to talking about the sex abuse scandal in the church, to prepping students to analyze film as literature, and engaging students in conversation about cognitive science and literary analysis. When I have designed my own lessons from scratch, I use their template of warm-up, article, activity and writing exercise to be effective. I think the best feature of the learning network is PROMOTING INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY among young people. As an intellectually curious person myself, I find it difficult to impart big ideas to my students. With this resource, my job is made a little easier.
More Pros
  • Lesson plans are easy to implement
  • Built-in vocabulary 
  • Articles are informative and well written.

  • Lesson plans are engaging
  • Wow, relevancy!
  • Lessons promote information literacy
  • I find myself learning
  •  Internet Friendly
  • Ample ideas for taking the lesson further 
  • Students may complain about the sophistication of the articles
  • Don't expect the Times do all the work. You should really plan the lesson ahead of time.
  • Presupposes all kids are voracious readers and love to learn
  • The onus is on the student to perform for the lesson to run smoothly
  • The time suggestions are not always accurate
  • The intellectual rigor may shut down some lower order thinking students
  • Some allusions to popular culture, literature, etc., may be lost on less well-read kids
  • Some lessons are better suited if every student had a laptop in class with connection to the Internet


What, me, worry?


Mandeville High School Class of 1998: Graduation Speech I Never Gave

I graduated from Mandeville High School (class of 1998).
Here is a transcript of a speech I wrote — but since

I was not selected to be the graduation speech-giver — here is the
speech verbatim (that I never gave).
I walk often behind my house.  I bring my trusty spaniel, and we conquer what there is to conquer.  I notice the turtles and the snakes.  The flowers grow silently, and I stumble their humble beauty.  I become a discoverer.  I lift stones to peer at the scampering centipedes and worms.  I climb aged oaks and jump over running streams.  Sometimes I sit quietly or read the book I had tucked beneath my arm.
    Our journey through these Halls of Learning has been like a journey through the woods.  Close your eyes and remember your school experience.  Remember your discoveries, remember your first-grade teacher, remember your favorite teachers, remember the evil teacher, remember music class, remember recess, remember dances, remember the bully -- were you the bully?  remember tests, remember labs, remember football games.  Remember school like a walk through the woods.  Pick the wildflowers of your school memories and don’t forget the poison ivy.  Remember the sweetness of the one you loved.  Just sit and remember, and it will all come like a stream flowing.
    For twelve years, we have been offered a platter of knowledge.  We were given the chance to pick from its variety of choice fruits.  The Homeric metaphors and the rhythms and workings of the body have been offered us.  E=MC^2.  Supply and demand.  Manifest Destiny.  Endless conjugations of foreign language verbs.  We will leave these halls with a diploma.  It will say more than a graduation certificate.  It says we have gone through the treasures of boundless knowledge and survived.  We have survived the words.  We have been led by Puck, Heathcliff, Virgil, and Prospero.  We have been led by Newton, Einstein, Madame Curie, and Michelangelo.  We have been led by Franklin, Lincoln, Luther, Douglass, Dix, Charlemagne, and Tubman.
    These woods can be dark and brooding like Snow White in the forest with living trees clawing out at us.  Other times the woods are bright and copious.  Wolves are sparse and goodness is near. Sometimes the skies open and torrents of rainfall, like King Lear in the heath, and cleanses us.  We have been nurtured through our journey and now we find ourselves at the edge of the forest, peering out into the wide expanse.  We can’t turn back now but must plow forward.
    I like to think we are all knights of knowledge on our horses prancing toward the rising sun, singing in our heads the Simon and Garfunkel song, “I’ve got my books and my poetry to protect me.  I’m shielded in my armor  safe within my room [or shall we say safe with our diploma?]  I touch no one and no one touches me  I am a rock; I am an island.”  It has always given me comfort to know I have all the poets, saints, sinners, builders, politicians, princesses, kings, slaves, and singers behind us.  We can carry the Divine Comedy, the Principia Mathematica, and the Holy Scriptures, all tucked beneath our arms  ready to go beyond the woods and into the mountains.
    We have so many experiences and emotions that have welled up in us these many years.  My English teacher Melanie Plesh said it so correctly, “We are tender creatures, so affected by words and actions from other people.”  We have been molded by so many people, words, and actions that have sculpted us.  We have watched ourselves develop in our souls spiritually, mentally, and physically.  We were babes, now we are mature  nourished by our fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters.  Thanks for the woods, the cleansing.
    Now we can offer the world our pain, our laughter, and tears.  We can share our poetry and our logic.  I am girded by my friends  my mail is heavy, but I remind myself: “We are the stuff dreams are made of.”


Poem: Rabbit

how come life is like

the bald man

who comes to



ostensibly to spread

joie de vivre

but instead

reminds us

the rabbit we're


was shot in the backyard

along with the pigs?