Originally published in International Schools magazine and aimed at teachers considering a move to China.
The classical gardens, first. Master of the Nets is my favourite: small, but it has all the elements. Not gardens in the Western sense, but homes for the well-to-do, built around a central pond. In a classical garden, art [...]
Ten years ago I heard of the passing of Anne Osman, my friend and colleague from Casablanca American School, where I worked from 1986-89. Today I came across this piece that I wrote about Anne. It was published on an earlier version of this web site but was somehow lost in the move. This seems [...]
First: we can never know what the author intended. Even if we ask the author in person, we cannot know whether the answer we hear is sincere, or truthful. It gets worse: the author himself cannot know with certainty what impelled him to write this or that. Why did I eat oatmeal for breakfast? [...]
I’ve always thought the public schools needed to study the best literature. I always taught Oedipus Rex to all kinds of what they used to call remedial or development classes. The reason those kids are in those classes is that they’re bored to death; so you can’t give them boring things. You have to give [...]
Some of my students were devastated to discover that Hamlet dies at the end of the play, so I have obliged their tender sensibilities with this additional scene. —etm
Scene: Wittenberg. A room in an inn.
HORATIO But how is this possible?!
HAMLET ‘Season your admiration’, good friend. In short, by a hair’s breadth [...]
“How Shakespeare Changes Us”, at lit-hum.org. The first comment is worth a look, too.
From The Atlantic, a piece worth reading by Maura Kelly. Here’s a taste:
Why the emphasis on literature? By playing with language, plot structure, and images, it challenges us cognitively even as it entertains. It invites us to see the world in a different way, demands that we interpret unusual descriptions, and pushes our memories [...]
How to take notes—that’s the problem.
With a Kindle book, forget it. The best you can do is select some text and then share it via Twitter or Facebook. Not useful.
With Apple’s iBooks, it’s a bit better. You can select some text, copy it, switch to ‘Notes’, paste it, and then add whatever comments [...]
This thought-provoking piece by the eclectic Robert X. Cringely caught my eye today. Here, Cringely quotes a friend who was an engineer but changed careers and became a high school math teacher:
“The problem is that I’ve found that all these things that are purported to improve student learning ignore the number one factor in [...]
The great literary critic George Steiner writes, somewhere, that just walking through the streets of Paris during his childhood was an education and an inspiration. Nearly every street and square in the city is named after someone who made a difference: scientists, poets, politicians, generals, intellectuals, labour leaders, architects, and on and on. Every intersection [...]
The death of singer Amy Winehouse at the age of 27 connects, I think, with the terrible events in Norway. Both stories concern mental illness of a certain sort, and in both cases the social and cultural context plays a role.
For Amy Winehouse: She was clearly ill, and yet in our culture she could [...]
Congratulations to Steve Thorsett, Willamette University’s newly-appointed President, who was a student in my ‘World Literature & Philosophy’ class at South Salem High School in 1982-83. Steve has had an impressive academic career already, including a stint teaching physics and astronomy at UC Santa Cruz, where I studied as an undergraduate.
Administration of anything—much less [...]
The clumsy formulations I grew up with—what is the moral of the story? what is the hero’s or heroine’s tragic flaw?—still influence and flatten the questions people often ask about literary works, as if there were one answer, and a right answer, at that. The genius of literary study comes in asking questions, not in [...]
Here’s what David Carl, a teacher at St. John’s College, answered in an email message to one of his students:
In general, our encounter with great works should tend to make us hopeful, and therefore optimistic. I have the words of several authors in mind when I assert this, such as Montaigne (“The profit [...]
Reason #1: They show me what students are thinking.
Here’s a recent post from one of my Grade 9 students about ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’:
Response to chapter 12
The main event in chapter 12 is that Jem and Scout follows Calpurnia to the church where Cal goes. They experienced some uniqueness in ‘blacks’ church. [...]
Larry Ferlazzo asks that question, and many others reply: a great resource if you are looking for valuable education books to read. Thanks, Larry!
I received this email message today—
I am an ESL Instructor at [redacted] and I came across your blog and website. I enjoyed reading it and want to try some of your ideas. I also believe in independent reading (I call it extensive reading). Each student reads different books to the ones we read as [...]
In September Tom Whitby proposed that educational bloggers counterbalance the negative press in the U.S. about schools and school reform by agreeing to post their positive suggestions for improving education. All the posts were to be published on Sunday, October 17, with links added to a Wallwisher page that Tom created. Below are almost all [...]
I’m a big fan of Alfie Kohn. He’s deeply humane, unafraid to disagree with commonly accepted ideas, always on the side of students, tireless in his advocacy on their behalf—and he grounds his opinions in research. I often recommend his books—especially The Homework Myth and Punished by Rewards.
Recently, however, he posted a piece titled [...]
High school writers looking for a place to publish their work should have a look at The Blue Pencil Online, a project of the Walnut Hill School for the Arts, in Natick, Massachusetts (USA). Their standards appear to be quite high, so for a young writer of real talent and ambition, the Blue Pencil just [...]
People want more of the story; they want answers. [But] it’s not a position paper. It’s an “issue” novel, but it’s a story. And so, what I hope to offer people are questions, as opposed to answers.
Interviewed by Leonard Lopate about her novel, The Girl Who Fell From [...]
“The personality of a writer does become important after we have read his book and begin to study it. . . . We can ask ourselves questions about it such as ‘What is the author’s name?’ ‘Where did he live?’ ‘Was he married?’ and ‘Which was his favourite flower?’ Then we are no longer reading [...]
By constantly encouraging students to explore the questions raised in a text—instead of searching for its ‘messages’—we will help them learn to be sensitive, perceptive readers.
A great work of literature, as evocative as a tree or as the world itself, invites us to respond with our minds and our hearts, but it does not [...]
Click on the photo to see it full-sized.
The Class of 2010
America needs a culture that respects education. A culture in which learning is admired. A culture that honors the achievements of educated people and recognizes their importance to the entire society.
Anti-intellectualism has deep roots in American history and culture. Educated people are far too often subjected to suspicion and ridicule. These are the names [...]
Nancie Atwell, author of In the Middle, makes the case for teaching literature in ‘Education Week‘.
Needless to say, I agree with her.
We’re talking about SparkNotes, Cliff’s Notes, York Notes, and all such similar shortcuts used by lazy and/or desperate and/or insecure students.
Inspired partly by an online discussion among IB English teachers and partly by my own students, I’ve added a page to my English A1 class blog that makes things as clear as I can [...]
[An open letter to my fellow English teachers near and far.]
Thought flows in terms of stories – stories about events, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best story tellers. We learn in the form of stories.
—Frank Smith, Canadian [...]
Pete Kittle, who was a student of mine in the early part of my career, has written a beautiful piece concerning the death of his father which I hope you will take a few moments to read.
Sue Waters has a good post outlining her recent presentation on educational blogging. Teachers—especially those who are new to blogging, or interested—should have a look.
William M. Chace, professor of English and former president of two U.S. universities, tells the sad tale in The American Scholar.
University students who major in business are so misguided: every intelligent and successful businessman or -woman will tell you that a broad knowledge of literature, history, science, people, and the world—in other words, a [...]
Everyone who teaches Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl will be interested in Leonard Lopate’s interview of Francine Prose, whose new book is Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife, in which she argues that the diary was not simply a diary, but a heavily revised work of literature that Anne hoped to [...]
A query on Twitter caught my eye this morning:
#MYP DP Theory of Knowledge … where is it in the MYP? Is it missing? Is it necessary? [from @krea_frobro747]
I replied, “ATL should be taught as a weekly or biweekly pre-TOK class.”
TOK is a great course, and the concept behind it is compelling, but [...]
This may surprise you:
[Students who don't submit SAT scores when they apply to university], with significantly lower SATs, earn [university] G.P.A.’s that are within five one-hundredths of a G.P.A. point of submitters, and graduate at rates within one-tenth of 1 percent of submitters.
This comes from the former head of admissions at Bates [...]
. . . is laid out in a modest (22 slides) and minimalist (black & white, mostly) presentation that you can download either as a Keynote file or a Powerpoint document (click on the one you prefer).
Like Ric Murry, I’ve been reading Daniel T. Willingham’s book, Why Don’t Students Like School?, in which he [...]
Phillip Lopate, the writer, is interviewed by his older brother Leonard, the former painter and longtime broadcaster on WNYC in New York, in a podcast from ‘The Leonard Lopate Show’ that will fascinate and entertain anyone interested in literature, the arts, and brothers. Both students and teachers will enjoy it.
Two books underlie the interview. [...]
Harriet Gilbert hosts monthly interviews with contemporary authors that feature questions from both a live audience and BBC World Service listeners from all over the world. Recent programs have featured writers such as Nawal El Sadaawi, David Guterson, Toni Morrison, Derek Walcott, Alice Walker, Annie Proulx, and Chinua Achebe. Highly recommended!
As always, you can [...]
is that whereas I thought at first it would be an unending avalanche of trivia and nonsense, instead it is an unending avalanche of useful and interesting links and ideas.
The trick is, I only follow people whose tweets relate either to education or to China or and have real value. Result? More unpaid professional [...]
The usual attacks on ye olde 5-paragraph essay are a bit like attacks on the sonnet. Are formal constraints really the problem? After all, the vast majority of sonnets ever written—the ones that have mercifully made their way into Time’s recycling bin—were undoubtedly very bad pieces of writing. Instead of criticizing the 5-paragraph essay, shouldn’t [...]