Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Starbucks gift cards are nice but...

I was reading a Facebook post from author Gae Polisner this morning about an email of appreciation she sent to her son's teacher. She proceeded to talk about what that note meant to the teacher, and encouraged others to take a few moments to do the same for their own children's teachers. Her post got me thinking...

December is the time of year when teachers are showered with gifts from students and their parents. It can be overwhelming for us to receive so many Things. And it's not that we don't appreciate these generous, giving gestures from our students and their families -- we really do -- but before you head to Starbucks for that $10 gift card or head straight for that gift basket of body lotions, I want to share with you a simple truth: The gifts I treasured the most as a teacher were the words of thanks and the heartfelt notes of appreciation from both students and parents that made me feel like I was making a difference.

The families at my old school were so incredibly giving to the teachers at Christmastime and I don't want the purpose behind this blog post to make it sound like I'm being ungrateful. Trust me, my heart was full from being the receiver of such generosity. But after seven years of watching Christmases and end of school years come and go, here's what I'll remember being given the most:

  • The parent who sent me an email to thank me for turning her daughter into a reader
  • A thank you note from a mom at the end of the school year telling me that after putting three children through school, I was one of the best teachers her children had ever had 
  • A handmade card from a struggling student who talked about how being in my class helped him
  • The poem a student wrote me about our class that was so rife with growth and learning that it remains, to this day, the best gift a student ever gave me.

Still, every year, many teachers spend a large portion of their hard-earned money on their classrooms for the benefit of their students, so if you really want to buy them something, consider asking them what they need for their classroom. Whether it's much-needed office supplies or books for their classroom library, there's always something we could use for our students. But truly I say unto thee: if you really want to make a teacher's Christmas bright, a card filled with heartfelt, kind, encouraging words gets more mileage than a gift card ever could.
For a teacher, a handmade card filled with words of thanks and encouragement mean more than any material possession

Friday, November 29, 2013

The E in NCTE stands for Empowering, Energizing, and Enlightening

I've been avoiding writing about my NCTE experience for the past 2 days. I do that when I'm overwhelmed - avoid things. I've never been good at confrontation, what can I say. But in this case I'm overwhelmed in a good way. Overwhelmed by the learning, by the friendships I've formed, and by what an empowering experience it is to be part of the NCTE family.

The first year I attended NCTE was in Chicago in 2011 and I barely knew anyone then. Out of all the people I follow on Twitter I think I met three of them. I was still very shy and leery of putting myself out there.

But 2013 in Boston was a different story. Every corner I turned it seemed I was running into people I knew. Hugs were wielded out with enthusiasm and given to people I'd never met in real life (only on Twitter) because well, that's what you do when you're excited to be somewhere and surround yourself with like-minded people. You give hugs.

The excitement and hug-wielding all started on Thursday afternoon when I ran into a group of Nerdy Book Club friends and we had an impromptu lunch together - one of many impromptu meals I shared with friends in Boston.
Top: Colby Sharp, Me, Katherine Sokolowski, Donalyn Miller     Bottom: Donalyn Miller, Jen Vincent, Alyson Beecher, Paul Hankins

Later that evening in a last minute change to the program due to Tony Danza (who was originally the keynote speaker) being injured and in the hospital, Judy Blume stood in for him as an informal interview with her longtime editor Beverly Horowitz. Judy was planning on attending NCTE to receive the intellectual freedom award but she graciously agreed to stand in for Danza with virtually no notice. As always, she was a class act. A highlight of the convention for me was when I stood in line to get one of her books signed and she recognized me from Twitter since I had emailed her in September and asked her to be a part of our #nctechat for Banned Books Week.

On Friday the general session was something different than the typical keynote speaker, it was a hip-hop/spoken word poetry performance troupe from the University of Wisconsin - Madison known as First Wave.
First Wave - photo credit: Ernest Morrell

All I have to say is that I should have known better. I should have been prepared with tissues because spoken word poetry always affects me emotionally. And this performance was no different. It's a good thing they were performing in a darkened ballroom because I was a sniffling, teary mess. Especially during this moment (excuse any errors or omissions, I was sitting toward the back and a few words were hard to hear):

Mr. Garrison was his name.
Nicknamed me J Dub
like I wasn't just his student...

Listen up J Dub
I see you got your Jay Z 
thing goin on
but when you step in my class
I wanna see Shawn Carter...

You skip out my class
means I've failed my lesson.
I'm not gonna call your dad.
I'm not gonna call your mom.
I'm gonna call

You understand J Dub?

I'm gonna call YOU.

I will forever remember that performance as a highlight of my NCTE convention experience, not just of 2013, but of all my years attending (past, present, and future). Kudos to NCTE for thinking outside the keynote box.

After First Wave I had to get myself together and meet with the group I was presenting with at 12:30. This was my first year presenting at NCTE and I presented with Kellee Moye, Jen Vincent, and Audrey Vernick. Our topic was using picture books as mentor texts for middle school and high school students and I was amazed that our session was standing room only - and most people stayed to the very end of the session which contradicted a dream (more like a nightmare) I had that our session started off standing room only and by the time it was my turn to speak there were two people left in the room.
Excited and humbled that our session was a full house - people were standing along the sides and sitting on the floor
Me gushing over why Jon Klassen's THIS IS NOT MY HAT is perfect for high school students (photo credit: Jen Vincent)
Jen Vincent, Kellee Moye, Audrey Vernick, and me
If you're interested, here is the link to my Slideshare of our presentation:
Rethinking Picture Books

After the session and all throughout the weekend I had so many people come up to me and say how much they enjoyed it. That made me feel so proud of our group and excited about the possibility of presenting again at NCTE, either on a similar topic or something completely different. Whatever the topic is, I've clearly got the bug.

Since this recap is getting ridiculously long, I will bullet point the rest of my NCTE 2013 highlights:

  • Hearing Temple Grandin speak for the first time, not only about the autistic brain, but also of her desire for legislators to stop making laws about issues they are too far removed from  - like, oh, I don't know, maybe education? She said she'd love for the show Undercover Boss to become Undercover Legislator. The room burst into applause when she said that.
  • Having lunch with my cousin Mariana whom I rarely get to see
  • Getting to hang out and share meals with my hotel-mates Cathy Blackler and Cindy Beggs.  Cathy's stories are downright hilarious. She needs to write a book, that's all there is to it.
  • Sharing a theater with enthusiastic English teachers and book lovers at the Scholastic screening of Catching Fire
  • Attending my first Ignite presentation and the wheels began turning as to how I could use this format in the classroom. 
  • Seeing #ncte13 trend on Twitter
  • Meeting Jack Gantos. He is one of the coolest people on the planet.
  • Laurie Halse Anderson and Chris Crutcher's keynote at the ALAN workshop. I wish book banners could be forced to sit in a room with these two inspiring authors. If Chris and Laurie can't change their minds then no one can. 
  • A.S. King's beautiful and compassionate speech as part of the Walden award panel at the  ALAN workshop
  • Discovering that Rainbow Rowell was on my flight home to Detroit and excitedly texting Sarah Andersen from 17 rows ahead of me before the flight took off. 

There are so many little moments from the convention that I could go on and on but it would take me days to write it all down. So  I will leave with this thought:

NCTE expected 6000 people to attend the convention in Boston but almost 7500 showed up. Many of those teachers pay their own way to come and be inspired by the great thinkers of their profession. Schools should be more willing to invest the time and money in their talent to allow their teachers to attend this convention (as Donalyn Miller says, professional development isn't an expense, it's an investment). But the fact that so many schools won't pay a teacher's way and STILL so many come on their own dime is a testament to the passion and dedication of these teachers.

Next year the NCTE convention will be in Washington DC. I really hope that the politicians responsible for making these "far removed decisions" as Temple Grandin would say, will come and listen to the concerns of REAL teachers. That they will look teachers in the eye and see a person, not a value-added score that determines whether they're effective or ineffective. Because anyone willing to pay their own way to a teaching convention and travel across the country on a teacher's salary is going above and beyond the call of duty and deserves to be heard - no matter what their value-added score says.

My #NCTE13 Storify (tweets I archived for myself)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Reflection and Gratitude

Yesterday I went back to visit my old school. Every year they put on a pancake breakfast the day before Thanksgiving, so I thought it would be a good time to visit since I wouldn't be interrupting any important lessons. As I pulled into the driveway and saw the lights illuminating the windows of my old classroom, a small pang nagged at my heart. And despite the fact that I briefly met the teacher who now resides in my old classroom, I couldn't bring myself to go inside. She said to me, "Oh! You're Mrs. Shaum! The kids are always telling me I don't have enough books in here."

As I was going down the stairs from my old classroom, a couple of 8th graders were going up the stairs and one of them said to the other, "I think the other 8th graders are in Mrs. Shaum's room." I smiled at the student's blunder and said to her, "I'm glad to know it's still my room to you even though I'm not here anymore."

Catching up with old coworkers and talking books with former students made me realize even more how much I miss being in the classroom every day. But as much as I miss it, I also know that the path my life has currently taken is the right one. Seven years of an 84-mile-a-day commute is just too much. I do not regret my decision to leave my old school, but I am content and thankful for the people and experiences that led me to this moment to pause and reflect on the teacher I was and the one I am still becoming.

As I was leaving church with the 8th graders yesterday, one of them said to me, "Mrs. Shaum, the next time you come visit, you should bring some of that maple bacon ice cream you made. That was so good."

Bacon and books. It seems like that's what I'll be remembered for by my former students. I think I'll take it. :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Review: Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller

Teaching is a career that can burn you out and drag you down. With so much political fervor in the education world today, not to mention faux research being purported as fact, it's hard to feel inspired anymore. That's where a book like Reading in the Wild stands out. Not only has Donalyn Miller done her research, but she has found a way for teachers and students to be inspired by learning again. And she doesn't just want it. She has found a way for you to do it in your own classrooms.

When I read The Book Whisperer almost four years ago, I felt inspired and empowered as a teacher. I knew the words I was reading about giving kids their reading lives back were important and just what educators needed to hear. I have never regretted a single day of completely changing the way I teach after reading Donalyn's first book.

But I, like Donalyn, initially lamented over the fact that once my students left my class, they stopped reading voraciously. Ever increasing homework demands coupled with lack of free reading time in their new classrooms left most former students barely reading five books a year, let alone the forty Donalyn invites her students to read under her tutelage. But Donalyn, being the ever reflective teacher that she is, recognized the need to pinpoint what behaviors lifelong readers possess and wanted to figure out a way to instill those behaviors in her students. How could she move her dependent readers to become independent readers. Thus Reading in the Wild was born.

I can't even begin to tell you what an important book this is. You just have to experience it for yourself. But I will say this: not only is Reading in the Wild inspiring, it is also practical. Donalyn shares her methods and her means of execution, sharing reproducible forms in the back of the book for you to use and implement in your reading workshop to help start you on the path to creating wild readers in your own classrooms.

If you teach reading in any capacity, please pick up this book. And when you're finished, give it to your administrators to borrow. The conversations about creating lifelong readers need to be happening among more people than just teachers. Administrators are the ones responsible for where the money goes and Donalyn has advice and recommendations for the people controlling the purse strings too.

It amazes me that when I first read The Book Whisperer, I didn't even know who Donalyn was, and now after following her on Twitter and meeting her at conferences, I can say that one of my teaching mentors has become a friend. That might make me biased about what an important book I think Reading in the Wild is, but I want to point out that it also shows how accessible Donalyn is to her readers and fellow teachers. I am grateful for The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, but I am equally grateful for how available and amiable Donalyn is outside the pages of her books.

Follow Donalyn on Twitter: @donalynbooks

Review cross-posted to my book review blog A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust

Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller
Published: November 4, 2013
Publisher: Jossey-Bass
Pages: 273
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Educators
Disclosure: Purchased copy

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out." - Sara Bareilles: #Write2Connect

Yesterday was the fifth annual National Day on Writing but since it was on a Sunday, teachers around the country are celebrating today.

If you missed the fantastic #nctechat on Twitter last night, check out the Storify archive. It was an inspiring hour of discussion. You can also continue the conversation on Katherine Sokolowski's blog: Read, Write, Reflect

The theme of this year's National Day on Writing is #write2connect.

There are many ways to interpret what it means to write to connect, but one that I seemed to latch onto stems from the following quote from E.M. Forester:

"How do I know what I think until I see what I say?"

Writing helps us understand and make sense of the jumble of thoughts running through our heads. So often students (and sometimes teachers) are of the opinion that they have to know what they think before they sit down and start writing. They haven't made the connection yet that writing is the vehicle to help us elucidate our thoughts.

When students use their writer's notebooks I want them to write without censoring themselves. I want them to feel free to explore and take risks and heed the advice of James Thurber:

"Don't get it right, just get it written."

But that's easier said than done isn't it? Often I find myself declaiming these platitudes in front of my students, but when it comes to doing it myself, I listen to the censor in my head more often than I care to admit. So in that way, I write to connect in order to empathize with my students. A writing teacher should be a writer. Just like a piano teacher should be a pianist.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Changing the Narrative: Finding What Teachers Are Doing Right

When I left my full time teaching job back in June to work part time for NCTE, one of the things I said I wanted to do this year was to visit classrooms and be inspired by the teaching profession again. Bogged down by my own exhaustion but more importantly, tired of the incessant public narrative that portrays teachers as incapable and incompetent to the point where we don't deserve any autonomy nor adequate compensation for the tireless work we do, I am setting out to change that dialogue.

So I decided I would perform my own little educational experiment: to visit the classrooms of friends and people I've met through social media and celebrate what they're doing right instead of contributing to toxic narrative the American public is being fed via politicians and the media.

Today I had one of those inspirational experiences I've been looking for.

My friend Kaitlin, whom I used to work with, is currently teaching a history class at the Mercy Education Project in Detroit for women who are working on getting their GED. The class I sat in on today was extremely small, only six women, but their passion for learning was monumental, as was their determination to make a better life for themselves and their families. I was honored and humbled to sit in on such a class.

Not only does Kaitlin teach these lovely women history, but she finds ways to tie in current events to what they're learning, she looks for resources to give voice and multiple perspectives to history, and I was even able to witness a beautiful moment at the end of class when one of Kaitlin's students said, "This makes me want to go out and vote."
Kaitlin reads from HEART AND SOUL by Kadir Nelson to give an African American perspective from the Revolutionary War

To watch these women who have had what is likely a lifetime of disappointing educational experiences, be so involved and excited about their learning was so uplifting to see.

I was looking for inspiration and I found it. I hope I can keep this momentum going.

Thanks Kaitlin and to everyone at the Mercy Education Project for allowing me to come in and observe today and for being so welcoming. You all inspire me so -- mission accomplished!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

When anger and hurt feelings lead to dialogue

Something interesting happened today. I was perusing my Facebook feed when I came across this YouTube clip on Upworthy.  Dr. Brene Brown went on the Oprah network and appears to be telling the world that pretty much every teacher in America shames/humiliates their students. And Oprah didn't challenge her. My initial reaction to this video was beyond offended. It was yet another example of how the public narrative of teacher bashing continues.

But them something extraordinary happened. Many teachers expressed their anger and frustration on Twitter, to which I will fully admit I instigated a great deal of the rancor, but then Brene Brown herself decided to engage in a civilized dialogue with all of us and clarified her meaning, which was not elaborated properly in that short video clip.

Did Brown use a really poor example in the above clip? Absolutely. (Because honestly, I know of absolutely no teacher who would ever call a child stupid). But her point about shame was not meant to single out teachers. Shame is pervasive in life -- even if we don't intend it. Perhaps I don't agree with everything she clarified and am still trying to process it all, but here's what I appreciate about today's turn of events: Brown chose to engage rather than ignore. Instead of discounting teacher frustration like so many "higher ups" in education do these days, Brown addressed them head on in a dignified, civilized manner. She didn't talk around the issue or give a camera-ready fake answer. She was real.

And while I'm satisfied with how this situation was resolved today, I am still frustrated. I'm frustrated because this is not how most educational dialogues go down. If people like Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, and yes, Oprah, would address these criticisms head on and hear the concerns of REAL teachers, maybe some real good could happen in education. Instead, we have nothing but top-down reforms and legislation that prevent teachers from being able to teach because they're too busy doing test prep. And we also have TV networks doing entire "educational" summits with nary a classroom teacher to be found. So yes, I am pleased and grateful that Brene Brown was kind enough to engage with her critics in the trenches so to speak. I just wish more educational leaders would follow her lead.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dipping my toe back in the water

A new job fell into my lap this week. It's not instead of my NCTE job, but in addition to, as it is only two hours a week. I am helping with the writing lab portion of a college course designed for dual-enrolled high school students.

I started yesterday and even though I am a bit overwhelmed at being thrown into it, today seemed to go better. I'm still not entirely sure what my role is since I meet with the professor who's running the class on Tuesday. So I have been improvising. Today I gave the students a writing survey to gauge their attitudes towards writing and get a feel for their abilities. But my favorite part of the period came toward the end when I was talking to an exchange student in the class who is from Bulgaria. She had mentioned that she will have to repeat 11th grade when she goes back to Bulgaria next year and so I asked her what is the benefit of coming to the U.S. if you have to do an extra year of high school. Her answer was quite mature and very telling. She said, "I can't learn English in Bulgaria the way I can learn it here. Plus, life is all about experiences. I've traveled abroad before but no more than one or two weeks. Living in another country makes me appreciate different cultures but also my own culture."

She is much more mature at sixteen than I was at twenty-three. I didn't appreciate my experience living in Germany with my husband until I moved back home. Now I wish I could go back and have a do-over.

While we were talking, one of the boys in the class who has already proven to be a bit of a class clown came up next to me. At first I thought he had a question or was going to ask to go to the bathroom, but he continued to stand there as we were talking. I eventually turned to him and asked if he needed anything, but instead of asking to go to the bathroom he said that he thinks learning about other cultures is really interesting and he wants to to travel some day. The maturity and seriousness he revealed to me in that conversation made me remember why I love teaching in the first place: because kids will surprise you when you least expect it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"I expect you to rise up as courageous people... and raise hell."

As I was perusing my Facebook feed this morning, I came across this blog post that Teri Lesesne shared:

A Time Comes When Silence is Betrayal by Michelle Newsum

What Newsum discusses in this blog post is how teachers have long been silent and absent in the political decision making. He quotes Jonathan Kozol from The Shame of the Nation at the end of his post:

“(This) is about the abolition of a national sin. So when people say, ‘What do you expect us to do?’ I say, ‘I expect you to rise up as courageous people have done before in America, and raise hell.’ I want to see our teachers develop a stronger political voice and find the courage to serve as witnesses to the injustices of which they are more keenly aware than anyone else... I do believe there will be another mass movement in this country, and I’d like to see it led by teachers.”

When I read a post like this I think about the fact that we're celebrating Banned Books Week this week and how teachers have long been encouraged to #SpeakLoudly against censorship (perhaps not within their own districts, but certainly nationally). That same attitude is not prevalent with education reform. Teachers are treated as a nuisance rather than an important part of the discussion, as recently evidenced by NBC's Education Nation panel that includes nary a teacher. Why are discussions about education always excluding the people who are doing the educating? Because the people leading the educational reform charge have corporate and financial interests to protect, certainly not the interests of the children. The people in the trenches, doing the hard work -- the TEACHERS -- have a message that just doesn't jive well with men in $1200 business suits looking to make a buck off our children's test scores.

But Newsum's blog post takes this idea a step further. She's telling teachers it's time to stop being silent. It's time to stand up for what you know is right. It's time to get in the game. It's time to use your outside voice.

"A time comes when silence is betrayal." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Food for thought

I'm currently taking an English graduate course at Eastern Michigan University called "Issues in the Teaching of Writing." Our readings for this week include an English Journal article from July 2011 entitled "A Snapshot of Writing Instruction in Middle Schools and High Schools" by Arthur N. Applebee and Judith A. Langer. It's an interesting article about the amount of writing middle school and high school students do (or don't do) in their English classes and other subject areas.

I think the part of the article that stuck with me the most is a passage from the concluding paragraphs that states the following:

"...the actual writing that goes on in typical classrooms across the United States remains dominated by tasks in which the teacher does all the composing and students are left only to fill in missing information."

As I read that passage I thought to myself, "No wonder teachers are always so bogged down with work. We're spending way too much time composing for our students."

And then I wondered, how can we change this? There has to be a  way that we can better challenge our students to think further and learn how to learn rather than learn how to fill in blanks while the teacher does all the hard thinking.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls - Pablo Picasso

Last night I turned on my TV and happened upon The X Factor, a show I don't normally watch. I would have just changed the channel then and there but something compelled me to keep watching.  A high school-age boy named Carols Guevara was auditioning. He has Tourette's Syndrome and has tried every medication possible but to no avail. The only thing that seems to work at calming his tics is music.

So there was this boy, up on stage talking to the judges, trying to control his tics and explaining about his condition, but as soon as the music came on and he started singing, he was a new person. The tics went away and he embraced the crowd with his lovely voice.

I sat there and went into the Ugly Cry. I mean, I was full-on sobbing. That moment for Carlos not only shows how important the arts are in our world, but especially in education. These are not frivolous endeavors that we should be adding to school curricula only if there happens to be some extra money lying around. In Carlos's case, music has enhanced his quality of life, and for so many kids the arts don't just enhance their lives, they are life-savers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Last year during poetry month I shared with my 6th graders the powerful spoken word poem "Knock Knock" by Daniel Beaty. My students were really moved by this performance and we spent a great deal of time in class talking about the meaning of the poem and there were some students who genuinely worried for the poet's well-being.

As I was reading Elizabeth Bird's Newbery and Caldecott predictions on her blog, A Fuse 8 Production, I came across a picture book I hadn't seen yet this year (probably because it doesn't come out until December) called Knock Knock and when I looked at the author I realized, "Oh my goodness! This book is based on the poem by Daniel Beaty!" It was at that moment I said to myself, "Oh! I can't wait to tell my class about this!" only to remember that I don't have a class to tell anymore.

It's those moments that tug at my heartstrings and make me realize how much I miss my students and room 202. But as I've mentioned before, there's definitely a duality to my feelings. I miss my students no question about that. What I don't miss is coming home exhausted every night only to have more work to do. I don't miss giving up my weekends and holidays to lessons I have yet to write and papers I have yet to grade. I am at a good place right now in my life. I have no stress and I'm enjoying the work I'm doing.

But my heart feels that tug every time I think about my students and makes me remember I have too much to share with kids to just give it all up.

I'll have my own classroom again someday. Of that I have no doubt. The only question is when.

Friday, September 6, 2013

First Day of School Excitement: Teacher Style

So the first day of school has come and gone. Many amazing teachers reflected on their first day of school and talked via social media about what an exhausting yet rewarding day it was. Some teachers even went further with their thoughts and wrote wonderful, heartfelt blog posts about it. Everything I read was positive and showed an excitement for the year ahead. There was no pining over the loss of summer, but rather a Nemo-like jubilation and celebration of learning to come.

If you want to feel good about the teaching profession, just read some of these first day of school blog posts from rock star teachers:

Middle school teacher Jillian Heise from the blog Heise Teaches & Writes wrote a post entitled Best First Day of School Yet. Need I say more? I don't think so. You should read what she has to say though.

Middle school teacher Lea Kelley from the blog Miss Kelley Writes talked in her post, What We Did On Day One, about her expertise in opening combination locks and being the female Mr. Feeny. :)

High school teacher Cindy Minnich from the blog Charting by the Stars writes in her post, Day One of Year Ten, that despite the characteristic first day of school exhaustion, "the excitement is still there."

One week before the start of the school year, high school teacher Alaina Sharp of SharpChemLove, wrote a post called My Goal This Year. What is it? TO HAVE FUN!

Previously a fourth grade teacher and now a newly initiated third grade teacher, Colby Sharp of SharpRead wrote a post called My First Day that talks all about his excitement over starting at a new school - new to teaching anyway. You see, the school isn't new to him at all: it's where he went to school as a child.

Fifth grade teacher Katherine Sokolowski of the blog Read, Write, Reflect says in her post, The Start of a New School Year, "I love getting a new group, finding our rhythm, and watching them grow."

Friday, August 30, 2013

Be Brave

On August 1st, kindergarten teacher Matt Gomez wrote a blog post about the one and only rule in his classroom: BE BRAVE!

For all the teachers starting their first day of school this coming week (and those who've already started too), let this song be your mantra this year. Stand up for what you know is right for your classroom. Don't let the evils of education "reform" prevent you from being the teacher you're meant to be. Be brave and use your outside voice.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Good hair day

Last week I did something wild and crazy (for me). Since I'm not teaching this year, I decided it was time for me to bring out my inner teenage rebel.

I went and did this to my hair:
I call it, "business in the front, party in the back."

I'm finding new ways to use my outside voice it seems.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

September's Just Around the Corner...

Everywhere around me I see signs that the new school year is almost beginning (for some of you reading this, it's already begun). Back to school shopping is in full swing, teachers are talking about having to report to work for PD workshops, and there's an energy in the air that seems to shout, "SUMMER IS OVER! TIME TO SET YOUR ALARM CLOCKS!"

One of the things I will miss about not teaching this year is spending those two weeks before the school year begins getting my classroom ready. The anticipation and excitement of what the school year will hold builds as I organize my classroom and feel the satisfaction of watching that room go from disorder and chaos to my second home filled with books on the shelves and posters on the walls.

This year I won't have that sense of anticipation and satisfaction, so I decided to offer my services to a friend who is setting up a new classroom this year as she was just hired at a new school district.

I interviewed Sarah Andersen here on the blog back in April and she also contributed to my Why I Stay video. She was just offered a position teaching high school English at a new school district and so yesterday I drove to her new school and helped her start the process of making her classroom go from cold, gray walls, to a warm, inviting room filled with books.

I had a great time going through Sarah's books and helping to organize her shelves, and while we weren't able to get everything done yesterday, I hope that was able to help her put a sizable dent in her overwhelming mountain of boxes that took up an entire wall of her classroom.

Organizing a classroom before the school year begins is something all teachers, whether they'd like to admit it or not, look forward to. It is something that, despite knowing our last few days of freedom are coming to a close, helps give us time to wrap our minds around the important job we have ahead of us. Sitting in that empty classroom and watching it transform from the chaos of desks strewn about, books piled in odd places, and posters yet to be hung, to a welcoming place that we can be proud of is a microcosm of what we hope the rest of the school year will be.

When I returned home from my day helping Sarah, I was browsing my Facebook feed and noticed a few of my teacher friends had shared a blog post by another one of my interviewees, Gary Anderson. Gary is beginning his 34th and final year of teaching and his positive, upbeat outlook about not only the year ahead but his career as a whole was thoroughly refreshing and gave me hope. We need to see more teachers like Gary sharing their stories. Given the fact that we find ourselves hearing of public retirement stories from teachers who are leaving the profession out of disillusionment and resentment over the lack of trust left in our profession, stories like Gary's seem few and far between.

I'm on a mission this year to find more Garys out there. To find more teachers who are doing great things despite the fact that the media, politicians, and public opinion tell us otherwise. So if I know you and you're a teacher, don't be surprised if you hear from me soon. I want to come visit your classrooms and see what great things you're doing that, as a teacher, you're probably too humble to tell the world. Let me be your champion because I want teaching to go back to being the revered profession it once was, not fodder for news reporters and politicians.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Guest Post: What I Learned In Summer School

My friend and former colleague, Kaitlin Popielarz, just started taking classes to earn her Master's Degree. Ever the eager educator, Kaitlin offered to guest post here because she wanted to talk about all she has learned in the short two classes she took this summer. If only we could all embrace learning with such enthusiasm! 
What I Learned in Summer School 

This summer I began my Masters in the Art of Teaching and Curriculum through Michigan State University.  The program is completely online which makes it more manageable for me.  I took two courses this summer, Professional Development & Inquiry and Learning Communities & Equity, in a quick six weeks!  Before classes began, I was a bit nervous and hesitant because I honestly was not in the mood to start classes again.  But I soon realized that after this past school year and amidst my job search, my classes could be some much needed motivation for me.  They ended up being incredibly inspirational and really filled my teaching spirit for the school year ahead.  Here is a gist of what I learned this summer and what I hope to share with my students, colleagues, and peers.

  • Our schools should be an extension of our ideal home.  This idea is an extension of what I read in John Dewey's School and Society.  In essence, our schools should not be a place set aside for learning and where I students leave their lives behind them.  Our schools should resemble what we love most about our homes – inviting, warm, encouraging, inventive, failing, trying, loving, fighting, and always learning. 
  • It is okay to be a “positive deviant”.  Some of the best teachers are those that stray away from the “norm”.  Teachers that think outside of the box, try new lesson plans, and engage their students in unconventional ways can be seen as “deviants”.  We must remember though that deviants are not supposed to be a bad thing if we see them in a positive light and if we are open to new ideas!
  • Don't be scared to imagine or think outside the box.  For example, this school year, I would really like to invest in a high top table with high chairs.  I cannot sit all day in a desk so why should my students?  Trying out some different ways to sit, or stand, during class is something small that could make a huge difference in the classroom.
  • Involve the community.  Our schools should involve the community our students live within. Invite parents, community members, and local businesses into the school community!  Good things can happen when schools are involved with their community.
  • The teacher does not always need to be in control.  I am a control freak with a type A personality.  Sometimes it's hard for me to give my students total control in the classroom.  It's mentally and emotionally challenging for me depending on what my students are doing.  This school year, it's my goal to loosen up on my reigns and let my students be in charge more often. 
  • I really like writing papers on teaching and reflecting on where I am in my career!  I highly recommend taking a moment to write, journal, discuss, or contemplate about your life as a teacher.  It is my goal to do this more often.
  • Be open to others’ ideas and let it inspire you.  As teachers, we have the immense gift of being lifelong learners.  We must embrace this head on and savor what it can give our lives.
  • Cross-curricular action is exciting!  We should be working more with our colleagues that teach across the hallway.  Science and Social Studies, Math and Language Arts, Art and Spanish. Let's come together!
  • Colleagues are everything.  With my colleagues, I am by far and away a better teacher.  Period.
  • Differentiated instruction is crucial.  We teach all different learners and we must embrace all of their varying strengths.  But we must do this without tracking our beautiful students.
  • Be observed and evaluated.  Have your work critiqued so you can grow and learn as a teacher!
  • Admit to failure, learn from it, and move on.  Plain and simple.
  • We must be culturally responsive.  As teachers, we must embrace and teach other cultures.  Even more, we must be role models to our students on what it means to be a global citizen.
  • Technology and social media are your friend!  Seriously, are you still teaching without being on Twitter, using Pinterest, or obsessing over Evernote?  Get in the game!
  • You get out of it what you put into it.  Immerse your soul into your passion and what you love to do.  It will be challenging and painful at times but you will always be grateful you gave it everything you had.

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” - John Steinbeck

Friday, August 2, 2013

Conflicting Emotions

So. It's August. I haven't posted since June. To be honest, I wasn't intentionally neglecting the blog, I just found it difficult to come here knowing that it's summer and that, come September, I probably wouldn't be teaching.

That probably has pretty much become a certainty. Just before the school year ended in June, thanks to the class I took that started this whole blog in the first place, I was offered a job as the social
My new job: I even have business cards!
media coordinator for NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English). This is only a part time position (and it's work from home!) so I theoretically could teach and do this job too, but I've decided that this year is an opportunity for me to take some time and do some thinking about my future in the classroom. Maybe I'll substitute teach, maybe I'll find a part time job at a book store, or maybe I'll just use that extra time to write.

But lately I'm finding myself with some interesting conflicting emotions.

The other day I went into my garage, where my classroom library currently resides. I was searching for some books to send to a friend who teaches high school and is looking to bring more
My classroom library sadly waits to be extricated from my garage
middle grade literature into her classroom.  As I was looking through all of my books, this feeling of longing swept over me. I looked at all of those boxes, piled one on top of the other in my sweltering, dusty garage, and I suddenly wished I had a classroom to put them in. I was sad that I would not be sharing the joy of reading with my own group of students come September.

But that feeling of longing is also paired with another emotion.  As I'm thinking about how much I wish I had my own classroom again, I'm also thinking about this summer. About all I have done and seen. About how relaxed and happy I have been that I no longer feel the pressure to always be doing something for work. I can go out and run errands and not constantly feel that tension in my entire body that tells me, "You don't have time to do this. You should be doing (insert teaching related task here) instead."
Appreciating this time to just enjoy life

But then we had some of my husband's friends from Germany come visit us here in Michigan this summer, and despite the fact that there was somewhat of a language barrier between us (my husband speaks fluent German but I do not), one of them said to me very seriously and poignantly, "I think you miss your students. You need to go back to teaching."

I agree with her. I don't think this is the last you'll ever see of me in the classroom. But I also think that I am going to relish in the time I have this year to just BE. Instead of always worrying about test scores, curriculum mapping, report cards, responding to parent emails, grading essays in a timely manner, I will take some time to just enjoy life.

I wonder though: when will teaching be a profession where enjoying life isn't met with feelings of guilt every time you want to have one.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Outside Voices from the Inside: Cindy Minnich

Cindy Minnich teaches high school English in Elizabethville, PA and is one of the founding members of the Nerdy Book Club. Cindy and I have "known" each other via Twitter for a couple years but finally met in person at NCTE back in November and it was like running into an old friend you hadn't seen in a while. She is an amazing educator and it is clear from the way that she talks about her students that she was meant to teach high school English.

Follow Cindy on Twitter: @CBethM
Read Cindy's blog: Charting by the Stars

How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching full-time since 2004.

What initially drew you to a career in education?
I honestly had no idea I would be a teacher when I graduated high school. Or when I graduated with my BA in psychology. I had planned on a career in medicine, not teaching. But I was waiting to see what grad school possibilities were out there when I took a job substituting in neighboring school districts. I subbed and enjoyed it most days and felt grateful that it was giving me some space and time to think about what I really wanted to do. I didn't realize that teaching was what I wanted to do until I had a chance conversation with a teacher I'd subbed for.

I'd gone in to sub for a high school English teacher at my alma mater. The plans were to have them read one of the many literary incarnations of Faustus. (Perhaps Marlowe's?) There were notes for the students read and do the questions at the end of the selection, but I figured that I'd better get them thinking about what the idea of the story was before doing anything. I gave them the premise of the story and then told them that I probably would have traded my soul for a prom date at their age. Such a loaded statement got a reaction and led to questions and discussion - and students willingly dove into the text to see what happened.

I ran into the teacher a couple of weeks later when I was back subbing for someone else. She told me that the kids really understood what they read and were eager to talk about it when she returned - and she asked what I was certified to teach. When I told her that I was only emergency certified to sub, she told me that I might want to reconsider.

Up until that moment, teaching as a profession had never crossed my mind. But after that, I couldn't get the possibility out of my thoughts. I'm grateful for her suggestion and haven't regretted one single moment.

What motivates you as a teacher?
I won't lie - I'm motivated by successes, but challenges keep me moving as well. And there is nothing better than a student saying, "Thank you."

What has been your best classroom memory thus far?
I am always happiest when I am talking about books and reading books with my students. When I read this question, I had a beautiful montage of former classes doing just that playing in my mind.

But if I had to pick the best days, they were when I invited authors to be part of my classes. The day that we Skyped on World Read Aloud Day with David Macinnis Gill, Sarah Darer Littman, and Gae Polisner and the day that Gae Polisner came to my class (in person!).

What do you want the future of education to look like?
I want the future of education to be more about questions and problems - how students can engage in searching for and finding answers and solutions. We shouldn't be testing them on what's been done - we should be encouraging them to apply that as a means to do something more. And that something more should be authentic.

In that future of education, the lines between subject areas would blur. Sure, it'd be messy and uncompartmentalized, but it would be meaningful and memorable...and useful.

What makes you stay in the classroom?
What makes me stay? The fact that I will always have something new to learn in this career. I learn from the kids, I learn from my colleagues, I learn from my reflections - and I get to try to do each day, each unit, each year better every time. There's no chance for boredom because there is no way to reach teaching nirvana. This means I'll get to be a willing student for the rest of my life.

What do the words "use your outside voice" mean to you?
To me that translates to, "Speak up for what's right." We are the experts in our field. We live the realities of public policies in action. We need to use our outside voices to let others know what we know: that funding cuts hurt our students' educations, that what is tested is what is taught, that test scores reflect far more than what's been taught, that people do really care what students think no matter what Mr. Coleman says.

Friday, June 7, 2013

On the corner of bitter and sweet

Today was my last day in my classroom. I'm a trifle sad, but I'm also looking forward to what the future holds for me, namely, the absence of an 84-mile-a-day commute.

I will miss the school, the students, and my wonderful colleagues, but it's time to move on. A la John Green's "Thoughts from Places", here's me saying goodbye to room 202
Cross-posted to A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust

Thursday, May 30, 2013

When you give students choice...

As I read through my students' end of the year reading reflections, as I always, I was excited and my heart was full by their responses. It's amazing what growth you find in your students when you give them choice in what they read.

My students and I are celebrating our reading for this year
Yesterday I took pictures of my students holding up a sign with the number of books they completed during the school year.  It was so heartwarming to see their proud smiles, relishing in their accomplishments.

Rather than writing a manifesto on why setting aside time in class to give students choice in what they read is important (which I have done many times before), I thought I'd let you hear directly from my students...

Lauren K:
My reading preferences changed this year because I used to not know what kind of books I liked . Now I know my favorite types of books are historical fiction.

Elizabeth Z:
My reading life poster looking rather worn out
My goals at the beginning of the year were to like reading and achieve more in the year. I now love reading and I achieved more this year than any year ever.

I hated reading. I would never read. Now I love reading. I think it is one of the best things in the world. Also one of the most important. I hated fantasy and I would not go near the Harry Potter series with a ten foot pole. My dad wanted me to read them forever. Then Mrs. Shaum assigned Harry Potter as a lit circle book. Now I love fantasy!

(Side note: in a reading conference with Elizabeth, she told me that she thought her dad had talked to me and that's why she was assigned Harry Potter as a lit circle book. I knew nothing of her dislike for the series other than the fact that most kids I assign this book to are in the same boat I was: wanted NOTHING to do with the series, were coaxed into it, and then ended up loving it.)

Vicky S:
Now instead of reading before bed, I read at the dentist, doctor, in the car, instead of watching TV, in my room when I'm punished (most of the time) AND before bed.

Nicole S:
Mrs. Shaum got me to read (well listen to) The Hunger Games and she got me to really like authors I have never even heard of: John Green, Christopher Healy, Ruta Sepetys, and especially RJ Palacio. She also got me and my mom to have reading competitions.

Mickey K:
My reading habits have not changed very much. I still read often at home. My preference for books changed when Mrs. Shaum came back from NCTE with a bunch of books and did book talks on them. Another time they changed was when our classmates did book talks. 

Grace R:
My reading habits have changed over the year. I am now reading young adult books. Last year I was reading books below my grade level. I'm glad I'm reading more. Young adult books give me ideas for stories too.

Bea B:
When I started I really only liked realistic fiction and mystery. Now I have grown to like fantasy and historical fiction. I also used to only read when I was told to. Now I read whenever I have the chance.

What these students have to say show exactly why lower test scores don't always equate to lack of progress:

Maria H:
My reading rate went down but I can explain. I'm reading a biography that's a very tall book with small text. The other books I read were shorter and even bigger text. I probably would have done better if I read the same book from my last encounter of doing reading rate.

Tommy S:
Throughout the year my reading rate went down. I was reading harder books. I also started to think about the words more so I understand all of the story.

My reading habits have changed because during the summer I used to read every morning. Now I read whenever I can, which is never in the morning. I used to absolutely only read fantasy, but now I also read some realistic fiction and historical fiction. Not to mention mystery and classics.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Outside Voices from the Inside: Katherine Sokolowski

I have known Katherine Sokolowski via Twitter for a few years now but I finally met her in person at NCTE last year in Las Vegas. If I ever have the opportunity to travel around and visit classrooms of my Twitter PLN, Katherine's classroom in Monticello, Illinois would be one of the first I'd visit.

Read Katherine's inspiring blog: Read, Write, Reflect
Follow Katherine on Twitter: @Katsok

What grade(s), subject(s) do you teach?

I teach fifth grade, three classes of reading, one class of writing.

How long have you been teaching? 
This is my fifteenth year teaching.
What initially drew you to a career in education?

My mom taught third grade for years. I would help out in her classroom. Also, my first grade teacher had me read to her classroom. I was hooked.

What motivates you as a teacher?

I want kids to see their potential and work hard to help them realize it.

I also love to teach the kids who can’t sit still, who have had a rough time up to fifth grade. Those kids who don’t like school. Getting them to change that viewpoint and see how successful they can be is very rewarding.

And, of course, I love helping students find a love of reading.

What has been your best classroom memory thus far?

Wow, that’s a hard question. There have been amazing memories every year, every week, every day. I’ll go with a current one so I don’t have to think so hard.

A boy in my class came in this year very angry. He hated school and reading. He did love graphic novels, but didn’t think I would count them as real books. (Of course, I did.)

Last week we added up how much he had read this year. He’s read over 200 books, has grown almost two years in relation to reading. He jumped up six levels in Fountas and Pinnell and increased over one hundred words per minute in regard to reading fluency. When he and I conferenced at the end of the year, he hugged me and said he’d miss my classroom. That was a good day.

What do you want the future of education to look like?

Student centered with student voices being heard.
Choice in regards to reading and writing.
Authentic work being done in the classrooms.
Teachers being viewed as the experts in their classrooms.
Time given for reflection instead of just cramming more on our plate.
Teachers viewed as the experts they are and the profession treated with respect.

What makes you stay in the classroom?

The students. I love interacting with them, seeing them grow, visiting with former students year after year and hearing what they took away from our time together.

 What do the words “use your outside voice” mean to you?

That we need to speak up and tell the world what we know to be true:
 We are the ones inside the four walls of our classrooms. We know what children are capable of at the age we teach. We know what is important that children learn. We should not sit back and let others dictate how and what education looks like. We are the experts, the artists. It is time to take our profession back.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why read alouds are important: from the mouth of middle schoolers

There is the presumption that when kids get older, like upper elementary, middle, and high school, that they don't need to be read to anymore. I was under that presumption for a long time, but then I realized after building a supportive personal learning network on Twitter what opportunities I was missing by not reading aloud to my class. Read alouds build community, they allow students to experience a reading role model, and they give a class an opportunity to just sit back and enjoy a great work of literature.

Often teachers think they don't have time to read aloud to kids when they get older because there's just too much curriculum to cram into a day, week, month, and year (high stakes testing certainly doesn't help with this presumption). 

A few years ago, I decided to make a commitment to setting aside time everyday to read aloud to my sixth graders, and their responses this year to their favorite read aloud only solidified my reasons for sharing this experience with my students, no matter how old they are.

Here's what some of them had to say:

Connor H:
My favorite read aloud was probably When You Reach Me because it didn't leave you bored at any time. Also it was kind of funny when everyone started arguing of what they think's going to happen.

Alice W:
My favorite read aloud this year was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I read it before, but hearing it read aloud is different, better somehow. I noticed details I had sort of mentally overlooked in my excitement to finish the book. I really enjoyed listening to it, as it is one of my favorite books anyway.

Samantha M:
My favorite read aloud this year was When You Reach Me. This was my favorite because there was a lot of suspense and it was very fun to predict what was going to happen. I also really liked Turtle in Paradise because it was easy to follow and in some ways, very relateable.
I hope the new literature/English teacher does read alouds. 

Rosie W:
My favorite read aloud was Wonder and When You Reach Me because I loved reading Wonder by myself and it was even more fun reading it with the class. When You Reach Me had so much anticipation! I loved it!

Andrew F:
My favorite read aloud was by far Wonder by RJ Palacio. It was very descriptive and was really funny in some parts. My favorite part was when Jack was being yelled at, so Justin walked up to the boys that were bullying Jack and showed them his fiddle case. The boys thought there was a gun in the case. They ran away screaming like six-year-old girls.

Tommy S:
My favorite read aloud was awesome. It was Wonder. It really made me think about what Auggie went through. Not to mention that the story was super funny and emotional. You (Mrs. Shaum) even cried! So I loved the book Wonder. It was easily the best.

Bea B:
My favorite read aloud this year was Wonder. I really liked the characters, especially Auggie. This book was very emotional for me and Mrs. Shaum. This book is one of my true favorites and always will be.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Outside Voices from the Inside: Niki Barnes

Niki Barnes is one of the most passionate, enthusiastic educators I have ever met. She was a member of the Nerdy Book Club before there even was a Nerdy Book Club. I had the privilege of visiting her classroom in Dorr, Michigan back in March and it was one of the most memorable days I've ever had as a teacher. Niki's students share her enthusiasm and passion for books and weren't shy at all about sharing that with me. 

Follow Niki on Twitter: @daydreamreader
Read her blog: Daydream Reader

How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for eleven years. I’ve taught 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. I’ve been teaching at my current school for the last 7 years. I love it at Dorr Elementary! Plus, I get to hang out with awesome teachers like TravisJonker!

What initially drew you to a career in education?
Well, I didn’t always want to be a teacher. My dad is a math teacher so I wanted nothing to do with teaching at first. Then I worked at a day care in college and loved it. So I decided teaching was for me after all.

What motivates you as a teacher?
I love when my students get excited about books! My favorite quote this year from one of my second grade students was, “I’m a book worm because I love Lunch Lady books!”

What has been your best classroom memory thus far?
I love our classroom celebrations around books and literacy. My favorite celebration was our Fake Mustache party. We read Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger as a classroom read aloud. Then we had a party where we all wore fake mustaches. It was a blast! I don’t know who had more fun…my students or me.

What do you want the future of education to look like?
I am so hoping the high stakes testing craze is on the way out! Sadly, I think testing companies and politicians are the only people that are for it. I would love to see the pendulum swing towards developmentally appropriate learning, hands-on activities, choice and much more collaboration time for teachers. I think teachers are the professionals and should be making the decisions in terms of curriculum and what works best for their students.

What makes you stay in the classroom?
My students!! I stand by the 22 reasons I am a teacher. The 22 reasons are my 22 second grade students.

 What do the words “use your outside voice” mean to you?
I think it means standing up for your students and your profession. Right now I believe teachers need to stand up against what they know is wrong in terms of high stakes testing and teaching practices that are not developmentally appropriate for their students. I think it is important to spread the word that you are making a difference as a teacher. When it comes right down to it “using your outside voice” means shouting loudly about your passion for your students and their learning! We need the public to know that learning shouldn’t be about students filling in the right bubble. It needs to be about students being fulfilled when it comes to their learning right now.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Beautiful Noise

One of the best parts of my day as a middle school language arts teacher is getting to sit down with my class and reading a book aloud to them. At the moment, we are reading Rebecca Stead's Newbery-winning novel When You Reach Me.

Yesterday we came to the climax of the story where a great deal of the mystery was revealed but there was still enough unresolved where students didn't quite know all the answers. I stopped at the end of this chapter and asked students to create a t-chart in their literature journals of "what I know" and "what I'm still confused about". That writing assignment lasted all of about 30 seconds before students just started shouting across the room at each other, trying to explain what they knew and what they were still confused about. Normally a din in the classroom causes my hackles to be raised and I quickly put a stop to the noise, but in this case, I just sat back and enjoyed the friendly debates. At that moment, there wasn't a single student in the classroom who was talking about anything other than what just happened in the book, what they knew, and what they were inferring. It was a beautiful sight and sound to behold and will probably be one of my all-time favorite classroom memories.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Guest Post: a teacher responds to recent student rant video

Like many teachers, Brian Wyzlic viewed this recent video of a Texas high school student ranting in the classroom with mixed emotions. Below, he shares his commendations, but also his concerns about what it means for a video like this to go viral. After watching this, one thing is definitely clear: we need to be using incidents like these as opportunities for intelligent discussion and debate, not swift, sweeping responses worthy of soundbites for the 11:00 news.  
What are your thoughts after watching?
 Follow Brian Wyzlic on Twitter: @brianwyzlic, or read his blog: Wyz Reads
Many of you have probably seen the video of the student going off on his teacher in history class.

Here's what I like about the video:
  • The student recognizes what doesn't work for him and vocalizes it. 
  • The student believes someone should take action, and he steps up and takes it.
  • If the teacher really does just sit back and hand out worksheets all day, something different probably should be done.

Here's what I don't like about the video (and some of the fallout, including news station interviews): 
  • It glamorizes one voice and acts as if that's the whole story.
  • It is likely to be used by many to state what is wrong with education, even though it's just a 90-second rant.
  • It puts the student above the teacher, and he is being viewed as a hero because of this. There are certainly times this is appropriate (and this may be one of those times), but to act as if that is or should be the norm is dangerous (for the same reason it's dangerous to act as if policy makers know more about effective teaching than those who have actually been educated about teaching and child development/psychology and are working in the classroom).