Using the concept of essentialism to be a better teacher.

I was standing in the mailroom at Edgewater Regional High School watching my colleague, Doug Jones, pulling the mail from his box, as I stood by waiting for space to open up in the little room for me to do the same. He looked at the hunk of envelopes and papers in his hand and said in a frustrated voice “I don’t have time to go through all this or respond to these.” Truly exasperated, he sighed and our eyes met. “I can either do paperwork or teach. I can’t do both. Know what I mean?” …


Most American schools have operated under the tradition of using force (demanding compliance) to teach middle and high school students. Remote teaching during this pandemic has in more than one way become a trap for teachers.

Probably the most ubiquitous aspect of remote learning today is the use of teleconferencing software that enables audio/video live streaming through Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, and other platforms. This has been a lifesaver for teachers and students. Of course, it’s not the same as face to face teaching. Nobody is claiming that it is. But, it is a powerful tool that we are fortunate to have under these difficult circumstances. And, one of the most important, most valuable features of this software is the camera that nearly every PC or smartphone has built in these days.

Although most schools across…


Whether its members of your local school committee, New York Times Columnist, David Brooks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Governor Charlie Baker, DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley or the CDC, when people cite “research” claiming that schools are safe, they fail to mention that they are referring to a “single” study (Yes One Study!) that was conducted in 17 rural Wisconsin schools, hardly representative of schools in the United States.

Even though 4,876 students and 654 staff members participated in this study, that sample size is relatively small considering how dangerous COVID-19 is.

Because the study was conducted in only rural schools, it…


Vincent told his brother, Theo, that he hoped Starry Night might give other artists ‘better’ ideas for night effects than he had.

A close friend expressed to me yesterday that she had been feeling lost, separate and been asking what is wrong with me? She said she had been feeling a “profound sadness.” This is one of the smartest, most conscious of my friends. She is a person who has explored her inner world more than anyone I know and is also awake to all that is around her, so I was dismayed to see such deep doubt in her.

Yet, I identify with her feelings. In fact, I have been having similar feelings — I wish I could say lately, as…


“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” Haim Ginott

As children returned to school after their Winter vacations and the end of the most collectively traumatic year of their lives, beleaguered school teachers around the country attempted to put on their most hopeful faces, looking forward to a better 2021.

But, we all know by now, only two days later, on January 6, while 3,964 Americans lay dying of COVID-19, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, organized, gathered, rallied and then instructed an angry mob of his own supporters to “take back the country with a show of strength” after falsely stating that a legitimate election held…


QUESTION:What is micro-schooling?

Some parents are willing to pay teachers significantly more than a teacher’s salary to teach their children in their homes, and these teachers will likely have more flexible schedules, smaller classes and more autonomy.

ANSWER:

Recently a friend, knowing I am a professor of education, asked me what edpods are. She has a daughter going into kindergarten this Fall and is concerned about the quality of instruction she will receive during remote, hybrid or socially distanced learning. I had a loose idea. I had heard of pandemic pods, micro-schooling, learning coops and edpods, but I could not quite articulate what I thought I knew about them, so I told her that I would get back to her. I did some checking and here is what I found.

About 20 years ago in areas like…


About five years into my career as a teacher, I discovered that there are aspects of chaos that I like, even love. The part I like the most is that when there is some sort of storm around my school, whether sociological, economic, personal, climatic, political, public health or whatever the people who have control become distracted and I can experiment with my teaching in ways that sometimes give birth to important shifts in my thinking about teaching and teaching practice.

For example, during one such crisis, while my bosses weren’t looking, I tried something. I announced to my students…


It’s Been thirty Years

Boston Globe

Thirty years ago this month, Nelson Mandela, president of South Africa and world-famous, anti-racist revolutionary, visited our very own Madison Park Vocational Technical High School in Boston. He had only just been released from prison in South Africa, where he had been held for 27 years for opposing the racist segregation policy of the South African government known as apartheid.

It was at that visit on June 23, 1990 to Madison Park when Nelson Mandela made a speech that contained his most often quoted words.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to…


The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Had I the blissful ignorance Alice does, I would feel less anxious about all of this. Although I have always taken pride in my ability to thrive in times of chaos, now — .

Well, now, I am worried that those people I love the most — may not be as confident about things. Perhaps…


“It’s so hard to stay together
Passing through revolving doors
We need someone to talk to
And someone to sweep the floors”
Neil Peart, 1984

Our lives have changed forever. Even as I write those words, they sound hyperbolic, but they aren’t. Anyone who believes that this virus is like a bad snowstorm, that the snow will melt and the sun will come out is in the same dreamy denial that I have been in.

“Social distancing” has become a the only real advice health officials have for us, which may be well advised, but is also a strange and…

John Brown

Clinical Associate Professor of Education at the University of Massachusetts and host of Teacher Talk.

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