Tagged- How Do I Write?

Pete Reilly (tagged by Miguel Guhlin, who was tagged by Brian from Bump on the Log) tagged me with the “How do you write?” meme. It’s been a long time since I’ve been involved in one of these (May 24, 2005 to be exact).

I’d say I write based on glimpses I see of possibilities- mainly ways to make aspects of learning fun and interesting that I’ve seen taught (or have taught) in ways that bored both the students and teacher. I get them from boingboing, podcasts, rap songs just about anything.

While I don’t have Pete’s eloquence, why I do this might be a little more interesting. That’s what these memes are really about after all, a deeper look at all these people who are your friends, collaborators and colleagues but who you often know surprisingly little about.

I have a decent IQ. I test pretty well. There were lots of reasons I should have excelled at school. I didn’t. I did middle of the road work and took middle of the road classes. In high school I mostly slept. My mother was constantly asking me why I didn’t take more advanced courses if everything was so boring and easy. My reply was that I was not in the market for a greater quantity of boring work and that was all I saw occurring in so called AP classes.

College was a repeat of high school in many ways. The majority of professors sat at the front of the room and talked for the majority of the class. You then turned in papers or took tests. There were some exceptions but that was by far the majority. I was not surprised or even angry as I really hadn’t seen many teaching styles that were radically different.

I never considered education as a career. I was planning to be a lawyer. I visited a law school and decided that was not for me. Four years later, I started my third career as a History and English teacher for 6th graders at an “alternative” school. I had never taught or so much as taken an education class. I was replacing a veteran teacher who quit two weeks into the school year. I was terrified. The night before my first day I really felt I’d made the worst mistake in my entire life. It was absolute insanity for quite some time. No one checked in, no one observed me. It was a sink or swim situation.

I learned as I went and leaned on my wife (Masters in Education). I didn’t use text books and I made virtually everything we used from scratch. As I was a terrible disciplinarian, I had to focus on getting their attention and maintaining it. I couldn’t do that with textbooks and worksheets. I focused entirely on taking what they were interested in and figuring ways to use that to teach the state curriculum. We did rap lyrics for DOLs and played the songs if they answered them correctly. I had whole units centered around animal attack stories and UFO abductions. We had iBooks and we used them all the time. It was crazy and exhausting but I ended up loving it in ways I would never have guessed and can’t really explain. I passed on taking my current dream job mid year because I didn’t want to leave these kids.

So the short version is I write this blog because I had/have no use for the traditional school model. I write because I was forced to teach in a different way, a way that I think will reach more kids. I write because I love the moment when you can see a different way to teach something. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t but there’s that shining possibility out there and I want to share these ideas in the hope that maybe I can make a change. I guess that’s the bottom line. I want to change things. I want school to be different. I’d like school to be a place where students and teachers are excited and interested in what they’re doing each day. Arrogant though it may be, I think I can play a role in making that change.

Oh yeah, and I tag Ben and Todd.

Comments on this post

  1. pete reilly said on February 5, 2007 at 9:03 am

    It’s not arrogant to think you can play a role in changing education, it’s courageous. You have two particularly important roles to play…that of the practictioner and leader. The fact that you are living the changes that so many people are talking about gives you a special place among us.
    In appreciation,