The Long and Short of CliffsNotes

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Most of us have been cornered by friends and family who insist on telling an old story that seems to go on and on. Generally, these stories can be squeezed into about a tenth of the words used without an appreciable loss of the story’s meaning or its essence. Reader’s Digest and therapists have made […]

Teacher Talk

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You don’t need a calendar to know that school is back in session. Campuses across the country are freshly manicured, halls are scrubbed, and even the trees are getting all dressed up. Counting students, parents, educators, support staff, and you and me, one out of every four persons in America left for school this morning, […]

A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing: A Reading Lesson

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“We will do anything to keep the wolves of insignificance from our door.” —Saul Bellow His name was Charlie. He was a fighter. He liked it, and he was good at it. But he never contended for a championship, unless you count the time he decked the reigning seventh-grade toughie, just outside of Mr. Clarke’s […]

Songs Sung Blue: Everybody Knows One

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Teachers don’t typically rely on pop tunes for advice, at least not Neil Diamond. This, however, might be an exception, especially if you’re having a particularly hard day. Generally, teaching is a tightly choreographed dance in which there are few surprises. Good teachers, like good actors, want their steps to appear as natural as possible, […]

Confessions of a Poor Reader

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For most, reading is a pleasurable skill that is acquired almost imperceptibly. I’ve heard it’s like waking up one morning suddenly knowing how to make sense of the jumble of letters on a page, almost effortlessly, without even having to move your lips. At least that’s what I’ve heard. It’s not like that for me. […]

A Little Box of Leadership

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This semester, our students, funded by a state grant, have been asked to focus on the knotty term “leadership,” as in “teacher leader.” It’s one of those topics we all think we know a lot about, and in a way, we do. We can certainly recognize the broad outlines of it, but the specifics are […]

The School House Rock

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Some of you may have the wrong impression. First you’ll notice there are no bold primary colors or catchy tunes in this article. Second, while I may sound like an old puppet in the balcony, this is not about conjunctions’ functions at any junction, nor is this article sponsored by a consonant. However, I do […]

Notes on a Reading List

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Teaching is a tough job. First of all, it happens beyond our jurisdiction. Concepts ranging from reducing fractions to splitting infinitives are created and stored somewhere in the brains of those on the other side of the desk. These strange scraps of thought are stockpiled as words and pictures and wired for sound. But even […]