Showing posts from February, 2014

Best News Ever for Teachers: Everything Works!

The most brilliant statement I’ve ever heard about teaching and learning was “Everything works!”  Early in my career I taught basic-level ESL to new recruits at a military base. As my buddy Bob used to say, if you can teach a language, you can teach anything.  Your baseline assumption in teaching a language is that your students don’t understand what you are saying--a good assumption to consider no matter what you are teaching.  You’d be amazed how slow some teachers are in catching on to this idea, and resolve that talking faster and louder is the best possible response to students’ looks of incomprehension.  Figuring out what your students already know, what they are capable of doing and understanding, and adding something new to that mix is what I mean by the word “teaching.”  The questions is:  “How?”  And the answer is, guess what:  “Everything works!” I was having lunch at the officers mess with Gustine Schuster when Dave Eliot joined us and began bubbling enthusiastically (

Good Teachers Are Always Underdogs

What kind of underdogs?  Pit bulls, I hope.  I read Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath:  Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants recently and, as usual, I found myself endlessly bobbing in agreement, especially when Gladwell talks about education, which he does a lot. Much of David and Goliath is on a theme that I have passively been considering as a book subject for years.  (Ahh, indolence!) Though the themes and education examples might be similar, my point of entry would have been much different from Gladwell’s.  I wanted to develop an idea I first encounter in E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful :  “the concept of enough.”  The problem with capitalism, the reason it is destined for eventual and inevitable failure, as Schumacher argues, is that it is based on a belief in infinite growth.  The idea of “enough” is anathema to capitalist greed, to the idea that more is always better, and to Ayn Rand’s and her acolyte Alan Greenspan’s (Chair of US Federal Reserve 198

How to Make Love to a Logophile?

What does it mean when John gives Mary flowers? For more than a dozen years, I taught an introductory literature course to 60 or so first-year undergraduates, 80% of whom were young women--a number of whom would typically report being interested in questions of love and romance.  Every year in the first class I described the following scenario and asked the class what word they would use to describe this young man’s actions. John’s eyes always light up when Mary enters the room.  He always talks in a tender, flattering manner to her.  He takes her out to dinner, and buys her flowers and small gifts. Etc. Etc. What is the verb for when a man pursues a woman? As I presented this hypothetical heterosexual scenario, I could feel Judith Butler and the gender police breathing down my neck, but bear with me. So what do we call what John is doing?  Over the years I noticed a shifting in the tenor of the answers.  The typical mid-90s answer was that he “was cruising,” “on the mak