Who Can We Not Humanize?

Over a career of more than 30 years, I have taught some literature that has confronted students from late elementary grades straight through high school with the reality that human beings can do brutal things to each other.  In works of literary nonfiction, as well as in fictionalized depictions of abuse and atrocities that we [...]

Another Dimension for Quarterly Assessment

At my school, the marking period ends this Thursday.  I usually require students to write a reflection of their learning experiences so they can assess their growth.  Part of this includes a review of how their skills and capacities have expanded, but another consideration altogether can make all the difference. I have an old wooden [...]

Dichotomy: Childlike vs. Childish

As an English teacher, I strongly advocate subtlety and nuance in language.  Dichotomies often help me to draw out concepts. I have heard many adults–teachers included–say things such as, “Sometimes we need to let kids be kids.”  Most people understand the rough idea of that statement, tautological though it may be. The same adults, however, [...]

A Word to Teach Our Young–Idle

Language is our framework not merely for communicating but for perceiving and understanding.  Our popular culture hardly promotes eloquence, and we have lost many words that informed the sensibilities of previous generations.  As old-fashioned as some of them sound, introducing them to young people and reinforcing their meanings can add richness and resolution to their [...]

Students Love to Help, Part V

Students are the celebrity draw that can galvanize an entire community.  We see this in part when families crowd auditoriums for school concerts and plays, and when they cheer at athletic events.  Indeed, such occasions put on display a school’s important function in developing students’ potential beyond classroom learning. Classroom learning, however, also merits public [...]

Children Love to Help, Part III

Little meaningful academic learning happens when students’ prerequisite needs go unfulfilled.  I often cite the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow in these matters.  His famous Hierarchy of Needs explains that cognitive and aesthetic needs (those addressed by academic instruction)  can only become ripe for fulfillment when more fundamental needs are met.  Assuming that schools see [...]