pickup lines that will never work on a teacher

1. If I had a teacher like you, I might have learned to read.

Ummmm…that means you can’t read. Which means I think you’re stupid. Which means we’ll never, ever have anything to talk about.

2. You don’t look like a teacher.

Obviously, whatever context I’m meeting you in that’s not me standing in front of a classroom is going to be me not looking like a teacher. 

3. If all the teachers in my high school looked like you, I probably would have graduated.

Reference comment #1.

4. You absolutely would have made the TILF list at my school.

I’m sorry. That’s absolutely creepy and overly disturbing.

BUT the most epic fail in this regard is chronicled here: Smart girls aren’t pretty?


I’ve been stockpiling these (as you can see), but most are the same or very similar. And nothing ever outdid the ‘smart girls aren’t pretty’ line.

currently reading

What Now? by Ann Patchett

I bought this one after hearing the commencement address that inspired it. It’s a very quick read. I read it this morning in about an hour. It’s about the life of a writer and just general thoughts on how to think about what comes next. It’s interesting that it does not broach the topic of deciding what’s next at all. Dealing with, however, is probably much more practical.

How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One by Stanley Fish

I bought this book to help me design curriculum. No, really. I thought it might break down sentences in a way that I hadn’t thought about yet. And that is the ultimate struggle in teaching writing. So many teachers want to dive into paragraph structure and forming an argument and writing essays. The honest truth is that poor sentences destroy all of that anyways. It’s funny because I was recently told that 10th grade is way too old to re-teach sentence structure, but I always say that I had my writing stripped down to basic sentence structure as a Sophomore in college. So, it’s never too late. Apart from the curriculum inspiration, it’s a fascinating book. If you like writing at all, it’s definitely worthwhile.

Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman

I’m about two chapters in and have already realized that this is totally going to mess with my head. In a good way. The timing is perfect, too. I absolutely loved the discussion about the difference between the brain and the mind. And of course, this warrior Socrates reminds me of someone…



It’s weird to think that many words can come out of your brain. Not all at once, of course, but all the same.

Even weirder to think that they’re all telling one story.

I have to say this time around it’s going much smoother. It helps that I had some help with the outlining and character development. It also helps to know that I’ve done it before. So, I know what I have to do to get it done.

I discovered today, though, that I have one major timeline issue. I guess I didn’t catch it in my outline. Part of me wants to stay up and fix it now, but the smarter part of me knows that trying to fix something while I’m tired usually makes a bigger mess.

So, I can happily stop with 27 chapters and 23,483 words written.

lessons from my father

In honor of father’s day, I thought I would make a short list of things I’ve learned from my father. It occurs to me as I go through my day-to-day life that the lessons are immeasurable and invaluable:

  1. You can train yourself not to hate.
  2. Judgment is not our responsibility. Love simply and completely without judgment.
  3. There is great honor in all work.
  4. Liking and loving are two entirely different things. Choose who you like and love everyone.
  5. Don’t say what you don’t believe.
  6. “I think. I can.”
And my current favorite:
I have no idea what we were talking about, but I had to have been a teenager. We were trying to make a decision about something, and my father says, “I talked it over with myself, and I agreed.”
So #7 is even if you’re standing alone, agreeing with yourself is more than enough to carry on.
Happy Father’s Day!

staring: on writing

A friend and I have been listening to commencement speeches and sending them back and forth. The recent habit was inspired by a speech we listened to together. It was awful.

(The truth is, though, that there are some really great speeches out there. John Legend’s at the University of Pennsylvania from a few years back is probably my all time favorite. From it comes one of my favorite things to think about: the collision of sound and silence.)

A couple of days ago, I found Ann Patchett’s commencement address given at Sarah Lawrence in 2006. I loved this for this moment in my life because she talks about the journey of a writer.

What I found (funniest) most interesting was the concept of staring and how much time a writer spends staring.

Yesterday, I went to wash my car. I use one of those places where you put the quarters in the machine and wash it on your own with this little spray hose thing. Next to this place is an alley. And across from the alley was an apartment building. It was not very well-kept and on the door nearest to me was spray painted APT 3. It wasn’t well done. And I imagined that one day someone just got sick of knocks on the door asking for Apartment 1 and grabbed a spray can and wrote with loud, big, sloppy words. So there, it says.

On the steps sat a man. Hair every which way. Long beard. Smoking. A Jesus-looking figure, if you will. Minus the cigarette. So, as I dried the car, I stared at him. And from that staring came this entire story. An estranged daughter. An all-too-helpful son-in-law. A lifetime of struggles.

And then my mind went to something my father said to me last week. Your imagination is a little out of control.

It is.

When I sat down last night to get my chapters in on Lucha, I realized that my transition from the previous activity (in this case the Dodgers & yoga) requires staring. At nothing. Stare. Stare. Stare. Then, the words comes. Easily, really. And they don’t stop.

There’s really a lot to be said for staring.

the homework question

“I think people confuse homework with rigor,” said Donna Taylor, the Brooklyn School’s principal, who views homework for children under 11 as primarily benefiting parents by helping them feel connected to the classroom.

In Homework Revolt, More Schools Districts Cutting Back – NYTimes.com.

As a teacher, it’s hard to know how much homework is enough homework. The wheels in my head started turning with this article because it’s something that is a new question with every new class I teach. Every year, every class section gets a different amount of homework. And even within classes sometimes individual students get a different amount of homework.

The simplest explanation for even giving homework is that it is practice.

In a perfect world, that’s a great way to ensure that students do exactly what you showed them to do over and over again until they memorize whatever the given concept is and are able to do it on their own.

In reality, there are very few students who grasp a concept on the first introduction to it. And there are even fewer students who can replicate that concept (whether it is solving a math problem or writing a sentence) on their own. And repeatedly.

My theory on homework?

It’s deeply rooted in the construction of the curricula. It has to do with the day’s lesson plan, with the longer unit plan and with the course goals as a whole. That’s a lot to take in at one given moment. And it took me a couple of years of practice to be able to do it without hours of thought beforehand.

The two most basic purposes of formal education are to teach and assess. The teaching part, mainly the construction of the lesson, is mostly the responsibility of the teacher. Yes, it does help to have willing students. And it does help to have students a grade level. But both of those things can be overcome with appropriately constructed lessons.

The part where I think educators don’t always agree is in the assessment. Yes, the students have to perform in some manner: on a test, in a written essay, in a presentation. But the assessment has to be crafted carefully. It has to be presented in a way that students don’t even know they’re being assessed so that the moment that assessment is much more formalized, it’s second nature. It would seem that this type of teaching could take way longer than teachers are willing to invest in for a single lesson, but it really doesn’t.

That’s where the homework question is easily answered. Homework should be assigned and created as both a product of informal assessment and as a means of additional assessment. That is to say if the class (or a student, for that matter) has mastered something in class and has proven her mastery, all is needed is a simple review. In that case, homework can be as easy as “remember this topic so well that you can write it down when you walk in tomorrow.” The student doesn’t need to take pen to paper for hours. Simply remember. And they do. They’ll think about it over dinner at volleyball practice or as they drift off to sleep. And when they walk in the next day, most will be able to tell you what you taught the day before.  In the instances where a topic is too much for the students to master in one setting, homework should be a gentle scaffold. Ten to fifteen minutes of review of the day’s work and left off in a place that the lesson can be easily continued.

In both scenarios, the quick review of the homework the next day is an additional assessment and shapes the lesson for the day–along with the homework for the next night.

The problem is not the homework itself. The problem lies in what the homework is used for. If it serves any purpose other than continual assessment, then I have to agree it is just a waste of time. It serves no one–teacher or student–to give homework assignments that are simply collected and thrown on a desk or in a basket for later grading.

So, yes homework is necessary. But it doesn’t need to be hours. It needs to be a well-crafted tool that is used by both teacher and student equally to complete the educational experience.

8 cups of coffee & a Frappuccino

That is what I have consumed thus far today. I say thus far because an after-dinner cup of coffee is a definite possibility.

So, I was pretty excited last week about Yerba Mate. Still am, really. I also failed to mention, I think, that I had been sick for almost two weeks. I usually can’t drink coffee with sinus medication and/or antibiotics. I was going along just fine with this thought that I had successfully substituted tea for coffee.

Except that I could not wake up. Like literally, it hurt my eyelids to open them in the morning. I thought I was just getting over the end of that cold and recovering from a crazy last month of school (think way too many 18 hour days).

After running more than 5 miles, I would literally sleep for two to three hours.

Then, I started to cry. Seriously. At everything. And I don’t cry. I rarely cry, that is. But any little frustration, and the tears would start.

Finally, I went shopping with my mom. And about two hours in she looked at me. What is wrong with you? Have you had coffee today?

I said no. And I explained about the tea.

So, she bought iced coffee from Starbucks. Iced. No sweetener. No milk. And literally, within 20 minutes I felt like a whole new person.

The moral of the story is that I have tried to kick the caffeine habit over and over again. And this was the final sign that there is no point. To sink into a symptoms of depression for no reason at all is foolish.

I’ll just live with my addiction.

on writing: the inspiration to share

I’ve really debated doing this for over a year. I hate unfinished projects and products so the thought of putting something out in the universe for other people to consume really made me uneasy.

But all of that changed when a friend started doing the very thing that I feared doing. Well, I’ll have to backtrack a bit. He started a few months ago with a blog of short stories and portions of what would become a first novel. It made me think that I could put portions of chapters or chapters up, but I still hesitated. What if I didn’t finish? What if I changed it and people reading it were confused or disappointed? Ugh. It just made me never want to let anyone read anything I wrote ever again.

Until the aforementioned friend announced late last week that his book was for sale on iBooks. Hmm. That made me reconsider. Perhaps I could eventually sell this the same way. And really the only way I would be able to do that is to share portions of it now.

So, I wrote an intro. Described the character. Described the book. And…let no one see it.

Ugh, again. But here goes.

The link is HERE and also will be an RSS feed on the side of this blog.

Comments & criticism are definitely welcome.