Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Fire Lake (1980)


My mom got remarried between my 3rd and 4th grades of school – and that included a move from Albuquerque to Circleville, New York. To say that Al wasn’t my favorite would be an understatement – quite honestly, I was always scared of him, but while this may have been the case, being closer to Greensburg was definitely a positive in my book.

1980 was an interesting year for me, to say the least. We lived in a small spot that seemed as though it was in the middle of nowhere. And that was new for me. Neighbors weren’t nearly as close as what I was used to and things were just so…different.

While I had always loved listening to music, it become a lifeline to me in 4th grade. It became an escape and I found myself really listening to the lyrics and just wanting to be able to leave. I don’t remember us having a record player – I don’t remember what happened to my Supertramp album – but I do remember what I got for Christmas that year, which was an 8-track player as well as copies of “Breakfast in America,” The Beatles’ Red and Blue Albums, The “Grease” Soundtrack, and Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s “Against the Wind.”

While I reminisce fondly of listening to albums, I can’t say as I have these same memories of listening to an 8-track. Trying to fast forward to a song – or hearing that click as it switched over to the next program or channel or whatever it was (?) was a pain. For whatever reason, Seger’s “Against the Wind” became what I needed to get to sleep at night. I certainly didn’t have a sleep timer on that thing, and I’m not sure how many times I had fallen asleep, only to be woken up by that loud click, but I think I had to come close to wearing “Against the Wind” out.

I’m sure it sounds crazy, but I found myself running away with those horses. As bad as things got at times in Albuquerque, I can’t say as I ever thought about running away, but there’s not a doubt in my mind that I thought about running away from Circleville – and Al – every single day I was there.

I had no clue what the “Horizontal Bop” was at that time, but I knew every damn word of that lead off song, I can tell you that. Things slowed down after that with “You’ll Accomp’ny Me,” but then revved right back up with “Her Strut.”

Just an aside – between “The Horizontal Bop” and “Her Strut,” Seger was getting after it. Coming on the heels of the Disco era (you won’t hear anything negative about that from this guy), these songs had to have just flat out been a shot to the system, bringing back some pure, unadulterated rock and roll.

And that’s where things seemed to get real to me.

Between the ever restless crowd
And the silence of your room
Spend an hour in no man’s land
You’ll be leavin’ soon

I’m telling you, I can smell “No Man’s Land.” Images of running away were only stoked by Seger’s words.

And while I loved it and “Against the Wind” as well, I truly looked forward to “Betty Lou’s Getting Out Tonight,” not because it was my favorite – not even close – but because I knew that “Fire Lake” was up next.

I have no idea what it is about “Fire Lake” that I’ve loved so much – it’s just always appealed to me.

Who wants to take that long shot gamble

And head out to Fire Lake?

There are so many stories from that year…

Take the Long Way Home – Supertramp (1979)

So this will take some time to get to what I’m driving at, but so be it.

Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” is the first album I ever owned. And I had two copies of it – one in Greensburg and one in Albuquerque. I have no clue what it was about Supertramp that appealed to me – the iconic cover art maybe? – but this was an album that I couldn’t get enough of and listened to front to back any chance I had.

Originally, the copy that I had was in Greensburg, and I vividly remember returning to Albuquerque after being with my Dad for the summer and DEMANDING that my Mom stop on the way home from the airport in order to get a copy. To my surprise, I didn’t even have to really put up a big fight – even though I was prepared to – in order to get her to stop and get one. I found out in time that she loved them, too, and we spent a lot of time singing “The Logical Song,” and “Goodbye Stranger,” and “Child of Vision,” which I really didn’t like at the time and looked at as a four minute break between “Breakfast in America” and “Take the Long Way Home.”

That day of return actually was always a rough one for me. Leaving my Dad and all of my friends in Greensburg always, always sucked. Knowing that it would be another nine months before I returned was incredibly difficult. I couldn’t get it through my head why my brother, Jantson, was always so happy to get back to Mom. Looking back on it now, I get it. But perspective wasn’t something I had a lot of when I was eight. (Incidentally, I think there are stories and stories and stories locked in there about why – exactly – one child sees things one way with one parent while another sees things completely differently with that same parent – and I don’t say that as a criticism of anybody involved in that equation).

But from my point of view – looking back on things with almost 40 years’ worth of perspective at this point – I know that that day of return was also a good day for me. What always started as a miserable morning typically turned in to some fun. Looking back, I know that this is because my Mom was always in such a great mood to have us back. As a result, she was on her best behavior for a week or two as well.

Our August return almost always included in a new trailer or apartment when we got back. Whether in Rio Rancho or somewhere off Juan Tabo, it was almost never the same place as when we had left for Greensburg in June. And that meant a new school, once again a new beginning. While some people may enjoy that, for me it was starting all over and I hated it. I still have so many friends from my summers in Greensburg – I have none from my school years in Albuquerque.

But that specific night, after landing and stopping at Coronado Mall to pick up a copy of “Breakfast in America” – remember me saying that she was at her best, too??? – we stopped to eat at Pizza Hut, finding that they had almost the ENTIRE album on the jukebox. My Mom gave me enough quarters to play everything they had – I have no idea how much that meant in 1979 – $1?, $2? but I can assure you that I loved it. And I loved – and was surprised that my Mom knew all of the songs when we sat at the table and scarfed down our pizza.

Which brings me to a tangent about Pizza Hut itself. Pizza wasn’t a huge thing in Albuquerque. In fact, I remember eating at Pizza Hut or getting a slice at Godfather’s. And that’s it. It just wasn’t part of the typical things we ate there.

For all I know there were plenty of other shops – but I don’t remember any of them. For the life of me, I certainly don’t remember us ever getting one delivered. And that’s so foreign to me compared to what it’s like in Greensburg, where we have a serious abundance of great spots to choose from (with the notable exception of a true Neopolitan pie – can somebody PLEASE get on that so I don’t have to drive to Pittsburgh for it???).


My mouth is seriously watering even looking at that (it’s from Il Pizzaiolo, btw).

Any time that we had the opportunity to go out to eat, I almost always begged to go to Pizza Hut – but it had to be THAT Pizza Hut, because the other one in Albuquerque didn’t have those songs on the jukebox (the gall!). And that caused problems at times depending on where we lived and what kind of mood my Mom was in. Things weren’t always as great as they were that first week after we returned…

What brought this on, you might ask? Did I randomly hear a Supertramp song? Did I eat at a Pizza Hut last night? No and no. But I did drive past one that had been converted to a pawn shop and that got me to thinking about all of this.

And it also got me to thinking about this: is there a more iconic building design than Pizza Hut? I mean, every single one of them looks the same (I know that’s not that crazy), but when they’ve gone out of business and converted to whatever else, you STILL know what it was – and I’m not sure that we can say this about every other place? I mean, McDonald’s has the golden arches, but not every McDonald’s looks exactly the same. And I can’t remember ever seeing a McDonalds that went out of business and became something else.

Is there something to be said about this, or am I just making too much of it? Yeah, probably the latter, I know. (I actually just googled “converted Pizza Huts,” and found this right off the bat, so I guess I’m not totally alone in this).


I know, all of that from driving past a converted Pizza Hut. Welcome to my head.



Left of Center – Suzanne Vega (1986)

She didn’t really hit big until the following year with “Luka,” but Suzanne Vega caught my attention with this gem from the “Pretty in Pink” soundtrack. And while Luka certainly brought her that attention, it might actually be my least favorite of her songs (I’ll take “Left of Center” and “Solitude Standing” any day of the week).

But that’s not really the point of this post – if anything, this is simply the medium to get me talking about John Hughes, specifically his use of music in his movies. Quite simply, Hughes was simply masterful at finding some up and comers – especially in the Alternative or New Wave fields – and then using them to fully complement the angst he had on the screen.

And, for my money, he did it nowhere better than in “Pretty in Pink,” a top three soundtrack for this guy (“The Big Chill” and “Garden State” are my others – scores are a different story…).

It’s very easy to focus on the hits from this movie – OMD’s “If You Leave,” and The Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink,” or even New Order’s “Shell Shock.” Don’t get me wrong, I love them all – and Hughes used each in a spot that makes perfect sense to me. But, to me, he’s never used a song as well as he did with New Order’s “Elegia.”

And that’s where I actually have to admit something, so if you’re still reading, well, you’ll learn something about me. For the longest time, in my head, I’ve thought Hughes used “Elegia” during the scene where Duckie sat in the rain after unloading his soul and love for Andie as she was about to go out with Blane.

Yet I was wrong about that – in fact, I have no clue what song that is playing in that scene. But I was SO convinced that it was “Elegia” playing there. It makes perfect sense that it would play there! Yeah, no clue what made me mis-remember that for so many years. (In reality, it really is used well, just not until much later in the movie, when Andie is crushed over Blane blowing her off).

Perhaps it’s that I always associated with Duckie? I really don’t know. And that brings me to another issue. Trust me when I tell you that I had my Duckie moments in high school. And there was absolutely an Andie to that Duckie – and man, was I unfair to her. It took me a REALLY long time to realize how shitty that actually was. Perhaps if this article would have existed back then, I would have understood this better (or maybe I wouldn’t have, who knows?) And this the crux for me:

Instead, a generation of American male teenagers, me included, saw themselves in Duckie—charming, quirky and overlooked. Duckie belonged an elite gang of best friends “Pretty in Pink” screenwriter John Hughes made the beating heart of his ’80s teen filmography—Cameron Frye in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Farmer Ted in “Sixteen Candles” and Watts in “Some Kind of Wonderful”—characters who embodied the pain of being young and not yet able to be honest about your own desires.

And yes, I also saw myself in Cameron and Watts – and yes, I know that says incredibly horrible things about my angst at the time…

“If you want me, you can find me, left of center off of the strip.”

Perhaps that line from “Left of Center” is really what I’m trying to get to with this post? Perhaps it’s about coming to terms with being so in love with somebody and projecting the world upon them and how absolutely unfair that can be. I know for a fact that I was rotten in this regard – and I have worked hard to atone for that. I wish that I would have been more willing to stand off on my own rather than trying to be somebody I wasn’t – but that was high school in a nutshell for me. And my 20s.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for it on the soundtrack, you won’t find it, as it wasn’t included. You’ll have to go to their “Low Life” album, or, if you really prefer, you can click here for the 17 minute extended version of it.


Say It Isn’t So – The Outfield (1985)

Quite simply, this bad boy has it all! Everything the 80s encompassed in cheesy video can be found in this one.

Spinning drumsticks — check

Mullets — check

Wifebeaters — check

A hottie walking around town in a trenchcoat — check

A lead singer pining for said hottie walking around town in a trenchcoat — check

A “concert” setting with no cutaways to show the crowd; the lead singer pointing directly to me (!); said lead singer give periodical sideways glances to a conveniently placed secondary camera — check

It has it all, I say. Seriously, I love The Outfield. Notice the tense I used there – it’s present. I STILL love The Outfield, and while some people may look at “Your Love” as being a One Hit Wonder, for me that was just the song that introduced them to me. “Say It Isn’t So” is my fave of theirs and I can’t help but jam out to it when shuffle grants me a listen.


So, for those of you who may actually be reading, thank you. Hearing this song recently is what really prompted me to get going with some writing – however short – again. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this up, but I’m going to house these entries here and who knows what ends up becoming of it. If nothing else, I hope it sheds some insight into what’s going on in my head when I hear a song (or see a video), and takes you to that spot of yours as well.

It’s been a long time, blah, blah, blah…

Yeah, I know – and I also know I’ve said that before. Having said that, I’m hoping to use this more regularly in order to work toward putting everything together in some sort of compilation.

So yesterday I got to thinking about just how important music is to me – and a broad spectrum of music at that. My plan is to explore a different song or video per day…

We’ll see how this goes…

Some advice to somebody just starting out…

I was asked to put some thoughts together in a list form that would provide some advice to those starting out in the field of education and I’m not sure I can explain how difficult that is to do in some sort of simple, bulleted list. I’ll give it a shot, although I’m not exactly sure how I’ll be able to keep this short…

  1. Get involved — That sure sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s extremely important for you to get involved in your school and community. It’s important for students to see you in a different light, and, more importantly, it’s important for you to see them in a different light. This helps in many ways – not the least of which is building a relationship with your students outside the four walls you are used to seeing them in. You might be shocked at how much a statement like “Hey, I saw you at the hockey game last night, you really know what you’re doing out there…” can come back to help. Not only does it show your students that you care, but it also goes a long way toward building community in your school. Go to a mock trial competition, chaperone a dance, attend their art openings, and go to a game now and then. Let them know they matter to you outside the classroom – get involved.
  2. Know that what you’re doing isn’t just important, it’s VITAL — You’re going to hear the snickers “You just teach to have weekends and summers off,” “You’re a teacher? Big deal, the system is failing,” blah, blah, blah. Don’t even bother arguing with these people, you’ll never change their minds. Just know that every single day you are helping somebody. We had a revered administrator, Mr. Paul Murphy – Murph as he is known – once tell us at our beginning-of-the-year In-Service meeting that every day we had a kid who came in to our room knowing full well that this was the best hour and a half of his life. This time is a safe zone for this student and it has nothing to do with learning about August Wilson’s take on father-son relations. And what Murph also told us is that this student would never let us know this was the case. Just know it is. And I do know this because, for many years growing up, I was that student. They’ll probably never tell you, but you mean the world to them.
  3. It’s easier to loosen things up than it is to tighten things up when they’ve broken down — This might seem like a no-brainer, but you need to set your expectations very clearly from the very first day. Contrary to what many people believe, our students are looking for guidance and we have to be clear in how we lay out our expectations for this to happen. If we aren’t clear about what we expect of them and how we expect them to do it, then they’ll just make up their own rules along the way, and while that can lead to some fun for a bit, it’s a difficult thing to rein in once it’s gone too far. On the other hand, it’s always easier to loosen things up as they go along. This summer I had the opportunity to see Buck Brannaman conduct a Horsemanship session with a bunch of riders of varying levels. If you haven’t seen the documentary on Mr. Brannaman, check it out (it’s currently available on Netflix). One of the things he said in the doc that really stuck with me is this: Gentle in what you do, firm in how you do it.

And here’s one for good measure — and it’s one that I’ve given a lot of thought to this summer as I’ve been driving through the country, hiking amongst Redwoods and Sequoias and staring at Yosemite Falls and waiting patiently on a geyser:

     4. Listen more and talk less — This one is a goal of mine for the year, and I don’t just mean that for my work in the classroom. This applies to everything — from our relationships with students and colleagues and others to our every day lives. Figure out which veterans you can trust and seek their advice — listen to what they have to say and figure out how to make it work for you. Beyond this it’s also applicable in our classroom settings — plan your lessons so that you are talking less and the students are speaking more. Put it on them. You might be shocked at what kind of incredible things your silence will bring out of  them. It sure sounds easy, but I think we all know how difficult it can be.

Best of luck with everything — work hard and you’ll see that it doesn’t really even have anything to do with luck. Know that there are going to be difficult days, and make sure you celebrate the great ones — because there will absolutely be both.


Guest post for McGraw-Hill Education…

This post originally appeared here, as I served as a Guest Blogger for McGraw-Hill Education. Honored to have been chosen…

“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”  — Art Williams

 It’s just not possible, I said to myself, over and over and over. While sitting at my desk after hitting submit on my last set of grades for the 2015-2016 school year, it truly set in that I had just finished my 18th year of teaching. 18 years. No longer would I be working with students who were even born when I first started this journey – and make no mistake about it, it’s definitely been a journey.

It was at this point that I also thought about just how much I’ve seen change through those 18 years – and without getting too sentimental, what I’m really referring to here is the change in me.

About 10 years ago I literally almost threw punches with a colleague who had the nerve to tell me that part of our job description was to be both a friend and a father to our students. I was on fire at this suggestion and, if my memory serves me correctly, I believe I actually laughed it away in order to deal with the stress associated with this debate. There was just no way that he could be correct in this line of thinking.

That’s not my job. I’m here to teach English and get them prepared for college, no more, no less. That’s the Spark Notes version of what I had myself convinced was my purpose. And I believed it wholeheartedly.

And then the massacre at Sandy Hook happened. It left me stunned. It left me searching for answers about just about everything. And it left me searching for a better understanding of what my purpose is as a teacher. I just couldn’t get it through my head that somebody could be driven to believe that nobody cared about him and that shooting up a school was a reasonable answer to anything.

We can argue about guns until we are blue in the face and our jugular veins are bulging from the side of our necks – or we can come to the realization that a way we can work to prevent these types of tragedies is by simply letting kids know how much we care about them, that what they do matters, that they aren’t alone.

My high school created an Advisory period three years ago (30 minutes, once a week) after we decided that we needed to build a better community within our school. We decided to try to be proactive, to mix students amongst grades, and to try to create a core group of kids who would have the chance to see that they’re going through many of the same things – that they aren’t on an island when they think it’s all coming down on them.

I was so excited about the possibilities that this period of time presented us. I had all of these mini-lessons planned. I couldn’t wait to get this going. And then we started – and I pretty much fell on my face. The kids didn’t want to be there. There was rebellion, distrust, complaining, questioning, and just an overall lack of effort on (seemingly) everybody’s part. What I found out more than anything was that it was hard.

And that’s what brings me to my reflection on those 18 years. I wish that somebody had sat me down when I was just starting out, so full of enthusiasm and fire, and let me know that this is going to be hard. It’s going to take a ton of work, and even when you dig in and do that work, you’re going to have days that seemingly never end. You’re going to have days when you think it’s not possible to do anything right. In fact, you might have nine of those days in a row. Your lessons will fall flat, your interactions with students will fall short, you’re going to get a headache that won’t go away, and you’ll wonder why you chose to enter this profession in the first place.

And then you’re going to go to school the next day and everything will just click.

Your kids (and make no mistake about it, they are your kids) are all over your lesson and they’re demonstrating that they get it. You get a thank you card from a student for helping with a Senior Project. The little ding goes off and there’s a notification that you’ve gotten an email – and find that it’s a kind word of thanks from a parent who appreciates that you’ve pushed her daughter beyond where she ever thought she’d be willing to go. It’s jeans day (c’mon, aren’t things always better on jeans days?) and Chick-Fil-A is delivered to your door for lunch (I’m not kidding about that one, we do this as a fundraiser for our Red Cross Club).

I’d love to tell you that every day is a jeans day and that Chick-Fil-A will be delivered to your door on a daily basis, but we all know that’s not going to be the case. I’d love to tell you that I’ve made meaningful connections with all of my students or all of the members of my Advisory group. I’d love to tell you that I’ve become more of a friend or a father figure to all of my students. I’d love to tell you that I won’t get frustrated when a student isn’t willing to produce at a level that I know is possible – because it’s hard. I’d love to tell you that after 18 years I won’t make any mistakes next year – but we all know that’s not going to happen.

You get the idea…

And I’m just now starting to get the idea because I’m trying to take the same advice that I’ve given to my students in the form of the poster hanging in the front of my room – the one with Art Williams’ words on it. The one that reminds me that nobody said this was going to be easy, but it’s definitely going to be worth it.


When you doubt what you once professed…

This has been a long time coming. It’s been building in me and building in me, and, well, it’s time. You see, there’ve been movements in the Education field over the past couple years to reform just about everything. Most importantly for me, there has been a push to utilize resources such as Twitter and EDCamps and this and that, and I bought into it all for some time. But, I have to admit, I’m just about done. Now please hear me out — it’s just not working — for me.

I’ve always been a reader and have always felt that, even when things go well, they can go better with insight and another set of eyes and research and just about anything that forces me to take a hard look at what I’m doing. I like to think that I’m pretty good at what I do — but I also truly believe that I can get better — and that’s every single day. This is what we demand of our students and it’s exactly what we should demand of ourselves. Yet far too many of the seemingly self-designated “leaders” in this push for reform are simply looking to say “I know best, listen to me…” or “This worked for me, so it’ll work for everyone…” or “Because I have 10,000 followers on Twitter, I must know what I’m talking about…” or (my favorite) “Because I have 10,000 followers on Twitter and I’ve got this (essentially) self-published book — please buy it on Amazon, it’ll only run you $19.95 — I know what I’m talking about…”

Quite simply, the topic has allowed many to get on their bully pulpit on Twitter and essentially let everyone know that if you don’t believe in getting rid of grades or letting a student turn in an assignment 3 weeks late or getting rid of homework or letting a student take a test 8 times in order to get the A that his parent is demanding, then you’re an ineffective teacher. How dare you doubt us? 

I once led a Professional Development session in which I touted the merits of using Twitter for all things Ed. I stood in front of my peers and explained how many benefits there were in taking part in EDChats and networking with professionals across the world (I still stand by this one) and just listening to the wealth of knowledge that’s being disseminated by the leaders. I walked my peers through the basics, gave them a list of the EDChats, and another list that included all of the big “names” to follow.

And it didn’t take long for me to regret this.

I watched as these “leaders” got on their soapboxes and I watched as more and more of these “leaders” pushed those books. I watched as more and more Admins started buying in to what was being sold by these “leaders.” And I realized that we’re traveling down a slippery slope.

And the last thing that I’m trying to say is that I know more than “them,” or that I disagree with all that “they” are professing. I just think we’re being naive to think that this is easy and, more importantly, that we need to take a one size fits all approach to this. I also feel that we’re dumbing things down to the point of facing a true turning point in what we’re doing. We are assisting in making our students lazier and we aren’t doing them any favors by lowering our standards, and, in my opinion, when we tell them they can turn anything in whenever, that there’s no need for homework, blah, blah, blah, then we’re setting them up for failure when they move on to the next level and the level beyond that. We have lowered our standards and expectations to the floor.

And I’m not basing that statement on what some book tells me, I’m basing that statement on what I’m seeing with my own two eyes. I’m seeing Honors level High School students who cringe when you ask them what a gerund is or to create a compound complex sentence or to give me an adverb when I ask for the first adjective that comes to mind about Character X. I’ve listened as students have told me time and time again that “there’s nothing on my topic on the Holocaust” because Google didn’t return something with its first “hit.” I won’t even dive deeper into the inability to properly search for anything other than to say that we’re raising kids who give up if Siri doesn’t respond with an answer immediately — and Siri is pathetic, for the most part.

“But those skills aren’t important in the 21st Century,” you say. And, in my opinion, you’re wrong. They’re every bit as important as learning to collaborate and persevere and to exhibit more grit. And can somebody please give me a break with all of this grit talk? We’d never even have to worry about this if we allowed kids to fail in the first place, because nobody wants to fail and it’s only natural to learn how to right the ship, so to speak.

But what do I know? I’m simply a classroom teacher without X-degree and I certainly haven’t written a book or promoted it endlessly on Twitter.

I believe that there is something to be gained in everything that we do. I believe that Twitter can be a great thing for some people. I believe that some people gain from reading what works for others and then figuring out how to adapt it to what works for them. I believe that some people gain an incredible amount by attending EDCamps and bringing what they pick up back to their own situations.

I’ve just had it with the idea that there’s only one way to do things today and if you aren’t willing to do it this way, then you are unwilling to change or you’re difficult or you just need to get with the times. Perhaps some of us simply know that what you’re selling doesn’t work for us. Perhaps we’ve found something better for us. Perhaps what you’re selling works for you but not others. There’s nothing wrong with this idea.

But that idea doesn’t sell books, that’s for sure.

15 minutes?

I’m not sure that I can put in to words how much I enjoy the 30 minutes that I get for lunch each day. Besides $5 Pizza Friday, I rarely even eat – it has much more to do with the people I am there with and the fun that we have in the middle of our days. It’s a respite from everything else and it is extremely rare that a week goes by that I haven’t laughed until I’ve cried at least once or twice. But when the phone rings in that room, it’s an immediate downer. When the phone rings and it’s for you, it’s even worse. And when you’re told by your Principal that he needs you to come up to the office and he’s arranging coverage for your class? Well, it took me right back to 1988 and being called up to see Mr. Albaugh…

So that’s how things started for me yesterday – and that’s a long walk up to the office when you have no clue what’s going on! Once I got there, however, I learned that Governor Wolf had eliminated the requirement that students pass the Keystone Exams in Biology, Algebra, and Literature in order to graduate and that Ashlie Hardway from WTAE was here to get student and teacher reaction to this announcement.

And then a different type of nervousness set in – what the heck am I going to say? How in the world am I going to get my feelings on this topic — which are strong, and by no means concise — into an acceptable soundbite? Am I going to make an absolute fool out of myself? Ugh…

WTAE report

I watched as a student I had the fortune of working with last year, Nicole, totally crushed her interview. Surely she had more than a couple of minutes to prepare, I thought. I am so proud of not only the way she handled herself in this situation, but also the way she represented our school and all of our students in this process. She spoke of how much pressure she felt when taking these tests — of how much she worried beforehand and the sleep she lost. Keep in mind that this is one of our best — a “high flier” as our Principal properly called her — and this is the effect that these High Stakes Tests had on her.

I thought about the end of unit project that she created for The Book Thief and how she had transformed a book into a piece that explained in no uncertain terms what she took from her reading of Zusak’s novel. And I thought about the fact that no standardized test would ever let her display this type of learning.


After the spot aired I received a bunch of calls and texts and tweets, and several people were a little confused on what I had to say concerning accountability. Make no mistake about it, I believe in accountability — for both teachers AND students. I just don’t believe in High Stakes Tests being the way that this occurs. There are so many outside factors that come in to play with a test like this — to think that these truly measure a student’s learning is just flat out naive.

Want to see if I’m doing my job? Come in and take a hard look at what I’m doing — and come in over a period of time. I don’t care who you are or what position you hold — you’re always welcome — that door is open. Want to see if my students are doing their job, improving their skills and (hopefully) being challenged in the process? The offer above stands.

Come in to see our students write about Scout coming of age in To Kill a Mockingbird while relating it to their own struggles with the same; come in to see our students try to come to grips with the stark realities presented in Night that Elie Wiesel faced as a prisoner in a concentration camp during World War II; come in and watch a student perform her original take on the events portrayed in Zusak’s magical piece about children coming to terms with the perils of life in Germany during the Holocaust — and if you’d like a glimpse of what you’d see, here you go:

There are plenty of issues with our educational system — nothing is perfect — but this is a step in the right direction, in my opinion. After all,


True words?


(ps – I can’t speak highly enough concerning how Ashlie Hardway and her photographer handled these interviews. I truly wish that all of my Mass Media and Yearbook students could have seen the entire process — they were on point the whole way through. Beyond that, she and I have had several interactions on Twitter and it was great to finally meet face to face).