My current read is Thomas Newkirk's Embarrassment and the Emotional Underlife of Learning.  I love how Newkirk has put the teacher/student relationship into the context of a learner's emotional life.  The text resonates with my own observations in the classroom where student motivation is ruled by the need to self-protect or save face.  Though Newkirk acknowledges that it is unlikely to remove all opportunities of shame and embarrassment from the act of learning, he addresses many motivational traps teachers struggle against.  Even our best performing students will resist taking risks if it threatens to tarnish an image.

There are lessons in the book for teachers, the lead learners in the room. Needing to continually adjust an understanding of our contextual classroom lives might sometimes mean asking for help--an admission of weakness many avoid. Those with the most experience are least likely to conjure the humility required.  (Guilty) Newkirk re-defines asking for help as an act of giving and challenges the hidebound to reconsider their stance and break into new territory.

There is more to read but already this book has much to think about.  Maybe an important step toward a long goodbye to the Skinner box and its requisite action/external reward philosophy of teaching?


If you are joining me in this space from my previous blog Walking to School, welcome! 

New readers are invited to visit the old site and browse through the postings which focus primarily on education policy in the 21st century United States--from the perspective of those on the receiving end: classroom teachers.

This new blog features teaching practice, with an emphasis on all literacy skills—but especially writing—for every student in every content.  I hope you find something worthwhile. 

Please engage!  The best learning communities are vibrant, with everyone learning from each other. Share your ideas and experiences in the comments section--and answer teaching practice questions that still puzzle us all.


Did you know that January is named for the Roman god Janus, the spirit of doorways?  He is depicted with two faces, one looking forward and one looking backward.  Isn't that fitting for this first month of the new year?  This little mini lesson is also an opportunity for providing time for a short reflective writing at the beginning of the second half of your school year.

Carve out a few minutes at the beginning of class for Daybook writing that asks students to reflect on where they have been in the last year and to look down the road to where they are going.  More than a set of resolutions, the students can envision goals for the New Year.  Kind of like a mini bucket list: what do you hope to accomplish in this new beginning?

Setting goals is an important part of achievement.  Without goals, students are merely wandering aimlessly down the road.  Provide frequent opportunities for students to set and revise goals. For some students, this is a skill that must be learned.

How do you help your students develop their own goals?