Friday, December 3, 2010

The Next Big Thing

I just spent many months writing like crazy--a blizzard of writing. I am pleased to report that my teaching memoir, tentatively titled TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL (that's tongue-in-cheek, believe me), is done.

Well, it's as done as I can make it right now (an editor may have other ideas), and in it, I have written hundreds of pages about my life as a teacher, and my experiences as a perpetual student. I also wrote many chapters full of helpful ideas for other teachers, and I charted the progression (up and down) of my fabled teaching career.

I can't tell you how it ends, really, but it's not what you might be thinking.

It's a very good memoir (sorry if that sounds egotistical). I spent years working in publishing, and I have read SO many memoirs both then and when I was in graduate school. I know this is a good one--at least, better than Keith Richards', which I leafed through last night in Borders!

TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL is funny, which you knew it would be, right? It's also frightening, infuriatingly sad, timely, unusual in its contemporary format, and--I think--ultimately motivational.

There are several parts to this potential book, and it includes something for everyone, really--my past students, fellow teachers, aspiring teachers, activists, and educational reformers (or just plain voyeurs).

Now that the words are out, I am--understandably, I hope--somewhat tired of the subject.

I can hardly bear, right at this moment, to think about teaching issues (and I may drop out of the educational side of Twitter; it pains me sometimes to read the ed reform Tweets; it really does). At the least, I need a break for a little while.

I tried my best to change education, to make school more interesting, fun, and relevant. I hope it happened, somewhat, on my watch.

I think I can mostly feel good about teaching, even if my brain is now elsewhere--on to issues of health and wellness, mostly--other ways in which I hope to help people.

I am passing the torch (someone please take it...unless you think it's cursed or something; I think it's probably clean). Ms. Collins has left the school building...

I pray that some really sharp new teachers take over now and keep moving all schools in the right direction, away from these annoying standardized tests and numbers-based assessments, and toward deepening creativity, inspiring (not boring) students, and truly preparing them for life in an ever-shrinking world. 

I hope that school becomes what students really, truly need it to be: motivating, fluid, able to serve everyone as individuals. Education needs to be more customized, not less, as I fear has been happening.

Teachers need to once again be free to honestly teach what they know. Those who have never taught need, most of all, to stop sticking their fingers into education and contaminating the soup...

My best to all teachers. I wish you boundless energy, strength, and curiosity. Life seems to be getting harder for teachers because of bureaucratic meddling and other issues, but perhaps that may soon change. 

I've done what I could to spur that change. The rest is up to you. At the risk of sounding preachy or prescriptive, I'll just add what I know is important: Don't let people come after you or other teachers; don't be afraid to stand up for your principles, and just keep moving forward, and keep working hard (as I know you all do), no matter what.


  1. You are truly inspiring, and there are doubtless thousands of people who will want to read this memoir. I am one of them! I hope the people who caused this get theirs now, all of them. Good for you!

  2. Thanks--and ha. I have hoped for a long time that they will "get theirs," whatever that actually means, but honestly, at this point, I don't care about that anymore. The memoir is for me (and other teachers and anyone who appreciates memoirs, and anyone who has ever wondered what it might be like to be a teacher, and there are more audiences, too, which I have to delineate perfectly in my pitch letters) and my family and for the canon of teacher/writer works, in some way.

    Thanks for reading.



  3. Can't wait to see what you do next. Hope we stay in touch on Twitter, you know I try to keep the Ed tweets in check.

  4. Hi Jabiz. Thanks for reading and writing in. Of course, I still like your Edu tech tweets. It's the more general ones from online chats that are building up and weighing on me sometimes. I would participate, but then I think: what's the point? I remain, however, interested in the field of education--particularly, how everything we do comes back to it and is connected to education, begins there, etc. I still believe it is of the utmost importance that school evolves, and--at the very least--moves away from the annoying direction it's been going (which all began with NCLB, as you know).

    Yes, keep in touch! I am still here, not running off anywhere anytime soon.



  5. "Teachers need to once again be free to honestly teach what they know."

    It is important to make a distinction between what teachers know, what teachers think they know, and what teachers simply think. Regardless of whether students agree or disagree, the last is wholly inappropriate to share in class. Teachers who don't realize this are not effectively doing their jobs.

  6. I disagree. There is nothing wrong with sharing thoughts--to pretend that we don't think is absurd. I always add the caveat, "This is just me..." or, "This is what *I* think," with the complete understanding (because I was raised all P.C.) that many other people may think differently.

    Every single teacher I have ever met, anywhere, ever, has said what they think. You are deluding yourself if you believe that teachers never discuss this with their students.

    Yes, they may be completely paranoid now to discuss it, but it is human nature to talk and share ideas. You can't realistically expect that not to happen in a classroom, especially when teachers are trying to figure out if the students are thinking (and if not, why not).

    I fear you are suggesting that schools become, as a wise man I know once put it, "cabbage patches for growing automatons."

    I think that's truly scary.


  7. Talking Teacher TooDecember 4, 2010 at 10:46 PM

    I find it infuriating that anyone would try to tell a teacher how to "effectively do her job." It's so easy to say what a teacher should do, how a teacher should act, what a teacher can say when the critic is not actually in a classroom, isn't it? It's good for students to know what their teachers think! Students oftentimes don't even stop to consider that their teachers are real people with backgrounds and experiences and personal values. Understanding that teachers are simply other human beings who know more than you do about a given subject should help teachers maintain, or rebuild, respect for their profession.

    If teachers can't talk about anything that really matters, then what is left? Oh, right, the "curriculum," no doubt written by a bunch of grumpy businessmen who don't want kids to know the truth (as in Texas, with their scary School Board).

  8. Very well said! Teachers will never have any time to tell students what they think if the state school boards are simply filling all the air with prescriptions for stupidity (and rewriting history from a warped, ultracon viewpoint), as in Texas.

  9. I should add (before I go to bed) that obviously, no teacher is just going to come right out with all her ideas on every potentially controversial subject. No way. Eventually, however, things come up. We can't censor teachers. We protect anyone else's freedom of speech, so why are the Thought Police coming after teachers? Hmm?