Académie Française

  Effective teachers motivate their students not only to learn, but to want to learn. A best practice comes from language instruction in the French Foreign Legion. Here’s how one platoon commander encourages his recruits: “You will learn French fast because I am not your mother.” And then how do you create a culture of […]

The National Anthem

  1. Who’s on First? Last week it was fractions, and I spent some time trying to explain how “equivalent” differs in meaning from “equal.” We used currencies and first names as examples. Then we got into national anthems. I’ll spare you the transcript, but there were several iterations of: Mr. Sipe: Yes, but what’s […]

New York City Cops

  I lived in New York City for six years, three of them in Manhattan, not too far from the Police Academy. You’d see cadets wait at nearby intersections for the walk signal. Apparently they have to do that. I remember thinking if anything in that town could be considered authentically bizarre behavior, it’d be waiting dutifully to […]


  I’m reading the second volume of The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, a graphic novel trilogy by Riad Sattouf. The first one, which is excellent, is out in English; I’m muddling through the second, which is excellent, under the power of my four-cylinder French. These frames are uncanny in their depiction of a typical day […]

All Together Now

1. Irony 101 (Author’s note: this is the earnest, teacher-y part of the post.) Irony is one of the literary devices I teach my 6th graders, and I keep it to pretty obvious examples: a “no smoking” sign in a cigarette factory, getting run over by an ambulance, etc. Last year I added to our […]

The Minister of Education

I came across this AP story a few years back. I’d used it for a vocab-in-context quiz, then forgot about it until I found the clipping in a file the other day. This time reading it, I decided it’s a perfect* four-sentence short story: A man posing as a government official took over a rural high […]

Resourceful Humans

  Quite exciting, this computer magic: I just learned the word “educationalist” exists. I thought “educator” was bad enough, as it combines inflationary titling (“team associate” etc) with a macabre,* Khmer Rouge-esque flair. Next they’ll be calling us “instructional delivery curators.” It reminds me of a conversation with my dad, who worked for the VA. “Personnel!” he’d say when […]

Tell Me What It Takes To Let You Know

  “One brand of knowing (scientia) earns a ratty office and a shared secretary at the Heritage Foundation. The other (awareness) brings power, money, fame.”   You know how sometimes an adjective doesn’t so much clarify as call into question what’s going on otherwise? E.g. “real beef” or “sweet lullaby”? The field of education has a lot […]