One Teacher’s Most Important Lesson: How to Save a Life

In a common core world where teaching is sometimes more concerned with evaluating pupils’ aptitudes for test-taking than with evaluating their well-being, one teacher has developed an ingenious method of tracking her children’s thoughts and feelings, and possibly saving lives in the process.

lonely child

On Glennon Doyle Merton’s “Momastery” blog, she writes of her son’s math teacher, an unnamed, unsung hero. What makes her so? One afternoon, Merton dropped by her son’s fifth-grade classroom for help on how to better guide him with his homework, and she and his teacher got to talking. After some time they moved on from methods of long division to philosophies of teaching, both agreeing that “subjects like math and reading are the least important things that are learned in a classroom,” that we owe it to students to instill in them kindness, compassion, and bravery above all. And that’s when this teacher shared a secret method with Merton.

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Joseph Brodsky’s Reading List for Essential Conversations

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Nobel Prize-winning poet, essayist, and professor Joseph Brodsky

In 1972, poet Joseph Brodsky angered government officials in his native Russia and was expelled from the country.  With the help of fellow poet W.H. Auden, Brodsky settled in the United States, found a position at Yale and taught classes at Mount Holyoke as well.  Later, he accepted professorships at both Cambridge and the University of Michigan.  (Not bad for an autodidact!)

Of the many opinions Brodsky espoused to his students was that they could not carry on intelligent conversations unless they had done fundamental reading in what he considered influential texts. He passed out a list of these works to everyone in his classes.

Monica Partridge, a former student at Mount Holyoke recalls an early class meeting with Brodsky.  On the Brodsky Reading Group blog, Partridge wrote that

“Shortly after the class began, he passed out a handwritten list of books that he said every person should have read in order to have a basic conversation.  At the time I was thinking, ‘Conversation about what?’ I knew I’d never be able to have a conversation with him, because I never thought I’d ever get through the list. Now that I’ve had a little living, I understand what he was talking about. Intelligent conversation is good. In fact, maybe we all need a little more.”

Here are the books or works on that list. I’m proud to say that unless the conversation turns to “Icelandic Sagas” I could pretty well hold my own at a Brodsky cocktail party…

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Libraries and Kids: The Only True Magic

where-the-wild-things-are-680uw True Story:  I remember getting my library card more vividly than I recall getting my driver’s license.  My best memories of childhood were going to the library with my mom and checking out armfuls of books, which she would read to me for hours on end.  At two, I am told, I would stand on tiptoe at the librarian’s desk and request  favorites or authors (I didn’t know why the lady laughed at me.  I guess most toddlers weren’t as particular.) I would rather go to the library than the movies, or the park, or anywhere else.  Still true. The libraries I recall were nothing fancy.  Maybe some bulletin boards heralding an upcoming holiday or new books perched half-open, standing on top of shelves. Of course in 197…(cough, cough), there were not nearly as many ways for a child to be entertained.  The television had four channels (as God intended):  ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS.  Cartoons were from 7am to 10am, period. No LOL cats, no Youtube…. I like to scare my son with these tidbits. Today, libraries are competing to keep your child reading and finding some interesting ways to do so, by engaging the imagination.  Here are a few of my favorite new spaces, and some words from others who continue to love libraries:

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Spain’s Playoffice, a child-centric design firm, created the “reading net” in an attempt to making reading more fun for kids. The “reading net” stretches across the length of a library room, and kids can play on it in between chapters.

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No Child Left Inspired: Parent-Teacher Night Blues

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Last night I attended Parent-Teacher night with my eighth grade son.  It was depressing.

For two hours, I, my son, and several hundred other parents were herded from classroom to classroom where we were introduced to the variety of TEKS tests our children would endure this year.  TEKS, the acronym for the assessment  “Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills,” will measure students’ ability to take tests.  Honestly, that’s what it boils down to. The four areas of “knowledge” they will assess are math, science, history, and social studies.  Writing, and critical thinking, apparently, are not deemed “essential.”

Now,  I realize teachers only have ten minutes to address each class.  They were dead tired, as was I.  But you know, in each ten minute session, ALL I heard was due dates for tests and the breakdown of grades. In not a single class was there any excitement about the curriculum, no discussion of new ideas or interesting projects… nothing.

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Top Ten Strangest Questions I’ve Been Asked While Working at a University Library Front Desk

10. Patron: If I was feeling particularly existentialist, what book would you recommend for me?

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9. Patron: Hi. I’m looking for a book called Bay Wolves. Can you help me find it?

Me: Sure, let me look it up for you… Hmmm, sorry we don’t have any books by that name. Do you know the author’s name, maybe?

Patron: No, but I think it’s spelled kind of weird, like B-E-O… wolves.

Me: …Do you mean Beowulf?

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8. Patron: Can you help me find the Law Library?

Me: [pulls out a map] The Law Library is right here. You just walk down this street, turn this corner, and you’ll be there.

Patron: Thanks, hopefully they’ll have a book about Newton’s Laws.

Me: Uh, maybe you’re looking for the Physics Library instead…?

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Calling all teachers: check out our new eNotes lesson plans!

Here at eNotes, we publish new lesson plans and response journals for teachers all the time. Check out our latest additions below! And remember, these items are free for download with your subscription to the eNotes Teacher’s Edition

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jane eyreNew Lesson Plans:

(eNotes lesson plans have been written, tested, and approved by working classroom teachers. The main components of each plan include an in-depth introductory lecture, discussion questions, vocabulary lists, chapter-based questions, essay prompts and a multiple-choice test. They also offer complete answer keys for the instructor.)

Jane Eyre (174 pages)

Things Fall Apart (85 pages)

Death of a Salesman (47 pages)

New Response Journals:

(An eNotes Response Journal is designed to encourage your students to read and write more effectively and with more pleasure. Each Response Journal includes a rich variety of writing prompts: some will take students directly into the text, while others will give students an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings and to reflect on their own experiences.)

The Hunger Games (26 pages)

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (20 pages)

About our special Teacher’s Edition:

The eNotes Teacher’s Edition currently offers 105 lesson plans, with 3 new plans added each month. Your subscription guarantees you an unlimited number of downloads of these plans and response journals, plus other classroom resources like user-uploaded documents, daily Q&A, and thousands of study guides. For more information on the Teacher’s Edition or a free sample of one of our lesson plans, click here.

Are you a teacher? eNotes employs real instructors as Educators in our Homework Help program for students. Submit your application today and join our team of experts!

Your New Textbook, Brought to You by Bill Gates

Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold have filed a new patent that could change the way we read textbooks, and possibly the way we learn, forever.

textbook patentBored of reading the same textbooks, the same old way? Well, Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvold, the duo behind an invention that can actually slow hurricanes, are looking to change that. In 2012 they filed a patent for a device that will have the capability to “automatically create a customized video snippet from any random selection of text,” according to GeekWire. That means that as you read a textbook on, say, a tablet or your phone, that device could generate a video based on the content of the textbook–turning a boring old piece of text into essentially a short film.

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