Teaching Stories

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I trust leaders, not stories

When someone gets told to do something that they do not want to do, they usually complain. In the complaining, the stories get changed. How do I know this? Two reasons. One, because I have done it before. Two, because it happens almost every time I correct a student.

It happens something like this. I tell a student to stay after school for twenty minutes because they were continually disruptive in class. The student mumbles under their breath and gets mad. Later that day, they go home and tell their friends, “Mr. Hollowell was so rude and inconsiderate. I got up to go use the bathroom, and then he yelled at me and told me to sit down and he gave me a detention. Can you believe he made me stay after school for twenty minutes just because I needed to use the restroom?” Actually, Billy, you have to stay after school for 20 minutes because you were a complete train wreck in class, and your final disaster was getting out of your chair in a disruptive manner and pushing two students on your way out of my room. You do not have a detention for going to the restroom. You have a detention for being a moron. Read more »


There is a “teacher crisis” in America because the number of people preparing to be teachers is significantly under the projected number of teachers that are needed. This is already true in math and science, where teachers with this skill set are highly sought after and given significant federal incentives (scholarships, loan forgiveness, etc.) to pursue this path. The question, then, is how to get more teachers into the field, and once you get them to pursue the field, how do you best prepare them?

One suggestion is to take people who already know something and have spent years in many different industries (business, government, law, etc.) and just get them into a classroom. These people already have the skill set, they already know content and even better, they know how this meaningful content can be used in the real world in which they worked. They have what many teachers do not have: experience with the application of knowledge. This experience is priceless.

But some people (usually professors in the Education Department of some University) don’t want these people to teach until they have taken 20 credit hours of pre-requisites and spent $30,000 on university classes. Furthermore, these people have a significant voice in the creation of licensing standards, and therefore, they are in a position to oppose non-standard routes to licensing.

This is a problem. Read more »


Photo: Kevin Dooley

I have found that there is a very quick path to insanity: trying to control things that you cannot control.

I was reminded of this today when I went and observed my brother's fourth-grade classroom. The fourth-graders left for math class, but when they came back an hour later, half of them were crying and the other half was either mad or kicking their backpacks. It was an emotional train wreck. When my brother asked them what was wrong, they said that they all received bad grades on their test in the previous class. My brother was trying to assure them, telling them that "your parents aren't going to ground you for a month" and "no, it doesn't mean you are going to get an F on your report card", but this had no effect. These fourth graders were convinced that the end of the world was at hand because they had a piece of paper with a number lower than a 70%. The teacher who gave them the bad grades even came back into my brother's classroom and told the students that she had decided that the assignment was just going to count as extra credit, so they didn't have to worry. But this didn't matter. They were still crushed. Read more »


The worst grade I ever received in college came from my Computer Animated Design class. I had a professor who had a “magic” briefcase, and out of that briefcase would pop up the most random overhead transparencies. He would pull one out, look at it like he hadn’t seen it in a year (because he truly hadn't seen it in a year) and then briefly scan the contents as he was placing it on the projector. I would always have to brace myself for what would come next… Read more »

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