Spurred by my recent foray into ideas for increasing critical thinking, here’s an idea that I think combines a lot of different ideas, including critical thinking and logical inference, into a skill-building activity that engages a virtually universal student interest: music.



I got the latest edition of English Journal this week, and while I have been remiss in keeping up with past issues, I jumped for joy to see this one, which centers on one of my favorite areas of study: Logic and Critical Reasoning. I try to teach critical thinking to all of my classes, and I was excited to see what ideas were included to reinforce this absolutely vital universal subdiscipline.

I am happy to announce that I have not yet been disappointed.


Having kids has given me an acquaintance with health care that I virtually would have never thought possible. My boys are not the unhealthiest of children, but their conditions (severe autism and apraxia for my elder son, slightly less severe autism and mild hypotonia for my younger) have required some further investigation.

We had one of these investigative moments this past year with my younger son, specifically regarding the possibility of a metabolic disorder causing his hypotonia (and perhaps contributing to his autism and global delays as well). To get more clues, blood work was needed to test for the level of certain amino acids and other chemical markers. One of these markers was lactic acid: elevated levels might indicate a metabolic disorder and provide something for a geneticist to work with.

There was a problem with this, however: lactic acid levels tend to rise with muscle exertion, so the blood needed to be drawn from my 18-month-old son without causing him to exert himself while we were trying to get blood.


This week is going to be a long one: seniors turn in research papers tomorrow, for one. I have two out of a grand total of 19 that I’ll end up grading (hopefully, at least – not turning this assignment in will kill a 2nd semester grade in a hurry), and whereas I don’t expect to take the two weeks that it took last year for 50+, it will still be exhausting, I know.

I also start PSAE/ACT prep for my juniors this week, which will carry us through the last week in April. I have never done this before, and I’m going to be shooting from the hip in many regards. I have taught persuasion multiple times now, including once last year in preparation for the ACT Writing test, so that will be the relatively easy part. On the other hand, I haven’t taught much grammar this year, and now it will kick into serious gear. I fortunately think I have some good resources on this, so I’m hopeful.

Essentially, though, I’m navigating unknown waters, and it will be interesting to see how it works out. I’d say that I’ll get back to you all on that, but anyone who’s noticed my blogging habits lately will be rightfully suspicious of any promises to that regard.

We’ll just have to see, I guess.

This is probably going to seem pretty last minute – it is – but I have a request for any of my readers with even a passing knowledge of nonfiction materials.

I’m planning a nonfiction unit for my seniors next semester on civil disobedience and nonviolent protest. I hope to build in some texts that they should have had last year as juniors but didn’t, such as Thoreau’s “Resistance to Civil Government” (more commonly known as “Civil Disobedience”) and King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail (which I generally teach with Thoreau, anyway), but I need some suggestions for other texts. Critical texts are fine – it will be good practice for students to look through more scholarly works – as are other primary texts. I’m already thinking about Gandhi’s Non-Violent Resistance (although I have to find it and make copies of some sections) and a critical text called Civil Disobedience in Focus by Hugo A. Bedau (of which I will likely only use the introduction as a primer of sorts). This is not enough, however; the unit will last approximately 3-4 weeks, if I can sustain it, so that I can use these texts to teach research skills such as notetaking, paraphrasing, summarizing, citing sources, etc.

So, faithful readers, I need your help. I need any works that are either reasonably short or that can be excerpted (so as not to overwhelm my students at the beginning of their last semester of high school) that have to do at all with civil disobedience,  nonviolent resistance, or nonviolent protest. Of particular interest would be information about the Civil Rights Movement (including the Montgomery bus boycott), the satyagraha movements in India and South Africa, American protests over the Vietnam War, Chinese protests in Tiananmen Square, and even contemporary American protests over issues like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Republican National Convention protest in 2004. I’m also not limited by medium; I’ll take hypertexts as well as any links to print sources. If you’ve got a PDF version (especially for any journal articles – I’m very limited in that regard) that you can share (this is all fair use, remember), feel free to E-mail me – docereestdiscere AT SIGN gmail PERIOD com. I will be incredibly grateful for any help any of you can offer.

Thanks again, readers – looking forward to more great conversations in the Ten! (2010, that is.)

Our last day of school before Christmas break has just started a few minutes ago, and I am feeling pretty good. As of this moment, I’ve graded all of the exams I’ve given – only two, unfortunately, although the non-exam equivalent in another class (a persuasive speech) has been graded in full as well – and I have this hour, which is my normal prep period, to do several things: get my room more organized, think about what I’ll teach when we come back from break in early January, and – of course – reflect.*


Or, You think I’d learn, Pt. 2.

Okay, forget the self-deprecating title of this post: I don’t think I’m stupid, but I sometimes wonder why I just don’t seem to learn. I even have a visualization for the sort of philosophy I have on teaching and learning:

Old experiences and ideas + New data and information = New understanding of the world Transforming self and external reality

Yet, when it comes to stuff that works, I don’t seem to have mastered the idea of thinking back to my best lessons and reflecting as such: Self? [Yes?] You remember that lesson that went really well? [Yeah, it was awesome; you–er, we rocked it in the class.] Well, maybe I should try that again. If it works one time, then maybe it might fit here, don’t you think? [That’s a great idea! Go you! Er, us!]

Case in point: today.


2mm, but still no funThus is my life currently. Well, now more especially than normal.

Despite the fact that I generally don’t have exciting weekends as a married man and teacher, this weekend was exceptionally thrilling. I ended up at the doctor on Saturday for pain in…well, we won’t go there. Let’s just say it was an exceptionally sensitive spot. I had to go from there to the hospital and eventually the ER.

And the trend continued on Sunday, when an early morning bout of severe lower back pain sent me back to the doctor…and the hospital…and the ER again, to find out that the likely ultimate cause of all of my misery was a 2mm kidney stone. (See the photo for an idea, although seeing one is nothing like having one inside one of your ureters.)


If you want a quick three-word description of what my life feels like lately, look at the title and you might get what I’m saying. (The Easter egg might also help, if you see it.)

Most of this feeling is unrelated to teaching (and is generally stuff that I wouldn’t want to spill on an unsuspecting and largely indifferent reading audience), but the sudden realization I had yesterday that there are only three weeks of school left before Christmas break most certainly is related. Ooh boy.


I finished the book I’ve been reading this week earlier today, Why Do We Gotta Do This, Mr. Nehring?: Notes from a Teacher’s Day in School by James Nehring, and I have to give it my highest recommendations for any junior high or high school teacher (although it will be more topical for the latter). It is a very compelling book, equal parts narrative and commentary but all contained within a narrative framework that is very approachable. Nehring does a great job of telling the story of education – not a history, but the way things are. I say “are” because I don’t think things have changed a whole lot in the 20 years since this book was written and published; in fact, if you replaced all instances of “Walkmen” with “iPods,” there would be virtually no dissonance with the reality of education in 2009.

There is much that can be said about Nehring’s commentary – perhaps the most important part of the book, although the narrative is entertaining and engaging – but I want to return to that dreaded question that I wrote about a few days ago*.


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