A student is raising a hand: brace yourself!

Students raising their hands during class? I used to think that was a good thing . . . for the first week of teaching. Since then I've discovered that what they say will be as relevant as dandruff shampoo is to Medusa. We may be in the middle of comparing propaganda during WWII to modern … Continue reading A student is raising a hand: brace yourself!

Books? Thinking? Are those “lit”?

["Lit," by the way, is the trendy way to say "cool," or "neato, daddio." Just typing that last one is totally not "lit".] These lines are what I hope none of my students will ever say about my class: These lines are also why I often read out loud to them, because even though they're 10th graders, … Continue reading Books? Thinking? Are those “lit”?

“I’m not good enough.” “No, you’re not. But there’s no one else to do it.”

When the incomparable composer John Williams was shown a cut of "Schindler's List," and Steven Spielberg asked to him to compose the score, Williams was so moved that he humbly said, "You need a better composer." To which Spielberg replied, "I know, but they're all dead." Spielberg himself had put off directing the movie for … Continue reading “I’m not good enough.” “No, you’re not. But there’s no one else to do it.”

Defensiveness arises when we suspect we may be wrong

In my experience, those who become defensive and angry in a discussion are those who aren't sure their position is correct. They respond with anger when they're afraid of being found out, when they're afraid they might be wrong. That's always been a good reminder for me when I find my ire raising: something's not … Continue reading Defensiveness arises when we suspect we may be wrong

“The sky is blue.” We’ve been giving our kids fake news since kindergarten, and why that’s a growing problem

“You’re sophomores now,” I told my new batch of high school students last week, “which means you’re realizing that there’s more going on than you used to think. For example, you’ve been lied to since kindergarten. Answer me this: what color is the sky?” I’ve written about this debate in my first books, and carry the … Continue reading “The sky is blue.” We’ve been giving our kids fake news since kindergarten, and why that’s a growing problem

We spend so much in anger and it buys us nothing (Plus a HUGE sneak peek to Book 8, “The Last Day”)

They got into a fight in the cafeteria yesterday, the two boys. One was calling another a derogatory name until the victim finally punched the bully in the head during dinner. “Did you see any problems with them yesterday? You have both of them,” my husband asked me. They are in one of my American … Continue reading We spend so much in anger and it buys us nothing (Plus a HUGE sneak peek to Book 8, “The Last Day”)

The worth of battered books, and us (plus a sneak peek into Book 8)

I woke up dreaming of a battered book. I’d been thumbing through it and wincing that poor-quality sticky notes had left yellow squares on pages, along with what I suspected was coffee or soda splotches. And that brown smear? Oh, I hoped it was chocolate. I sighed in frustration. Not that long ago the book … Continue reading The worth of battered books, and us (plus a sneak peek into Book 8)

The hardest, toughest, scariest, best year I’ve ever endured: my first year as a 10th grade teacher (plus another sneak peek into Book 8)

“You’re gonna miss me, aren’t you, Mrs. Mercer?” a student asked me yesterday. “You big goober, of course I’m going to miss you.” But I didn’t say the first three words out loud. (At least I don’t think I did.) But I meant I would miss him, to my surprise. Back in autumn when I … Continue reading The hardest, toughest, scariest, best year I’ve ever endured: my first year as a 10th grade teacher (plus another sneak peek into Book 8)

Book 8 IS COMING THIS SUMMER! (I promise, really–just hang in there, friends)

Sorry I can't be more specific with the date. I need to finish this year of teaching in June. Then prep for and teach three weeks of summer school. Then move into our fourth house in just one year (a personal best [worst] for number of moves for us). Then finish editing Book 8 (all … Continue reading Book 8 IS COMING THIS SUMMER! (I promise, really–just hang in there, friends)

I used to think prom was a waste of time and money, but last weekend I realized why we need it (and a sneak peek to book 8)

My inner anthropologist compelled me on Saturday night to go to our high school and witness a cultural phenomenon called “walking out.” At proms in the west, this doesn’t occur. But here in Downeast Maine it’s the event of the year. Before the prom begins, the juniors (even though all grades were invited) link arms … Continue reading I used to think prom was a waste of time and money, but last weekend I realized why we need it (and a sneak peek to book 8)