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May 22 2013

Overheard in Chipotle…

“You were a real nice teacher, Mr. K!” -T.R., former student, after chatting with me for the first time in 2 years.  I’m working in DC for the summer, and I’m living in the same neighborhood as before. This, of course, means the inevitable–bumping into students on the street. I was standing in line at…

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It’s been so long since I’ve posted that I almost forgot how to log into this blog. I feel guilty about not having posted in so long. I hope it’s not a sign that, while in law school, I’ve “forgotten” about my longer-term commitment (and the very reason I went to law school): educational justice.…

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I’ve been away from this blog for a bit. I’m making that final push at the end of my first year of law school. Classes are over and my first exam begins within 48 hours. But I wanted to share something. As I was studying today, I received a phone call from BO. It was…

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I love the freedom of summer. This summer feels particularly unique because I know that I will be going back to the classroom as a student, rather than a teacher, this fall. But I’ll still be in my role as a teacher for a bit. A text conversation between a student and me shows that…

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May 23 2011

A Student Raps About His Teacher

One of my students is an aspiring rapper. He’s so serious about music that he doesn’t want to go to college; rather, he’d like to make mixtapes and hit the rap circuit pronto. Recently, this student told me he’d been working on a rap in my honor (it is titled my first name). I laughed…

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Student 1: (proudly sharing cell phone photos with other students) That’s some Patron in my hands right there. See? See? Teacher: (concerned expression on face) Not good. Patron’s not good. How old are you again? And put that away! Student 1: (ignoring query and instruction) What do you prefer, Mr. K? Student 2: (loud interjection) BOOKS!…

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Apr 12 2011

I Almost Cancelled Our Trip


For a second, I thought about cancelling our trip. Independent reading time was over and I meekly made the announcement: “Okay, students, today we’re going to the local public library!” The outburst was overwhelming: “Oh naw! I ain’t going there!” “I’m not moving–sorry.” “Why the hell are we going there?” As the cacophony finally died…

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Mar 23 2011

On Doodling

I like doodling. It’s therapeutic. It’s fun. It’s a way to pass time. It’s creative. It’s helpful. When I doodle, I mainly draw geometrical shapes: ovals of all shapes and sizes; nested rectangles; all variety of triangles; my own made-up shapes. I confine myself to these basic figures because, let’s face it, I truly lack…

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Mar 18 2011

On Exemplars as Tools

Exemplars are powerful teaching tools, I’ve discovered. An exemplar is basically an ideal model–an archetype?–of what students should aspire towards for any given assignment. If, for instance, students are writing a literary analysis paper, what might an “A” paper look like? How might it be structured? For an 8th grader, maybe something like this. Indeed,…

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Feb 04 2011

The Peculiarity of 12th Graders

For whatever reason, I keep moving up the grade-level ladder as each semester passes: Fall 2009: 2 periods of 10th grade and 1 period of 11th grade English Spring 2010: 1 period of 10th grade and 2 periods of 11th grade English Fall 2010: 2 periods of 11th grade English and 1 period of Journalism…

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Jan 23 2011

A Resourceful, Humorous Student

While administering final exams, I was patrolling the classroom, checking to see whether: Reading passages were right-side-up, students were alert, students were not copying answers off of each other, and pens were moving. As I passed by BN, something hilarious caught my attention on the desk in front of her: BN’s “Ghetto Ass Notebook” AKA…

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Jan 17 2011

On MLK and Mountaintops


“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” These were Dr. Martin…

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Nov 19 2010

You Can Find Me in the (Book) Club

It was my birthday recently. My students had heard this through the grapevine (with Facebook and the ubiquity of cell phones, the grapevine is super responsive). Because my birthday fell before a day off (Veterans Day), students were naturally curious about how I was going to celebrate. Apparently, clubbing is a logical option. Here’s a…

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Oct 11 2010

What Does It Mean to Be an Expert?

My students and I recently finished a modified version of Kathleen Cushman’s “Practice Project.” The idea was to invest my students in the idea that practice–even if boring, difficult, or frustrating–matters if they want to become successful.  Students learned that experts don’t necessarily need to hold advanced degrees or have fancy titles.  Rather, experts needed…

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Aug 13 2010

20 Anecdotes on Failure

What causes students to fail? I don’t mean “fail” as in “I am going to fail geometry class”; rather, I mean “fail” as in “you are a failure in life.”  (Or maybe, “fail” as in FAIL blog.) I was spurred to think about this after noticing a brilliant, concise post that offers 20 reasons for…

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My students recently criticized me en masse for doing too much.  I told them we’d have “work” to do every day until the end of school on the 22nd.  Today, I discovered that the first day of “doing too much” wasn’t really doing too much.  I will present a simple and effective poetry lesson that…

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I’m apparently doing too much these days.  My classroom is chugging along, despite the massive end-of-the-year truancy problem that our school must somehow cope with.  Yet, because I am administering a final exam that takes place over the course of three days, my students are easily irritable.  One recent comment annoyed them to no end.…

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“Mr. K, why you always gotta have everything for a solution [sic]!?” -Groaning student responding to teacher’s suggestion that she stop complaining about the rain on the National Mall and instead share a spot under the teacher’s umbrella. ***** “They don’t even let you put your head down; they make you pick it up! And,…

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May 05 2010

A Dagger in My Teacher Armor

It came without warning.  I was certainly unprepared and, moreover, shocked that a student like RT could utter those words from his mouth. Near the beginning of 4th period, while instructing my ancy, heat-distressed students (it has been well above 80 degrees this entire week and the school doesn’t switch the the A/C on until…

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Apr 29 2010

A Runner-to-Runner Conversation

KN is a budding track and cross country star at my school.  Furthermore, she is one of the half dozen or so students whom I have had the pleasure of teaching since the beginning of the year (i.e. across both semesters).  Slender, petite and self-motivated, she exudes the vibe of a dedicated runner. That KN,…

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Apr 11 2010

The Beauty of Grading

Part of the beauty of grading is the unpredictability of what the teacher encounters.  The “best” students will sometimes do the stupidest things: ES, for instance wrote, “you was not hear” for a Do Now on the day I feigned a migraine and stayed home in order to evade a burnout (shh! Don’t tell anyone!). …

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Mar 24 2010

On Territory

One thing that I’ve observed throughout the year is that students at my school like marking out their territory (theme song for this post here. The Joakim Remix is appropriate too).  Like marauding packs of wolves, they stake their claims on various pieces of school and community property.  Pencils, pens, markers, whiteout, spray paint–students will…

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Dec 20 2009

Sketches of Immigrant Dreams

Despite the inequities of our public education system–that is, the ones that organizations like TFA are trying to address–I think sometimes we forget that there are many world citizens that can only dream of the quality of education that even some of our nation’s worst-performing schools provide.  In particular, I am thinking of the many…

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Nov 05 2009

A Couple Email-Induced Tears

Up until now–4 months since I first set foot into a summer school classroom in Philly–I had not cried for any reason related to teaching (I cried tears of pain in the NYC Marathon Sunday).  That changed today, when I received an email from BC, one of the brightest young minds, but also one of…

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Oct 31 2009

A “Just Right” Library

The generosity and support have been unbelievable.  Every day, I come to school and find a big stack of boxes precariously perched on my pulled-out metal mailbox or scattered like confetti in the mail room.  The secretary gives me a daily update on the number of packages that have arrived.  One morning, the principal pulled…

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Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

D.C. Region
High School

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