Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Two Legs Suffice: What My Book is About

In a way, Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching is a book about motivation. 

It’s based in part on my years with the United States Marines (1968-70). I enlisted at the height of the Vietnam War but never saw combat. 

That means I don’t know diddly about combat. So I don’t pretend I do. In the same way most school reformers know nothing about teaching. 

The heart and soul of the book flow from my work with two generations of Loveland, Ohio teens (1975-2008). 
I loved teaching. I did. I worked in a strong community. But teaching is never easy. All real teachers know this is true. None of the school-reformers-who-never-taught have a whiff of a clue. 

Two Legs Suffice includes a pair of chapters about pedaling a bicycle across the United States (2007; 2011), to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Students and staff at my school helped bring in $13,500 for the 2007 ride and I raised almost $11,000 in 2011, as well. 

Both journeys tie into my basic premise. I believe that effort is paramount in education, just as it is while pedaling up and over Tioga Pass.

That goes for everyone on a seat. 

Near the end of my 2011 ride: pedaling up Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park.


Most teachers are good. We aren’t idiots and slackers, as many critics like to contend. We are not the problem. 

Good teachers can do much to help students succeed. Good teachers cannot solve every problem. Good teachers—even excellent ones—need help.

You can’t keep offering up bold plans to “fix the schools,” like the school-reformers-who-never-taught like to do. You don’t fix families by “fixing the homes.” You work with individuals. You help people.

Motivation is key in any classroom. Tips on motivating students feature prominently in my story. 

Standardized testing is doing great harm and little good. True learning has not been fostered. True learning has been stifled.

More importantly, if we want to follow the surest path to improving learning outcomes, then we must clearly keep in mind that two legs suffice.

(That final premise rests on a lesson I used to share with students about Bruce Jennings, a young man who pedaled a bicycle across the United States in 1976, despite the fact he had one leg.)


One motivational tool: STAR Awards for students.
Front cover.
Back cover blurb.

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