Saturday, January 18, 2020

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My Promise 

WHEN I STARTED BLOGGING IN 2011, I said I planned to speak up for good teachers. I would not defend bad ones. 

I began by trying to debunk the myth that something was wrong with America’s teachers as a group.

I mocked the idea that U. S. teachers were stupid again in: America’s Teachers! We’re Dumb! And We Suck!


Recently, I’ve shifted more towards posts that teachers might find useful. I’m retired. So I have plenty of free time to bang away on my keyboard.

Best Seating Chart Ever! I read about this setup in an article long ago. The arrangement helped with discipline and students loved it.

“Stupid Essays” as a Creative Punishment and CreativeDiscipline: Angie Collects Belly Button Lint: I found that humor and discipline were not mutually exclusive. This worked great for me.

First Day Plans from a Veteran Educator: My third year I stopped going over rules the first day and dove right into lessons I considered critical

A ReadingList for American History: This list of hundreds of books was created for students in my class, but should be of value to teachers.



I am currently posting what I think are interesting stories from American history, divided by years and topics. These appear in the most recent posts. A few years have no information yet; but I want to keep my posts in chronological order. Hey, I’m retired. I need my naps, too. I’m working on it!

Why do people explore: Columbus, Mountain Men or astronauts?
Scene near Leadville, Colorado.

Teachers make a difference in countless ways. Note to a teacher and former student of mine.


Early American Civilizations: A Few Interesting Pictures: This post didn’t get much interest; but I’m listing in chronological order.

The Chachapoya of Peru (A.D. 650-1470): Never heard of these people till I stumbled upon their story in National Geographic. A discussion of burial customs—and other cultural customs—is always worth having.

A Simple Lesson on Cultural Differences: Naming customs captured the interest of my classes, including their own names.

The Battle for Freedom in England and America: I created this document after I retired. It might be of use in your classes. I believe the examples would be useful for teachers to incorporate into lessons.

Do You Know what the Declaration of Independence Means? Six Questions: Like Abraham Lincoln, I considered an understanding of the Declaration of Independence central to understanding who we are as a people (flaws and all).

Remember the Ladies: Women in the American Revolution: My students liked this reading and we used it as a basis for skits. My seventh and eighth graders loved doing skits; and we set them up to last the entire period. (See: How I Worked Skits in My History Class, below.)

Founding Father vs. Founding Father: The idea that the Founding Fathers had all the answers is badly flawed, as the Founding Fathers liked to point out to each other.

Two “N” Words and a “D” Word: This was probably my favorite lesson plan every year. (I’m not sure you could do this today in an era when only standardized learning seems to “count.”)

Thomas Jefferson’s Slave Son, Madison Hemings, Tells His Story: Found this online; it’s very interesting.

Teaching about Slavery: A Novel Approach: If you’ve never read Gone with the Wind, it’s beautifully written—and full of racist tropes.

The California Gold Rush, A Few Ideas for Class: This topic always interested students, whether we were talking about events in 1849, a Brazilian gold rush in the 1980s, including a “nugget” the size of a briefcase, and the recovery of tons of gold from the wreck of the SS Central America, which sank in 1857.

Mr. Lincoln’s Army, The Army of the Potomac, Part I: I grew up on Bruce Catton’s writings (okay, I’m old); but his stories about the Civil War would resonate with students.

Glory Road, The Army of the Potomac, Part II: Same as above; these two posts are quite lengthy; so pick and choose what you can use.

Retired Teachers Never Quit: Teaching about Gettysburg: Here are a few ideas and pictures from Gettysburg you might use.

Scars from the Civil War and Scars Today: The soldiers from every war could share their stories of pain and suffering.

A Rebel Soldier’s War: Sam Watkins of the First Tennessee: I used this essay in class for years; my students always liked it. Watkins saw tremendous bloodshed, but his humanity and humor come through. (See next listing, below.)

How I Worked Skits in My History Class: This was one of my favorite moments in more than three decades of teaching.

A Former Slave Writes to His Master: This letter is a classic, if you’ve never seen it.

Notes on Sitting Bull and the Sioux Culture: Again, these notes are quite long; but if you want evidence of the humanity of the people we once considered “savage,” here it is; and Sitting Bull is a great leader.

Notes from the Book, With Custer at the Little Big Horn: An interesting point of view from a cavalryman who survived the fight—and also realized the Native Americans had reason to go to war.

A Bride Goes West: A Woman’s View of Frontier Montana: If you’re looking for the female perspective, Nannie Alderson’s story of raising a family in Montana in the 1880s and after is great. My students really liked her story.

World War I Cartoons and Pictures: I thought some of these would be useful to teachers.

What a Difference a Century Makes: 1915-2015: I wrote this the year my father would have turned 100; the differences might amaze students. If I was still teaching, I might do a discussion of changes kids think have been for the better, for the worse, and what they think will change in their lifetimes.

A Few Useful Notes on Hitler and the Nazis: If you teach about the Holocaust, this may help.

I Read Mein Kampf, So You Don’t Have To: Hitler is quite clear about what he plans to do if he takes power. His ideas are grotesque; and (if you’ve never read this) his prose is often tedious. Here are his main ideas.

 “Why Not 13?” Stories from the Holocaust: I have been collecting examples of close calls and heartbreak recently.

The Story of Pearl Harbor: My feeling has always been that descriptions in textbooks are brief and superficial. I tried to present stories in greater detail for my classes.

A Particular Tragedy at Pearl Harbor: This story is meant to make clear: war is rarely glamorous, often horrible.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Students today have almost no knowledge of what nuclear war is really like.

The Moore’s Ford Bridge Lynching: Four Victims out of 4,400: I only recently read about this incident. It’s a shock to realize how recently lynching was still occurring.

My students could always name four or five examples of Jim Crow laws: separate seat on buses, separate drinking fountains, separate schools, separated in sports and in restaurants. This reading gave them a “few” more examples—including bans on interracial checkers playing.

The Emperor of A, B, C, D (Auxiliary Post): More examples of racism and material you probably have to ignore due to standardized testing.

(I loathed standardized testing and called it educational malpractice.)

A Watergate Refresher: Students found the story of Watergate to be like a crime show investigation.

The Veterans Come to Loveland Middle School: I grew up thinking it would be cool to go to war, joined the Marines, myself, in 1968, and volunteered to go to Vietnam. (I was dumb.) I lucked out—didn’t get sent—but always believed students should have a realistic view regarding warfare. We found we could get plenty of veterans to come in and talk, including about their worst memories.

Who Were Those People Who Died on 9/11: I wrote this after I retired: but I’d use it in class today, if I were still teaching. It would probably make some students cry. It makes me cry.

A Few Good Ideas (I Think) for American History: If any of these ideas help you, I’ll be glad I bothered to post them.

“Snowballs” Fly inHistory Class, and Other Mistakes: Nothing like having real blood in the classroom…and a few of my other blunders.

History Shows: Kids Never Change: I recently hit 70; I tell my wife all the time, “If I ever start grumbling about ‘kids today,’ smack me upside the head.” She seemed to agree rather quickly that that was a good idea.


I loved life in the classroom, loved working with teens, and taught for more than three decades. Today, I’m worried about what might happen to young teachers. When I look at current education reforms it appears to me that self-appointed experts (who never teach) are pushing disastrous policies.

Since I retired, I haven't been writing much about education policies; but Betsy DeVos is always good for a few laughs (or groans). See, for example, 

Besty Devos: The Amway Secretary of Education

Heroes Who Never Fight: U.S. Secretaries of Education (Betsy DeVos Edition)

Betsy Devos: The Midas Touch in Education

The For-Profit Model in Education: You Get Strippers

My most successful posts, and some of my personal favorites:

4) Corporate Public Schools! It’s Going to be Great! This one is new; but every ridiculous example is true.

8) Hiking in Glacier National Park. This one has nothing to do with education. I just love the park; and if I was still teaching, I would try to convince students to go there someday. Not standardized education, of course.

9) How Many Reformers Does it Really Take to Fix a School? If youre a real teacher you already know the answer to this question.

10) Michelle Rhee’s Perfect Ponzi Scheme. Speaking of reformers, the lady is a fraud.

13) R.I.P. No Child Left Behind. Ten years of reforms and SAT, ACT and PISA scores have all declined. Even NAEP reading scores are flat. (If you’re a real teacher you start to wonder: Do the experts who keep telling us what to do have a clue?)

14) Sham Standards: Governor Kasich and the Standardized Testing Fetish. What happens if we line up fourteen veterans from five different wars to talk to 700 Loveland Middle School students. Is that good education? How do we measure what students learned???

17) Yellow Brick Road to Nowhere: Teachers and the Tea Party Movement. This is probably my personal favorite, of all my posts. I like the story of the boy who earned a standing ovation from peers in my class.

18) Confessions of a Bad Teacher: Okay, I admit it. I was a no good, rotten, terrible teacher. I didnt believe standardized testing did much good. Seven thousand teachers seemed to agree when I put up this post.

19) Teachers Anonymous: A 12-Step Program for Bad Teachers: Follow up post to the post above. I explain how bad teachers can recover from their delusions and embrace the virtues of standardized tests.

20) 2014: The Year Teachers Became the Enemy: When did school reformers decide teachers were the biggest problem in U. S. education? And were they right?

Now Available: Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching

I KNOW GOOD TEACHING IS extremely hard. I know even the best teachers face victory and defeat in the classroom, oftentimes the same day. I am currently putting the final touches on a book titled Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching.

The title relates, in part, to two bicycle rides across America, one at age 58, the second four years later.


If you’re interested in reading about my first ride go to I transfered the story of my first ride, in 2007, to that blog not long ago. So that story now shows up at the start. (My youngest daughter is a type-1 diabetic and I pedaled to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Students helped raise more than $13,500 for that great cause.)

My second ride—including my temporary arrest as a bank robbery suspect—is documented next, at the same site: viall4diabetes2011. I was able to prove my innocence and pedaled 4,615 miles in 58 days, again raising more than $10,000 for JDRF.

(Send me an email at if you are interested in a copy.)

Wyoming: near Jeffrey City: photo from a bicycle ride across the USA.
My students were amazed to learn that the state has only about six people per square mile.

Allison Wyatt, one of the victims at Sandy Hook.


Michelle Rhee: Reformer with a Broom. (See also: RHEE, MICHELLE.)

Thanks to Fox News a video of a student ranting against his teacher went viral (What One Student Rant by Jeff Bliss Doesn’t Tell Us). Based on ninety seconds of tape people weighed in on what they felt was wrong with all teachers.




             An auxiliary post provides even more examples.

Finland Has Better Teachers, Better Colleges, Fluffier Kittens! What if all the test scores comparing various nations never add up?

George Stranahan (who taught for half-a-century) addresses a number of critical issues in his book, A Predicament of Innocents. He shares my disdain for standardized testing.


Related posts include: June 30, 2011November 4, 2011June 8, 2012.




Why Teaching Matters: What’s the Square Root of Inspiration? Former Loveland students fill a whole series of posts with heartfelt comment.






Skip these if you are conservative.

Far-Right Conservatives Invent New Language was “liked” more than 100,000 times when posted repeatedly on AddictingInfo.

A number of posts in August, September and October 2012 might also be of interest to those who like to argue liberalism vs. conservatism, and everything on the fringes and in between.


Freedom of religion is fine. Using tax dollars to support schools that debunk modern science might not be wise. See: Christian School Lays Smack Down on Science.


No school reformer has done more to damage the image of public school teachers than Ms. Rhee. Rhee’s claim to fame rests on raising test scores in miraculous fashion. Unfortunately, certain ugly facts undercut her claims: Michelle Rhee’s Perfect Ponzi Scheme.


Michelle Rhee, a leading education reformer, promised to use a broom and sweep out all the bad teachers in Washington, D. C. She failed to say what she would do about the students carrying knives. See: Michelle Rhee: Reformer with a Broom.


The argument that U. S. public schools are failing (compared to schools in Finland, Japan, etc.) rests on tenuous comparisons and flawed logic. So what if our students rank 25th in math? What if the same kind of lists prove that America ranks 24th in life expectancy? Are hospitals in America failing?


I’m Facebook friends with almost a thousand former students. They keep me up to date on what they’re doing and remind me why I liked teaching so much.

Class of 2000, The (This entry focuses on the students I had in class in 2000, who would have graduated from Loveland High School five years later.)



These two stories go together:


Frank Bruni, writing in the New York Times, laid blame for the failure of school reform on recalcitrant teachers and their unions: The Big Evil in U. S. Education: Teachers’ Unions.

Time RunsA Incredibly Stupid Story. (that title should include an “an.” My site settings do not allow me to correct titles.



In recent years, insulting teachers as a group, has been a fad. Want to know why this movie was stupid? Consider what director Davis Guggenheim and critics who loved it missed: A Fairy Tale Called Waiting for Superman.

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