My New EduCrush(es): John and Hank Green

DFTbaOh, my.

If you haven’t met the Vlogbrothers

If you don’t know what DFTBA means

If you haven’t read Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, or The Fault in Our Stars

If you haven’t succumbed to the charms of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

If you haven’t used a Crash Course video in one of your classes…

Or, at the very least, if you haven’t shown your students this at the beginning of the school year

…then prepare to have your mind blown.

Next post: The first virulent fan letter I have written in 28 years.




My New Reluctant Twitter Feed

funny-moms-on-twitter As I posted on Facebook: Help me not regret this. @DinaStrasser. New blog sidebar as well.

And now I will take my kids out for FTF ice cream.

(My daughter, slyly: “Hey, Mom. I can read that.”)

UPDATE: Oh, and when you leave a comment, if you’re willing, drop your Twitter handle or PM it to me. Even if you don’t follow me, I’d love to follow you.

That sounds needy. Oh well.

The Importance of Blog Love/Why I Didn’t Get a Ph.D.

kim-kardashian-and-glamour-magazine-galleryFirst of all, thank you to the dozens of people who responded so kindly over the past few days with a wave and “We’re still here”!

And thank you as well for allowing me finally to confirm up there whether my use of ending punctuation in a sentence with quotation marks has been correct all these years. (Pro-tip: If the heart-breaking question, huffy exclamation, or staid statement belongs to you, the writer, put it outside the quotation marks. If it belongs to the speaker, put it within the quotation marks.  To wit:

“I can’t believe Kim Kardashian gave birth in high heels!” Stacey declared.


I can’t believe that I didn’t stab her eyes out with my high heels while she declared that “I can’t believe Kim Kardashian had her baby in high heels”!)

Anyway, thank you.

In the spirit of reconnecting, I also sent a couple of apologetic, inquiring emails off to old blogger friends this past week. I’ll leave them anonymous because I haven’t asked their permission to say anything about them. I was struck, though, by the sadness in both their replies: very glad to hear from me, but both remarking that I was the first blog correspondent to follow up with them in awhile. I suspect, too, that in the habitually isolating profession that is ours, connection becomes all the more treasured.

Oh, friends, readers, countrymen…er…countrypeople: No guilt trip intended. But you have no idea what power you have. Leave those comments. Send those emails. You are being heard. You are missed when you do not.


Part of the adventure this year that kept me off the blog was finally giving a Ph.D. education program a shot.

I applied to six, with the assistance and kindness of more people than I can name. Results: three rejections, two acceptances, and one “You can’t find my transcript? Here’s the email proving I sent you my transcript. You can’t give me a decision right now? Well, we’ve already decided, so… thank you?” Guess we’ll never know about that path less taken. NOT COOL, ROBERT FROST.

The acceptances were generous and wonderful and exciting. My husband and I embarked on weeks of intensive research, involving hours on the Internet and consulting with people in the profession and academia and our financial advisor and climbing high Asian mountains in sandals of yakskin.

I took a day off. We sat in a coffee shop with legal pads. For four hours. During which we asked repeatedly if we were cheating the waitress out of tips and could we have a little more coffee.

In the end, for a gazillion non-John Grisham-like prosaic reasons, we decided against it. And when I say “a gazillion,” I mean “three of the legal pads were labeled  ‘cons’”.  Here’s probably the best summary of it, which I wrote in an email to the professor who advocated for me the most strongly on this adventure:

The bottom line is that even if we stripped back to the barest of bones, even if the miracle of a decently paid church position and professorship occurred within commutable distance of each other (never mind our families), within a slightly-less-than-dysfunctional public school system, in June of the year I graduate– even if that happens, the doctorate would still mean an accrual of heavy debt, and a necessary uprooting, that we would be fighting for the rest of our lives, right when we need most to be stable for our children and other loved ones. We have more commitments on that front than are typical. So it sucks, and I’m just heartbroken. But I am also at peace. If that makes any sense.

A few weeks later, the Chronicle of Higher Education printed this article, which sounds exactly like they bugged our coffee shop booth~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

grumpy catI write this not only to explain some of my silence this year, but also to mourn a bit.  On this blog, going on almost five years ago, I recognized the dead end uselessness of getting a Ph.D. with the intent of remaining a classroom educator. In the intervening time, we continue to think that firing teachers is a viable alternative to providing sustainable and differentiated career advancement, and instead of celebrating and nurturing the kickass teachers we have, we use completely inaccurate data to pick on teacher preparation programs, like a schoolroom bully who can’t spell.

In otherwords: nothing has changed.

So it sucks, and I’m heartbroken. And about this aspect of my decision, I am not at peace. Don’t think I ever will be.

I’d love to hear your stories about Ph.D. work or professional advancement, and/or the lack thereof.  I will run them past some folks I know at the amazing Center for Teacher Quality who are working hard to change this, and get some feedback for you.

To Twitter or Not to Twitter: This Is the (Fourth Time Through the) Question.

twitter_bird_deadThe first time,  in 2007, I had my hands full the with blog.

The second time, around 2010, I became so swamped by attempting to follow everyone’s feed with a Jane Austen level of correspondence that I chucked the account in disgust.

In 2011, my first tweet was “I’m going to regret this,” and then I left something like 48 hours later.

Not a Luddite, no. So not. In fact, if I force myself to be honest, kicking Twitter was one of the means of managing the hypnotic pull social media has on many writing-minded folks, in general, and me, in particular.

But now, with the implosion of Google Reader imminent (and yes, this is how I will write and link about this event from now on) I’m considering it. Again.

Jered, in the comments on “Diamond in the Rough,” kindly offered up that Twitter is going to serve as his de facto feed for awhile. Other crowdsourcing recommends Feedly.

What do you think?

Hurry, Star Blazers! You and the Argo have only 8 days left!


The Common Core: Diamond in the Rough?

Cheryl Dobbertin and I have teamed up again at Education Week to find joy within the Common Core. I don’t think it takes away from our message at all to say we have been working on this SINCE JANUARY– yet another symptom of the pure, hard slog up the mountain that this year has been for many educators, and certainly those in New York State. As if an average of 3 posts in the 2012-13 school year didn’t tip you off.

Right, so, I’ll make a deal with you, readers. If you leave a comment somewhere, it will remind me that I still have readers. (I put that in bold for you.) And perhaps The Line will travel with you through the July 1st implosion of Google Reader.  So I’ll have that going for me. Which is nice.

In return…but, you know, never mind. I’m not going to make posting contingent on your blog love; that isn’t fair.  Just know I’m gathering up my get-up-and-go for some more…regular…much more regular…posting, as Jose Vilson advises.

And thank you for your support

UPDATE: My old friends at Teaching The Hudson Valley have also posted some parts of the Ed Week piece, in part because their Summer Institute is focusing on sifting through the ambivalence surrounding the Common  Core. Check them out, especially if you live in New York or downstate. They are kick-ass. And, the picture of me isn’t bad.

Newtown in School: The Most Difficult Post I’ve Written

I thank The Center for Teaching Quality and Ed Week for making this post possible in about 24 hours, from a pitch I wrote in desperate need to do something concrete to assist educators in the wake of this horrific event.

My son is seven. I kissed him, and his nine year old sister, so often this past weekend that they started to get annoyed.

I can’t kiss my seventh graders, much as I’d like to sometimes. So instead I settled for giving them what I could: about 10-30 minutes of devoted class time to work through what they needed after this weekend.

We give what we have, you know? I think that’s all anyone can ask.

Please make sure to check out the sidebar in the article, where I list a couple of really helpful links as well. And as always, feel free to leave comments here or at the Ed Week page.



The Year’s Beginning: Miss Perky

This is the first year that I’ve been christened by a student in September, versus christening them.

But… Miss Perky? I think the fact that this moniker’s just a shade off from Miss Piggy might be upsetting me subconsciously.

However I also wonder if it is a sign of the general tenor of the building this year. “There’s plenty of… new,” my Health colleague comments in the hall, restrainedly.

And there is, about which I have much bloggéd. New York State is a Race to the Top recipient, and has signed on full bore to the Common Core. We have new evaluation systems, new paperwork, new assessments, new meeting loads, a new online grading system, and a new contract. And while much of this is based in simple good teaching practice (for example, the systematic review of student performance in the program Response to Intervention), much is not.

And all of it, like new wine into old wineskins, is being poured into a spatial and temporal infrastructure which will likely not support it without significant change.

Which explains why my Math team colleague, with a new baby, has dark circles down to her chin, and why my Science colleague is already fretting about lagging behind in her curriculum, not two full weeks into school. And why I am Miss Perky, perhaps.

I don’t know why I’m Miss Perky to these guys.  It might be because I consciously refused to give up the Ten Days Kickoff  Unit, which does not race to the first quiz, but is all about multiple intelligence surveys, reading interviews, procedures for using bean bags while reading independently, and co-writing behavioral contracts and communication guidelines. It might be because despite the implications of low value-added scores in New York, I have finally grown enough to acquire the rhythm of clown, colleague and critic to which seventh graders respond with trust.

And it might be because– for reasons as yet mysterious to me–I still can have my day completely turned around by the fact that Jack and I hit on a perfect book for him on the first try, or by all of us enjoying the clear, cool fall rain falling on the bus circle.

Or, indeed, I admit somewhat grumpily, by being called Miss Perky.

Krista Tippett writes in her book Speaking of Faith that after a long depressive period, she was amazed at her capacity to still feel joy. It is stronger, and fiercer, she writes: but it still comes.

That’s the way it is with teachers who have it in their bones, I think. Joy still comes, even now.



Four Myths About the ELA Common Core Standards

Cheryl Dobbertin and I take on some of the Core in this Ed Week piece, just posted. I think it does a good job of sifting through what I continue to think of as the hot mess of the ELA Common Core: some of it solid and necessary; some of it highly questionable; and all of it requiring teachers to be 100% on their critical thinking game when using it. Which, of course, is one of the most touted skills in the Core. Irony? Let’s hope not. I’d rather it was synchronicity.