It only has two grades on it.

So, my dear friends, this year has been a bit of a trial. No matter where you are, no matter what your school or district decided to do for classes this year, it has been one of the weirdest and hardest years to be an educator in the history of ever.

We’re coming to the end of it, the next couple months, so in keeping with tradition, it’s time to cram for those exams and get our report cards. …


We celebrate the big wins. But it’s the little wins that make them possible.

In the 21st century, we love advanced statistics. I’m a baseball fan — this article is going to be heavy on the baseball, God be praised and glorified for Spring Training, amen — and baseball has been for a very long time the Mecca of statistics and statistical analysis. This truth was made all the more obvious by Moneyball and its ilk, but some of us were working rotisserie lineups back when you had to buy huge almanacs and pore over tiny box scores in the newspaper.

Anyway, baseball fans have long been attached to the idea that a .250…


You do it right back. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The problem isn’t judging — we all do that instinctively, as an involuntary reaction to stimulus. You like this smell, you don’t like that one. You like the taste of this but not that. You despise practical jokes, or you find them hilarious. Some of that is hard-wired into your DNA, some of it is learned from experience, and some is mysterious — we’re all some bundle of these.

None of that matters. The question isn’t “do you judge”, because of course you do. And hardly anyone is more judgmental than those people who are constantly saying “don’t judge!” (which…


And I probably should be dead. But that’s only the start of the story.

Every sixth Thursday I finish teaching my four classes at one school, pack a huge amount of gear in my car, and drive six hours to Boise to teach another class of 50 kids the following morning.

It’s worth it, but it’s not easy. Teaching at three schools is wearing and requires more energy than I sometimes want to admit that I have. I get fatigued, worn down, dulled, though I often refuse to admit it.

January in Idaho is cold and bleak. The sun goes down early. …


The ONE thing we need to do this crazy autumn, for every kid

You can still see the scene in your mind, can’t you?

Up the wide stone steps. Through the glass doors, already sporting smudgy handprints. A vast river of other kids, first in a mighty channel, then branching into creeks, streams, and finally trickles through wooden doorways with security glass set in tiny windows too high for you to see through.

Heaven forbid you should be late, not because the teacher might give you a dreaded tardy, but because you would then be the focus of the other kids. What are they looking at? What are they looking for? Do they…


Even the very best ideas have negatives. We need to be willing to acknowledge that.

I teach kids ranging in age from 11 to 50 (sometimes in the same class). With such a diverse range of ages, one of the most important things to do is to make sure we have a shared framework for discussion. It’s very easy for people to become polarized, and stop listening to each other, and that’s death to an education.

So one of our first rules is to recognize that every policy, every idea, every thesis, has a downside. Doesn’t matter what it is. Free speech? People will say stuff that hurts. Freedom of the press? They’ll get up…


Times Like This Are Why We Need History So Badly

Most people are gearing up to go back to school. Because US society is built on school, and the school rhythm pervades everything in our lives, that means we’re all getting ready for what has been called everything from an inevitable disaster to one of the greatest opportunities we’ve ever had.

Tough times can make for dark outlooks. But they don’t have to. As a teacher of history, I’m faced with a couple hundred new students a year, many of whom are besieged with round-the-clock disaster stories, tweeted and posted with accompanying emojis. If kids are scared, it’s no wonder.


And that is a very good thing.

I’m a teacher. One of the things teachers do is administer assessments — what we used to call “give quizzes” when I was in school. Allow me to give you one. Ready?

What do systemic racism, global pandemic, climate change, and economic crisis have in common?

You, there in the back. Yes ma’am, you.

They’re all happening right now? That’s an excellent answer. True, in some ways, though not true in others — for instance, racism isn’t systemic if it’s a momentary thing, but only if it is ongoing and codified — but I’ll give you points for your thinking.


Not all of them are bad. And all the good things are do-able.

My wife and I are teachers. She teaches the hard stuff (math), and I teach everything else. This last term was her first experience with online teaching, and she <ahem> didn’t like it very much. Looking ahead to the fall, though, it became clear that she was going to be at least partly on-camera again. She lamented this, and I said something without thinking that I now believe was inescapably true: “You are probably never going to teach another class in which all your students are there in the room with you.”

I’ve been teaching online since approximately the time…


Remember, the first duty of a school is not safety. It’s education.

School districts around the country are putting together their plans for the fall — under enormous pressure from parents, who are seeing Labor Day getting very big in the window — and trying to deal with COVID plus one of the world’s largest bureaucratic institutions in the education establishment. It is not a job you want, I don’t think. It was hard enough before all this; now it’s impossible. By “impossible” I don’t mean “it’s really hard.” I mean impossible in the physics sense, as in “two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time” type impossible.

But…

Chris Jones

Working writer, teacher of historical things. I sing opera, and I fish. Usually not at the same time.

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