David Sledge licensed under CC BY 2.0

There really is no panic quite like the panic of being belted into the backseat of a speeding, swerving car with a confident drunk at the wheel.

First, the sense of denial: “we’re not that far from home and we’ve made it there before.” Which works for about a quarter of the trip — until the car clips a mailbox.

Second, the listening. Whether to reality or an imagined one: The concussion of the minor crash, the hollow thump of the dented front quarter panel. These sounds work on the brainstem to load more adrenaline into the body. …


Feedback matters: Specific, actionable strategies for collecting it in a way that’s helpful and not traumatizing.

Photo by Austin Distel

The title of this post is a paraphrase of a line from Season 4 of Mad Men where Don Draper listens as his niece tells him a version of the words above, but he doesn’t really hear her. After all, she’s just a college student and a girl, so what could she possibly tell him that he, an accomplished executive, needs to know?

“Who can see your face? Everyone. Who can’t see your face? You.” (Stone & Heen, 2014)

Draper, though he’s fictional, represents real men and women who can become convinced of their own ability to make all the…


In this 1901 board game, a magnetic spinner allows you to play three versions of the game. The “hand” of fate chooses answers for you; in another, your fortune is revealed from your birthday; and in another, true or false questions are answered by landing on odd or even numbers. NY Historical Society

Indecision and loneliness are the only two things I can be sure are there for me.

The rent for all the anxiety that lives in my head is cheap, but I have to pay by the hour. Writing looks like work and it entertains the noonday demon well enough that it retreats for a while.

And so.

I am in this small room in this big city. It is so quiet that I can match my breathing to the click of the thermostat. When I go outside, it is so loud that the air brakes of the Montgomery County bus mute my headphones. Everywhere, there are bent heads. No one looks up from their phones.

Loneliness…


Credit: ASCD 2016.

Anxiety made me who I am. It’s made me empathetic to others because anxious people learn to quickly scan faces and body language, to read emotions.

You can’t see it on my face, but I’m almost barking with panic in the photo at the top of this piece.

And not just because I was on a stage in front of hundreds of people who I was sure would soon walk out.

The other reason I’m terrified: anxiety. When I sketched out the talk months before, I thought: What better way to deal with my anxiety than to just create a whole speech about it?

What seemed like a good idea then now seemed incredibly stupid. This was 2016 and no one I’d ever seen had chosen…


Having an out teacher can significantly affect the school experience for LGBTQ students, yet there are few protections for queer teachers brave enough to be out

Credit: Paul J. Richards/Getty Images

“Well, they can’t fire me now.”

That was my first thought upon being selected as the 2015 National Teacher of the Year. After 15 years as an educator, it wasn’t until I received this public recognition that I finally felt safe to do the work that I’ve felt called to do.

My career longevity was never something I could count on. Because I’m from the 13th congressional district in the Texas Panhandle, identified by the Cook Political Report as the reddest in the country, my job wasn’t guaranteed to me if someone took issue with me being openly gay. …


Photo on VisualHunt

My instinct to find and finesse emotion began when I was a student journalist and later perfected as a working reporter/features writer.

Front pages, if you wanted them, were built out of gore: if it bleeds, it leads. For Sunday magazine or feature covers, the rule: if it causes tears, it sears (as in readers’ emotions).

People remember other people’s pain.

I cut my feature-writing teeth on anonymous writing for our paper’s annual Christmas fundraiser. Each day of the holiday season, the front page boxed off a short, sad story created from the reality of someone else’s misery.

Not really…


Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash

If you’re comfortable with talking, try getting comfortable with not talking. If you’re comfortable with not talking, try getting comfortable with talking.— via Marshall Ganz

The hardest class I’ve taken, the one that’s prompted me to fall silent, to doubt my ability to think, rendering me incapable of writing anything, is one that has the simple title Power and Pedagogy.

Professor Houman Harouni requires potential students to write about their reasons for taking the course as a way of gaining permission to enroll. As I sat down to take up the task, I quickly found myself in tears. This open-ended…


Photo by Jacob Sapp on Unsplash

Remember who you are and who you are for

This is what I wasn’t brave enough to tell you because the force of your pain scared me when we saw each other last week:

Tell me who and what you love and I’ll show you that it’s the light when all others go out.

When it’s dark here in February and you feel like quitting. When you find yourself starting to envy the people you notice on your way to work. …


Geologic Time Spiral via Wikimedia Commons

The last commodity for sale to the highest bidder

“The rich people can live in perfect places and buy their own water, their own plants, their own meat, but what they can’t buy — yet — is their own air,” my host told me as he drove us through the thick brown atmosphere of Jinan.

“What happens to poor people is a scandal. They eat food that is rubbish,” Yimeng continued, smoothly avoiding an oncoming car. “All of it comes from greed. Everyone is anxious. Everyone is creating a bubble to live in.”

Two years later, his charming British-trained English stays with me, particularly as I read articles about…


Photo by Andrew Draper on Unsplash

When Your Teacher Karma Returns To Haunt You

“Hey, we chose this, you know. We don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves,” says my periodontist, chuckling as he links his experience in grad school to mine.

Because it’s not enough to have had this stranger’s sharp instruments in my mouth, his words have tiny hooks on them too.

Normally, such a cliche would slip right past me like an ad on the side of a bus. But it stuck with me as I walked back home in air so cold my eyes blurred with tears.

I’m always surprised by how cold Boston winters are even as I look…

Shanna Peeples

Newly minted Harvard Ed.L.D. | 2015 National Teacher of the Year | Author: Think Like Socrates | Otter enthusiast

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