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One of the biggest struggles I’m having with my faith right now is the fact that I am not doing nearly enough to help those on the margins of our society, despite claiming Christianity as my religion.

When I reflect on what it really means to follow Jesus, I simply fall short.

I often justify my lack of action by telling myself that I work full-time and have two very young children at home, and before I look elsewhere, I need to make sure I’m loving and humble both at home and at work. …


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In some ways, what you need to teach poetry well is a lot like what you need to write poetry well: You have to care a lot about your subject matter, and it’s important to foster conditions that inspire creativity. When these conditions are in place, teaching students to write poetry becomes much more fun, imaginative, and productive.

When introducing a poetry unit, I’ve found that it’s helpful to first share with students that most people, both kids and adults, already enjoy poetry — in the form of song lyrics. Then I tell them that part of what makes poetry…


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My process of becoming a writer began with my ten months of service. Little did I know when I showed up to serve how the experience of volunteering would redefine my understanding of the world and the stories I could imagine existing within it.

I was a wide-eyed, directionless twenty-two year old when I arrived in Denver, CO for the AmeriCorps NCCC Training Institute. Fortunately, I found myself surrounded by like-minded peers. Most of us had no idea what to do with our lives and figured we might as well serve while we tried to figure it out.

This was…


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Over the last 10 years, I’ve taught writing to students in elementary, middle, and high school, and by doing so I’ve learned a ton about my own writing practices and processes. It’s so true that teaching others how to do something forces you to learn its in’s and out’s like nothing else can.

The following list of tips is a distillation of what I’ve learned. It’s aimed at beginner writers, but writers at any stage might be motivated by a few of them.

(1) Create a list of topic ideas and add to this list regularly. Some writers keep a…


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As a middle school teacher, I’m always looking for ways to get students out of their seats and moving around — to make learning physical. They want this, too. This is why I’m always excited to teach Shakespeare. The language begs to be performed.

Macbeth is one of my favorites, and it doesn’t take much to spark the interest of my seventh graders. I just turn out the lights and introduce the idea that this play is cursed: “You cannot say the title of this play in a theater, or else something bad will happen to you.” They look at…


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Good Religion Leads To Spirituality

For a whole host of reasons, it can be wildly complicated and confusing to be an adult right now, much less a parent. There’s a lot expected of us. Probably too much. Yet, for many of us, this overwhelming world can actually lead to curiosity about — or even desire for — religious faith.

And if we move toward religious faith, either for the first time or by returning with new eyes to the faith tradition in which we were raised, it’s possible to discover a Bigger Story by which to live.

Any good religion leads to spirituality: mindfulness, prayer…


At my school, we recently equipped ourselves with a Makerspace filled with utilitarian gadgets to start implementing design thinking in our curriculum. One could argue that, as a teacher of the humanities, I should be worried. Instead, I find myself in support of what I interpret to be the essence of this movement: students becoming more invested in the process of creating something instead of focusing on the final product alone. I’m happy to have my English classes experiment with everything from pipe cleaners to 3D printers if doing so enables them to become creative thinkers and writers. …


A few years into my teaching career, a colleague attended training at Phillips Exeter Academy on the Harkness method, in which classroom learning takes place as students and teacher sit in a circle or oval for discussions and all students must contribute. Afterward, she enthusiastically shared what she had learned about facilitating effective student-led discussions.

Until then I had been running discussions in the familiar way: pitch a question to the class, ask students to raise their hands, and try to be equitable when selecting volunteers to answer. …


There’s something extraordinary about middle school writers.

Maybe it’s the tension of existing between childhood and adulthood and their ability to articulate this tension. Maybe it’s their fully intact imaginations and natural inclination to creatively express themselves. Whatever it is, they’re capable of astounding us and each other if we teach them well.

What I’ve learned to be true about teaching writing to middle schoolers is rooted in the importance of both coaching them on the conventions of writing in English and giving them room to be who they are.

1. Choice is crucial, but students need help choosing: When…


Years ago, before I taught his work, I almost walked right into Junot Díaz.

I was heading around a corner near the Harvard Square subway station in Cambridge when he turned toward me from the other side of a large building. Thankfully, we were both well-trained Boston pedestrians and managed to avoid an awkward collision.

Despite my urge to say something, I couldn’t think of anything on the spot to acknowledge that I knew who he was and admired his work. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t want to risk saying something like, “Hi Junot, I just finished…

Ryan Tahmaseb

Ryan Tahmaseb is a parent, teacher, and graduate student of theology & ministry at Boston College. Bylines @ Edutopia, Education Week, & Carolina Quarterly.

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