Scripted Spontaneity

Sign in

Every year I ask my middle school students to complete a comprehensive survey to finish out the year. “It’s anonymous,” I explain to them, “because I want your honest opinions.” Yes, this means I am forced to filter out spam from those who take advantage of the anonymity to give meaningless and sometimes inappropriate answers. But, I also make it clear that the results are public so that students know that I will take their feedback seriously. Just in case I haven’t made it clear to them over the previous 180 days of conversations, I hope that this method reveals…

The Pandemic happened. And what will happen next?

The Pandemic happened.

And we stayed home and focused on learning that mattered. We stripped away the learning goals that were reviewed later. We filtered out the minutiae. We took what was left and dove deep.


The Pandemic happened.

And we turned parents into educators and tutors and supporters of the work that we want students to do. We deputized them as the over-the-shoulder work checkers that we always wanted them to be. Our partnership with them became so much more evenly split, for so many more families.


The Pandemic…

Earlier this year, I wrote about the reasons that I had become disillusioned with traditional grading and assessment. In the intervening months, my team and I have created a much more effective and sensible system that has met with tremendous success. This article is one of three that share my biggest takeaways from the past year.

If you share my disdain for the way that traditional grades not only don’t encourage meaningful learning but actually obstruct it, you might be wondering how to start bringing change to your classroom. …

“I just really need to get an A.”

Credit: iStockPhoto user photovideostock

That was her only defense, not that there was much else she could have said. I had just caught her with her science notebook in her lap while she was supposed to be taking the chemistry unit test.

Up until that point I had believed her to be an excellent student — academic performance, effort, and character were all top-notch. After taking her test from her and making it clear that she would need to retake it at another time, I asked her for an explanation. …

This week marks the beginning of a critical journey for my students, my teammate, and me. In my Science class and the Social Studies class, students will be learning about the Gradeless Classroom format that we will be employing when the second semester starts on January 2.

The kickoff this week begins with us sharing a letter with our students and their parents. Then, on Wednesday night, I moderate a Twitter chat for our district about shifting from grades to feedback.

Finally, on Thursday night, parents are invited to a question & answer session after our previously scheduled Curriculum Night.

I’ll post more next weekend, after I’ve weathered this adventurous week. Hopefully, I’ll have good news to share.

Originally published at on November 24, 2018.

As I prepare to start a new year of school (#yearroundschools), it’s time again to look back on the year that has just ended. Every year I follow in the footsteps of one of my edu-idols, Larry Ferlazzo, surveying my students about the things that worked and didn’t. I promise them that the results will be anonymous and public, posting about the responses in this space to ensure that I can’t hide from them.

The questions haven’t changed much over the past three years because they give me TONS of useful feedback. You can find the raw results here (filtered…

All across North Carolina today, including in my huge school district, teachers have taken personal days to attend a rally at the state legislature. The goal is to advocate for public education in the state — better teacher salaries, more per-pupil spending, smaller class sizes — at the opening of the General Assembly’s annual session. So many teachers, in fact, are going to be in attendance at the rally today that many districts have made the difficult decision to cancel classes for the day. As a result, I could attend the rally today without taking a personal day or writing…

Scripted Spontaneity

The musings of a science teacher, techie, and former marine…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store