Ahead of steam

How to Lose Your Self of Steam & Other Teaching Lessons I Never Learned From Professional Development is Bellringers blogger Carol Richtsmeier’s light-hearted look at her years as a journalism teacher.

Her response to students who don’t turn in an assigned story, but claim they “tried” resonates with me as a former high school newspaper editor and mother of a former high school newspaper editor.

“Maybe you hadn’t noticed, but this isn’t the YMCA. We are not in the business of building your self of steam or making sure everyone feels good about themselves. We are a publication. Our goal is to put out the best publication we can. We can’t do that if we only try. We have to do. We have to publish. When you don’t do your story, are we supposed to run ‘ at least she tried to write her story’?”

While you’re buying books for holiday giving, don’t your friends and relations need a hardcover or paperback copy of Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the Charter School That Beat the Odds? Yes. They do.

About Joanne


  1. Here’s another shocking piece of information; real estate near noisy areas (i.e. airports, subways and freeways) is typically cheaper. Less affluent individuals tend to live in areas with depressed real estate values. Coincedentially, or not, less affluent individuals typically perform poorly academically.

    Good lord.

  2. I detest when students told me that they “tried.” A “tried” essay will have some writing on the paper in some various condition of order and sense, even if that order and sense is not perhaps top quality. A “tried” essay, though, usually means “I didn’t feel like it” or, more accurately, “I’m allergic to hard work, which may include looking through my notes, homework assignments, rough drafts, and other scaffoldings to put together a finished draft.” A “tried” essay, as students usually imagine it, is a big fat space full of nothing.

  3. “Do, or do not. There is no try” – Jedi Master Yoda.

  4. As my mother used to say, “you’re the most trying thing I’ve seen in some time!”

  5. Mike Curtis says:

    I challenge my “trying” students to prepare for a life where it is acceptable for them to take their car to a mechanic who almost fixes the problem, to watch news reels that show how an astronaut almost hits the moon, and to be confident that a physician who received a license for almost getting the right answers will be working on their heart valves. A few of them actually think this is humorous until they learn that they almost passed my math courses.

    Plain and simple, partial credit (for trying) is rewarding poor performance.

  6. tim-10-ber says:

    Mike Curtis — thank you! Students should be graded on what they do…not what they “tried”.

  7. Yay, Mike Curtis. My sentiments exactly!