A letter to the future

Canadian high school teacher Bruce Farrer  asks students to write letters to their future selves. Twenty years later, he tracks down the students and mails their letters to them, reports WestJet’s Above and Beyond.  (FutureMe.org lets young people do this for themselves.)

Panic, shame and handcuffs

Marilyn Rhames, a Chicago teacher and education blogger, was stopped for using a cell phone (on speaker) while driving. The officer saw Rhames’ drivers’ license had expired a few weeks earlier on her 40th birthday.

Marilyn Rhames, a Chicago teacher, writes Ed Week's Charing My Course blog.

Marilyn Rhames

Rhames was patted down, handcuffed, taken to the police station and placed in a holding cell, shackled to a wooden bench, she writes onEducation Week‘s Charting My Own Course blog.

Rhames is black. So was the police officer, who kept telling her it was “procedure” and “no big deal.”

She’d been on her way to a meeting of Teachers Who Pray.

After all that, Rhames was given a court date. If she doesn’t show up, she’ll owe $1,500.

The officer “spoke in a soft, sweet voice and kept smiling,” Rhames recalls.

A cop-friend of one of my friends told him that her niceness is part of the new “policing strategy” in Chicago–a part of the “hug a thug” campaign. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy have apparently devised this passive-aggressive strategy that pressures young officers to drastically increase their arrests,while training them to do it with a smile.

No wonder so many people are being shot in Chicago. The cops are busy hauling in women with expired licenses.

I don’t have many contacts with police officers, but when I do, they always assume I’m a law-abiding citizen, not a drug dealer or international terrorist. I’m a white, middle-class woman of a certain age. And I am a law-abiding citizen. So is Rhames.

Inspirational or just crazy?

The movie Whiplash obliterates “every sentimental cliché of the inspirational-teacher genre,” writes A.A. Dowd on A.V. Club. At a top conservatory, a perfectionist instructor mentors — and brutalizes — a 19-year-old jazz drummer who aspires to greatness.

Teacher/author suspended for fictional violence

A Maryland middle school teacher was placed on leave — and taken by police for an “emergency”  psychiatric evaluation — because he wrote two novels set 900 years in the future about school massacres.

A police search for guns and bombs found nothing. (Not even a slice of pizza chewed into the shape of a gun?!) But police will guard the middle school until the nonexistent danger is past.

Patrick McLaw self-published The Insurrectionist and its sequel, Lillith’s Heir, under a pen name.

The 23-year-old eighth-grade English teacher was nominated for teacher of the year honors after his first year at Mace’s Lane Middle School. He made national news for helping a 14-year-old student self-publish his own e-book.

Assuming McLaw wrote his own Amazon copy, his novels sound dreadful:

 “On 18 March 2902, a massacre transpired on the campus of Ocean Park High School, claiming the lives of nine hundred forty-seven individuals–the largest school massacre in the nation’s history. And the entire country now begins to ask two daunting questions: How? and Why? After the federal government becomes involved, and after examining the bouquet of black roses that lies in front of the school’s sign, it becomes evident that the hysteria is far from over.”

Neither is the hysteria transpiring in 2014.

Remembering James Foley

Teach for America is remembering corps member James Foley, Phoenix ’96. The freelance journalist, captured in Syria nearly two years ago, was murdered yesterday by Islamic State barbarians.

Elisa Villanueva Beard,co-CEO, recalls “his tenacity, his spirit, and his fierce dedication to give voice to the voiceless.”

Jim was an incredible teacher who was a model of love and excellence, and went on to be a journalist with the same passion, care, and integrity that he’d shown in the classroom.

“Here’s how I remember James Foley: hilarious, creative, laughing, learning,” writes Crystal Brakke. “Even as I sit here crying, I remember that James.”

The $2 million teacher

A Georgia kindergarten teacher has earned $2 million selling her lesson plans and ideas online to other teachers.


A student wrote #YOLO (You Only Live Once) on his math quiz. The teacher responded:


Teacher fired for breaking up fight with broom

A Detroit public school teacher was fired after she used a broomstick in an attempt to break up a fight between two large teenage boys, reports Richard Fernandez on Belmont Club. The two boys crashed into tables and battered each other as classmates screamed.

One of the children, really the size of a man, emotionally recounted his trauma at being hit by the broom though his mother expressed the hope that a suitable monetary compensation would go far to allay his distress.

Teachers are supposed to use a two-way radio to call a security guard when students are fighting. The radio didn’t work, said the teacher, a small woman who’d been hired in January.

Does it surprise you to learn that Pershing High is a very low-performing school? No, it doesn’t.

Survivor will be history teacher

Eight years ago, a Downtown College Prep senior named Luis Falcon was attacked by gang members in a San Jose park. Stabbed nine times, he lost a kidney and spent a week in a coma. He learned how to walk again. He will earn a degree in history from the University of California at Santa Cruz in May, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel.  A Teach for America corps member, Falcon will return to his old neighborhood to teach history at DCP.

luis falcon

Lying in the hospital for a month after the attack, Falcon started to think about his neighborhood.”Something needed to change in my neighborhood and maybe I could be that little spark,” he said.

Undocumented and ineligible for college aid, he enrolled at San Jose City College but dropped out after one semester. “I was just paranoid I was going to get attacked.”

After working in a factory for two years, Falcon returned to community college. He also tutored at a charter middle school and worked in DCP’s summer bridge program. He legalized his status and earned a scholarship to UC-Santa Cruz.

Jennifer Andaluz, DCP’s executive director, has known Falcon since he was in ninth grade. He has the “grit” teachers need to succeed, she told the Sentinel.  “It’s about developing a mindset where you can actually grow in the areas where you currently struggle, and that growth is only going to come about as a result of hard work,” Andaluz said.

I write about Downtown College Prep’s early years in Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds.

Superheroes rescue math students

An Indiana math teacher created a comic book starring the Solution Squad, reports the Elkhart Truth. Jim McClain self-published the comic. He’s received a grant to create a free web-based comic.

Photo by James Buck/The Elkhart Truth