Academy, Alex, Matter, Miami, Principal, Tamargo

Classroom as Microcosm

When Paul Tough’s new book, How Children Succeed, arrived in my mailbox, I opened it with great anticipation.  I love Tough’s writing; his pieces on This American Life and in The New York Times have always impressed me with their warm, clear prose.  What’s more, last year, an excerpt from this book, published in the New York Times Magazine, inspired me to turn around my approach to some serious classroom problems.

In that excerpt (taken from Chapter 2), Tough describes children from difficult backgrounds who nevertheless succeed in school and other endeavours because, he posits, they have developed certain character traits.  I chronicled my thoughts on that piece in a post called “Fail Better,” and I then took his ideas to my students, some of whom were having a lot of difficulty.  I asked them to analyze some of the fictional characters we were reading about in terms of…

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Academy, Alex, , Matter, Miami, Principal, Tamargo


The other night I took a momentary break from trying to sleep to check my Twitter feed. Boredom, Annoyance, and Exhaustion colluded in keeping me awake by calling their pal Debate, who crashed the party in that gleeful way of his. Two friends were having a “conversation” – the limitations of Twitter or any other social network w/r/t actually conversing should be apparent – about Spotify, the value we place on music, and our responsibilities – or lack thereof – as music consumers. Part of the discussion was centered on this piece by Christian artist Derek Webb . I jumped in (giving up on any hope of sleep for the time being), and pretty soon, we were filling up the timeline. For the sake of this piece, I’m going to focus primarily on my thoughts rather than trying to recreate or fully incorporate the views of my two friends. In this…

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Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Mark Twain


Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism.
David M. Burns