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How and Why I Try to Bring Democracy to the Classroom

I was frustrated.

It had been a frustrating day in a frustrating week and I was having difficulty figuring out what to do next. I was at my wit's end.

This particular class had kept me on my toes all year long. Some of them loved choice; they wanted to be able to tailor their learning to their own interests. Others, though, needed very clear parameters. They required assignments with clear beginnings and clear end-points. Meeting the needs of both groups was not an easy needle to thread.

Finally, though, I thought I had figured out how to do it. I had decided to present the material in a "democratic" fashion. Instead of me planning out all of the individual lessons ahead of time, we spent time at the start of the unit talking as a class about what we knew already, and deciding what we wanted to know more about. I decided to follow this up with a menu of activities the students could complete. This was what I was presenting on the day the students decided to test my pati…

What Apple Spritzer on a High-Speed Train Taught Me About Challenging Students

There we were, me, my wife, and my two young children, one day out from a six-hour drive followed by a nine-hour overnight flight and a two-hour connection, operating on just one night of jet-lagged sleep, hiking through the cars of a Karlsruhe-bound InterCity Express train in search of the restaurant car.

We finally found it, and the menu was happily, gloriously German. Currywurst and eintopf and pancakes with applesauce, and, much to the kids' delight, there was apfel schorle to drink. Apfel schorle--apple spritzer--is the ingenious German combination of apple juice and sparkling water. Not only does it cut down the amount of sugar your kid ingests, but it's also much more fun than regular juice.

So I dust off my passable German and order auf Deutsch even though the cashier surely knows English. And as she hands me the bottles of schorle, she also hands me a pair of stemmed, glass goblets. For the kids.

You heard that right: Glass goblets from which the kids are to drink th…

What Teachers Really Think About Summer

The lockers are all cleaned out. The certificates of achievement have all been printed and the yearbooks are stacked up and ready for distribution. Lesson plans have been replaced with Minute to Win It games. And candy. Oh boy, is there candy. Everywhere.

The last day of school is nothing if not festive. The tension that has been building up the past few weeks is finally released. The students worried about summer school have now pulled out passing grades. Teachers stressing over how to keep students engaged as the weather warms up now begin planning their own time basking in the sun. It's all sandals and sunglasses and smiles.

School's out for summer. Let the celebration begin! Amirite?

Meh.

I can't speak for every teacher, but for me, the end of the school year brings very mixed feelings. Yes, a part of me is happy, but most of me is experiencing a complex combination of feelings and emotions. What follows are four things I feel when the final school bell rings:

I feel m…