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Showing posts from April, 2009

Why I Blog: Many Conversations

After a post I made not too long ago, I found myself reflecting on the kinds of comments I was hoping it might provoke. For those of you who might not, yourself, blog, let me simply say that this is one of the main differences between blogging and other forms of writing I have done; while all writing has an audience (if only the voices within an author's head) in blogging, the audience writes back, usually within a few days of a piece's publication. There really is an element of conversation to blogging, that's absent from other types of writing. The original post informs the comments, that inform return comments or entire new posts, that inform new comments, and so on. For me, the back and forth of this conversation, particularly with Quakers from a variety of places on the Quaker continuum, has had the effect of deepening my Quaker practice far beyond where it would be had I not found myself in the midst of this conversation. I'm not putting down the Quakers I k

Peter on Fixing Public Education and the World

I was talking the other day over dinner with friends of mine—some of them teachers and some of them high school dropouts who’ve gone on to become very successful in life—about how to improve public education in this country. Can it be fixed? Should it be fixed? Is public education even a good thing? And it got me thinking about what my assumptions are, not just about education but about human society and human nature in general. And when I look at my assumptions—the ones I’ve never consciously learned or decided on, that seem to live deep down in the brainstem—I’m a little surprised by what I find. It is possible to get it right , is probably the most powerful of them. Hardwired somewhere deep inside me is a vision of human existence as growth towards perfection. It’s a story that runs something like this: Life came from chaos and dirt, evolved intelligence, developed tribal cultures and then urban cultures and then civilizations, fought wars, wrote treaties and envisioned a

Work: Part 2. Simplicity?

So here I am, working as a teacher in a small school with its share of troubles... but plenty of things going for it, too. Our building is new and well-maintained, and our student mix includes both rich and poor; the sons and daughters of professionals and the sons and daughters of blue collar families and farm families, as well as unemployed and foster families. I've got plenty of colleagues I like and admire, classroom to call my own, and after five years, I have a collection of lesson plans and strategies that work better all the time. In other words, I've become a reasonably skillful and useful teacher in one of those schools that doesn't make headlines when politicians are dining out on the topic of education reform. If you are an American reading these words, chances are good that you attended a school a lot like mine, and had teachers a lot like me. There are days I feel incredibly good about what I do. Sometimes, I feel pretty good about being a teacher. Maybe

Work: Part 1. Endings and Beginnings.

As I type these words, I am surrounded by a house that is going to seed. I may never have been a great housekeeper, but the years since I entered teaching have been particularly poor from a Better Homes and Gardens perspective. The carpets are more dog hair than any other fiber; our dining room table cannot be seen for the stacks of unopened mail and hampers of laundry waiting to be folded; the windows are nearly opaque with grime; and cartons of books to give away or throw away hulk in the corners as if they were themselves bulky pieces of furniture. I won't even describe to you the mildew in my bathtub. It's a mess around here. And (as is surely the case in many two-teacher households) it won't get much better till the end of June, when school lets out. It is a visible reminder of how out of balance my life currently is. And it is a visible reminder to continue to wrestle with the questions of work and vocation that have been on my mind almost constantly this year. I