I hope they get lucky…

I like PicPik screen capture and editor.

I don’t like using Voicethread.

I like this video and will try to do something like it with my kids.

I don’t like Common Core State Standards and don’t understand how people can push lessons for them or support them in any way.

I like using Sony Movie Studio to edit video.

I don’t like it when people make teachers who are not on twitter feel bad about themselves.

I like sharing things my kids do on this blog and reading about what your kids are doing.

I don’t like it when people fill their blogs with the way things should be…but then never give examples of themselves doing those things.

I  like gummy bears, especially frozen…especially dipped in chocolate.

I hate clams.

I don’t get why more educators don’t protest against standardized testing.

I do get why the general public does not.

I don’t get why the most tweeted links I tend to forget about, but the post on a blog with a single comment is the one that keeps me up at night thinking.

I do get why some people just prefer a burger to a steak.

I don’t get how some people can just enter a room and start talking to strangers…

…and I also don’t get you.

I am not a blogger who will admit to writing for myself.  If I wanted to do something for myself I would go for a hike, not sit in front of a keyboard.  It is a mystery to me why I continue with this blog.  For the money and fame?  I wish…no really…I do wish for that. One thing that I have learned is that I have no idea whatsoever what people’s reaction will be to a post.  Posts I put my heart and soul into are not the ones that get comments or re-tweeted.  Posts that are written on a whim and not edited always get more comments and tweets.   Posts that are slowly crafted and carefully proofread receive no attention.  Posts that include what I consider are monumental achievements by me and my kids are not popular,  but posts about things my kids did that were not that hard are popular.  I don’t get why when I walk away from a unit and say “wow!” that no one really cares about them.  But when I just sit and throw something up folks love it. It does bother me, but more like a difficult puzzle would bother someone.  I like to know how things work, and how things fit together.  I like to know why things happen…and after 5+  years of blogging I still don’t get you…it seems like sometimes I just get lucky.

So here is what prompted this post, I wrote a post on RSA style videos which was very popular (at least for me), it was probably viewed a 1000 more times than anything else I have posted, I saw the fame and riches coming in and so decided to write a post to share the next thing my kids did which was 100x more complex and one of my greatest achievements…that post went no where. So I decided to then write a post to share something I have not seen before that I thought was just freakin’ awesome and it went less than no where.   It bugs me that I have no idea why the projects that were so much more awesome, were not impressive to someone who who only read about them and was not there.  I also shared only the videos with some social studies teachers face-to-face and received the same reaction.

I can tell you as someone who has done them that RSA style videos do not make as much impact on the kids as the note cards, the songs, the speeches, the common craft style videos, poetry slam,or a variety of other projects.  So I struggle with why the post was so popular, why other classes have duplicated it, and why things I know work better are ignored.

I don’t get it…and please realize that I am not complaining…but trying to figure out what this means.

Here is what I am wondering…when I share something I have the process the kids went through in the back of my head.  The process the kids went through, the struggle, the tears, the fight they put up are all invisible in the blog post and final product.  What else is invisible is what kind of challenge it was for my kids–the particular kids I am with everyday.  Many times the final product makes them look good, but no one realizes their personal struggles, their special ed. labels, and how for many of them what you see was thought to be impossible when we started.  I can tell you this because I am with them every day and am with them as they researched, wrote, filmed, and created the final products.  I am in the classroom with them every day, and think that I know what makes them tick…and sometimes I get lucky and plan something that turns out to be spectacular.  Even though I spend so much time with them, I still plan units that flop, and even with the “spectacular ones” there are groups and individuals who flounder and fail.  In many ways I still don’t get them.  I have taught for 22 years, probably one of the few teachers who have taught that long in the same grade, and I still haven’t totally figured them out, and each year I have to almost start all over.  I still never know if a unit is going to be a keeper ahead of time, but through trial and error, my luck is steadily increasing.

What I have learned from writing for this blog is that after writing a post I am just lucky when I write one that people enjoy.  I don’t know who is reading.  I have only met a few in person, but I don’t really know them well.  Because I don’t know my readers all I can rely on is luck, because I still don’t get you…

What I have learned from teaching for 22 years, is that I still rely on luck.  But I have learned many tricks, tips, and bits of wisdom along the way that help me increase my luck.  I am now at the point where I am lucky more often than I am not, and at the point where I might not be able to read their minds, but I am much better at changing course during a unit as my luck changes.

Teachers across the country are about to turn belly up and accept common core standards and activities written by people who have never or barely been in a classroom, and have their kids answer questions on tests by people who have never written questions for a human they could see.  Teachers are about to take advice from people basing their ideas on years of researching other people’s research, companies with years of experience making educational products, but not one year with kids. I have only begun to figure out what works and what does not, how could they?  I hope they are really lucky creating standards and work for kids they have never met, and to be carried out by teachers they have never met.   I hope the districts that are building units and final products that are randomly thrown onto a calender for kids they have never met are also lucky.  I know they will need it…

If you are reading this I appreciate your time, and I am happy that I just got lucky and wrote something that kept your attention…because I still don’t get you 🙂


  1. I am one of the ones that was first attracked by the RSA video. Then, I found I shared so many of your views about teaching n learning, that I am always eager to read your latest post. Looking back, and just for the sake of analizing, I think: what made the RSA post so appealing was perhaps the VISUAL impact of it. Let’s admit it: we rush through things so much these days, that when we are encountered with sthg on a screen we give it just about 3 seconds to decide whether to continue reading or not. NOW: after that “love at first sight”, the writer of the blogger faces the challenge (and this is where the anguish, I guess,may come in) to keep the interest going (and growing). To extend the love metaphore, I will say that in writing a blog as well as in teaching a course or keeping a love relationship, there is quite a big amount of luck, don’t you think?
    Eugenia from Argentina

  2. So the make-up of the post ends up being more powerful than the end product…makes total sense. I like the metaphor…today being Valentine’s Day, I think I got lucky and bought my wife something unexpected, and she liked it 🙂

  3. Hey Paul,

    I read every post, but I don’t come here for unit plans (although they are fun to see). I come because you’re one of the few teacher-bloggers I’ve come across who is not afraid to be honest and reflective online about his practice. I’m not looking for a silver bullet, a set of instructions that will magically transform my classroom (although I guess that’s what CCSS curriculum writers are trying to do). I don’t believe that a lesson, a unit, or an entire curriculum map will create what our students need. I come because your blog is professional development for the soul. It’s a reminder of how I should approach teaching.

    I know I’m not in the majority. I know most people are trying to use the internet for quick fixes and instant results. If you want more of them to visit here, there are blogs dedicated to driving traffic (SEO, keywords, catchy titles and quick, concise content). The RSA post did some of those things well, but it also tapped into the name recognition and tweetability status of RSA. Even if you try to do more of that stuff, I hope you keep writing posts like this one. These posts fight the good fight against standardized lessons. They reflect upon why top-down educational systems have never worked very well. And they help me to become a better teacher, not just a better administer of lessons.

    1. So people like posts that make them feel good about themselves 🙂 Anyone can follow the “Script” in the RSA post and feel good…it is doable and people can grasp it. The others are a bit to “out there.” RSA was takes notes, draw a picture, video it. All things familiar to people…people are more likely to step into rooms that are familiar.

      Some blog posts are like sweatpants, some like girdles.

  4. I am always game for the behind-the-scenes look at the learning going on, as much as the final products, so I appreciated the posts when you were sharing them. I bookmarked them, knowing that sometime in the future, I might learn from what you shared to help me think of my own approach.

  5. I know what you mean. The posts I have written in a series of “10 ways…” attract the most readers… by far. With blogs, like with other PD, teachers often like something they feel they can take away and use tomorrow.
    I too am disappointed that fewer people are interested when I write something that seems much more valuable and important to me. (but I DO write for myself, much of the time, so that’s ok!) After three years of blogging, I still have little idea which posts will attract attention. It saddens me that anything about tech is more popular than anything about learning, but I have stopped writing about tech anyway.
    What I like most about your blog is your honesty, reflectiveness and thoughtfulness. I’m always on the lookout for educators who think deeply about the learning process and have been moved by many of your posts. Thanks for all you do..

  6. Many of your posts are inspirational to me and encourage me to write my own posts from them. I think you say a lot of things that are what I am feeling at the time and can relate to immediately. I think when I read your posts I feel a kindred spirit and it helps me not feel so isolated in this humongous world of “education”! Thanks for all that you do!

  7. Love all of your creative ideas and what you do in the classroom! Wish I could watch you. I tend to bookmark your pages for when I will have a chance to use the ideas in my own teaching.

  8. I am not a teacher yet, so I haven’t used any of your ideas in a classroom. What keeps me coming back to your blog is the special clarity that seems to shine through. I read a lot of blogs and while I don’t consider myself an expert, I do have things that I like more than others. Pictures, visuals, they seem to appeal more than words, to most people. When I read anything I skim, I look for the “meat” and then go back and read the “sides”. So many blogs out there have no “meat” but yours always has that something that makes me say “yeah, he’s right, and I like the way he said that.”

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