This One Simple Tool Will Make You a More Effective Writing Teacher

Teenagers are notorious for their lack of attention and internal busyness– especially in a classroom. They live in a chronic state of unawareness and have a cantankerous yearning to be somewhere else.

“I want to go to sleep.”

“I want to go home.”

“I’m starving, when’s lunch?”

And in these modern times of computers and smartphones, the teenage attention span is quite slim (and seems to be getting slimmer by the day).

As writing teachers, this wandering teenage mind is one of the greatest challenges we face.

So how do we tame the teenage monkey mind? How do we get a classroom of unfocused students focused and prepared to write?

The answer, is a surprisingly simple one. (And yet took me many painful years to figure it out.)

A timer.

In recent years, a timer as become my most important and effective teaching tool to tame the wild teenage mind.

 

The use of a timer in the classroom creates three things…

  1. focus
  2. urgency
  3. a goal

Experience has shown me that students actually enjoy the demands of the timer. It teaches them that in brief, focused bursts they can overcome procrastination and actually accomplish things.

Lesson Plan

Let’s say you want to have your students write a narrative piece on failure.

Here’s a simple 3 step, 240 second process you can implement to get students started, focused and excited to write…

Step 1 (180 seconds)

  1. Have students write the heading “Times I failed today…” on a blank page.
  2. Set a timer for 30 seconds.
  3. Beneath the heading, tell the students that when the timer begins, to scratch down all of today’s failures (these can be internal and external). Tell them they’re not writing sentences. Just a word or phrase (Alarm clock) that indicates a failure. I call this word or phrase a “working title”.
  4. Ready, Set…Go!

Prior to and during Step 1 it’s vital to stress that students are not to worry about spelling or grammar. This worry will only slow them down and restrict the process. Encourage students write messy. Tell them that this activity is not for a grade and that their list only has to make sense to them.

I would then repeat Step 1 two more times, each with a new heading, “Times I failed this week…”, then “Times I failed this year… “. I would also expand the time– 60 seconds for the former, 90 seconds for the latter.

Step 2 (30 seconds)

Have students evaluate all three lists. Have them mark three moments of failure that they still think about. That if they had the power, would turn back time and do over. 30 seconds. Go!

Step 3 (30 seconds)

Finally, evaluate the marked three failures. Which one still keeps you up at night? Which one has changed you the most? Mark that one. 30 seconds. Go!

This one failure will be the focus for the narrative writing assignment on failure.

Collectively, the three steps are 240 seconds of focused brainstorming that, when completed provide each student with a powerful, personal moment that harbors all the intimate ingredients needed for a good writing piece.

Furthermore, after just 240 seconds, the page should be littered with ideas. For students, this littering is rewarding. Students can be messy, not be judged (which is a natural confidence booster) and in a brief time realize that they’re lives are worthy of writing about.

Note: As the classroom teacher, you’re the expert on your students. You’re encouraged to modify this strategy to meet the age and level of your students.

Takeaways

  • A timer is essential for a writing classroom since it helps create focus, urgency and a goal.
  • Brainstorming should be structured.
  • Eliminates the “I have nothing to write about” problem.
  • Students can accomplish much more in quick focused bursts, then a long meandering brainstorming session.
  • Students enjoy a focused brainstorm activity.
  • This activity allows students to fill the page with meaningful experiences that can serve as great writing subjects.
  • This “messy” activity provides apprehensive writers with confidence.

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May 22, 2017 (or the day the universe reminded me to get over myself)

Sometimes things happen that convince you there is some large, mysterious power at work, cartwheeling through the cosmos, orchestrating both big and little things, to get your attention, to make you appreciate the brevity of your life.

Our youngest son Dylan, who is almost 4, has his own bed. It’s a perfectly good bed dressed with a soccer ball comforter and lined with stuffed animals yet he still sleeps in bed with Cindy and I.

(I know…not our finest parenting work but let those without parenting sin cast the first fruit snack.)

Anyway, Sunday night Dylan was extra abusive. Fighting for sleep, I was kicked and punched, elbowed and kneed in my face, neck, back and groin.

At 5:15 am, when the alarm buzzed, I awoke with Dylan’s little knee firmly wedged in my left rib cage.

Annoyed, I push his knee away, growled a Monday-morning-up-before-dawn-and-I-have-to-go-to-work growl and slow roll out of bed.

Shuffling across the bedroom, clearing the fuzz from my eyes, I caught Cindy, in a twist of sheets, on her side, hanging at the edge of the bed, as Dylan laid horizontal, uncovered, head tilted skyward and snoring and holding a sly little smile.

In the kitchen…

…between sips of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal I pop two ibuprofen, message the knot pulsing in my back, stare out into the faded blue morning and think about how it was time to take a parental stand, to move the little ramrod down the hall to his room and force him to sleep in his own, perfectly good bed.

The universe sends an email.

I get to school, enter my classroom, drop in my chair, turn on the computer and.wait for the little miracle of modernity to wake up and do its thing.

A few minutes later I find, resting in my inbox, an email from a former student asking for a favor. The student explains how his grandfather just died and how he attached the obituary his father had written.

The student asks if I could proofread the obituary and offer his father some commentary.

Humbled by the request and intrigued by the contents I began to read.

It’s a fine piece, honoring a man I didn’t know but who, by all accounts, lived a full and happy life, a life dedicated to his family.

 Then it happened.

As if the universe nudged me, making sure I wasn’t too self-involved on this Monday morning. Making sure I was paying attention.

The obituary concludes with an anecdote about how, when the man was a child he would sleep in his father’s bed. How the father would run his hand through the child’s hair. And how even now, a grown man with thinner hair and with his own children, still remembers the comfort of his now deceased father’s hand and the warmth of the bed they shared.

I lean back, shake my head and launch skyward, beyond the drop ceiling, beyond the school roof, out into the rolling universe, defy gravity, float along  and watch the morning bloom across the ceaseless sky only to fall earthward, back to my empty classroom, back to my chair, back to smallness of my life, back to the little knot in my lower back.

The universe throat punches us.

On the night of May 22, 2017, a suicide bomber killed 22 people outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.

The first victim announced on the news was an 8 year old girl.

After I kiss my children off to bed, I helplessly watch the rolling television coverage of the bombing for the rest of night.

Later, in the quiet of my bedroom, when I find Dylan asleep and alive and sprawled across my bed I couldn’t help but think of the empty beds now in Manchester.

Dylan is the youngest of my three children.

He’s almost 4. And my eldest just turned 9. Dylan is my last link to the wonders of infancy — the softness, the smell, the little lungs working inside when they lie on your chest and they breathe and you breathe and you feel the absolute magic of their breath inside you.

I guess for me, Dylan and his growing vocabulary and his budding personality and his sudden self-sufficiency starkly affirm the fleeting nature of time. Of how children grow up, venture beyond your reach and become little bodies open to the mercies of the universe.

On what started as another Monday became a day where the universe made itself known, felt. 

Life seems to work that way, one minute your blinded by your own minutia and the next, the universe is there to disciple you.

And when you’re standing over your father’s casket, dreaming of his hand running through your hair or you’ve been suddenly dropped into that nightmare moment, that godless moment of having outlived your child, sometimes, all you can do is lie in bed at night, wonder about the mystery of it all and reach for what is no longer there.

Be well,

Jay

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Katie Manning

 Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.

In this edition, WoFo features history teacher Katie Manning.  I would like to thank Katie for her interview and dedication to the teaching profession.

In these tumultuous times, it is essential that students understand exactly how our government and electoral process is supposed to work and the rights they have as Americans. 


Besides being a teacher Katie Manning is…. 

a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, & friend.   My family means the world to me & they continue to inspire me every day.

Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long? 

Pond Road Middle School in Robbinsville, NJ.  I have been teaching 8th Grade Social Studies (US History) for the past 10 years.  Before this, I spent two years teaching in Florence, NJ.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?  

Anything related to the Constitution. I am so fortunate that the content area I teach allows me to explore with the students what it means to be an American.  In these tumultuous times, it is essential that students understand exactly how our government and electoral process is supposed to work and the rights they have as Americans If we are unhappy with the way things are going, we are fortunate enough to live in a country where we can affect true change.  An educated population can have meaningful dialogue that empowers citizens to change their government through non-violent means.  Almost everyday, I get the chance to create opportunities for students to discover what it means to be an American and a citizen of our world…I mean really…how cool is that??

If, for one day, you were in charge of your school what would you do?

I would do everything I could to provide opportunities for teachers to share experiences in their classrooms (in person).  The longer I spend in this profession, the more I realize how much there is that I do not know.  I wish we could set up some teacher exchange programs where we get to see teachers in other classes, buildings, districts, etc do this work.  There is so much talent out there. As teachers we could grow from one another if we could explore different classroom environments, teaching styles, student populations, etc.

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?  

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress”.  –Frederick Douglass

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be? 

Probably a politician or government official. I want to have an impact.

What advice would you give to all new teachers? 

Probably two things…first, you don’t know everything, and that is awesome!  Let it be known that you are imperfect and that you are a work in progress. This lets students know that they are on a journey with you and that it is okay to make mistakes.  The second piece of advice would be…don’t ever think you can phone it in…they will know!

If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second-best thing?  

The ability to be a vehicle of change, whether for your students, your team, your school or your district…you have the ability to bring about change in this ever-evolving world.  Your work as a teacher can constantly remind you of that. This can be an incredible challenge, but also an amazingly empowering experience if you constantly work towards using your role for the good of your students and your school.

Who inspires you? 

I absolutely recognize that this is going to sound cheesy, but my students inspire me.  I started out working in financial services after college and when I  began coaching, I quickly realized that in order to be fulfilled, I had to do something more meaningful.  I decided to change careers when I was about 30 years old. It wasn’t an easy transition, but trading in the income potential of my previous career has been made worthwhile by the achievements of my students.  When I get to witness, and sometimes be a part of those “ah-hah” moments that occur in my classroom the rewards are endless.

My classroom superpower is…

…connection because we seek to connect every day and laugh whenever possible (and probably more than we should). There is so much in the world to get worked up about and I find it essential my students feel welcome and enjoy coming to class.  I try to make connections and learn about the things that interest and challenge my class.  I love when we get to laugh at ourselves and the absurdity of the events that have happened in our history.

When kids are in my room and examine historical events, compare them to modern events, and make them relevant to their lives it can be difficult and sometimes disappointing.   We all work together to find the humor in it, while seeking out solutions for the future while there might not be any immediate answers, the fact that they are working through the process empowers them for the future.  If my students walk out of my room with the desire to know more about the world and a willingness to challenge it, I feel as if I have done my job.


Thanks for checking out this edition of Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series!

Do you know an awesome educator who makes school an exciting adventure? If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on the Teacher Spotlight Series. Contact Jay at writeonfighton@gmail.com.

The Power of a Conversation: A Recap of the 2017 Spring Write-a-Thon

Never underestimate the power of a little conversation.

The Write-a-Thon grew its roots in 2015, during a little conversation between my school district’s (Robbinsville, New Jersey) Superintendent, Dr. Steven Mayer and myself.

The crux of the conversation was, “How can we teach teenagers to see writing as an exercise in self-discovery and authenticity not just a forced activity aligned with the harbingers of school?”

So we talked. We listened. We brainstormed.

And 3 months later the first Write-a-Thon was held in my classroom., a 2-hour writing event that afforded students the opportunity to write, to tell their story.

The event hosted 13 writers including Dr. Mayer and received donations and support from my student’s parents, faculty and my own friends and family.

When concluded, the Write-a-Thon raised $1,300 for the Special Olympics of New Jersey.

Write-a-Thon-November 2015.

A few months later, in April 2016, as I was planning the second Write-a-Thon, Dr. Mayer was tragically killed.

The May event was held in his honor.

An event that began with me, fighting tears, recounting our little brainstorming session and how though he is physically gone, his story, his passion is alive and well.

The heart of the Write-a-Thon is simple–show up and tell your story.

This week, the fourth installment of the Write-a-Thon had 30 student writers, ranging from 7th to 12th grade. The event hosted a $500 college scholarship essay challenge and was filmed by the Emmy winning “Classroom Close-up NJ” and will be featured in October 2017 episode.

My experience as both a high school teacher and an adult has taught me that, in the contentious transition between young adulthood and adulthood, it’s easy to get distracted with the noise of the world.

It’s easy to forget about the importance and power of your voice, of your story.

It’s easy to believe your story doesn’t matter.

It’s easy to believe fiction.

The Write-a-Thon is a celebration of the human voice. Of the lasting power of the true human story.

And it’s our stories that stand before us, that become the permanent teachers, forever instructing the lives of the living.

Be well,

Jay

Write-a-Thon Supporters

The 2017 Write-a-Thon received tremendous support from the following Robbinsville High School programs:

The Debate Club

Coach Patterson and the Robbinsville Football Program

Robbinsville Boys Lacrosse

The Drama Club

GSA

The RHS Literary Magazine

The RHS Class of 2019

A Look at the Spring Write-a-Thon

 

Check out more pictures courtesy of NJEA


 

A Mother’s Day Post: 6 Things Moms Worry About ( And Humanity Is So Grateful They Do)

Where would the world be without “mom worry”?

My mom worried that my youngest brother Kyle and I would not be close.

She worried that the 10 years that separated us would be too big of a gap to bridge brotherhood, to bridge conversation.

So mom decided that I, an innocent 10 year old, should witness Kyle’s birth, as a means of bonding us, so we would always have something to talk about.

“Hey brother, do you remember sliding down mom’s birth canal?”

“No.”

“Well I sure do! Can you pass the peanuts?”

Kyle (back) and I (along with my two sons- Dylan and Chase) taking in a baseball game, passing peanuts and reminiscing about the miracle of natural childbirth.

I walked into the delivery room…

… ripe with innocent enthusiasm, expecting to see a smiling stork glide through an open window and present us with a freshly baked child.

Instead, I staggered away from the “miracle”, grizzled like a Normandy invasion survivor– through the double doors and into the waiting room–wide-eyed, shell-shocked and afflicted with a head full of visual shrapnel never to be plucked from my memory.

Despite this,  I’ve grown to appreciate my mom’s worry and concern. In fact, worrying is one of the many things that moms do really well, and get little credit for.

On this Mother’s Day I wanted to offer appreciation for moms. I want to thank my mom, my wife and moms everywhere for providing the world with some much needed mom worry. For having the selflessness to worry about things that help keep humanity alive, comfortable and prospering.

Mom and I rocking some serious hair in 1982.

Shoes

I love my children. I really do. But I have never thought to myself, “Self, your children’s feet are growing by the minute, maybe you should turn off the TV and get your kids some new shoes.” Moms constantly worry about their kid’s shoes. Are they too tight? Too worn? Are they crushing their little toes? Do they make my child look homeless?

 Germs

On the mom utility belt–the Purell hangs next to a travel pack of tissues which hangs next to a bottle children’s Tylenol.

Children are gross and it’s understandable that moms sanitize everything. From shopping carts to monkey bars to toothbrushes, if it wasn’t for the hyper-sterility of moms, the Black Plague would have eaten the world into oblivion.

Lice

Speaking of the Black Plague, lice and their little white eggs have been infesting children’s head and the nightmares of moms since the 14th century.

Clean and folded clothes

Moms always worry that everyone in the house has clean and wrinkle-free clothing to wear. And now that I have three children, I understand how much clothing these critters tear through each week. Doing loads of wash every Saturday is heroic, but folding all those clothes in neat, stacked piles is superhuman.

Birthdays

You’re here because of them. And moms make sure that every year you’re acknowledged with a card, cake and if your knees are young enough–an inflatable bounce house.

School Picture Day

Moms worry about school picture day. A lot.  They worry about everything involved in picture day. Did I buy the right picture package? Is there enough wallets for Aunt Edna and Uncle Earl? Is there enough money in the envelope? Will my child smile? Is my child capable of smiling without looking psychotic?

My mom is the reason my picture graced the school yearbook every year. If it wasn’t for her concern, there may not be any visual evidence of me attending St. Ephrem Elementary between the years of 1986 through 1994.

Different hair styles but mom and I (and Dylan) are still smiling in 2015.

The problem is…moms just care too much.

They sacrifice sleep, go gray and entertain ulcers thinking and worrying about the welfare of others. Motherhood is a selfless odyssey. One spent catering to the needs, demands and grabbiness of children and husbands.

Frankly, I don’t know how moms do it.

But humanity and I are truly grateful that you do.

Much love to my wife on Mother’s Day! Thanks for all your effort, support, love and worry! We are better because of you.

And In case you’re wondering…

…Kyle and I are still close.  And honestly, our closeness has nothing to do with me witnessing his birth. We just both like baseball.

When Former Students Die: A Teacher’s Reflection

If you teach long enough you’ll come to learn that the human story never graduates.

I last saw him 11 years ago.

Waiting for the graduation procession to begin, under that shadow of his squared cap, tassel dangling about his face, he smiled and said, “Mr. Armstrong, can you believe it, they’re actually letting me graduate!”

I smiled, “Yeah, God knows what they were thinking.”

A few years after graduation, he married his high school girlfriend, the girlfriend he sat next to in my English class.

They had a daughter together. Built a life together. And then he died.

He was 29.

In truth, I haven’t thought much about Mark since our time together.  Nothing intentional, it’s just as a teacher, so many lives come in and out of your life that it’s easy to lose track of who has passed through.

Yet when a Facebook post informed me that Mark had died, his name, his smile toggled memory, transporting me back to my old classroom–room 201.

In 2006, we were all young.

Collectively, what we lacked in knowledge we made up for in enthusiasm.

I was 26, inexperienced, short on life-lessons yet excited at the prospect of teaching and inspiring and helping mold the minds of young adults.

Most of the students were 18, fueled by hormones, seduced by the promise of adulthood and all its liquid freedoms.

They weren’t malicious.

Just kids straddling adulthood. Bursting with energy. Kids uninterested in dated stories scratched in stale books written by dead white guys.

It was in those days when I began to learn how your students’ lives wedge themselves into your life. How their drama becomes your drama. How their remarks and actions and attitudes confound you, unnerve you, keep you up at night and make you question the fate of the world.

But teach long enough and it all begins to run together.

Summers are merely conjunctions linking one run-on school year to the next.

And in this rambling life sentence, the days and weeks and years overlap. The names and faces and voices that were once so prominent, so sharp in your life only round and dull over time.

But when you learn a former student has died and you hear their name, you read their obituary, something happens. A key is turned, an engine started and the memory machine chokes and begins its work.

It’s been 11 years but…

I remember…

…the class consisted of mostly males. It often felt and sounded and even smelled like a locker room. Based with deep laughs ,those students in room 201 were unconcerned with things like death, poetry and me–a young teacher fixed with a knotted tie, polished shoes teaching his little heart out.

I remember…

…how the classroom windows faced east and how in the Spring sun would rise and blaze through the thin windows and how after lunch, room 201 turned into a cinder block oven.

I remember…

…Mark complaining it was just too hot to learn.

I remember…

…for most of the school year Mark slouched in his seat. Legs stretched out as far as they would go. In his hands, he would often work a hand grip. Squeezing the tension and releasing, until one hand would tire then he would switch to the other.

I remember…

…how his girlfriend sat beside him in class. How they would slide their desks close together. How he would rest his free hand on her knee and continue to work the hand grip with the other.

I remember…

…when they weren’t flirting they were fighting.

I remember…

…during a stretch of days, in late May when the outside world hummed with life and there was little reason to pay attention to me, Mark’s feet were flat on the floor, elbows on the desk, hand grip unseen, eyes glued to the pages of the book we were reading, The Things They Carried.

I remember…

…he told the class to shut up when I was reading how Curt Lemon, a 19 year old U.S. soldier, walked carelessly through the Vietnam jungle, stepped on a mine and blew himself apart.

I remember…

…Mark holding a copy of the book, standing in the class doorway looking at me and smiling and saying, “I really like this book.”

Mark wasn’t the first of my former students to die however, it’s always hard to imagine your former students dead.

Because when you taught them, they were young and indestructible and alive. As if they would always be that way.

It’s not in the job description, no one tells you this, but teachers are carriers of life.

Every student’s story, no matter of big or small, how dramatic or pedestrian is fixed with an intangible weight.  A weight that you carry with you, from lesson to lesson, from year to year, forever. So when you learn that a former student has died, that former student and their former life is suddenly present, is suddenly now.

And 11 years later, when your on your couch, scrolling through your Facebook feed and you read the news and see the face, you retreat into memory and you feel a familiar heat and hear the straining echoes of your first lessons and your big blue eyes dart across the classroom to find a smiling young man, working hand grips with one hand, cupping his girlfriend’s knee with the other, waiting for high school to end.

Waiting for life to begin.

Be well,

Jay

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Robt Seda-Schreiber

 Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.

In this edition, WoFo features art teacher, artist and social activist Robt Seda-Schreiber.  I would like to thank Robt for his interview, his dedication to the teaching profession and his courage to promote social change.

“Don’t ever, ever make someone feel wrong or shamed for who they are or who they love…”


Besides being a teacher Robt Seda-Schreiber is….

A lover; a pacifist & fighter; an avowed solipsist; a hustler of culture; an A+ son, a B+ husband & a C+ father; a tiny dancer; an imaginary boxer; a “Champion of Equality” (thanks, NJEA!); a teller of both truth & foma in equal measure;  a misanthropic humanist; an artist of some quality; a storyteller of great verbosity; a Courageous Cat (kudos, Kenneth Cole!); a tilter of both windmills & pinball machines; 日本の職人; colorblind & tone-deaf; a reluctant genius & an enthusiastic fool; a man of great fortune & good morals (tho’ sometimes both lapse on occasion); a friend to the friendless & voice for the voiceless; & (wait for it!) a Social Justice Activist

Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I teach at the Melvin H. Kreps Middle School: in my art studio; at the theatre; in the hallways as well as the greater community. I teach Art & Theatre & have had the pleasure of doing so for almost twenty-five years now. I teach in the same school that I attended as a student & it is truly an honor & privilege to give back to this community that has given me so much.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

 Gonna’ cheat here & speak rather on the greatest lesson I was taught:

Few years back, I met Vincent V., a student at a neighboring school district, who because of his otherness was being bullied to the extent that he had to be home-schooled. I became his advocate & his family’s partner in a protracted legal battle with his district, resulting in him attending our school at that district’s expense. Whilst at our school, Vincent flourished: finally able to realize who he is & who she has always been. A life saved; a life realized: Vincent becomes Vee, our school’s first transgender student & she allows me the honor of helping her with that transition. Vee’s journey of self-realization is a tremendous gift to & a great lesson for our entire school & our greater community & to me personally: a concrete example of the power of outreach, an abstract made very concrete. She taught me & all those around her on a daily basis the true meaning of bravery & compassion & for that, I can never thank her enough.

If, for one day, you were in charge of your school what would you do?

Well, truth be told, my administration does a pretty wonderful job indeed, esp. our Principal Lori Stein but if I could run this town (as Jay-Z would say), I would, in no particular order, ask the kids & the teachers (& any parents who wanted to join us) to do a lil’ somethin’-somethin’ like this:

Take a communal walk; Read a comic book; Give the custodial staff the day off & clean the hallways ourselves; Take everyone out for lunch (vegetarian style of course!); Dance; Share one photo that makes you smile; End the day in contemplation & appreciation of what has come before & what has yet to arrive

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

Here I go cheating again & am doubling my quota of quotes:

“Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.”               -Lao Tzu, “Tao Te Ching”

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer & cold in the winter. It’s round & wet & crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies- God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” -Kurt Vonnegut

If you weren’t a teacher; what would you be?

A guy who would constantly be asked & then subsequently warned, “What are you doing in this classroom & if you don’t leave the premises immediately, we’re going to have to call the authorities!”

Original art by Robt Seda- Schreiber

What advice would you give to all new teachers?

Every moment counts, every word matters, both in & outside the classroom.

Please challenge yourselves as much as you challenge others.

Always try first to fight for something rather than fighting against something.

Remember to thrive & not just survive.

Don’t ever, ever make someone feel wrong or shamed for who they are or who they love; for the color of their skin or the texture of their hair; for the language they speak or the religion they practice (or indeed the lack thereof); for the gender with which they identify or name they choose to use; for the ideas they hold dear or the lives they choose to lead… & don’t ever, ever stand idly by & let anyone else do so.

Remember light will always dispel the darkness & love does indeed trump hate. The world can & will change—it’s entirely up to you whether you want to watch it happen or be the one who makes it happen. You cannot move forward without knowing where you are going & who you can bring with you; without seeing what is in front of you & what you can do to change it for the better. For all of us.

Eyes clear, hearts full, & minds free- boots on the ground.

Last but not least, as my man Chuck D would say, “Fight the Power. Fight the powers that be!”

If the best thing about teaching is the students; what’s the second best thing?

 The great pay, of course! (& by that, of course, I mean karmically, not financially…)

Who inspires you?

My wonderful folks showed me the path, my lovely bride holds my hand as I walk it, & my talented son shows me the horizon. My parents taught me love & respect for all, my wife helps me put it into practice, & my boy carries it upward & onward. I have always been inspired by those who speak out & allow others to rise up within their own communities. When one group overcomes injustice & inequality, it is a victory for us all. Whether it be MLK, Gandhi, Harvey Milk, Dolores Huerta, Muhammad Ali, Keith Haring, Kurt Vonnegut, or David Letterman, these men & women were true to themselves & true to their communities. They inspire all of us to be the best that we can be.

Finally, much respect & love to my administration, my colleagues, my students & the community at large in which I work. This oh-so-supportive crew have been nothing but encouraging throughout the years & I truly couldn’t do the do I do without them.

My classroom superpower is…

 The power of flight… of fancy.

Check out more of Robt’s artwork at his webpage Arty Goodness.

Lean more about Robt’s social activism and help him win the NEA Social Justice Activist of the Year Award!


Thanks for checking out this edition of Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight Series!

Do you know an awesome educator who makes school an exciting adventure? If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on the Teacher Spotlight Series. Contact Jay at writeonfighton@gmail.com.