Category Archives: Teaching 2021_2022

Road to good data

I was trying to this activity with my eleventh graders today: how do we get to good, useable data? I did with a road map — see example below — but next time I want to do it as chutes and ladders to create a better sense of things that set you back and things that advance you quickly. Chutes and ladders also builds on the idea that some of the search process is about luck, although as this podcast underscored, it’s not about luck so much as preparation.

Leon Cass

Liked this podcast. Don’t always appreciate David Brooks but did today.

This quote:

LEON KASS: Yeah, look, there are practical virtues that require a certain courage, a certain toughness. And finally, I mean, to have your eye on the best but to be able to see the best possible, and to have the kind of prudent judgment to know what you have to do to get things done.

Planning and Teaching

Teaching and Planning:  

Here’s what’s funky: I’ve been teaching for a couple of years.  I still have to plan every day. Really plan.  Even when I have a plan that I wrote before. Even when I’ve taught the book, the unit, the deliverable, the project…I have to plan it out.  Again. I have to write it down.  Again.  

If I don’t, I feel like I’m winging it or as if I don’t have a plan. 

It’s why I’ve never understood canned curriculum. I read it. I look at it. I say, okay, I see how that might work. Then I have to go re-write it for myself, which is a process, a good process, a worthwhile process, but one that takes time.

In other words, I never have the moment where I’m like, “hey, what I’m doing on Monday, oh right, check out that document, good, I’m all set.” 

I’m always writing, re-writing, re-re-writing. 

This is not a humble brag about how I’m always reinventing my curriculum. This genuinely pisses me off. I wish that I had a plan that I could go back to, look at, and tweak, so that planning was a five-minute, dust-something-off process as opposed to at least fifteen, thirty, forty-five minutes of pondering what I’m getting up to. Again.   

Part of this is the energy and knowledge and skills the kids are bringing to the class. It varies with each group, each year: they want to go in particular directions, worthwhile directions, so let’s go there.   

Part of it is the reality of the SDP, where they find new ways to screw up the calendar each year, so you’re always adjusting for crap days, for difficult days, for days that follow long weekends, for days that precede testing days.   

Part of it is my evolution as a teacher and a human: I have new ideas, new things I’ve read and thought about, new arguments I’ve had with students, colleagues, and friends. New things I want to do.     

Part of it is the reality of the world, where everything changes and I see a way of connecting what happened yesterday to what we’re reading or discussing or making today.

Anyway, I realized this after I started a timer to “plan” because I was worried that I would use up my available time planning instead of grading, and yes, I had once again used my available time that way.   

Friday last period

My last period on Friday offered the usual joy of last period on Friday. I had a reasonably good discussion question the kids did a solid job of exploring. Then I had an activity for them to build upon their notes to ferret out Lepore’s argument from chapter two. (More on this later.)


“Mr. Clapper, why did you become a teacher? ”

(I have a stock answer)

Well, even when I was little, I knew I wanted to read, write, and argue for a living. I could have been a lawyer. I could have been a minister (ha!). But I chose to become a teacher.


Student: You could also have been a cult leader.

I love Fridays.