Extending Empathy to Support Staff [6 tips]

Extending Empathy to Support Staff [6 tips]

It’s been great to watch the rise in recognition of the importance of empathy. But let’s not just teach empathy in our classrooms, let’s also extend it to the staff members in our schools – all staff members.

For the past five summers, I’ve worked with my school’s Buildings and Grounds Department. I’ve put in ceilings, hung drywall, painted stairwells, laid floors, and moved more heavy objects from point A to point B than I’d care to remember.

It’s often a hot and dirty job, but I enjoy working with my hands and it helps me to recharge for the other ten months of the year as a teacher.

For this job, I don’t dress like I do during those teaching months: I wear old paint-splattered tee shirts, cut-off shorts, and a scruffy summer beard that takes minimal maintenance. In other words, I might look like someone who does physical labor. Continue reading “Extending Empathy to Support Staff [6 tips]”

Student Blogging: A Step-by-Step Guide to Their First Post

Having students create authentic blogs is a surefire way to get students to write passionately. Here’s how to help them successfully publish their first post.

Content Management System Cms WordPress Blog Post

One of my guiding principles as an English teacher has always been this: I should not be preparing students to become English professors.

Few, if any, of my students will become literature critics, writers for the New Yorker, or professional poets. And thusly, I place little import on the need for them to know esoteric literary terms, deep nuances of grammar, or obscure details of long-gone literary movements. Heck, most of the time, I need to look up things like this if I’m going to teach them because they’re so irrelevant to my daily life…and I’m an English teacher. Continue reading “Student Blogging: A Step-by-Step Guide to Their First Post”

Let’s Talk About Saggy Pants

Telling male students of color to pull up their sagging pants is almost reflexive for some teachers. But what are the deeper implications of this practice?


When I was in 9th grade, I wanted a pair of JNCO jeans. If you don’t know what JNCO jeans were, count yourself lucky. They were jeans with absurdly wide leg openings – some as wide as the waistline itself – and pockets large enough to carry around a good-sized dog. They were, in a word, ridiculous. (Seriously, you should probably Google Image search them right now just to jog your memory back to that dark place in the 90’s where JNCOs reside.)

But, my friends were wearing them, I liked my friends, and I wanted my friends to like me. Ipso facto, I wanted a pair of JNCOs. Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Saggy Pants”

10 Keys to a Successful Peer Observation Program

Peer observation can be used as free, ongoing, effective professional development—and can draw faculty closer together.

Me, learning to sew a button in family and consumer science

Note: A version of this article first appeared on Edutopia here.

We’ve probably all sat through a professional development day like this: The school hires a professional speaker to come teach its faculty a new instructional strategy. The speaker arrives on an in-service day, the faculty gather in an auditorium, and the speaker stands in front of everyone, microphone in hand, going over the strategy outlined in a presentation being projected behind them. Continue reading “10 Keys to a Successful Peer Observation Program”

Two Educators: Origin Stories

We teach who we are. That’s why where we come from is so important. In this edition of  “Two Educators,” Dylan and Brian discuss the paths that led them to the field of education.


Note: “Two Educators” is an occasional series with Brian Kulak, Chief Academic Officer at Collingswood Public Schools. In the series, Brian and Dylan tackle educational topics from their unique perspectives as an administrator and a teacher.

Brian Kulak: I became a teacher because of Isiah Thomas.

In 1991, while the Hall of Fame NBA point guard for the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons was adding to his legacy as one of the greatest players in the game, I was watching. When uniform selections were made for all the various teams for which I played as a kid, I always chose #11 in honor of Isiah. For my high school graduation, a friend’s parent gave me a gold necklace with that number dangling from it; I wore it for years. Continue reading “Two Educators: Origin Stories”

3 Reasons Why I Ditched My Syllabus (And Why You Might Want To, Too)

The status quo for teachers has always been to give out a syllabus during the first few days of school. But is that really the most effective way to start out the year?

Good question.

Let’s get right into it.

Here’s why I didn’t give my students a traditional syllabus this year:

Continue reading “3 Reasons Why I Ditched My Syllabus (And Why You Might Want To, Too)”

4 Steps to Help Students Google Better

If we’re not teaching students how to find credible sources on the internet, we’re not teaching them an essential 21st-century skill.


During my first year of teaching, I gave out a pretty standard, English-teachery assignment: choose a controversial issue, write an essay that crafts an argument for one side of the issue, and use supporting evidence. Continue reading “4 Steps to Help Students Google Better”

Where Classroom Technology Studies Go Wrong


Note: A version of this article appeared in the Huffington Post here.

A study was released recently in Psychological Science entitled “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.” In it, the authors confirm what many educators already suspect: “computers (and the Internet) serve as distractions, detracting from class discussion and student learning.” According to the study, students retain more facts and concepts when they do not have access to laptops, smartphones, or other devices. Continue reading “Where Classroom Technology Studies Go Wrong”