Why Sometimes a Character Must Die

Death is waiting for everyone. Each one of us will some day experience dying, whether after aging, through sickness, or suddenly. There is an inescapable inevitability to death and many choose to live their lives ignoring the end as much as they can, as though it will somehow prolong life if they succeed. I recently […]

Gradeless AP Literature: Standards-Focused Assessment

A few months ago, I wrote about teaching my AP Literature class sans grades (at least as much as possible). De-Grading the AP Lit Classroom One of the main benefits has been a refocusing on the actual standards that the students need to master over the course of the year. My school does standards-based grading […]

The Both-And Cake

I’ve begun to notice more and more a disturbing pattern in which ideas that don’t coincide are automatically assumed to be in direct opposition to each other. This leads to either/or thinking, often on topics that are far more complex and cannot be generalized into just two opposing camps. This is not new, but it’s […]

The Sin of Making Academic Success into an Idol

It would be futile to try and count the sheer multitude of assignments I have completed purely to get the grade. I’ve written elsewhere about how I wasn’t really that great of a student when I was in school (I Was Not a Good Student) and my attitude towards learning stemmed mostly from my view […]

Dear Class of 2020

Dear Class of 2020, I’d like to tell you a little story: There was once a bottle, freshly made of glistening glass, waiting. This bottle had high hopes for its future, wondering what would fill it, where it would be sent, and who would open it. The bottle had watched all those before it filled […]

All English Teachers Should Write

I’ve been writing stories since middle school. They weren’t any good (and some of mine now still aren’t) but I was writing. I didn’t start caring about the craft of writing until I had stories of my own I needed to tell. My drive to master the mechanics, conventions, and forms of writing came when […]

Teaching AP Literature

An English teacher’s dream: a class size of 11, a group of students that love reading, critical thinkers that analyze and write well, unstructured discussions that delve below the literal level of a text. The students did the reading, came to class prepared, were positive about the workload, and showed engagement throughout the year. I […]

Octavia Butler

Little did I know all that would change when my friend handed me a book and said, “You need to read this.” The book was Wild Seed by Octavia Butler. Over the next 12 years, I slowly made the acquaintance of the African American lady who wrote fiction of a sort I had never encountered […]

Who Needs Shakespeare?

“Who needs Shakespeare? I’ve gotten along just fine until now without him, and suddenly, at 18, I’m supposed to care about some English guy who wrote about a Scottish guy who wants to be king?” Of course I’d heard of William Shakespeare before then, but somehow I’d escaped having to read any of his work […]