Why I Gave Money To Wikipedia

One Educator’s Defense of the Free Encyclopedia

 

“If everyone reading this gave $3, we could keep Wikipedia thriving for years to come.”

Most of us recognize this appeal from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales—and I really do mean most of us. Wikipedia sees millions of unique visitors every day and dominates the page rankings in Google search results. Yet as numerous as its faithful users are its heavy critics, especially among educators. Some blatantly disallow it in the classroom while others treat it like greasy fast food. “There’s nothing wrong with it, kids, as long as you don’t mind a life of morbid obesity and early heart failure. But go ahead, feel free to use Wikipedia instead of your own honest research.”

Even in Wikipedia’s own article about academic use, students are cautioned that “Wikipedia is not a replacement for a reading assignment by your professor.” Any critique of Wikipedia will eventually include the word unreliable, but out of context, that word creates a serious misconception. Asking “Is Wikipedia reliable?” oversimplifies how we ought to evaluate source credibility. In this age of the internet, a very small percentage of web content receives any degree of fact-checking before going public. Rote assignment of “good” and “bad” web domains doesn’t teach someone to critically examine the content itself, and that’s the skill students need.

In a 2005 TEDGlobal talk, Wales claimed that Wikipedia began “with a very radical idea…for all of us to imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.” While all human knowledge sounds nice, it’s the idea of all humans contributing to that knowledge that makes people uncomfortable. In its defense, Wikipedia does work to mitigate the risks of dynamic entries:

  • Certain popular and controversial pages are protected so only long-time users in good standing and administrators can make edits.
  • Wikipedia clearly flags articles with factual disputes, subjective or self-promotional tones, contradictions, or no citations. While the page remains available, readers receive fair warnings.
  • Revision histories and references are all publically visible.

In fact, it’s these very features that should make educators love this website. Wikipedia provides the perfect platform to teach about bias, audience, and the differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. Students can clearly see what citations look like and appreciate their importance. Wikipedia offers translations and a “simple English mode;” its page layout helps students gain a basic understanding of a subject and locate initial resources for further study.

On the flipside, banning Wikipedia from the classroom leads students to the false assumption that anything “not Wikipedia” is reliable. I’ve seen some pretty suspect quote websites (see my article) with accuracy ratings far worse than Wikipedia. Just because something ends in .edu or .org doesn’t mean it’s been updated recently or that it’s written clearly. Consider, a science book from 2002 would still call Pluto a planet. Textbooks can have typos; scientific articles can be retracted. Wikipedia articles are constantly monitored and reviewed. Saying Wikipedia’s not reliable is like saying it’s not safe to leave the house. Sure, some dangers exist, but that doesn’t mean we ought to lower the shades and lock the doors.

Good research should compare multiple academic sources anyway, but there’s nothing wrong with using Wikipedia as a starting point. Here’s the bottom line: Wikipedia isn’t 100% reliable, but I’ve yet to see a webpage—or textbook—that is 100% reliable on the literally millions of topics Wikipedia provides. We shouldn’t aim to find an impeccably accurate source; we should teach students to make their own judgments on a source’s credibility. Do I think a website I use almost every day with the mission to spread knowledge to people all over the world is worth $3? I’ve certainly given more money to lesser causes. Yes, Wikipedia. I read your plea, and I want to keep you thriving.

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Don’t Hate Me

The Pronoun Problem, and Why Anyone Should Care

When we’re young, most of us learn to cover our mouths before we cough, wash our hands before eating dinner, and always refer to ourselves and another person as “that person and I.”

I haven’t done the research, but I’d guess that “and I” is one of the most overcorrected constructions in all of English.

Grandma gave ten dollars each to my brother, my sister, and I.
Mr. Smith asked Johnny and I to lead the presentation1

Are we so afraid of me? An even more perplexing problem is the rampant insertion of myself, perhaps under the mistaken belief that the word is somehow a longer, more formal version of me for use in adult conversation. I hear this one everywhere. Recently, a friend informed me, “Anna and myself are meeting with Kathy on Tuesday.” A coworker instructed a group of us, saying, “Email any questions to Robbie or myself2.”

To clear things up once and for all, here’s the trick: Remove the other person’s name, and see what makes sense. If I meet with Kathy, then Anna and I should meet with Kathy. People can email me, so they can also email Robbie or me. Myself is only ever used as a reflexive object (I see myself in the mirror) or for emphasis (I can do it myself).

What inspired this post, however, is less the modern assault on good grammar and more the question of why anyone should care. With first person pronouns (I, me, myself), we can learn the rules and move on. Death to awkward sentence constructions! Third person pronouns, on the other hand, are a whole lot trickier.

Gender-neutral language is a hot topic in the world right now, and, for English speakers, much of the debate centers on pronouns. Traditionally, he and she were singular while they was plural. Some instances of “singular they” have existed for well over a century: Emily Dickinson used they to agree with anyone back in the 1880s, despite anyone being a singular word (source: Merriam Webster). Most of the time, writers can avoid the potential confusion of these sentences by simply using a plural subject:

Anyone who has their ticket printed can form a line here.
People who have their tickets printed can form a line here.

Related to singular they is a form called nonbinary they, which refers to a person’s intentional use of “they” as a preferred pronoun.

Alex brought his/her book to class.
Alex brought their book to class.

In the first sentence, speakers must decide if Alex is a he or a she, but not so in the second sentence. Numerous alternatives to the singular they (such as ze) have appeared over the years, although none have garnered much traction outside of university settings.

Intriguingly, they might have some historical precedent to survive where other pronouns fail. Seven hundred years ago, thou was a singular second-person pronoun and ye was the plural form. Gradually, the more plural-looking you took over, and it’s since survived as the sole second-person pronoun for any number (y’all notwithstanding).

So should grammarians take a hard line on he/she vs. they? Time will tell, but history suggests a pronoun takeover is possible in the cultural mainstream. Regardless of how society changes language, our grammar can still stand up:

They have knowledge.
The future belongs to them.
They see themselves speaking correctly no matter how society changes.

1. Me is correct here, in case that wasn’t obvious.
2. Names changed to protect the innocent people unknowingly involved in these syntactic horrors.

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College Application Essays Dos and Don’ts

How to Put Your Best Foot Forward in Writing

In my years of teaching and tutoring, I’ve had the joy of helping many students with their personal statements and application essays. While the essay is often only one part of the admissions process, many colleges will say that a strong statement can save an otherwise lackluster application, while a terrible one can sink a student’s hopes no matter how high his GPA. So what does it take to win over the admissions committee? I’ve tried to keep it concise and include examples—that’s a hint for you, too.

DO

  • Answer the question.
    Some of those Common Application prompts sound awfully similar, and some are extremely open-ended. Be careful, though. “Recount a time when you faced a failure” is NOT the same as “describe a problem you’ve solved,” and “share a story about your meaningful background or identity” is NOT license to give an unabridged autobiography. Good essays are focused, clear, and organized. Don’t waste your precious word count restating the prompt; instead, make it obvious from your content.
  • Be honest, humble, and positive.
    Even if you’re a national champion gymnast or a published research scientist at seventeen, a little self-effacement goes a long way. Avoid certainty or finality (“For the rest of my life, I will protect our planet at all costs”) by instead exhibiting a healthy degree of doubt (“I realized that I can’t win every battle”)Most importantly, end on a positive note. A wise person knows she’s not perfect, she can’t fix everything, and that the world won’t always give her what she wants. Finding hope, purpose, and determination in the midst of struggles is a high mark of maturity.
  • Say something about college.
    Once you’ve figured out how to organize the essay and respond positively to the prompt, don’t forget the whole reason you’re doing this. An essay about your passion for building custom PCs should somehow connect to your future plans. It’s decent to describe college in general (“This experience inspired me to pursue an engineering degree”), but much better to name the school where you’re applying (“My love of research draws me to Princeton, where I can…”).
  • Show personal growth.
    A GPA proves you can learn facts, but what about life lessons? No matter what prompt you’re given, incorporate a clear before and after. Err on the side of too corny (“I learned that teamwork means sharing in defeats as much as sharing in victories”) rather than too subtle (“Teams go up and down together”).
  • Ask other people to read it.
    Spellcheck won’t catch every error, so make sure someone proofreads who can differentiate ‘affect’ and ‘effect.’ More importantly, however, give your essay to friends, family members, or a guidance counselor and simply ask, “Does this sound like me?” Grammatical correctness won’t save a bland, cookie-cutter essay.
  • Say what no one else can.
    You’ve probably heard advice to “just be yourself.” The way that happens is through using specific details that no one else in the world can claim. An essay about sports? The world has millions. About winning the state championship in soccer? Still not unique. About a girl who broke her foot in the district final and had to redefine her self-worth and role as team captain while watching her friends chase the first state title in school history without her? Getting closer.

DON’T

  • Try to impress the admissions committee.
    Don’t suck up by telling a school where it ranks in the U.S. News & World Report (if that’s your main reason for applying, I have bigger concerns). Show why the school’s a good fit for you, not why it’s a good school. Don’t spout GRE-level vocabulary or mention your perfect score on the SAT—they’ll see this on your application anyway. With respect, the essay is your chance to be a person, not a robot.
  • Be clichéd, arrogant, or negative.
    While sharing your narrative of personal growth and accomplishment, avoid the rags-to-riches story. Essay readers see far too many “life-changing moments” and “total 180s.” Describing your overnight transformation from self-absorbed jerk to community hero might have the opposite effect. Instead, be authentic and still young on life’s journey. As a corollary to my advice above about staying positive, don’t end the essay without any sense of hope for the world or drive for your future.
  • Write your resume in paragraph form.
    The offending sentence looks like this: “Becoming an Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank a person can achieve in the Boy Scouts of America program based on merit badges, leadership, and a final service project to help members of the community, changed my life.” A personal narrative about how you earned one of those merit badges will be far more successful. In general, don’t repeat information listed elsewhere on the application unless it’s absolutely essential to the story you’re telling.
  • Quote famous people.
    Forget that advice from 9th grade English class about opening with a quote. The truth is that you have a limited word count to display what makes you tick. Don’t fill up that space with lines from Thomas Jefferson or Martin Luther King, Jr.—they already went to college. If you absolutely must, quote your mom or grandma to at least make it personal. Always, always avoid “Webster’s dictionary defines ‘obstacle’ as…” Colleges already have dictionaries; they’re deciding if they should admit you.
  • Sound unnatural.
    It should go without saying to proofread for errors, but some essays manage to tip the scale too far the other way. Using six-syllable synonyms from the thesaurus or allowing your Ph. D. parents to suggest a more complicated syntax could end up working against you. Remember, it’s about relating through your humanity, not showcasing your book knowledge. Don’t bring your fine caviar to the backyard barbecue. It’s a personal essay, not a spelling bee.
  • Ignore the directions.
    This is “just be yourself” in a bad way. If the instructions ask for a 600-word essay, don’t think you’ll win fans by writing 1,000. Opening lines like “instead of a traditional essay, I decided to write a series of limmericks” or “I’ve attached an abstract painting to supplement this writing” should be red flags. Be creative within the constraints, and those constraints are the prompt.

    Questions? Thoughts? Comment below or contact me here. Thanks for reading!

 

 

The Best Books for Middle School

Finding engaging, age-appropriate reading material for middle schoolers can be hard.

As a middle school English teacher, I often receive questions about finding the best books for middle schoolers. Parents want reading material that’s challenging, educational, and suitable for young minds; students want books that are interesting, relatable, and entertaining enough to finish. In an ongoing project, I’ve asked teachers and students to contribute to this list of the best books for middle school. Whether it’s for a class book report or some fun summer reading, scroll down to find twentieth-century classics, contemporary hits, and a few you’ve never heard of in all genres. I keep it updated, so let me know if there are titles you think should be added to the list.

Best Books for Middle Schoolers:

Low Fantasy (Magic/Myth in the Real World)

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Percy Jackson & The Olympians series by Rick Riordan
The Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud
City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Doll Bones by Holly Black
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
The Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans
The Diviners by Libba Bray
The Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke
The Midnighters trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

High Fantasy (Set in Alternate World)

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
Redwall series by Brian Jacques
The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
The Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey
Dragon Run by Patrick Matthews
The Five Kingdoms series by Brandon Mull
The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth
The Everworld series by K.A. Applegate
The Selection series by Kiera Cass
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
The Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland

Science Fiction

The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
The Infinity Ring series by James Dashner
Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Virals by Kathy Reichs
Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements
Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh
I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Historical

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Book Thief 
by Markus Zusak
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson
Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Mystery / Thriller

When you Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddox
Stolen Children by Peg Kehret
Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Do You Know the Monkey Man by Dori Hillestad Butler
The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
The Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
Need by Joelle Charbonneau
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Literary

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Holes by Louis Sachar
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Eleven by Tom Rogers
Long Division by Kiese Laymon
The Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce

Biography / Nonfiction (YA Editions)

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah
No Summit Out of Sight by Jordan Romero
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
March [graphic novel] by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler by Phillip Hoose
The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr by Judith St. George
Black Pioneers of Science and Invention by Louis Haber
Mud, Sweat, and Tears by Bear Grylls
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Classics – Fantasy and Science Fiction

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 
The Giver
 by Lois Lowry
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Classics – Historical and Literary

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Hardy Boys series by various authors as Franklin W. Dixon
The Nancy Drew Mystery stories by various authors as Carolyn Keene
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

100+ titles for The Best Books for Middle School
Know any novels that I should add? Contact me to add them to the list!

In Search of Fairness

When the World Doesn’t Add Up

Educators and activists love to say, “Fair is not equal.” Susie gets extra time on her test but Johnny doesn’t. Sorry, Johnny, but Susie has a documented learning disability and needs this accommodation to level the playing field. So, it makes sense that “fair is not equal.” A quick Google search of the phrase results in a plethora of teacher blogs, advocacy pages, editorials, political fact-checks, and delightful cartoons showing short people finding ways to grow taller.

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This is why we have those extendable-pole fruit pickers, right? Or maybe the guy on the left could have just grabbed enough apples for everyone and avoided the whole issue, but, hey, this way each person gets to pick his own. Problem solved.

The danger, however, comes in oversimplifying the harsh realities of inequality. A trite suggestion that we all just stand on boxes until everyone sees eye to eye doesn’t exactly satisfy most economic and social disparities. The top 1% of the world owns half its wealth. People of color are overrepresented in prisons and underrepresented at top universities. Something tells me the stack of boxes to fix that one will be higher than three.

Interestingly, as a kid, my household exalted fairness. Video games had to involve taking turns. Every new toy had to be shared. If our family of four had a dozen cookies, our sacred covenant assigned three apiece. There was no first-come-first-served; if I wanted a fourth cookie, I had to obtain the rights to it through a complicated ritual of dinner-table bartering. In my rural, middle-class hometown, I’d never heard the term white privilege, but perhaps here was the finest instance of it. I grew up believing the world can and should be fair. Elsewhere in America, millions of people already knew the reality. I could list hundreds of examples to prove it, but I suppose this is one of those universal truths we don’t need to demonstrate. Anyone with half a brain and an ounce of honesty knows the world is not fair.

Really, though, this is where I get stuck. Privilege and opportunity are gifts that I have in some areas and advantages that I lack in others. Some of these gaps can close with hard work or change of circumstance while many cannot. There’s this version of me who wants to fix the system, to shatter ceilings and tear down walls, to find the exact right amount of boxes for us all to pick apples. At the same time, there’s this other version of me who calls himself the realist and thinks I should just be thankful for the apples I already have. Let others mind their own harvests. Then the blame-shifter: Not my orchard—I didn’t plant the tree. Then the deep thinker: What if not everybody wants apples?

Before I go too far with the metaphor, I need to stop and think about the goal. Are privileged people just trying to make others more like them? The implication of saying “fair is not equal” is that some other strategy would be “equal.” Yet maybe it also means that the goal of fairness is not equality, at least, not in the sense of uniformity or fitting a mold. Fair is seeing diversity, valuing difference, making college accessible but appreciating that there’s more than one road to reach a destination and more than one reason to go there in the first place. Fair is encouragement, means, possibilities. We don’t all have to grow the exact same tree, but we should all be able to garden.

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Image credit: Botelho, Rick. Equality doesn’t mean equity. Digital image. What’s Most Unfair about US Healthcare? LinkedIn.com, 02 June 2016. Web. 31 May 2017.

Stereotype vs. Archetype

And Why They Both Matter

Today’s topic for writers and students of writing: proper use of the archetype. The reluctant hero. The wise magician. The power-hungry villain. Yes, we know them.

Archetype: A typical and recurring example used as a model from which to build a character. Readers quickly recognize archetypes, allowing authors to provide context and backstory for their characters in only a few words. I say power-hungry villain, and readers think, “Oh yes, I know him!”

Not to be confused are stereotypes, or the widely held and oversimplified ideas of certain people. The power-hungry villain, yes, but not all villains want to take over the world. (Cue The Dark Knight: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”)

Whenever I’m in an airport, I people-watch. Duty-free shoppers, low-battery outlet hunters, those efficient types who power walk on the moving sidewalk. Sleepless individuals zombified at the terminal, trapped in layover purgatory. Their clothing, facial expressions, juicy snippets of conversation. Hemingway said, “If a writer stops observing he is finished.” Everyone there has a story, and I try to figure it out.

For example, the woman by herself toting a purse the size of her carry-on, Kindle and neck pillow already out, is on her way to visit her parents. She bought the chips and bottled water at the snack stand; she’s comfortable, bored, and makes the trip a few times each year. Suit jacket guy is some kind of consultant making twice as much as me. It’s the end of the week, so I’m guessing he’s on his way back instead of on his way out. That family of four with kids glued to iPads, Frozen backpacks, and ziplock bags of Goldfish is going to Disney World—too easy, that one.

Anyway, to my point: Writers are detectives, deducing the logical, likely, and mundane aspects of a situation. After all, good characters are grounded in reality so that the inevitable twist in the plot comes with a willing suspension of disbelief. Certain universalities of the human experience tie readers to a story and allow literature to speak its transcendent truths. Readers understand the rebellious teen, the loathsome stepmother, the insightful mentor. Archetypes provide a framework, a proper syntax for the writer and reader to communicate. Conflict needs archetypes—the average office employee has no appeal until he becomes the workaholic father or the guy with a dead-end job lacking love or adventure. Readers know these starting points; they understand and relate to these problems.

Stereotypes, on the other hand, shut down a story instead of open it up. While archetypes provide background information to enrich a character, stereotypes limit and flatten them. The rebellious teen starts out okay until readers realize that their spike-wearing, punk-rock-loving, high-school-failing, parent-disobeying heroine is, well, just a stereotypical rebellious teen. Without anything fresh or unexpected, the story implodes. The characters are two-dimensional; the plot is no longer one to care about. Clever use of archetypes says, “Look, readers, you already know the beginning. Now keep going and find out where this adventure will take you.” Careless use of stereotypes says, “Look, readers, you already know the ending. So why bother?”

Back at the airport, my archetypes help me make sense of what I’m seeing. If I needed to know which gate is boarding a flight to Orlando, I’d do well to ask the Disney World family. Stereotypes, however, end the story prematurely. Assuming that the traveling consultant is an arrogant know-it-all? Well, I might miss out on a stimulating conversation aboard the plane. Real people are three-dimensional with story and complexity, and real characters ought to follow.

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An Open Letter to My Students

From Your English Teacher

Dear students,

Some distressing news has come to my attention, and I must address it immediately. Apparently a rumor is now circulating our school community that I am, in fact, a “cool” teacher. I assure you—and those of you who’ve known my bad jokes and insistence that we always finish the lesson will heartily agree—that nothing could be further from the truth. Allow me to set the record straight: I may be friendly, but I am not your friend.

You see, friends will invite you to parties, show sympathy when you’re sick, and accept your shy moments when you don’t want to share. They will forgive your dumb decisions and random class outbursts; they will supply you with answers on the homework you forgot about and shrug it off when you turn it in late. A good friend will help you, rescue you, or perhaps even lie for you to get you out of trouble.

I will not.

No, I will ignore your headaches and stomachaches and call on you anyway. Keep your hands down and your heads on your desks—I will call on you anyway. Save your “I don’t know” unless you want to add yet. I will demand your respect for me and for others; I will require your effort on every assignment. Oh, and when you misbehave and I speak to your parents, I will throw you under the bus every time. Count on it.

Such harshness, however, is not without reason. I’m a little ahead of you in life, and that gives me some perspective. I need more from you than you currently give, and, trust me, you need it too. You might think you’ll be okay as long as you do your best—maybe someone has even told you that—but you won’t be. The problem with do your best, dear students, is that you have no idea what it means.

Right now, you think your best is just showing up on time and following directions. As long as you’re ahead of some peers, there’s nothing to worry about. You think your best is a five-paragraph essay, double spaced with a flashy title and word choices like mirthful and astute. You say your best is a 5/5 on participation, and you’re pleased with an A on your vocab quiz. Your best is meeting the standards; your best is fitting the mold.

It’s not.

Your best, my students, means taking a risk; your best goes beyond the horizon. My job is to push you when you’d rather be pulled. My job is to stoke the fire of your ideas that don’t quite fit on the page, to give you voice beyond the expected response, to help you read with questions and speak with answers, to develop in you a hunger for knowledge that a lifetime of learning could never satisfy. When someday you graduate from one challenge and move on to the next, when you create with your gifts and serve with your talents, when you make your marks on the world and see what still can be and not just what is, that is your best. Then I will have done my job.

I set the bar higher than you’d set if for yourselves because I know one day you’ll jump without it, and I want you to soar. So yes, you must use complete sentences, and no, we are not watching a movie today. I am the uncool teacher because you are more valuable than you know and more capable than you believe.

So ignore the rumors because yes, you do have homework.

Sincerely,

-Mr. Leonard

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