Of English Teacher Math: Teaching 200 Students How To Write

Here are some numbers to consider for the end of the semester.  I asked 140 IB English students to turn in their logs, into which they have composed over the last 4 weeks anywhere between 20 and 30 pages of response to the readings we’ve done out of The Best American Essays of the Century. Let’s just take the lower number for shits and giggles, do a little math, and say that my IB English students turned in at least 2,800 pages of writing for me to peek at.  I also asked that same group of 140 students to write their own 1000 word essay on a topic of their choice inspired by one or more of the mentor texts from the anthology. Let’s say, that at 12 point Times and double spaced, that’s about a 3 page paper. So there’s an additional 420 pages of student work they have gifted me.  And let’s say, for a final exam, students will be writing a draft of what will become an oral presentation in the first weeks of second semester about their growth as writers during our first semester course in Creative Non-fiction.  I imagine that over the course of an 87 minute final exam that these go-getters will be able to carve up another 140,000 words, or another 420 pages of text, which brings my whopping total number of pages of student work that I must now DO SOMETHING WITH up to an impressive, daunting, fever-inducing, gut-wrenching, weep-worthy 3,640 pages!  And guess what?  Those 140 students producing all of that beautiful prose represent only 4 of my 6 classes.  What are the 60 kids in those other two classes doing for a final? Well, of course, they’re writing!  And grades are due in about a week’s time.

Hello, my name is Michael Jarmer, and I’m a complete idiot for assigning so much written work at the end of the semester.

No.  I can’t let that stand.  I would only be an idiot if I read every single word and every single page and tried to comment on all of it.  That would be ludicrous.  That would be physically, logistically, humanly impossible.  That would drive me certifiably insane and wreck my life.  So I am writing this little blog entry today to articulate finally a philosophy of teaching writing that might help my students or their parents or anyone who’s interested understand why I do what I do. It might also help colleagues in the profession, especially teachers of English, survive the math that has become the central most difficult aspect of working in an underfunded public school system.

I believe in the deepest possible way, at the core of my core, that human beings become better writers by reading and writing.  Beyond anything I could ever tell a student about their writing in the margins with my little red pen, their learning about what great writers do (and what they as emerging writers can do) will ONLY come through close attention to the very best writing they can find, and through repeated, concentrated, sustained, uber-conscious efforts to practice those moves.

You may have some questions.

What do English teachers do, then, and why do we need them? We’re tour guides, essentially.  And we all know how great the tour can be in the hands of a really great guide.  We try to be really good at that.  We model inquisitiveness and curiosity and enthusiasm about the written word. We introduce readings to young people that they would not likely ever find left to their own devices.  And we trust students to find their own way after we’ve led them down the path. There are some English teachers who cart papers home with them every weekend.  I’m not one of them.

What about bad writing or persistent errors that never get corrected?  There may be some of those.  Oh well.  When the writing REALLY matters, however, and when the reading is careful and close, those errors will diminish over time. I don’t know that in my own personal experience as a writer I ever improved as the result of some punishment meted out (in the guise of a depleted grade or a smattering of red marks) for errors I made in my writing.

What about bad writing that ends up earning a passing grade or better? This may also happen from time to time, or even often.  But this is what we have to understand.  Writing is hard.  Writing well is really hard.  Some students, to say nothing about their intelligence, struggle mightily with the written word.  We take them where they are and we push them as far forward as we can with lots of practice, experiences with masters of the craft, and lots of encouragement.

Doesn’t this make it easier for students to cheat? Because I did not read every page of those 2,800 pages in their response journals, it is highly possible that some students copied their entries verbatim directly out of another student’s log.  First of all, what a pain in the ass that would be.  And how embarrassing, too, to say to a friend, in essence, I’m a tool, I can’t do my own work, would you let me “borrow” your log?  And how embarrassing for the friend, to give in to that kind of pressure, to lower herself by giving her hard work away.  For what?  Out of what impulse?  Guilt?  Kindness? Desperation for approval?  All are shams.  The parties who collude in the cheating–they both lose.  They are both cheating themselves out of learning.  They’ve been punished already by the stunting of their brains, whether I’m able to catch them or not.  Plagiarizing an essay is exceedingly more difficult.  I make them write these babies in class.

Would I do things differently if I did not have nearly 200 students on my roster? Hell, yes.  It’s not that I believe that teacher feedback is never useful, only that it’s not the most useful, and in our current climate nearly impossible. The kind of feedback from teachers that is most helpful to a writer is the kind of feedback that’s most like a conversation.  Once upon a time I taught 125 students.  I could sit down with them and talk.  I could write them a note and I often did.  I’ve never been a fan of line-editing student work, but sitting down with a student one on one and addressing a few key issues in their writing was a real boon; or being able to write individual letters to students where I could get beyond technical issues and talk about big ideas–that was phenomenal.

My school had a visit last week from an Oregon State Legislator who represents our district.  It’s the first time that’s ever happened, at least in my sometimes fuzzy memory over 24 years of teaching.  And he wanted to chat with us about our current state of the school.  Teachers in my building shared thoughtful and sometimes carefully prepared descriptions of their professional lives.  He listened respectfully.  Most everything that was said made me sad.  And nothing he could say to us provided much comfort or hope.  I didn’t speak, but others spoke eloquently for me about concerns I share.  But what I’ve explored in this rather long blog entry, I think, is really about this:  I’ve managed to make some sound pedagogical decisions about how to grow stronger writers, but I also know in my heart that I’m not giving them the attention they deserve. I understand, coupled with the idea that students get better at reading and writing primarily by reading and writing, that if I had the time to look at their work more closely and have meaningful conversations with them about that work, things would be much better, perhaps infinitely so.   Class size matters.  Student load matters. It matters, if not immediately and measurably in student performance, most definitely and palpably in the work environment or conditions for the teacher.  I don’t read all or even half of what my students write because it would not be humane to expect me to do so.

25 Comments

Filed under Education, Teaching, Writing and Reading

25 responses to “Of English Teacher Math: Teaching 200 Students How To Write

  1. You should submit this to OEA. Great piece.

  2. My heart goes out to you and the countless people in your situation and I don’t blame you a bit, nor even think this is wrong. You ask them to do the work, you see that they’ve done it, and you read enough that you would notice a sprouting genius or homicidal maniac and react accordingly. For high school with too many students and not enough time, I think it’s good enough. Besides, mostly we remember what we ourselves write or say or do, so you’re causing them to think and reflect and grow. Way to go!

  3. Caitlyn Anne.

    Regardless, as an educator, any assignment you assign is an obligation not only for you but your students as well to continue on with not just abandon just because “[you] would only be an idiot if [you] read every single word and every single page and tried to comment on all of it”. I don’t think anyone’s informed you at your school but guess what! That is your job. To teach and to set an example for today’s youth of keeping commitments. And if your own assignments are you much for you, I’ve got a smashing idea: DO NOT pass out to a group of 200 or something students something you are clearly incapable of grading. What you’re essentially doing is giving your students the impression that you could care less what they write and soon it becomes more than an impression on your part. The reason we have teachers is to better our own skills in the subject and ready students for many more years of the educational system and any path they choose to pursue. But to not do it just because its too hard to handle 75 more students than you’re comfortable with? At that point, why waste yours and your students’ time? These kids are the future and what you do by starving them of the educations they so desperately need on the basis of not wanting to waste your own personal time, you are essentially taking their futures and throwing them away with the countless assignments you give them . That is not teaching. To ignore helping correct simple mistakes your students make because you believe “There may be some of those. ” Should a proper educator really treat this as an “Oh well” situation? And by this statement in your (and I use this term rather loosely) ‘lovely and insightful’ paper -the one which reads “When the writing REALLY matters, however, and when the reading is careful and close, those errors will diminish over time.”- Am I right to assume that these papers don’t really matter to you, despite the harsh hours you’re students must put in writing them? How can students progressively diminish these errors if no one teaches them not to make them? You know what would be an excellent remedy for that? A competent teacher that can handle 75 extra students! I know, right? Absolutely shocking! I suggest you reread your paragraph on what English teachers do again, because I’m not quite sure even you understand your role fully. I honestly question not only your competence as I have clearly stated, but whether or not you are truly serious about your job. I’m actually rather curious as to whether you will take the time out of your precious time to even read this. my It miiight possibly be too much for you to handle after all.

    • Hey Caitlyn,

      Thank you for your impassioned response to my blog entry. I’d like to respond right away with a couple of comments. First, while I admire the enthusiasm, I found the tone of your response unnecessarily combative and often downright disrespectful. It’s hard not to be insulted by the insinuation that I don’t care about my students’ work or that I believe commenting on student writing is a waste of my time. It’s hard not to be offended by the assumption that I would not bother to read a comment posted in response to my blog, and, perhaps most importantly, by the idea that I don’t know or care about my job. All of these comments are baseless, inaccurate and mean-spirited judgments about a person you don’t know. Secondly, your arguments against my choices as a teacher are fundamentally flawed. Let me address a couple of key points.

      There is work that we do and that we ask students to do that is inherently valuable, that is meaningful, challenging, and rewarding—in and of itself. Writing is that kind of work, and any learning that deserves the name is that kind of work. I care deeply about my students’ writing, that they’re doing work that is intrinsically interesting, work that pushes them, work for which they can feel personally connected and proud. My students write way more than I can possibly read because that’s how they get better at writing, by writing a lot and often, and by reading, reading, reading, and thinking, discussing, and writing deeply about that reading. No one ever got better at anything by doing less of it. I don’t know if you’re in the field of education, but if you had any idea how long it can take to read and respond meaningfully to even ONE paper, you would get a sense, perhaps, of why I would not endeavor to read all of it. And, here’s a key bit that you totally misrepresented: I cannot read all or even half—that’s what I said—NOT that I don’t read any. I refuse to give my students worksheets and busywork—and that is how a lot of teachers deal with huge numbers. And I refuse to ask less of my students in terms of output simply because there are more of them.

      Here’s one more thing I’d like to say. When I am in my building, I am in the work with 100% of myself. To the best of my ability, every day, I’ve got to figure out how to use three 90-minute periods to the very best advantage of my students. Most of my time during my prep is spent planning. I want to be ultra prepared because my time with each group of students is the ONLY time I have with them. What’s left of that time is used frantically dealing with whatever work I have asked students to turn in. The way I see it, this is the best I can do, to give my greatest effort in the time my school district has hired me to be in my building. My job, as I understand it, is NOT to spend another eight hours at home grading papers. Here’s another thing you missed: I would like to do things differently; if it were possible I would read more and respond more to student work. Taxpayers, parents, administrators, government officials need to understand that if they want more out of their public educators, they have to start treating them like professionals, stop asking them to do more with less, stop expecting that no matter how many students they throw in a classroom, that teachers will keep going and going and working harder and harder.

      Meanwhile, I am going to preserve my time at home for my family and my own creative and intellectual endeavors. Any person who has spent any significant time in an American comprehensive public high school would not begrudge me this.

      I hope this makes sense to you, Caitlyn. Thanks for reading.

  4. chuck

    Wow, are you seriously complaining about having to do your job? Here are a couple of terms you might not be familiar with; teacher’s aide, and an unemployment line. If this job is killing you so much, quit. Give it to a teacher who would actually deal with all of the punishment of being employed.

    I can see your only posting comments that fit with your view. Much like a 16 year old girl only wants to hear comments about her new prom dress. I’m sure your post here will make waves, but not in the way you meant it to. It’s a shining example of why many justify busting teachers unions, and moving more and more educational services online.

    • Yes, Chuck, that’s right. I’m only posting comments that fit with my view. No, I’ll post your comment. I want people to see the level of discourse my detractors might be offering up.

  5. Josh

    Ok, I like this comment of yours

    “I would like to do things differently; if it were possible I would read more and respond more to student work. Taxpayers, parents, administrators, government officials need to understand that if they want more out of their public educators, they have to start treating them like professionals, stop asking them to do more with less, stop expecting that no matter how many students they throw in a classroom, that teachers will keep going and going and working harder and harder.”

    That’s what needed to be said. I fully agree that the educational system, and the stress on teachers is too much right now. However, your main post above, regardless of what you wanted it to be, came off more like whining. There needs to be passionate account of what is going on with teachers and OUR students. Sadly, the one you wrote above came up short.

    You state that you have a pedagogy when it comes to learning how to read and write, and that is simply by reading and writing. I agree, doing something does make you better at that one thing, but it’s in no way a revelation. Ask any art student or mechanic. They learn, get this, by doing. So then what are you there for? If you can’t work with them, grade their work efficiently, read line by line, what are you there for? I understand you don’t have the time, then that is what you should have focused on in your post instead of lines about being an idiot, or going “insane”. Because if one can learn something simply by doing it, then the argument for these cookie cutter online courses, these MOOC’s, is stronger than ever. In the end, who needs teachers if all they really need is someone to keep the kids calm, in their seats, and moving forward with assignments with no real feedback.

    • Hello, Josh,

      Thanks for your civil and thoughtful response. Here’s a thought. There are lots of different ways to give students feedback. Reading student work “line by line” is only one way and it’s the least efficient and often the least effective. I give students “real” feedback all the time in a hundred different ways. But, also, the teacher is not the only source of reliable or meaningful feedback. For example, a student receives immeasurable and crucial feedback simply by reading their writing out loud to another person–without that other individual ever saying a word. The celebrated educator/writer Peter Elbow has written entire books about the subject. And we need thoughtful teachers to facilitate those experiences.

      Teaching and learning are essentially human endeavors that require real live human interaction to be effective. It might go this way, but I think it would be a terrible loss to see students getting their schooling from computers. I don’t think you’re advocating that at all. I just wanted to point out–that teachers are needed for more than simply grading student work. Respectfully, unless you have spent time in my classroom, you would not know–but my job entails far more than “keeping kids calm, in their seats, and moving forward with no real feedback.” That is not teaching. That is not what I do.

  6. Josh

    Michael: I’m aware of all of the different ways to create an interactive, and helpful environment in the classroom. Most people aren’t, so it would have been nice to see more of that in your post and less of “i’m going insane” (not a direct quote).

    Sadly, I was never able to teach as you have. A student teacher, yes, but I have yet to get the opportunity to see what it’s really like. Trust me, i’m trying my hardest to do so. I have many teachers in the family, and I hear daily what perturbs them. Not that I am proud, but I have worked for many online educational services, and I can tell you their goal is to get rid of you and replace it all with virtual classrooms. 2-3 “teachers” per 30 students. Regardless of the logistics, I can guarantee you that it’s sounding pretty nice to many of the movers and shakers out there.

    The most passionate and informative bits about this topic, are right here in the comments. It would have been great to simply see these addressed in the original post. Give the anonymous readers on the net a chance to see what you feel, as the original post didn’t do it. I mean, it’s your blog write what you want. This could have been an epic poem about Beyonce’s SuperBowl performance for all the internet trolls care. I just think this is a great topic, and needs people to really push aside the ashes, forget that chip on their shoulder, remember crap runs downhill, and start coming up with solutions.

    On the opposite side of you, is a group of decision makers with no knowledge of what it’s all like. These are not creative folks, they are not the next “start-up” ceo’s here. So what does it look like when the opposite side, the teachers are not coming up with positive solutions to what should be done? So it gets left to the bean counters. Write a manifesto, write a hundred, write so damn many that the next time someone comes to say teachers have it too easy they can be crushed with all of the printed material of what works and what should be done.

  7. No, didn’t intend to stop the conversation, just wanted to say thanks, and couldn’t think of anything at this time that I wanted to add.

    • Josh, there is one thing I want to respond to here. I avoided it at first because it seemed to me like small potatoes, but maybe not so much. It’s important because I think that so many of the readers of this particular blog post, there’s no other way to put it, are misunderstanding bits of it, not, I hope, because I haven’t been clear, but because they’re simply not reading carefully and blatantly misrepresenting either the literal thing I said or the tone with which I said it. I appreciate your civility, again, in your responses, but the biggest beef you have with what I said seems to be a misunderstanding. I never said the job was driving me insane or crazy. Nope, didn’t say it. What I did say was that I WOULD go crazy and insane and become a terribly sad person IF I attempted the herculean task of responding to everything students gave me.

      This doesn’t, perhaps, further the conversation toward solving the problems of the nation’s public schools, but it does answer your and other’s basic charge, that I was whining. I love my job and I do it well–and I am effective in large part because I take care of myself to the best of my ability, primarily by not working during all my waking hours.

  8. Eric the not so red

    To those detractors who think that Jarmer is a failure as a teacher, I offer two words:

    PISS OFF

    Jarmer was my teacher in high school. Creative Writing Process, my senior year. Now it’s been a while since I was there, and things (including people) change over time, but I remember his class with a bit of fondness. Did I become an amazing writer with scads of books to my name and an interview with Oprah? No, I didn’t. But let’s face it, the vast majority of kids won’t ever do that. The fact is that his class was one of the ones which I didn’t feel was a waste of my time, something I realized while I was there. Think about that, one of those angsty and self-important 17 year olds who think they know everything came to the conclusion that a class in a public high school wasn’t a waste of his time. Kind of a remarkable statement, really.

    Jarmer was, and still is, a great teacher. But teaching is a demanding and difficult job, and this blog sounds remarkably like the rants I have made about my own job. You have something you enjoy, something you’re good at, but dammit, sometimes it’s really hard and occasionally you don’t do quite as good a job as you’d like BECAUSE it’s a hard job. We’re all human, we all have failures. The only way we improve is through self-awareness and accountability. Jarmer’s got that. So shut the hell up, and let him vent a little bit of steam.

    • I appreciate the support, Eric the not so red. Thanks! I’m especially pleased to hear you echo the basic spirit of the piece. You understood what many folks out there have totally missed. Thanks again.

  9. speakdaggers

    Hello Mr. Jarmer,
    I am the one who posted your blog article to Reddit. I am commenting here today to tell you why.
    Let me start off by saying I do understand your frustrations. There are many flaws in the system, even more I have learned because of Reddit. My concern was not with your teaching ability or methods, since I have never been in your class as a student, it wouldn’t be fair of me to judge you in that respect. However, I did take issue with the overall attitude of this post.
    With all of the unemployed teachers out there today, who would jump at the chance to take your spot, it felt as though you might have been disregarding this fact. Imagine the frustration of the unemployed teacher, who isn’t getting their shot. To have a dream of becoming an educator and not being able to see it come to fruition. Not too mention, the worry I had that you might be carrying these frustrations into your classroom. As a person who was so disillusioned by teachers growing up, I went from reading 4 grades ahead in elementary school, to almost not graduating high school. We are only humans and it’s hard to tell when you are showing something that might not be uplifting and that sponge of a student is soaking it right up. Since you are not an unemotional robot, I would hope that you would take steps to ensure your student’s success; academically and emotionally. Due to the fact that it is not password protected, your blog is a public stage, available for anyone to find. You might not be showing your students frustration in the classroom, but unfortunately you are showing it here. I am sorry if this has caused you any inconvenience. I was told by one of your former students that your blog hits have increased, so I suppose that’s something. I hope I have helped you understand my reasoning.

    • Hey man,

      I appreciate you reaching out. Here’s something to ponder, concerning attitude: “This English teacher is what’s wrong with education today.” Now, if it’s true what you say above, that you have no beef or specific information about my abilities and methods, why would you title a post in such an inflammatory way? Yes, my stats totally spiked after your post with referrals from Reddit, and for that, I thank you, but some of the initial comments, as you can see above, were nasty, unfair, full of incorrect assumptions and character assassination. And, I’d like to think that people would not be so disposed to such hasty negative conclusions had they not had an easy heads up from the title of your Reddit post. I don’t mind engaging in a discussion–otherwise I would not blog on “a public stage,” but let’s try to be civil, let’s try not to be carried away, let’s try not to disparage people we don’t know without due cause.

      Here’s some more notes on attitude. Does it display a negative attitude simply to describe what is real about a particular situation? My attitude has nothing to do with the fact that my student numbers are higher than they have ever been in 24 years of teaching. And does it follow, that simply because I post these facts in a blog entry, facts about some of the more troubling consequences of increasing class size and total student load, that I’m walking into my classroom every day grousing to kids about how tough life is and how hard I have it and how much everything sucks? It’s a huge leap you’re making to assume that I am a negative force in the classroom simply because I have stated as clearly as I can what is REAL.
      Many of your Reddit responders have already spoken about these things. Maybe you should review that thread.

      One last thing. I can tell you this, but you’ll have to trust me until you can hang out in my classroom and watch me work really hard for the students in my charge: I am NOT the teacher you had growing up. I love teaching, I care deeply about my students, I am passionate about my discipline, I am actively engaged professionally, I wouldn’t want to be doing any other kind of work. That’s my attitude.

  10. Nathaniel J.

    To Eric the Red and others.

    I’ve read all of these comments and reddit comments, and no one suggested Jarmer was a failure as a teacher. Simply that the blog post above showed a poor attitude, and that could be pushed off onto his students today. They also made the point frequently that maybe its time for some younger unemployed teachers with a skip in their step to take over for a while.

    Whats alarming to me, here and reddit, is how hard it is for some of those that commented, which I assume to be educators and students, to cull the actual meaning from these comments without it having to be stated over and over. THE BLOG POST SHOWED A NEGATIVE ATTITUDE WITH NO REAL GROUNDBREAKING SOLUTIONS.

    After reading all of these comments, I’m beginning to question the efficacy of our schools and colleges today. If they can’t show people how to pull out the meaning of a paragraph without adding their own spin to it, then I fear that discourse that can actually promote change, will just be relegated to a “he said she said” comment fighting match.

    • Nathaniel,

      It’s a blog-post not a dissertation. It’s less than 1500 words. They may not be “groundbreaking” to you, but the entry very explicitly lays out at least the solutions that this educator has found. And what I’ve said to Mr. Anonymous guy I will say to you. In so many ways this entry attempts to describe the positive work that can still be done despite the daunting numbers. You don’t see that because you would prefer not to. My sense is that you and many other readers who have an ax to grind with teachers are doing exactly what you’re describing here–putting a spin on a thing to make it match what you believe. Your spin is that I have a negative attitude and no solutions. Well, you’re wrong on both counts.

      • Nathaniel J.

        Mr Jarmer,

        I understand it’s a blog, and I don’t feel that anyone was suggesting you write an epic poem to describe your frustrations. Powerful statements about a subject have been made on Twitter, so length is not important.

        I do understand. You assume that some of your readers are not teachers themselves. I don’t agree that there are individuals out there with an axe to grind, rather that they are confused. They have no clue what goes into teaching, and do not understand that an already stressed system will soon show fractures if they keep attacking it like it was a ball of clay, instead of something more fragile. This is why I feel that a clear message needs to be delivered. I think this is why some users comment that the “idiot”, “insane”, and “wreck my life” lines were not needed. Yes, they provide a bit of color, but also served to spur this discussion in areas it needn’t have gone.

        I stated above the ideas you mentioned were not “groundbreaking”, simply because they have been talked about many times over. Class sizes will no doubt continue to grow just as digital cameras will push aside their film counterparts, and so on. It’s doesn’t mean they are bad ideas, it’s just very clear they aren’t going to be looked at as viable options anytime soon. So what to do now? One of the things I have enjoyed over the years, while technology explodes around us, are those situations that arise when many point to the ideas of the past to fix them. A short time after there is always one that comes up with an idea that helps bring it all forward again. I’ll be on the lookout for that. Small class sizes are outstanding. They are also being pushed aside as one does that film camera. I don’t like it one bit, but that’s change.

        I can see this is a topic very close to you. But as you stated in your previous blog post about trolls, “I am way more hypersensitive than I thought I was or ever should be”. Think about that and remember, no one judged your love, or intentions, just the mood of a blog post that could have had a different tone to it. It’s an important one. It didn’t need color added to it. I do hope, as an educator, you do not feel that everything that comes from your hand is perfect the first time around, and that all who gaze upon it should understand as you intended or just walk away. You have critics. So what. I’m sure you know this from Aristotle, “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

        Writing a blog is a great thing, something my colleagues push me to do quite often. However one needs to be careful, as the picture of that person is created by what they write. Maybe the tone many here speak of, not only comes from the blog-post above but by previous ones as well. For example; “I can’t trash talk my colleagues or my students?”, “I tend to get hotheaded over minutiae.”, “I find it difficult to be sincere and positive all of the time.” And this morsel here, “But I would rather say nothing than to say something positive when I don’t mean it. And I often find myself NOT responding when students say stupid things–and I know sometimes they perceive that as negative response.  Did I just say that sometimes students say stupid things?  That was a moment of sincerity.  They really do sometimes say stupid things.  But I would never say to a student, “that was a stupid thing to say.” Let’s hope none of those students stumbles upon this post and begins to have doubts about their time in class with you. No one knows your face, or delivery when you write those things. When it comes to touchy subjects such as education and the parents involved, there are better words to choose, and many that don’t help create a picture of you that you don’t like.

        Now, reading your reply to the user speakdaggers above, it was pretty clear that user apologized for the title used on Reddit, and even stated a few times he/she understood teaching is hard. I saw no comments claiming you were a bad teacher. As you stated above, “review the thread”. I find it unnecessary to have at that user once again, after he/she did in fact apologize for that title. Looking back at the Reddit comments, it’s clear this user is very remorseful of creating that title, the most recent Reddit comment by the user shows this. Lambasting him/her seems pointless, and in all honestly only adds to the picture being created of a person with a sour attitude.
        I wonder if throughout this discourse, you ever wondered where the original Reddit poster found your blog-post? Your blog, while clean and easy to navigate, is surely not a hit generating machine and barely showed up on sites like Alexa.com. Seems to me, this original Reddit poster didn’t stumble upon your post via Google, but maybe through some people that know more about your attitude than simply reading about it.

  11. Nathaniel,

    I’m going to keep this short. Two things. First, Speakdagger did NOT apologize in his comment. I don’t see where you see an apology there, at least not for the inflammatory post title on Reddit. He said he was sorry for any inconvenience, whatever that means. And he reverted back to his original position, that he didn’t care for my attitude, as if NONE of the very coherent and thoughtful comments to his post made any sort of impact on him. Secondly, it seems to me that both yourself and Mr. Speakdagger have a similar deficiency: the inability to READ tone, to understand humor, to read self deprecation, to understand satire, or to appreciate honesty. I’m sorry if you think I have a sour attitude. You’re free to come to any conclusion that makes you feel okay. Good luck to you.

  12. Nathaniel J.

    Mr Jarmer,

    In Speakdaggers comment above, “I am sorry if this has caused you any inconvenience.” Sounds like an apology to me, unless of course you need an itemized list of what he/she is apologetic for. The simple fact that someone apologizes in this day and age is amazing in itself. As far as the title goes, you are correct there was no specific apology, but there were instances in the Reddit thread in which this user showed remorse. I assumed you took your own advice and “reviewed that thread”.

    In defense of speakdaggers, there are quite a few others that don’t appreciate your attitude. Again, there is a reason i’m sure this made any sort of noise outside your blog at all. Oh and I can read tone quite well. It shines brightly throughout all of your comments and previous blogs. The one about students saying “stupid things” was very enlightening to me. Ignorant questions, sure, even lazy ones, but I think its a bad road to go down to lose the idea “there are no stupid questions”. It may feel like it sometimes, but allowing yourself to get affected by this is why many think your attitude stinks. I don’t imagine you tell the parents of some of these kids during meetings, “your child asks stupid questions”. You even stated you wouldn’t say it to the kids, however you do put it here on your blog. Something easy enough to find. Like I said, I hope those kids or their parents don’t find it, they might not find the satire or humor so entertaining.

    I appreciate honesty, but it can be just as effective without being unnecessarily harsh. This all reminds me of those particular younger artists, that when confronted by a viewer that didn’t understand their work, they simply brushed it off as the viewer just doesn’t “get it”. It’s no wonder the ones with more humility tend to last longer.

    No conclusion makes me feel ok. I’m sorry that education is getting so bad now, it hurts me daily. I really do hope something comes along and makes it better for all those struggling. Students and teachers alike. After many years of teaching, i’m retired now. So the good luck goes to you.

  13. Whoa! I did not see anything wrong or inappropriate about your post! It was honest and straight-forward. It’s simple math – there aren’t enough hours in the day to read every single word. Teaching can be difficult. The fact that there are lots of unemployed teachers does not make it any less challenging. Word for word marking is not what makes a teacher effective. It’s what you do in the classroom…how you make a student feel…what you teach them that they remember and learn from in years to come…and I think we saw from one of your former students that you do that well.
    Thanks for your honesty. Try not to let the nastiness get you down.
    p.s. I agree with you: “I’m sorry if this has caused you any inconvenience” does not sound like a sincere apology to me. “inconvenience”? How about public humiliation and pain?

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