Thoughts, links & ideas from the 2008 National Teacher of the Year

Each time I've taken off in a plane since May (which is a lot), I've been writing in my journal, then adding these journal entries on this blog.

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(Note: the blue posted dates are actually the dates I wrote the journal entries, not when I posted them online.)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hi Ho Silver Bullet!

Atlanta, GA


I love when people step up and challenge me, especially now that I’m teacher-of-the-universe. I think I have some good stuff to say, but it’s certainly not gospel!  I don’t have all the answers.  I don’t have the silver bullet.  I need to be challenged.  Everyone needs to be challenged.  Every idea needs to be challenged.


A young woman (senior in college) waited patiently for me after my presentation this morning, and after a couple of nice remarks asked if I had considered including any women in my three “visionaries of the 20th century.”  I have Albert Einstein, Ansel Adams, and Jimi Hendrix as exemplars of people who combined right- and left-brain thinking to radically change their respective fields.


But no women.  I had actually noticed this a few weeks previously, and a colleague had inquired about it, too, but I hadn’t righted the inequality.  I explained that really these were childhood heroes of mine that shaped the way I think, but I asked this young woman if she could think of any women in these fields that would also fit the bill of someone who has so perfectly found the conjugation of art and science.  She couldn’t think of any off hand, and neither could I (although I know there are many).  I think I will change the slide to say “heroes from my childhood” to more accurately describe how these three people influenced me to become who I am today.  But her point was well taken, and I promised to do more in my talks to encourage women to bring their perspectives to traditionally male-dominated fields such as science and math.


She wasn’t done with me yet, though!  She also asked why I didn’t talk much about human rights and environmental abuses when I talked about outsourcing and developing countries.  Again, right on the money.  I talked with her for a while about how my science classes are bordering on social studies because of how much attention we focus on global health, climate, ecosystems, energy and human rights.  These are passions of mine, but I haven’t integrated them into my talks on education.  And I need to.


These issues have been at the top of my list for years, yet now that I have a public voice I’m being asked to speak about education, which honestly hasn’t always been at the top of my list.  Certainly they’re related, but I don’t really consider myself an expert on education (at least in terms of understanding the history and the whole system of it.)  I’m probably more passionate about global issues because they usually involve the world’s worst-treated and poorest human beings (and other species, too!)


Education certainly hopes to right these problems by developing a critically thinking public that can make wise personal and corporate decisions.  That’s good.  But I need to do more to actually promote this aspect of our public education system as we move into a world that has never been more interconnected.  I need to guard against protecting our own ridiculously high standard of living at the expense of the rest of the world’s people.  Our children don’t have any more ethical value than theirs.  We are all important.


So thank you, Lone Stranger, for stepping up to challenge me, and for asking the hard questions.  I appreciate you more than you know.



  1. Right on, Mike! I love your comment that those children aren't anymore valuable than our own children. It's that whole "human" thing, right? :) Keep up the good work....

  2. I have to say...this is one of my favorite entries. Your compasion for mankind shines through, and your comments are thought provoking and real! What an extraordinary chance you will have to impact how others view education. I am proud to be your colleague.


Feel free to question, disagree, challenge, or make suggestions! I'm a big boy. I can take it.