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Teaching & Learning Blog

Teacher in a Strange Land

From January 2010 to September 2018 Nancy Flanagan, an education writer and consultant focusing on teacher leadership, wrote about the inconsistencies and inspirations, the incomprehensible, immoral and imaginative, in American education. She spent 30 years in a K-12 music classroom in Hartland, Mich., and was named Michigan Teacher of the Year in 1993. (Teacher in a Strange Land ceased publishing in September 2018.)

States Opinion 13 Things I Learned While Blogging for Education Week
This is the 500th blog I've written as the Teacher in a Strange Land, for Education Week Teacher. As it turns out, it's also my final blog for EdWeek. Here are 13 things I have learned in the past nine years of observing and writing about Ed World.
Nancy Flanagan, September 22, 2018
6 min read
Equity & Diversity Opinion Whose Opinions Matter in Education World?
It's hard to identify education heroes and sheroes. And perhaps even harder to pinpoint just whose work is slanted, paid-for and dishonest.
Nancy Flanagan, September 11, 2018
5 min read
Teaching Profession Opinion Book Review: What School Could Be
Dintersmith's take on what's going on in American schools seems to evolve throughout his narrative, built on daily experience through the lens of a non-educator-- going into school after school, meeting teachers, 'thought leaders' and honchos, then filtering their pitches, schticks and Big Ideas through his own Midwestern sensibilities. Is this real? he asks. Could this work everywhere? Should it?
Nancy Flanagan, August 15, 2018
5 min read
School Climate & Safety Opinion A Teacher's Reckoning on School Shootings
I thought about what I had done during the 82 days since the Parkland shooting. Was it helping? Was it enough?
Nancy Flanagan, August 10, 2018
6 min read
Social Studies Opinion What Did You Learn in History Class?
Teachers today are fearful of deviating from the textbook and state standards and opening discussions in secondary classrooms around bits of information (say, for example, the U.S. turning away ships full of Jewish refugees during WW II) that might portray America as less than enlightened.
Nancy Flanagan, August 6, 2018
3 min read
Equity & Diversity Opinion Bad Language in the Classroom
There are differences in use of offensive language--centered around the content of the point the speaker is trying to make. Still, I am appalled (as a teacher, especially) by the degradation of language in public discourse. Before we start selectively shaming folks, I think we should look at root causes.
Nancy Flanagan, July 17, 2018
4 min read
Teaching Opinion The Blessings of Liberty Include Fully Public Education
I think I was experiencing the sacred last night, watching the 90-something Navy man sing 'Anchors Aweigh' in the front row--and the grandfathers who served in Vietnam shyly nod to each other across the crowd. I also thought about where and how those men and women were educated. Where did they absorb the idea that citizenship is both blessing and duty? Who taught them to read and calculate, who nurtured their talents and their dreams?
Nancy Flanagan, July 5, 2018
2 min read
Social Studies Opinion Do Core Democratic Values Belong in Schools?
It is a point of pride, really, having these core democratic values as an anchor in the Mitten State Social Studies standards. Here's a list of those identified values: Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, justice, the common good, equality, truth, diversity, popular sovereignty and patriotism. Things we all agree on, right?
Nancy Flanagan, June 15, 2018
4 min read
Teaching Profession Opinion Who Do You Picture When You Think of a Leader?
Nobody's more pragmatic than a would-be teacher leader who knows that taking on leadership roles means expanding the workload. More to the point, teacher leaders understand that the only definition of leadership that matters in education world is keeping one's promises. Getting stuff--the right stuff--done. Gender is irrelevant, they'll tell you.
Nancy Flanagan, May 31, 2018
2 min read
School & District Management Opinion The Grinch Who Stole Teacher Appreciation Week
It's time we asked ourselves just who gets 'appreciated' once a year--and whose work is considered vital, essential and fully professional year-round, with no need for annual symbolic gestures. There's something about Teacher Appreciation Week that smacks of a pat on the head for being willing to go the distance without adequate compensation or support.
Nancy Flanagan, May 11, 2018
2 min read
Reading & Literacy Opinion Are the Reading Wars 'Settled Science'?
I certainly hope there's never a rigid, unchanging agreement on the One Best Way to teach people of any age to read. All scholarly disciplines should undergo regular re-assessment, as research reshapes knowledge. There are still classrooms in the United States, after all, where evolution is not settled science.
Nancy Flanagan, May 2, 2018
3 min read
Equity & Diversity Opinion What Feeds Bias in the Education World?
I'm not naïve enough to think that schools could turn hearts and minds in a K-12 generation. But could they do significant good, given the right tools and incentives?
Nancy Flanagan, April 20, 2018
4 min read
Teaching Profession Opinion Suffering Teachers Can't Be Good Teachers
Teacher walkouts are the ultimate outcome of wringing every drop of energy, patience and creative juice out of a well-meaning workforce.
Nancy Flanagan, April 10, 2018
3 min read
Social Studies Opinion We Need Civic Online Reasoning in Our Schools
It's hard to imagine what could be more important than developing the critical thinking skills that facilitate our students' ability to discern truth from fake news. Media literacy may be in the standards, somewhere, but it's not on the test, so it gets short shrift in the classroom.
Nancy Flanagan, March 20, 2018
3 min read