One of my primary goals as a teacher of writing over four decades has been how to foster in students the ability to write and revise when independent of me or any teacher — their agency and autonomy.

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As anticipated and predicted, my student evaluations of teaching (SET) included what has become a classic contradiction; in my first-year writing seminar, I received strong praise for my feedback and diligent support for students revising their writing along side a student who proclaimed that I provided no valuable feedback.

I typically share this recurring evidence that SETs are deeply flawed on social media, and I also reached out to students in my upper-level writing/research course since the SETs from that course had a much higher number of negative comments than is typical (again including contradictory responses about my feedback and…

Republicans across the U.S. are simultaneously know-nothings and people with disproportionate power to impose that lack of understanding not simply on public policy but on the very education of the children who will inherit the country.

In the United States of America, the stated law of the land is “innocent until proven guilty.”

However, police in the U.S. shoot and kill about 1000 people a year, denying them due process, acting as judge, jury, and executioner instead of the claimed role of “protect and serve.”

The U.S. is experiencing a mild reckoning, specifically linked to the killing of George Floyd but broadly connected to how policing and the legal system continue to be racially inequitable — or as many conservatives and the media refuse to state, racist.

A vocal and likely substantial portion of the U.S…

Imagine you are a teacher who says to students, “You can revise your work as often as you want to learn as much as you can and achieve the grade you want.” Imagine you are student who replies, “No thanks.”

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As a critical teacher and teacher educator, I have spent about 40 years not swimming against the stream but floating, isolated, in an entirely different body of water.

I have not graded assignments or given tests for about 30 of those years, and for nearly all of my teaching career, my students have experienced a workshop format for learning. Distinct from writer’s workshop in creative writing, the workshop I implement is grounded in concepts often associated with Nancie Atwell, who popularized workshop as designing instruction/learning around time, ownership, and response.

The instructional workshop model I practice allows students large blocks…

While I firmly believe we must distinguish between the teaching of literature and literacy, specifically between teaching literature and composition/writing, I also recognize that the myriad aspects of literacy are inherently recursive, symbiotic: learning to read is learning to write; learning to write is learning to read.

Lou LaBrant was a demanding teacher and scholar with a career as a teacher of English from 1906 until 1971.

Published in The High School Journal (May 1951) by Dorothy McCuskey, a review of Lou LaBrant‘s most comprehensive work on teaching English, We Teach English, concluded: “In short, this is no ‘how to teach’ book. Rather, it is a book which will cause the reader to re-examine the bases of his [sic] teaching methods and the content of his [sic] courses.”

LaBrant was a demanding teacher and scholar with a career as a teacher of English from 1906 until 1971. …

States adopting truly awful reading policy driven by the “science of reading” slogan will not change reading in the U.S., and in time, very soon, in fact, the media and political leaders will be, once again, lamenting a reading crisis.

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After emailing me about new reading legislation being proposed in North Carolina — next door to my home state of South Carolina that also has jumped on the “science of reading” bandwagon — Ann Doss Helms of WFAE (NPR, Charlotte, NC) interviewed me by phone.

I have given dozens of interviews about education over the last 15 to 20 years, and they all have a similar pattern; the journalist tosses out predictable questions and then becomes somewhat disoriented by my answers. …

Students are determined to show that they are working hard, the high school teacher concluded, but they do not recognize the need for working carefully.

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The first time I recall being viewed as “good at writing” was in high school when I submitted a parody of my friends and teachers for a short story assignment; this was probably my junior year of high school during Mr. Harrill’s American literature class, and I am quite certain that I would be mortified by the story if I could read it now.

A couple years later, however, my “writer epiphany” came the spring of my first year of college. I very clearly mark the beginning of my life as a writer with a poem I wrote from my…

Right. It is a traditional concept that I also take issue with. I happen to use my work in many places *but* I always acknowledge that. In the case of the 1776 work, there is no attribution.

Often associated with Winston Churchill, the adage “history is written by the victors” seems to repeat itself in times of great upheaval.

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For over 40 years, George Graham Vest served first as a Missouri state Representative, next as a state Senator in the Confederacy, and finally as a U.S. Senator for Missouri from 1879 to 1903.

In a speech from August 21, 1891, Vest included a claim about history that has been echoed by many: “In all revolutions the vanquished are the ones who are guilty of treason, even by the historians, for history is written by the victors and framed according to the prejudices and bias existing on their side.”

Considering Vest’s complicated relationship with the state and country that he…

While this may not be uniquely American, it is certainly true of Americans that we have a fatal lack of community and empathy.

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[D]espite overwhelmingly good intentions, most of what passes for intercultural education practice, particularly in the US,
accentuates rather than undermines existing social and political hierarchies.


A split second of awareness kept me from stepping into my apartment’s elevator, the floor covered in vomit, recently.

I thought about this moment yesterday while standing in that same elevator filled with an unpleasant smell as I also noticed a new orange-brown stain on the floor.

A week or so ago, I was unloading two bicycles from my car rack, going up and…

What’s wrong with the high school research paper? It creates for students a number of bad habits that they must unlearn in order to write well and credibly in college.

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In my foundations of education course, we discussed the role of evidence and research in education, highlighting the problem with experimental/quasi-experimental research and its use in the so-called real world of day-to-day teaching. I always use medicine as an analogy — such as the recently development of the Covid-19 vaccine.

What I hope to accomplish is to offer students a more nuanced understanding of evidence and research. I stress that based on my nearly 40 years of teaching, gold-standard research matters, but it rarely matters in teaching (versus medicine) the way that many people think.

Teaching and learning, I explain…

Paul Thomas

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education.

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