Month: July 2007

Total 22 Posts

How To Present Well: Find the Through-Line

I wish it went without saying but I need to say it: you should love your presentation topic like a child. The thought of it should fill you with purpose and set a grin to your face which others around you will find annoying.

Expect your audience to have exactly 20% your enthusiasm. Thus, if your enthusiasm level is only at 70% throughout your presentation, the best you can expect of your audience is 14% enthusiasm. 14%! That’s science, people, don’t try to argue me on this. If you aren’t feeling it, please don’t inflict your tepid emotional state on the rest of us.


Todd asks a good question.

Re that super slick commercial I posted the other day:

Todd: Do they need to see a video to understand it even better than they already do?

The answer is no. Definitely not. This isn’t a better way to teach personification, just different.

Todd then takes his line of inquiry to the next available stop.

Todd: what’s the pay off for having shown it?

“Different” is, in a serious way, its own payoff.

Personification may be an easy concept to teach through any number of traditional routes. But asking the question “do they need to see a video?” oftentimes means ignoring the question “do they want to see a video?” And I realize that both of our students want to cancel class and throw dice, but this isn’t that argument.

It’s just really really important for our students to see us in different dimensions than just “English teacher” and “math teacher.” It’s important for us to surprise them constantly. It’s important to me that my students don’t know what cool thing I might show off next period. It’s important to me that they see me enthusiastic about t.v. and commercials and whatever else besides math. It makes me accessible and, at the same time, very mysterious.

Even though that video is merely “different,” not better, the fact that you’re showing a t.v. commercial in class (!) in order to teach English will make your kids cock their heads and think for a second that maybe they don’t have you pinned down. The ambiguity in which I cloak myself by showing any relevant commercial or short film I come across (and a lot of irrelevant ones during the class break), again, in a very serious way, brings in kids who would otherwise take a second lunch period. That mystique, in a way that is completely pedagogically unjustified, makes me a better teacher.

How To Present Well: Introduction

The self-aggrandizing title embarrasses me a little, but to the extent that it’s culturally acceptable to acknowledge our strengths alongside our weaknesses this is mine: I know how to present well. I’m learning lots. Constantly. Almost always by example. Better presentations than mine make my presentations better. This is an appropriate occasion to share what I’ve learned.

See, this has been a depressing summer so far and until recently, I was sure it was gonna end that way. I invested sixty- and seventy-hour weeks this last school year into my identity as Dan Meyer, Teacher. About the second week of pretending to be Dan Meyer, Video Editor, I became, in a very real sense, depressed. I felt flat, mopey, humorless. I wore out the snooze button.

But then somewhere in June I was given an hour to present anything to a group of pre-service math teachers in San Jose, CA. My life has been the second half of a Zoloft commercial since. I’ve invested a lot of time into this presentation not because it demanded it but because every minute I spent hacking away at it, I felt reconnected to the best part of my professional life.

This blog wasn’t around for the construction of my last presentation (everything before January was back-dated) so it seemed appropriate to blog the process of this one.

It’s called “Kicking out the Cliché.” I present it July 19th. It’ll be my best presentation to date. In six (more) daily installments, here’s why.

Bizarro Blog: [title redacted]

These digressions are becoming easier, more frequent. They induce less guilt than before. I feel decreasingly less like apologizing also because I find this stuff to be increasingly classroom vital.

If I taught any sort of English class, just for instance, I’d open my unit on [literary device redacted] with this commercial, one which kind of cut me off at the knees this evening by depicting a thoroughly unique existential crisis and by rendering [literary device again] perfectly, without breaking a sweat.

Which literary device am I thinking of? Which haven’t I thought of? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?


  1. The Complaint Factor. Jan Borelli finds teaching in an in-flight magazine.
  2. Everything Is Everything. Find teaching in your home.

The Audit II Follow-Up

My intention was to drop that self-audit on Saturday and then catch comments on Monday ’cause the blogsphere is supposed to hibernate over the weekend. Then I filmed an Indian wedding all of Saturday (crazy-fun. one of the coolest weddings I’ve shot.) came home at 23h00 and crashed, totally missing all the commentary you guys threw back and forth.

Including, but not limited to: