I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Doug Cochran

    July 2, 2008 - 8:09 am -

    Nice short …do you have the office clips on dvd? And what programs do you use to edit them?

    Don’t smile before Christmas is total BS for me. Kids are fun and want to have fun, so if you tap into the fun part (within reason) they will learn more.

    I worship maximizing time in the classroom. This means we start before the bell rings and usually run through the dismissal bell.

    Also I worship on task behavior from students. Within that context of maximizing time and ‘on taskness’ i’ve found I can joke around more and create a lighter atmosphere while students are doing work. I can take 60 second and tell on outrageous story that relates to the material and students lives.

    I’d say I also worship building relationships. I greet each student at the door on the way in everyday, and usually hit them with something…”How was practice yesterday?” “How is the musical going?” etc etc….

    My two favorite shows are the Wire and The Office, so this blog has been a real treat. Particularly the Lester Freamon Quote from a few weeks ago “the job won’t save you Jimmy….what you need is a life” Seriously, why are they waiting until August to release season 5? I netflixed and ripped through every episode since March. Getting those discs in the mail is like a junkie fix for me.

  2. Doug, I don’t think you worship the maximization of time in the classroom. By maximizing time, you increase the amount of work done minute: you don’t take away time from your students. By starting before the bell and dragging after it, it shows that you in fact are doing the opposite: not maximizing time and not planning well, so you need to use extra time just to accomplish the expected amount of work.

    A teacher who truly maximizes time starts class the instant the bell rings and never has to go over. Since there is never a wasted moment, no extra moments are needed.

  3. Doug Cochran

    July 2, 2008 - 8:30 am -

    Arthus…I see your point…but…when we go over the dismissal bell we are reviewing objectives from the day and previous days and/or starting homework assignments. It just leads to extra repetitions.

    Starting before the bell means students are doing things like copying HW or daily objectives or getting notebooks ready or whatever other tasks there are while I take attendance etc…

    I don’t think either of these things are a byproduct of poor planning.

  4. Doug, it doesn’t matter what you are doing after the bell: students should be free to go when the bell tolls. If you know that you are going to be reviewing objectives every day, *PLAN FOR IT* — I can not stress that enough. Review is part of class to, and anything within your class should stay within the time allocated to it.

  5. Doug Cochran

    July 2, 2008 - 10:25 am -

    Arthus- Duly noted…..Did you have a bad experience with this as a student or a teacher?? Keeping a class for 5 extra seconds to finish a point, while not perfect, isn’t the end of the world either.

  6. As a student, I have been the victim of many a teacher who decided to take a “few” extra seconds (then minutes) almost every class. Consequently, I was late to my next class almost every day. I tried talking to the teacher, but got the usual “I know better than you” response.

    The fact is: administrators go through a lot of trouble to make a working schedule and I think teachers should respect the time of their students. Think about it like this:

    What if a student is just a “few” minutes late for class almost every day? Would you just shrug it off or would you talk to him? You demand that students respect your time and the classes time, and you should give them the same respect.

  7. Just to reiterate my comment that not everything works in every student body, we have a large enough school campus that we can’t keep students over the bell because some of them will be late for their next class. (There have been emails about this from the administration.)

    This automatically nullifies certain advice (keeping students past the bell to maximize time, or Dan’s discipline method of keeping students past the bell).

    Also, to end the hijacking situation, Die Hard style, I s’pose I worship insight: those rare moments when students take giant leaps and suddenly their brains (metaphorically speaking) become larger. Watching for this automatically builds patience, so it isn’t too bad a tendancy for a teacher. The downside is I get perhaps more upset than I ought when the students perform below their capability.

  8. You cut me quick, Dan. As a principal – my class being the teachers – subconsciously, I tend to worship approval over authority, though authority does have its perks. Preparing for another year, I want to consciously worship learning – my own learning and the learning of my staff. I think that this framework can keep me focused on the behaviors that will enhance our work with kids. Ideally this will encourage risk taking, collaboration, gleaning new learning from failure, celebration of small victories, immediate and constant feedback towards our stated goals, and satisfaction at improved practice. Thanks for jogging the thoughts during this fine summer hiatus. btw San Diego weather today is 71 and sunny and the only fires I’m aware of are in NORTHERN CA. Cheers!

  9. Dangit! I was all prepared to say that I absolutely do smile before Christmahanukwanzakah. So now I need to be wondering what *I* worship. Ok, I have it. Great point and thanks for bringing it to my attention in such a great way.

  10. @Dean: you raise an interesting question. Who is the edublogosphere’s Creed? Downes has the look & demeanor but is far too coherent. This one’s gonna keep me up tonight.

    @Tim S.: Zero dollars. No matter how hard I begged.

  11. Wow, that’s deep. I’m glad I read the DFW thing first. I’ll have to get back to you.

    (Nobody ever told me not to smile…? The most prevalent advice I got was along the lines of “be competent” (prepare, have a plan, be relaxed, be in charge, take out the nose ring, etc) which looking back was actually pretty helpful.)

  12. I gotta ask. The folks here and in the post below advocating the don’t-smile-until-whenever thing, this is thick, thick sarcasm, right? These aren’t serious suggestions, are they?

    I know this one’s got a nifty video, which I’m digging, but didn’t we do this one already?



    I worship[ped] student achievement.

  13. I’ll be showing this to my new teachers this fall. If I had a nickel for every pointless referral the “Dwights” of the world send to my office…

    On the flip side, the “Michaels” can push the student/teacher/friend relationship too far and end up in a compromising (or career-ending!) situation.

    The one thing I try to communicate to the new and pre-service teachers with whom I work is simple: “Have fun!” It’s hard work, this teaching thing, and we need a reason to keep getting out of bed every morning if we’re going to keep at it for 25 or 30 years.

    Not that every day is going to be great, but building positive rapport in an authentic way is the key to doing anything else productive in the classroom.

  14. These videos are really great. If you weren’t doing the teaching thing, would you be a film maker of some kind? Seriously…I know you have only done two or three of these, but when do we get a “behind the scenes episode”? Answer questions about what kind of camera you use, what editing software (?) do you use, how does dy/av go from mind to website. I am sure there are others out there that would like to do similar, or at least know how to. Thanks! Keep these coming.

  15. I, regrettably, spent my first year teetering back and forth between Michael and Dwight. So the question I need to figure out before September 1 is, what do I worship? And how to do I not blow that in the classroom my 2nd time around.

    When does this teaching thang get easier?

  16. In my experience (and I have heard many colleagues say the same) it will get easier the third year. The first year you will work hard just to know your syllabus and what you are doing day to day, most likely you will not have time to reflect very much on what you do, what works and why it works. The second year you will still make the same mistakes you did 1st year but you will have more time to think about it, to reflect on the dynamic of your classroom. The problem is that even if you actually are doing a lot better work at the end of your 2nd year the students will still remember all the strange things you did at the start of the year.

    During your 3rd year you will know the basics, you will have a lot of preps already done and can reuse with little improvements so you can spend a lot more time on the ones that didn’t work (or you can do as I and I guess Dan did, you can spend a lot of time on all lessons but now the extra time you put in starts to really pay of). The danger is if you start to be content and stop improving…

  17. Come on, you can’t lay down the bomb like that without fessing up?

    To play along, I know I have a bad tendency to value ideas over work. I’m much happier in a crackling discussion about ideas, values, and motivations (English teacher) than “on-task behavior.” I respect the idols of all but focusing on OTP feels so Fred Taylor-esque to depress me mightily.

  18. I like to smile. Mommy says it’s one of my most redeeming qualities.

    In the early 1990s, education professors over at Temple University warned us not to smile. In fact, I took a class where I had to “teach” in front of other would-be teachers. Videotaped the lesson and had to create a time teaching vs. overt facial expressions chart.

    True story.
    Sad story.

    I would have cried about it, but it would have cost me a full letter grade.

  19. Teaching techniques that I have learned from CSI Miami.

    1. How to put on/take off sunglasses to make a point.
    2. How to dress like a pro (I think we all know what I mean).
    3. How to use the nifty computer where I can move things with my hands.
    4. How to deal with Brazilian Gang Members (shoot them).
    5. How to deal with comatose (or actually dead) students with real empathy.

    Just saying there are things to learn everywhere.


  20. Personally, I ache to go back to the 1st season of the BBC version.

    If you could give me a tenured Ricky Gervais roaming the school hallways, late bell whistle in hand and all, able to dodge the the necessary etiquette police in Wed afternoon faculty meetings, I’d be all about re-calibrating the worshiping curve on this one.

    Plus, he might bring his guitar:


    And you know kids just love educators who play guitar.

  21. @Tim S.: Film has always been an abiding interest and occasional pay-job for me. Lately it’s been a bit obsessive.

    I have a behind-the-scenes episode scheduled somewhere in the latter half of the season but it focuses mostly on the structure of creating a vodcast and how that relates to structuring a lesson.

    If I were to run a technical clinic is there anything in particular you’d like to see? (I use a Canon GL-2, which I steal from a nearby camp. I have a $100 microphone. And I use Final Cut Pro + Adobe Photoshop + Adobe AfterEffects.)

    @Nate: what bomb? where?

    @Matt: if I wanted to could go back and add a title card linking to your CSI rebuttal, I would. Great stuff.

    @Christian: Dang, Christian, we’re just not meeting anywhere lately. Resist the vogue temptation to hate on remakes and, particularly, American remake. We ate the UK’s fish-n-chips with this, I promise. They went, what, like sixteen episodes? Way to go, mates.

  22. Per, it sounds like you are teaching the same classes from year to year. How does that dynamic change if that’s not the case?

  23. I (and most of my friends) have some new courses and some old ones. Since that is what I know I cant really say how the dynamic changes if you have all new but I can speculate.

    I think it would take you longer to find your flow if you have all new classes since you will have to spend more time on the low level problems (what problem should I use to teach the law of cosine) so you don’t have time to reflect on the more higher level question (My 2nd period class is much more engaged than my 4th, what is the difference and how do I adapt?)

    In my opinion you need to fight to find time to reflect on the higher level and you cant do that until you have some premade preps to save you that time and some experience with many situations to think about.

    But I do hope that all new classes a few years in doesn’t feel as hard as the 1st year since I am transferring from a regular Swedish high school to an IB school this fall and I will have a new syllabus and I will go from teaching in Swedish to English…. Wish me luck ;-)

  24. Dan Thank you for your blog and your vodcasts. It has been fantastic to find your emphasis on quality teaching. I will be using this video in a presentation in grad school ( with full credit to you I assure-) as we are completing a course on classroom management. I have long thought the “don’t smile before Christmas” myth to be irrelevant. I hope this catches the attention of my class. :)