dy/av : 009 : don’t be prez

dy/av : 009 : don’t be prez from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.


dyav, classroom management, teacher, teaching, the wire, prez


iPod Edition

dy/av : 009 : don’t be prez (640 x 480)

Previous Episodes

dy/av : 008 : behind the scenes
dy/av : 007 : the motiongraphics episode
dy/av : 006 : carver’s classroom management
dy/av : 005 : how i work
dy/av : 004 : thank you, teaching
dy/av : 003 : on the office
dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer
dy/av : 001 : earn the medium

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. Okay Dan. A lot to digest in this one. How were you able to say about 3 hours worth of stuff in less than 3 minutes?

    Hmmm. I have to go to school now and trouble shoot my computer system. I have only 3 computers hooked up simultaneously to my projector, and I have trouble with my 4th.

    Is varied input, video, powerpoint, photos, and sound interesting? I guess it depends on how I use it, doesn’t it.

    Like I said, 3 hours worth of stuff in less than 3 minutes. Dang, I am not that interesting!

  2. Ha! “stabby”

    You have a way of taking vague, compelling notions and crystallizing them into a big “aha”. Good work!

  3. I am not totaly sure what your point is this time and if I agree with it. If the point is that t will help you as a teacher if you have (and/or show) interest in your students outside your subject it will help you as a teacher then I totally agree. If you show interest in your students some (many) will respond in kind and show interest in you and you can use that to sell your subject. Showing interest in your student will buy you their respect.

    So now I have their respect, what do I do with it? I show them my big interest in my subject, and that I expect them to be. Some will be interested, some will wonder what makes me a person they respect) so interested and that will spark their interest and some will show a polite interest out of respect for me and that is in many cases enough for a decent result.

    I work with the notion that math & physics is fun, interesting. I model that Idea so strongly that that many students get infected with this notion and can’t help but growing an interest of their own.

    Student: “I’m going to have my own store”
    Me: “Cool, If I had my own store I would put a lot of effort in finding out what products to use as cheep bait to lure customers into the store and buy other products where I really would make money. I bet you could do a lot with a data base and look for dependent/independent variables, remember when we talked about chi-two test?”
    Student: “um-hu”
    Me: “I think that could work but maybe that could be better ways, and you have to make sure the sampling is good because so much in sales are dependent on when during the year or month you do something, do you know what month has the lowest sales in almost any field and why?”
    Student “January, people are broke after Christmas”
    Me: “Yeah, I think so to. What kind of store do you want? ……

    This student will se my interest in math and him, and he will receive the idea math could be useful. Show them your own interest in the subject, assume they are interested and many will become it.


  4. I don’t know Per. There you go, being all teacherly and telling the student what he (or she) is going to need to know and do.

    I think that Dan is getting at showing an interest in not how we can fit our topic into their lives, but an interest in their lives to begin with.

    I am not defined by my subject, and neither are my students.

  5. Here’s a grammar moment that goes along with this video nicely:

    What is the difference between these two statements:

    I teach physics.
    I teach kids physics.

    It’s all about knowing what the direct object is.

    How much cooler would Prez have been if he could have asked the next question rather than thinking it was his time to talk.

    “Really? What kind of store? How did you get interested in that? What made you want to do that?” And then… just maybe… after listening for a good long time… “What do you think you are going to need to do that? How can we [school] help? What do you need from us?”

    Bang. Now you’ve got them. Now you care.

  6. First a small but in my mind important distinction. I am not telling my student “If you are to own a store you need to learn statistic”, I am saying “If I owned a store I would use statistic”.
    In my student evaluation I receive many comments like “At first I didn’t care about physics but after awhile I couldn’t help but enjoying it since he (that refers to me) had so much fun” and those comments and the talks I have with my students tells me this is a good method, at least for me.
    When you assume people don’t care about your subject you tend to start making excuses, dumb it down and pretty soon the subject will be booring.
    I like my subjects, I enjoy them in school but also very much outside school. They don’t define me either but you couldn’t define me without them.

    But I must say that if the point is. “Show interest in your students even outside your own subjects” then I am all for it. If the point is “Assume people don’t care about your subject” then I don’t agree.

    My own point is, let it show that you are interested in your subjects, let your students see that you see your subject used a lot more then the students 1st think. This positive attitude will show the way.

  7. Chris:
    Don’t judge me to hard on the grammar, remember that Swedish is my 1st language 

    I totally agree that Prez should have asked more questions and writing my student conversation I thought that I wouldn’t have turned that quickly to what I would do if I owned a store but I felt my post was to long as it was, (and tried to make up for it at the end with turning the conversation back to the student…)

  8. Great point from Chris. When a student tries to open up and actually tell you about something they care about, let em talk! Sometimes, just listening can go a long way with students. And I like that last question: What can I do, or the school do to help you achieve your goals?

  9. Listen to the principal of the inquiry-based school (@Chris Lehmann). He knows what he’s talking about.
    This job is all about asking good questions…and getting kids to ask good questions in return.
    @dan, your closing gets to the heart of a broader issue. You’re right: maths isn’t the answer. learning is the answer. Think about how many times you hear adults (parents, colleagues, friends) say, “I’m not a math person,” or, “I’m more of a science person,” or, “I do social studies–she’s the one who teaches English.” There’s something fundamentally wrong with that. We’re teachers. Teachers read. Teachers know things. Teachers are learners. We SHOULD strive to draw parallels between The Wire and teaching. We SHOULD encourage kids to make connections between parabolic equations and Roman culture. I want my students to look at their teachers and go, “Wow. I want to be that curious and excited about the world,” and not merely, “I’m a math person.”

  10. Can’t seem to find the time to produce these videos and add to the commentary. Glad I can count on y’all to cover the bases.

  11. After watching the video, I really wanted to chime in on the idea of connection. I think Chris has already spoken so well on exactly what I was feeling.
    Yes, be interesting (and to do that, be interested in things like viral videos and such) because that begins the process. It opens those lines of communication because students see you as, in some ways, someone who might understand them (you do, after all, both LOVE Dr. Horrible… and who knew a “teacher” could ever love that). It gets you out of that stereotype of “teacher”. This opens the lines.
    Once the lines are open, though, it’s not about you anymore. If a student reaches out to talk about hopes/dreams/aspirations (sometimes even just what their dog did this morning while they were eating breakfast), they’re taking that brave first step in forging a relationship (and for some, that’s tough). Don’t talk about you (and a big part of you as a “teacher” is your subject matter). Talk (ask!) about them. It lets them know that you’re interested in continuing (and learning) the conversation… not just shutting it down with “business”. And this helps them build social skills and relationships… and once they know you care about *them*, they’ll start to care not only about you… but about what you have to say.

  12. Hi Dan, I just found your site, and it is awesome. I loved this video and especially The Office and Next Gen. Lecturer ones.

    Thank you for teaching me so much!

  13. Maria – You said, “Once the lines are open, though, it’s not about you anymore.” I think we need to remember, it should never be about us. It’s about the kids and their learning.

  14. I’m going to add one more piece of kindling to the fire that the Prez character also suggests:

    Most early-career teachers are a) sorta surviving and b) barely surviving. Most teaching behavior comes from wanting a) control and b) reacting to the guaranteed loss of control that comes from theory and reality not dancing well together.

    Even worse, if they survive the first few years in relative solitary confinement from authentic professional dialog and review, they learn to survive well enough to almost look solid after awhile…before the real damage takes place:

    What was pure survival technique in years 1-3 becomes rationalized professional excuse for the next 20 years in the profession. Sort of an odd Stockholm Syndrome where we begin to believe that our awkward early career strategies suddenly can be dressed up legitimately years later when we once again run off the “Class Rules” mimeo.

    As was said above in a couple of ways, is is not about the teacher. It is so hard, however, to realize that when you’re trying to sip from the fire hose early on.

    Sadly, because teaching is such a solitary affair (shut door; you and the kids alone with no safety net; where’d my adult colleague peeps go?), low level Maslow-esque survival skills and faculty room anecdotes fill the gaps where something more vital deserves to shine:


    Of character
    Of intention
    Of knowledge
    Of eye contact
    Of preparation
    Of curiosity
    Of passion
    Of morality
    Of care deeply

    And maybe that last piece matters most.

    A part of me — especially the part that ran a business not too long ago — sides with the point(s) Dan is making re: being “interested” in order to get your “customers” (i.e. the students) to “buy into” (i.e. pay attention to and care bout) whatever we’re “selling” (i.e. our subject, assignment, rules, etc).

    Then I think about those hard-to-pin-down master teachers in year 30+ who seem to be so culturally out-of-touch with the current culture of youth, who don’t worry about paying attention to what’s on the proverbial radio any longer, yet who seem to have something even more important to offer instead

    Wisdom and Perspective

    Me, I’m still a long way from both when I’m really honest. And thus I still hang my hat on the same evolved solution hook that was pointed out in this video.

    Dan nails the vital difference b/w being interesting and interested in the vid. All that matters follows that.

    Funny thing, however:

    That’s really just a human/life truth, whether you’re at a Rotary potluck supper, reading scriptual text, or nodding at a someone to go in front of you in airport security so they can make their plane. IT just so happens to also be good business inside the classroom.

    Perhaps most of what all of the videos Dan has put together this summer suggest is that what leads to quality and respect in the real world also does so in our classrooms.

    And this ain’t a half bad thing to constantly embrace.

  15. Dan:

    Another hit…. Seriously thinking about showing some of the video to some of our teachers as our PD days come up early next week! I have already passed them on to other Tech Coordinators and my boss.

    Are you going to be at Innovative Learning Conference in San Jose in October? I’m presenting the Global Communications program I started at my old school…

    Keep up the good work!