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Career Teacher

Justin Minkel

March 21, 2015

What It Takes


How do you think the following story ends?

A six-year-old child is sexually assaulted by her stepfather. Her mother is not literate, and her family lives in poverty. She suffers both physical and psychological problems from the abuse she endured. She experiences a psychotic episode in third grade and is sent to a facility an hour’s drive from her town.

Four years later, here is the same girl:

She is confident and happy. She is considering a career as a police officer, though her mom thinks she should become a nurse, and her teacher thinks she should be a doctor. She plans to go to college.

How did this child get from there to here? How did she write a new story for her life?

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Justin Minkel

February 8, 2015

Burning Bright Without Burning Out


When my wife and I were going through childbirth classes, the instructor said something fascinating.

“There are two kinds of pain. The first is objective: the amount of pain your nerve receptors will receive. The second is subjective—the way you experience the pain. The two variables that most impact the experience of pain are isolation and lack of control.”

There’s a powerful lesson for teachers in those words.

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Justin Minkel

January 10, 2015

How do you teach what’s measured AND what matters?


Teacher friends, colleagues, and mentors, I need your insights. How do you teach what matters most, while making sure your students do well on those basic skills measured most, too?

I’ve heard the line from the architects of NCLB that tested skills are a floor, not a ceiling. The reality, though, is that it takes a lot longer to build that floor with kids who walk into school burdened by the challenges that poverty brings. Yet those kids need the ceiling and, beyond, the sky.

How do you give it to them?

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Justin Minkel

November 23, 2014

Taking Teacher-Led Projects to Scale


Teaching 25 kids is incredibly hard work. Impacting 2,500 is even harder. The reason teacher leaders can have that impact is that we never work in isolation.

Transforming our profession from within requires courage, perseverance, and plenty of midnight oil. It also takes one hell of network standing beside you.

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Justin Minkel

October 23, 2014

The Data Dagger: Why Policymakers Need Student Stories


Test scores are a means to an end. For many power players in education, test scores have become the end in themselves, with devastating results.

Part of our job as teachers is to remind policymakers that children are far more than the sum of their data.



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Justin Minkel

October 11, 2014

Shanghai Surprise


The best teachers I know share two qualities: humility and curiosity. They worry less about looking good than becoming better. I saw these same qualities in the educators I met a few weeks ago in Shanghai. Despite their top PISA rankings, these teachers see plenty of value in what American teachers have to offer. I wish we took more time in this country to figure out what they can offer us.

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Justin Minkel

September 12, 2014

The Teacher Movie That Doesn't Exist


Remember that movie about the team of teachers who worked together to create an incredible school? Me neither.

From Dead Poets Society to Freedom Writers, there is only room in the script for a single hero. These valiant individuals strive nobly against the corrupt, craven, cumbersome system. That system has to be a dystopia for the formula to work.

These valiant heroes don’t let the system change them. The problem is, they don’t change the system, either.

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