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Justin Minkel

August 7, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Fury: Why Respond to Reader Comments?


Imagine this: Last week, I had just finished teaching a math lesson when a stranger started shouting at me through an open window. I couldn’t figure out whether his shouted monologue was a response to the math lesson I had taught, or if he was just having a bad day. By the time I came up with a response, he had wandered off and started shouting into another window.

Blogging can often feel like the scene described. We put ourselves out there, and we sometimes get pelted with snark, rants, and fury as a result. Still, I continue to read every response to the posts I write, and I reply to many of them, for three enduring reasons. Teacher-bloggers, what's your philosophy on responding to reader comments?

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Justin Minkel

June 29, 2014



The kindergartner had gotten lost and ended up in the 2nd grade wing. She looked around at all the big kids, a little bewildered but not quite scared as of yet. Then she spotted me standing outside my classroom door and her face broke into a radiant smile. She walked up to me, arms outstretched, and gave me a hug.

That little girl had no idea who I was. But she knew I was a teacher, and in her a mind a teacher is someone you can trust to take care of you.

That trust is a gift. Earning it lies at the heart of our profession.


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Justin Minkel

June 22, 2014

A Great First Date with Marriage Potential: Legislators and Teachers Get to Know One Another


Teachers and legislators have plenty of first dates. What we need is more marriages.

We've all experienced those one-off meetings that are a trading of monologues rather than true dialogue. Lawmakers deliver pre-crafted talking points, teachers speak truth to power without worrying whether power listens; meeting adjourned. Last week I experienced a welcome exception to that script, when five teachers from CTQ met with 30 Education Chairs for two days of debate, dialogue, and a shattering of stereotypes.

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Justin Minkel

May 16, 2014

Reflections of a Teacher-Dad


Hybrid roles usually enable teachers to bridge teaching with the worlds of policy, research, and curriculum development. My own hybrid role has enabled me to bridge teaching with the world of Baby Bookworms, toddler play dates, and adventures with three-year olds in the Botanical Gardens. All of us who teach have hybrid identities—teacher-blogger, teacher-runner, teacher-musician—and the most fundamental of those for me is teacher-dad. I’ve learned two transformative lessons through that role.

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Justin Minkel

May 7, 2014

Why I Hate the Starfish Parable (And Why the Drowning Babies Parable Is Better)


The parable of the little boy and the starfish is sweet, inspirational, and full of hope. Here’s why I’ve always hated it.

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Justin Minkel

April 16, 2014

Speak Less, Act Right


The first time I read these words by a Holocaust survivor, they haunted me. “My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. So I am suspicious of education. My request is: Help your children become human.” To fulfill that request, our actions matter far more than our words.

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Justin Minkel

April 6, 2014

Teachers! Leave Those Kids Alone.


When most of us were children, we had a lot of unsupervised time to explore. Sometimes we got lost. Sometimes we got hurt. We faced bullies, cranky adults, and aggressive neighborhood dogs. These adventures helped us learn to negotiate risk as we explored the ragged borders of our world.

Our students need exploration, complexity, and the risk of failure. If we spare them from struggle, we might rob them of fulfillment, too.

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Justin Minkel

March 7, 2014

Confessions of a (Ssshhh!) Teach For American


Tolstoy wrote that people are like rivers. No one is all shallow or all deep, all rocky or all pure. Maybe it’s the same with programs. Teach For America has done so much good. Teach For America has done so much harm. When I talk about my two years in TFA, I feel like the Batman villain Two-Face.

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Justin Minkel

February 26, 2014

Serenity, Courage, and the Wisdom to Know the Difference: Q and A with Sandy Merz, Part I


Arizona educator Sandy Merz is one of the most thoughtful teachers I have ever met. I asked him if he’d be up for doing an exchange of Q and A on our respective blogs, in the style of David Brooks and Gail Collins in the New York Times. This collaboration is the result. Part I includes Sandy's thoughtful musings on the Serenity Prayer in the context of teacher-led change.

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