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Learning from Cuba

According to the April 8, 2019 edition of The Nation, U.S. college students who graduated in 2017 averaged $28,700 in student loan debt. According to this podcast, Cuban college students averaged 0. But that’s just the beginning of what we can learn from Cuba! Episode features highlights of my conversation with Yanna Cruzata Quintero, a sidebar on the jaw-dropping Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961, and lots of good music.


Epic Citizens with Melissa Friedman (019)

Epic Theatre Ensemble a collaborative of teaching artists and students in New York City who believe that participation in theatre is essential to a healthy democracy, and that this kind of engaging theatre experience should be a hallmark of U.S. education for all students. This episode features highlights of my conversation with Melissa Friedman, Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Epic Theatre Ensemble, as well as some examples of the amazing work Epic does to engage students as citizens.


Listening Room with Jonathan Hiam (018)

Listening matters for every relationship, from loved ones at home to civil discourse in community and country. This new year’s episode honors a very cool experiment in listening undertaken at the Library for the Performing Arts in New York City for six weeks at the end of 2018. Dr. Jonathan Hiam, Curator of Recorded Sound, guides us through the room in an experimental episode lit by compositions of the visionary composer and performer Arthur Russell. I think you’ll dig it.

On Moose River Farm with Anne Phinney (017)

For 25 years, Anne Phinney was a teacher who believed firmly in the power of connecting with animals to influence kids' empathy, compassion, and ideas about teamwork. For all her life, she's been crazy about horses! She now spends full days living her dream life on Moose River Farm in the Adirondack Woods with her husband Rod, caring for a menagerie of horses, goats, llamas, chickens, geese, tortoises, dogs, and a pot-bellied pig. Today she offers llama treks, as well as sessions in...

Leading in Sync with Jill Harrison Berg (016)

Jill Harrison Berg is an educator with nearly 30 years of experience working in all kinds of schools. Her new book Leading in Sync: Teacher Leaders and Principals Working Together for Student Learning (2018, ASCD) is the richest resource I’ve encountered in the last decade for people in schools who are ready to build the trust necessary for real collaboration and marshal the vast resources latent in every faculty for the best possible learning outcomes for kids. This episode will be of...

Resolving Contradictions with Brent Farrand (015)

This episode probes the value of mathematics and debate for students—and everyone else. Brent Farrand is an award-winning math teacher and kingmaker debate coach who established the debate team at Science High in Newark, NJ in 1979. [Thumbnail portrait of infinity by Brent Andrew Farrand.]

Learning in Stories with Jake Halpern (014)

Jake Halpern has written about fame junkies, freegans, and die-hards who won’t leave their home under any circumstances. Also ice fortresses, enchanted forests, and twins switched at birth. One through-line for this award-winning journalist and author is storytelling; another is just plain learning.


Mother's Day with Gretchen (013)

Mom taught me how to braid bread, play fiddle, and disagree with others respectfully--and so much else. We discuss the value of praise in teaching and child-rearing, my grandmother Miriam George Meister, and a method of talent education that aims for world peace.

ALL THIS: Poets Aja Monet & Meghann Plunkett (012)

Recorded at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, a conversation about poems and poetry with two rising stars who are also talented teachers. Featuring Aja’s “What I’ve Learned” (excerpt) and Meghann’s “In Which I Name My Abuser Publicly.”

Drama, Democracy & Hamilton with Oskar Eustis (011)

Oskar Eustis founded his first theatre company at the age of 16. From Tony Kushner's Angels in America to Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, Eustis has been intimately involved in the creation and development of many of the greatest works of American theatre of the past 30 years. Oskar and I sat down in his office at the Public Theater in February to talk about important teachers, Shakespeare, drama, democracy, Hamilton, the state of civil discourse ... and a few new ideas on the horizon.

Better Alt Ed (010)

Named for the year of its founding, Project '79 has been supporting and reclaiming high school students as learners for four decades. The oldest continuously running alternative education program I know about, it's also--for my money--just about the best way to do school. This month's episode let me sit down with coordinators Alan Lantis and Jackie Spring to talk about what matters most in designing and sustaining a program that keeps kids at the center of its work, addressing social and...


Master Class with Thomas Halpin (009)

Today I’m talking with Thomas Halpin, a master violinist and teacher. Halpin has concertized throughout the U.S. and abroad—yet for more than four decades he has focused on teaching.

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens (008)

A dramatic reading recorded live at First Baptist Church (Westfield, NJ) on 12/16/17. With music by Michael Rosin and the Westfield HS Concert Choir.

My Brothers, Teachers (007)

These guys taught me everything from how to drive to how to recognize a I-IV-V chord progression in a song. The weekend before Thanksgiving, I sat down with my older brothers, John, a trial attorney (right), and Gregory, a firefighter (center), to talk about learning and music.


How to Connect with Teens (006)

My conversation with Maureen Mazzarese, an expert in social and emotional development. A therapist and counselor with four decades of experience, Maureen has worked with kids and parents of all ages, but this conversation focuses on adolescence--and the particular challenges it can present. We discuss "givens" of adolescent development, those normal tendencies that adults often forget, which leads to some basics of how to connect with teens (and a couple things to avoid). Parents, educators,...


6 Ideas About Writing I Want to Live Forever (005)

A quick trip through some ideas about writing that I personally would like to live forever—a companion to last month’s crowdsourced theme “The Idea about Writing You Most Want to Die” that I discussed with that brilliant panel of educators at Bread Loaf (004).


The Idea About Writing You Most Want to Die (004)

Five-paragraph essays. Writing for the teacher only. That careful writing is for English compositions but not lab reports. That there's a formula for "good" writing. What is the idea about writing (or the teaching of writing) you'd most like to die? For this episode, a panel of current Master's students at the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English consider a range of answers to this question.


Supervision, Poetry, and Feminism with Paula Roy (003)

Paula Roy is the teaching supervisor who hired me to work at Westfield High School in New Jersey in 1997. In our conversation, we talk about the possibilities and the challenge of supervising teachers; how to establish a safe, yet challenging space for classroom discussion; why sarcasm doesn't work in groups; feminism as an f-word anybody can embrace; and poetry as a way to see how everything is connected.


School and Civil Discourse with Bob Petix (002)

The current state of political discussion shows that somebody's got to provide a place for people to learn to listen and challenge each other respectfully. Veteran principal Dr. Robert G. Petix shares some ideas about this, as well as the difference between really leading a school and merely managing it.


Talking TV with Kevin Johnson (001)

My pilot episode showcases a conversation with Kevin Johnson, sound engineer, director, television teacher--and a former student of mine. We open with Quentin Tarantino's definition of the frame as the basis for cinema. From there we discuss the technical (but useful) distinction between learning and acquiring skills, characters' names on Cheers, the many demands facing teachers today, and a different take on designing a school's master schedule.