, Derry, New Hampshire


December 13, 2012



There was nothing “cool” about Herman Menzer, beginning with his name. His pants were too short and his wingtips a little too shiny. He met his wife through a dating service, almost unheard of at the time. And sharing that information with a class full of teenagers did not exactly enhance his reputation.

But Menzer could teach. His open-ended essay questions forced me to read deeply and write concisely. And the twist he often added has proven to be a big hit with my sixth-grade students.

Menzer gave his students the opportunity to write their own essay questions, the theory being that writing a great question meant you already knew the answer. I’ve never forgotten how hard I worked to craft my questions, and the pride I felt seeing my question on a test, the same test I would no longer have to take.

I keep reading that most teachers teach the way they were taught, which might explain a lot of the problems in education today. But that’s an issue for another column on another day. My advice to teachers today — whether it’s original or not — is to steal the best and forget the rest.

John Edmondson is a teacher in Hampstead.

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