Category Archives: Students

Visual responses to The Reason I Jump

the-reason-i-jumpo-vtrThis quarter in English II, we’re focusing on studying within the Autism spectrum. We’ve had a guest speaker come in (Mrs. Lisa), we’ve done an activity or two, and we will end up watching some documentaries and movies to try and get into the mind of an autistic person. However, what I’m looking forward to the most is seeing how my students react to a few wonderful pieces of writing that give us some wonderful insight into what these very special people think and feel.

Recently, after I caught Jon Stewart’s fantastic interview with author David Mitchell:

I assigned my students to read one of the hottest books in the world, Naoki Higashida’s “The Reason I Jump”. I think that in the short amount of time I gave them to read it, they seemed to connect with this sweet, 13-year-old 1 boy, struggling and overcoming a variety of challenges. My goal was then to see what my students could do with what they learned from Naoki.

Here’s how I’m going to ask them to prove it:

I have such a “crush” on this sketch notetaking stuff, probably since I started catching wind of the great TED-like videos created by RSA Animate. Therefore, I’m going to ask them to do their own sketch notetaking on “The Reason I Jump”, showing and telling at least 10 things that they learned from reading this wonderful book. I hope to update this post later with some screenshots of what my own students have done!


  1. At the time, of course.
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So you want me to write you a college recommendation

Good grades? ✔
Solid SAT score? ✔
Lots of extracurricular activities? ✔
A recommendation from your favorite teacher? X

If you’re a senior hoping to apply to a college this fall, there’s a good chance that you’re going to need help from your loving teachers, specifically in the form of a recommendation letter to your school. Every semester, there are quite a few students who approach me about writing them a college recommendation, and I always say “YES! But it’s gonna cost you…”

Sadly for you, a bag of Doritos ain’t going to cut it. No, if I’m going to write something about how amazing of a student you are, I want a little bit of effort from you, too. Will I write you a recommendation letter? Yes! But And here’s what I want from you first:

  • An entire semester together. It’s not fair for me to tell a college what kind of student you are if I’m teaching you for the first time. I don’t have enough information/experience with you to make an honest, accurate assessment of what kind of student you are. Sorry, but if I haven’t already been your teacher for one semester before now, I can’t help you out.
    keep-calm-because-you-re-a-star-1-257x300 copy
  • 500 words about you. What skills are you telling your college or university that you have? What talents are you planning on promoting to them? What characteristics are you stressing? What I want from you is some self-reflection on who exactly you are as a student, what you “bring to the table”, and what you think I should tell your college about you. I want you to look into the mirror and consciously assess yourself as a student—this way, I’ll know what you are planning on stressing to colleges as your strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t mean I’ll blindly echo your sentiments, but if I agree with who you think you are, I can back you up and support your argument. 1
  • ≥4 weeks of writing time. “Teacher, I need a letter! Can you write it this weekend?” No. No no no no no. I need time to think about who you are, takes notes on your strengths and weaknesses, figure out what I’m going to tell your college, and simply write you a professional letter. Don’t expect that I can just spit one out in a few days. By the way, my 4 weeks of writing time starts from the moment you turn in your 500 words, so make sure you get them in early to assure I make your deadline.

In the couple of years that I’ve been using these requirements, I’ve had some students write some great, introspective self-analyses, and I have written some awesome, flattering letters myself. I hope your academic reputation has been solid enough, up to this point, that I can brag on how excellent of a student you are!, and I look forward to reading about the strengths and weaknesses that make you university material!


  1. By the way, yes, your 500-word writeup will be confidential between you and me, so don’t be scared of truthfully being honest about your abilities and shortcomings.
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