I know. It’s been a long time. But everyone who teaches knows how busy we get in the last days before the end of the year. Added to that is the fact that I am trying to finish my qualifying essays for my PhD…Alright! I am done with the excuses. It’s over and I am free to write about my experiences.

What kind of year has it been? Probably the best I have had as a teacher. This is thanks to having great kids (I always feel like I have great kids), supportive parents (I occasionally get those) and a great administration (I never feel as if we have that). Could it be better? Of course. That is what makes teaching so interesting; It can always be better.

Some people judge their success on the state test scores. I am a little guilty of that but I know that the scores do not tell the whole story. For me, my pass rate of the state test was 69%. Not bad for my first year at a new school. However, my personal standard is about 75%. I have taught at places that 69% was friggin’ fantastic! One place I taught I achieved a pass rate of 77.3% and the school average was 23.5%. In that case, 75% would be cause for celebration.

All my students passed except for three 9th grade girls that who decided to push the envelope of what I would let them get away with during the exam. We were in a computer lab to take a standardized test that the district required. Their exam was in three parts; the standardized test (finish test=full credit), teaching critique (see below, 300 words=100%) and a 13 question multiple choice exam. The 13 questions were on some various topics on 10th grade math which I taught them in the last two weeks of class. One girl raised her hand and asked, “How do you do this?” I replied, “I can’t tell you on exam day.” She argued her point (whined) but I replied that she should have asked the questions long before now. After her whining ceased, she asked, “What is this stuff called?” I replied, “Are you looking this up on the internet? You are really working on a zero!” More whining. And excessive talking from the three girls the entire exam. This resulted in three zeros that resulted in a failing grade.

For me, the real test of my success (or lack of it) is a yearly exercise I do with my classes. Part of each classes last day exercises is to answer the following; “In at least 300 words, critique Mr. Guynn’s teaching. What did he do that was good? What did he do that was bad? What can he do to improve his teaching? What should he never do again?” The responses are pretty consistent. Many think I teach too fast. I believe that they are probably right. I love what I do and sometimes get carried away with it. I am always looking for ways to accomplish this. I guess I will eventually figure this one out. Other than that, the comments are pretty positive; “I like your unusual style.” Keep doing those different warm ups. They really make me think about my life, as well as my math.”

Student’s choice…With about three left in the school year, my students took the state-mandated test. Since that they were tested on what I had taught them all year, more testing on the same material seemed pointless to me. So I let them decide. I gave then four choices for the last two weeks of instruction; 1) psychology of dreams. 2) psychology of learning, 3) next year’s math topics or 4) a topic of their choosing (that I could teach.) Once they chose their topic, they each expressed their decision by playing a game of four corners. I then allowed each group to try to convince the others to join them. Then we did a secret ballot. I then took these results, in a pro rated fashion, to determine what I would teach. In most cases, I taught one week of dream work and a few days of next year’s math. In this way, the last two weeks were very interesting for me, and them. It was my first experience of teaching classes what they wanted, instead of the school telling me what to teach them. There was some inattentiveness but a lot less than usual. (I occasionally had to remind them that I was teaching them what they wanted.) In the end, I learned that dream work instruction should become part of my teaching at the beginning, not the end. (More on that in a later blog.)

In the end, it was a very good year. On the other hand, I feel as if I have planted a seed for future teaching. The summer will give me an opportunity to expand these ideas.





When opportunity (or duty) knocks (or calls)!!

When I first got my first teaching job in California in 1999, I was not really sure what I was getting myself into. I was 40 years old and a fresh teacher graduate from a good education college. I was a shy guy who did not really like talking in front of a group of people. However, I had a love of mathematics and wanted to spread my knowledge to listening ears. On the other hand, my high school experience was not ideal; I was unmotivated. I only put an effort into the things I liked. I was in band and I liked it. (I rarely practiced. I loved the sound and feeling of the music. I had only pursued this route because I would be able to go to every football game for free.) As a result, I was a pretty good math student, an okay social studies and science student, and a terrible English (Language Arts) student. I did just enough to get by and it resulted in a 2.3 GPA. Needless to say, I did little for my school and it did little for me. Now I was going ask from a lot from my students, despite never giving much to any of my teachers. Kinda ironic, ain’t it?

When I started this career, I was not really sure what was going to be different to keep my students from being just like me; unmotivated and uninterested. Although I only knew it unconsciously, it was obvious that I was going to do something very different from what I received. I was going to give them something that I rarely received; personal attention and care. How I was going to do this was not clear. The first thing I did was to preach that I “am not like them.” What I was trying to say was that was going to treat administrations the same way I did as a student; I would give them just enough of hat they wanted and I would do the rest my way. I would do whatever worked to keep me happy, administration happy and the kids happy but slightly uncomfortable.

However, that line between “me and them” was rather fuzzy and vague in the beginning. I knew that I didn’t want to be like them but I wasn’t really sure what “them” was. One reason it was unclear was that I was new to teaching. My experience was limited to my own experience, movies and what I saw while I was at the university. And, oh yeah, when I helped my dad get his GED when I was around 15 years old. The other reason was that my first two schools ran things pretty efficiently, thereby denying me a view of how bad education can be. (Yeah, I bitched and moaned about one petty principal at the beginning. But since it was so well-run at the time, the bad parts quickly were healed. Thank you, Mr. Frye; you were awesome!)

After a few years of this, I got tired of being poor all the time. I decided to back to California and work a good-paying union trade (not teaching). After five years at this, I really missed teenagers and teaching them and returned. I moved back to Georgia and experienced some of the worst school administrations I have ever seen. I would no longer be denied the opportunity to see bad education. I had not reached the worse it can be but I certainly got a glimpse of the lower half of education. In that time, I experienced 5 different principals in 5 years. One of those years, the school had no principal; it was run by a district supervisor. It seemed every time we met, we talked about something that raised my ire. I was often seen, outside of meetings, giving passionate speeches about how we should change things for the better. I almost always ended my speeches with, “But, then again, they never asked me.”

Today, I work for one of the best high schools I have seen, despite my occasional complaints. It is well-run, with great students and great supportive parents. Recently, we found out that are department head was retiring. The principal sent out an email to math teachers, asking if they would like to take the vacant math reins. My first reaction was “hell no!” and “I don’t want to become one of them!” As I thought about it deeper, I realized that I am not one of them and I never will be. Also, I realized that this is the perfect opportunity to change things in the right way. It is a way to preach about changing things and actually get the changes done. After a week, I threw my hat into the ring. I am given the opportunity to end my speeches with, “Hey! Wait a minute! They did ask me!” And, hopefully, they are listening!

When opportunity (or duty) knocks (or calls)!!

Vertical Teaching and Meetings

“Why are blaming the kids for their failure? Why are we projecting our standards on them? How can we give them what they need rather than what we need? Enough about the frigging math competition? Do they really understand concepts or are just regurgitating facts and procedures? How can we help the culture of teachers, parents and students? After having a meeting on the connection between suicide and stress, our math teachers are proposing more testing!!! Why can’t we just be responsible for our kids and try to fix what is broken for our kids (middle school review)?!! Also, where are everybody’s manners; I hear several conversations at the same time. Very few are really listening and others are interrupting.” 


This is what it looks like when I keep notes at a meeting at school. Do I always keep notes? No. Do I ever keep notes at school meetings? Rarely. So when do I take notes? When I am getting bored and the meeting is going very wrong. This was one of those times. I believe my notes show how wrong it was going.

When I entered the meeting, I was in a pretty good mood. I had just finished my first demonstration of Jungian Psychology as it can be applied to teaching. Despite finishing early and kinda bumbling through the points, it will well and it ended in some great discussions. It ended in applause and many people thanked me. Before that, we had a general staff meeting about student stresses and its connection to teen suicide. (Why this was important to mention will come later.)

So what was this meeting about? Our math department was concerned about the lack of preparation of our students after they came from the middle school. In response to this, our school proposed that we do some “vertical teaching.” That is, working with the middle school to create a culture that would make the middle school students better prepared for the rigor of our high school mathematics classes. When I first heard this, I thought, “Isn’t that called curriculum?!” I soon let that thought go and vowed to be open-minded about this. From the conversations I heard, our staff really wanted to put the blame on the middle school. Of course, this is not unfounded. Every place I have taught (California, Virginia and Georgia), the teaching in middle school seemed rather weak, from my perspective. My first year teaching I seriously thought about switching to becoming a middle school math teacher. Added to that, I had heard several students and a couple parents state that the teaching at the middle school “frankly sucked.”

So there was the backdrop of our meeting. After each teacher introduced themselves in a roundtable manner, the middle school proposed that we look at the standards and look at what the high school desired that the middle school emphasize. Even though I cringe when I am forced to look at standards, I thought that this meeting was on the right track; no big changes, just define what is important and needed. That is when the process got hijacked.

In the next moment, the high school department head rejected this idea and proposed (maybe demanded) that we create a test to put the students “in the right place.” She proposed that we add another test to the test we already were going to give to the accelerated students. Th difference is that the first two were optional and now the third one would be mandatory. I was disgusted. We had just left a meeting earlier in the day where we discussed students having suicidal thoughts because how overwhelmed they were. So now we are proposing that we add more tests to a group that hadn’t even arrived in high school yet. All I could think was, “Are you kidding me?!”

But, what did I say? I said nothing. I looked around and saw a few people silent and the majority of the others talking a lot. Talking over other voices. Getting offended. (The one that was offended seem to have no business being in the meeting. She was not the department head and I don’t think that she teaches any freshmen. I could be wrong.)

Why didn’t I say anything? I felt like I was all alone in my views. After interviewing a few fellow math teachers later, I learned that others were as shocked and disagreeing as I was. We all basically believed that we should take care of the gaps when the kids arrive. If they have gaps in their math knowledge when they arrive, we need to step back and teach what they don’t know. That was my experience earlier in the year; I realized at one point that my freshmen were lacking some middle school skills. What did I do? I stopped our high school curriculum where it was and had a week of middle school math teaching. When it was over, we went right back to the high school curriculum. Guess what? It was a completely different class after that point. Why was it different? It was different because a) I gave them skills they needed and desired and b) I showed them that I care about them.


Just like our shadow parts that we don’t like, we need to find a way to love the parts of ourselves that are inconvenient. This also applies to the personalities that arrive in my classroom every day’ looking for my guidance. We need to love the unwanted parts of our classroom (our psychic space.)


Vertical Teaching and Meetings

Educational Cultures

Recently the faculty at the school where I teach has had a couple of meetings about teen suicide. Within the past year, our school had lost a couple of its teen members due to suicide. This prompted me to ask a neighboring teacher if he remembered a prominence of teen suicides at this particular school. He told me that there were a long string of years in the past when there was at least one suicide at the school each year. To follow this up, our principal decided to look deeper in to the problem. He initiated a plan to survey our current students. From the findings that the guidance department shared, it was concluded that over 50% of the students at our school had at least had suicidal thoughts. When they were surveyed as to why, many of issues presented were academic in nature like homework load and testing and standardized testing. Of course, in both meetings the staff was instructed to keep an eye out for changes in students and the number to suicide prevention. In one of the meetings, the presenting psychologist, specialized in Cognitive Behavior Therapy, suggested a few behavior management suggestions. In the second meeting, it was suggested that we as educators reduce homework and apply a schedule where students minimize the number of tests in a day.I applaud the efforts but I don’t believe these will result in much change in the situation.

So what else can we do as a staff? On the small scale, I believe some Jungian and Humanistic approaches could help. On the Humanistic side, I feel that our biggest job as high school educators are to produce better people and citizens of the communities in which they will live. That is, we need to produce better personal growth as human beings. On the Jungian side, we need to respect the Inner Self of each student, as well as the Inner Self of each employee of the school system. Also, it seems as if other approaches of psychology seem to focus on repairing things after they are broken. My experience of Jungian psychology is that repair is part of the equation but so is directing ourselves to a place where we can recognize when things are slipping into old patterns. That is, being more conscious of what we are doing, whether good or bad. For me, the best tool for this transformation is Active Imagination. It is a powerful tool but not really my emphasis for this particular blog.

This particular blog is about the harmful cultures at any high school. Not only that but the lack of a bridge between these cultures. At this point, you mind may be searching for the cultures I am speaking of. Well, let me get to it; There are three dominant cultures at every high school I have worked and attended; The parents, the students and the teachers. All three are sure they have the correct perspective. All three believe they have the background that make them qualified to make the right decision. The parents believe that they know best for their kids. They believe that they need to push their kids to work hard, get good grades and do all the things that will get their kids into the best school possible. The teachers believe that their class is the key to that quality education that will get those kids into the best schools and will help the student to be prepared to excel at that good school. If the students and parents would just listen to the teacher, then the student will get that great school that it deserves. Then there is the students. On the outside, they just don’t want to be there. They are tired of being told what to do. They are tired of the boring classes that they see will never be used in the Life after school. However, on the inside, they just want everyone to be happy with them so they will leave them alone and they get on with their lives of being young and free.

In the end, all of these groups have their rights to feel this way and they are right. However, all three groups, in my opinion, are a little too rigid. A good college is optimum. Yes, educators usually know the path to that great test score and skills that will be needed at the next level. And, yes, kids should be allowed to be kids. So how do we do this? I think the first thing we need to do is relax and be flexible. The kids are not lazy if they don’t do things that we did. The kids are just not getting what they need. It is our job to know the kids to the level that we understand what their wants and needs are. When we learn this, we can adjust our programs to help the kids find what they want to do. I believe that parents and educators may project too much. We know the way we learned and got our education so we think it is the best way. And when the student doesn’t act the way we did, we think that they are lazy and/or rebelling. They are just growing in their own way. When I was in high school, I loved math and band but hated going to all those other classes. I was proud that I gave little effort and still was able to mange a 2.3 GPA. Fast forward to 40 years later. I am on the verge of earning a PhD in psychology and I never took a SAT or a GRE. I have been successful despite not having done those things. I was called lazy and unmotivated. When my parents offered me cash for Honor Roll, I achieved it. When they didn’t, I didn’t care. Do I want my students to follow my path? Absolutely not! Do I understand when they do? I really think I do. When I see that, I usually look at what I am doing to destroy their love of learning. In the end, I want them to find their destiny and their love of learning. When we do that, I believe the threat of suicide is greatly decreased.

Educational Cultures

Attention and Focus

It is true that I have been away a few days. Just when I was starting to like this blogging thing, Life got in the way. On the way home on Tuesday, I experienced a harsh result of a lack of focus; I rear-ended another car at a stop light. (We were sitting still, the light turned green, I eased forward, while attending to something inside the car, and I slammed into the rear end of a large SUV.) My car was drive-able but the front end was smashed. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t had any warnings. The previous week I broke two pairs of reading glasses within a few hours. Since I was not paying much attention at the time, I guess God decided that I needed a bigger reminder to pay attention and stay focused. As if that wasn’t enough, I had more bad news. While I was waiting for the police to clear this mess up, I received a email critiquing my latest essay for my PhD. It also inferred a lack of focus on my part. I was definitely detecting a disturbing pattern here. I needed to get it together…fast. On Thursday, I was invited to do a training session on using to emotional moments (good and bad) to promote personal and professional growth. I feel that it would be terrible for me to feel unfocused when handed such a great opportunity to help my fellow teachers. My first step was to discuss this issue over lunch with my wife. We talked about where our inner lives were and it struck me that the problem was a lack of focus. (I realized that I was only about 80% there when she was talking to me.) When I got home, I decided to go to YouTube to figure out what was the best way to handle better focus. After checking out a few videos, I realized that the definitive answer was in my unconscious all along; meditation. I had been introduced to the practice around 2003 by a friend who was a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka. (Ironically, he made contact about visiting us about the time I broke the sets of glasses. Still not paying attention to what I should!) At the time, I used it to help with my explosive anger. After making a habit of about 60 minutes a day, my temper became much more manageable. However, in the years since then, I have been doing a lot less meditating. This speaks to how much I need to return to this practice. It is not the answer to everything but it may be the missing piece I am looking for in my path for personal and professional growth.

Attention and Focus

Experimental Teaching

It is a Sunday night before a new school week. This is when I mentally check with myself whether I am ready to teach on Monday and if there are any loose ends I need to wrap up. My grading is all caught up, except for Friday’s tests and some make-up tests. My lesson plans were filled out on Friday morning. Normally, that would be enough to convince me that I am ready to go. If this were the case, I would turn my attention to my personal dream work or do some reading for my PhD program or write some of the required work for my PhD program. That would be the case if my teaching day was a normal teach, assign and grade day. But it is not. I have decided to try something different. I have decided to step outside the prototypical teacher mode and do something different. This is going to take some preparation. Some interesting preparation.

However, before I go into the details of this new approach, I believe that it is best to give a little background on my approach. About this time last year, I received an electronic invitation to take part in a workshop in New York City. It seemed interesting but it was New York City! And I was living in Athens, GA. Long story short, it was exciting and scary at the same time; So I sucked up the fear and did it anyway. (It was very much like taking the jump to do this blog.) It was with The East Side Institute in Manhattan and Lois Holzman. The main premise I received from the three days was that concepts go to a deeper place when you act them out. Some of this butted heads with some of my Jungian beliefs but I found a way for it to blend into my belief system. The program emphasized acting, something that makes me feel rather uncomfortable. Despite this, I participated fully and learned some valuable things, as evidenced by this experiment.

A second influence was from my mentor, Peter Burmeister. Peter sent me an article on “unschooling.” This concept is, as I understand it, where parents pull their kids out of school and educate them at home. However, instead of copying a standard curriculum, they teach them by immersing them in the parents’ everyday living. That is, they allow the natural processes of Life to teach them all the lessons they need. This is also included in this experiment.

The third piece of this idea was presented by one of my Saybrook professors and a book she requested I read. Ruth Richards suggested I read Interpretive Ethnography by Norman K. Denzin. In the book, Denzin suggests many different ways to present research. One of those is interactive theatre. Therefore, that is the basis for my experiment.

Now back to the classroom. The setting is my 9th grade coordinate algebra class. About a week ago, we covered the last section in the book. Therefore, this class is all review for the last three months of the school year. Our first week was reviewing the same way I taught, except that the kids picked what we reviewed. Even though I gave them this power, there were still complaints. The biggest complaint was “why are we doing same problems all over the again?!” I told them I wasn’t gonna change it. I guess I lied.

So here is the plan. I created a new set of problems thanks to a test-making program. It will given to them on Monday and due on Friday. Nothing new so far. The new part is what I am calling Math Theatre.  I have a written a short play that illustrates the idea of balancing equation. (I will try to attached it some way. Balance play.) I will then divide the class into groups and they will come to the front of the class and perform it at their best. It is my hope that the concreteness of the play and the fact that everyone performs it will lead to deeper learning. If it doesn’t, I will refine it or reject it. The fun is in the process. As well as fun growth.

Update: I tried this today and asked the students to respond. The results were split; half found it boring and half liked it but thought there should be a variety of plays. I am going to make the next step and ask them to write and perform the plays, given the subject of the day. I’ll update this tomorrow.

Update #2. After a week of this practice, the students tell me that they like the practice. They also recommended that they write plays on Mondays and Wednesdays and they perform them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They also claim that they help the students learn the concepts better. There is evidence of this because we played a game using the weekly worksheet I gave them. There were very few incorrect answers on the worksheet. After the students exchanged worksheets and graded them, most of the scores looked like they were 80-90% correct. It seems like a love of learning and better performance on the work. I will keep everyone posted.

Experimental Teaching

Welcome to my blog

I start this blog with great fear and great excitement. I have been a high school mathematics teacher for about a dozen years. I love teaching but have always butted heads with administrations because their approach seemed to be “not quite right.” I could not really put my finger on this disconnect until I was introduced to Jungian dream work. And then to an advanced degree in education. As I am on the verge of a PhD in psychology, I have become what I like to call an Educational Warrior. I feel like it is about time that we change the way we teach high school subjects, particularly mathematics.

You may ask what the connection between education and psychology is. It is a connection that is taught in colleges in teacher education programs. But only briefly. I only remember taking 1 or 2 psychology courses in my curriculum. On top of that, the name of Carl Jung was never mentioned. (In my masters’ program, one textbook mentioned Jung once and it was to say that Jung’s writings were “too dense” and unverifiable. I find those as poor excuses to reject some brilliant views.) Therefore, with my background and experience, I intend on trying to repair these oversights.

The reader may also ask what motivates to do this. The quick answer is that it is my passion. The reader may ask if my passion is to make my students academians and my answer to that is no. My goal is to help my students to find their bliss. That is, to find what turns them on. What is it that makes them excited? We as educators do this by introducing them to as many different things as possible. That is the reason my class is a combination mathematics, psychology, dreams, music, poetry and famous quotes. I even try to include my passion for sports when I can. But, as my mentor often tells me, I need to “Go deeper.” The deeper reason for this pursuit is to correct my negative past. My childhood was filled with times that I felt unprotected and unsupported. I felt like I needed someone to guide me and there was nobody there. By the time I got to high school, I just wanted to get it over with. I knew I was smart but I wasn’t enjoying high school much. With that being said, my passion is to be an advocate for my students and help them to find their inner purpose.

The last thing I would like to state my purposes of this blog. In the short term, I would like to put teaching ideas “out there” and learn from the feedback from the readers of this blog. My long-term goal is to develop opportunities where I could teach teachers to teach better by using Jungian-based ideas towards teaching. Please let me know how I am doing.


Welcome to my blog