Education

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about the Common Core.

It's the venerable custom in tennis and golf for the crowd to be still and quiet when players hit their shots.

Now, since even ordinary baseball batters have some success hitting against 98 mph fastballs with 40,000 fans standing and screaming, do you really believe that great athletes like Novak Djokovic or Rory McIlroy couldn't serve or putt with a few thousand fans hollering? If they'd grown up playing tennis or golf that way, that is. When disorder is a sustaining part of the game, players, in effect, put it out of their minds. Hear no evil, see no evil.

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DON GONYEA, HOST:

The NPR Ed Team is all about great teaching — so how could we attend the annual SXSW education conference and not ask folks to tell us about their favorite teachers?

In his new book, Raising Kids Who Read, Daniel Willingham wants to be clear: There's a big difference between teaching kids to read and teaching them to love reading.

And Willingham, a parent himself, doesn't champion reading for the obvious reasons — not because research suggests that kids who read for pleasure do better in school and in life.

Right now, high school seniors across the country are trying hard not to think about what is — or isn't — coming in the mail.

They're anxiously awaiting acceptance letters (or the opposite) from their top-choice colleges and universities. But this story isn't about them. It's about a big group of seniors who could get into great schools but don't apply: high-achieving students from low-income families who live outside of America's big cities.

This weekend, Maine teacher Nancie Atwell was awarded the first Global Teacher Prize, a $1 million award intended to be the "Nobel Prize of teaching."

Growing up, Atwell, 63, never expected to become a teacher, or even to go to college. But from the moment she began teaching in 1973, Atwell says she felt right at home.

"I am so inspired by all my students, but especially the seventh- and eighth-graders," she says. "They are so uninhibited and if you ask them to do something they will just work their heads and hearts off."

In murder mystery novels, when the hero, a private detective or homicide cop, drops by a late-night Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to stave off a sudden craving for a beer or two or 20, it's usually in some dingy church basement or dilapidated storefront on the seedier side of town. There's a pot of burnt coffee and a few stale doughnuts on a back table.

The Center for Students in Recovery at the University of Texas could not be more different.

The NPR Ed team is back from Austin, where we connected with hundreds of educators and people excited about education at the annual South By Southwest Edu Conference. As with many conferences, there's just as much to be gained from conversations in the hallways and chance encounters as from the official sessions. Here's what we learned from both.

1) For many teachers, the most important tech tools are free.

Aziz Royesh is a man whose life has been defined by one over-arching ambition: He says he simply wants to be a teacher.

At 46, he has achieved that goal in one of the most difficult and dangerous environments in the world — Afghanistan. He has also founded a school that is now winning international acclaim as a model for education in that war-battered nation.

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