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David Cutler  @spinedu

David Cutler @spinedu

David Cutler is a dedicated independent school teacher at Brimmer and May School in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, where he teaches United States History, United States Government, and Journalism. He also serves as Assistant Boys Cross Country Coach. Cutler is proud to act as a Teacher of the Future for the National Association of Independent Schools. Occasionally, he also writes about education for Edutopia and The Atlantic. Cutler attended Brandeis University as an undergraduate with a major in History and minors in Latin American Studies and Journalism. He holds an M.A. in Comparative History, also from Brandeis.

Posted by on in What If?


In the near future, technology will play an even more fundamental role in transforming not only how we teach, but also how students learn. The role of teacher will have completely morphed into that of a coach or mentor, and teachers will place much more emphasis on self-directed, competency-based learning. In that setting, students will be assessed not on how much they know, but on what they can do with what they know. In that regard, today, my students are already beginning to benefit.

I’m not the only one who predicts this future. About a year ago, I first spoke with Curtis J. Bonk, Professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University. Bonk is the author of The World is Open: How Technology Is Revolutionizing Education, as well as a leading authority on online and distance learning.

“I think kids in 20 years are going to walk into school and pick their peers for the day,” he says. “And they’ll be coming from all over the world. They’ll just hit a little map and they might even pick their teachers for the day coming from Philippines and Singapore and other places.”

All of this isn’t that farfetched. Still in its infancy, educational technology continues to make learning more personal, meaningful, and intricate. Changes in instruction, and how instruction is delivered, will also coincide with an evolving understanding of what it means to be educated, and what it takes to be successful.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


As a high school American History and Government teacher, I take seriously my obligation to refrain from giving any inclination of my party affiliation. More than anything else, I don’t want my views to influence unduly what my students believe, nor do I want any of them to suspect me of grading based on my own political leanings—which I would never do. I couldn’t care less what party my students support, so long as each of them leaves my classroom with a better understanding of why they support it. 

During presidential election seasons, I’m especially careful to avoid sharing my personal views about any candidate. But we have never had a frontrunner like Donald Trump, nor has our political system ever been so polarized. In this uncharted territory, here is how I have managed Trump in my classroom. 

Encourage students to speak out

As part of a unit on government and the media, students explored how to write political opinion pieces. One senior wrote a thoughtful article on The Donald’s flaws, and she shared her story Trump: A True Republican? in The Gator, the school’s online student news site, which I advise. “Even if Trump fails to win the Republican nomination, and even if he fails to win against Clinton or Sanders, the fact that he has made it this far speaks volumes to the current state of American political consciousness,”she writes. This passionate yet rational tone fostered thoughtful debate among not just her classmates, but the whole community. Students did not need me to chime in. 

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens



It’s a disgustingly hot and humid September afternoon at Palmer Trinity School in Palmetto Bay, Florida, where I teach history and coach varsity cross country. The weather doesn’t deter one of my top runners—an eighth grader who runs 3.1 miles in 18:36 minutes—from giving everything his has on his last four-mile repeat. As he makes the final turn and sweat beads off his grit-determined face, I yell one simple command—“Enjoy the pain.”

To become stronger and faster, pain is necessary. Muscles must be broken down and rebuilt in response to heightened physical demand. Capillary capacity must improve to ease the flow of oxygen into cells. Bones must become denser and the heart stronger, more efficient. Only through experiencing this process, however painful, can runners hope to reach their fullest potential.

As I read Dr. Wendy Mogel’s most recent book, The Blessings of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers, I consider a more profound idea. Outside of running, adolescents must experience pain to blossom into healthy-functioning adults.

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Posted by on in Vicki Davis


In 2001, when I was a junior at Brimmer and May in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts—an independent school where I now also teach—my academic writing benefited tremendously from one-on-one instruction. I learned to write concisely, think analytically, and consult credible sources to deepen my insights.

It’s nearly impossible to overstate the role my mastery of academic writing has played in my success, not just inside the classroom, but also as an education reporter, and most importantly, as a teacher. Clear writing reflects clear thinking, no matter the type of writing, and I have my high school teachers to thank for instilling that lesson in me.

But much has changed in over the 12 years since my graduation, and I’m now excited to serve as Writing Center Director, helping my alma mater embrace technology to help students master not just writing, but also other 21st-century communication skills.

To help set myself on the right tack, I recently read Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching and Learning Forever, by Vicki Davis, a full-time teacher and IT Director at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia. Davis also founded and runs The CoolCatTeacher, one of the Web’s most successful teacher blogs, which, along with Westwood’s Technology Program, has received copious accolades and national recognition.

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Posted by on in Education Policy


After two years at another independent school, I returned as a junior to Brimmer and May, where I had spent the majority of my lower and middle school career. I looked forward to reuniting with my friends, but scheduling differences required that I take more advanced courses.

As a sophomore, I had taken non-honors American History and American literature, courses Brimmer and May requires of its juniors. If I wanted to return, I had to take AP English Literature and Modern United States History, both senior electives with talented but demanding teachers. Even as the only junior enrolled in them, I would receive no special treatment.

Needless to say, at the time, I lacked faith in my academic abilities. I couldn’t write very well, and I couldn’t imagine being able to keep up with academic juggernauts. Having taken only non-honors courses, I thought that I had a fixed potential—that no matter how hard I tried or how much I wanted it, I would never get to be one of the “smart kids.”

Teachers posing as soothsayers had decided the limits of my future potential, and I dared not question them.

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