Category Archives: The Craft

Episode #3, Segment 1 – Louis Herbst on how he stumbled into teaching, the key to a good interview, why it is so great when a student says “why do we need to learn this?”, and the joys of teaching a student from 4 to 13 years old

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Here at The Craft, I’m interested in the stories behind teaching, learning, and schools. What attracts someone to teaching? What keeps them in the game? How do we design truly meaningful learning environments? Where is schooling going? How can we be a part of helping to guide the evolution? In the first three episodes, I have focused on collecting the stories of teachers, very different teachers, to learn a bit about how they got into teaching in the first place and what keeps them in the craft. In each episode, I also ask the teachers what they want to talk about in terms of teaching, learning, and schools. So far, we’ve hung out with David Sokoloff, a Philly public school history teacher, and talked about the relationship between space and learning. We met with Amy Lafty, an Archdioscese English teacher, and learned about the challenges of being a mom-teacher, her push for project-based learning, and the phenomenon of prom. Now, hot off the USB microphone, we have Louis Herbst, a Swiss Army knife of a teacher, having taught everything from 6th grade social studies to PreK through 8th grade PE as well as serving as the athletic director, the afterschool enrichment coordinator, and summer camp director at United Friends School. We caught Louis just days before he jumped in his car with his wife and young son to head out to Scattergood Friends where he now is the Academic Dean at Scattergood Friends.Louis Herbst portrait

The truly dynamic teachers tend to be the ones who do not go into teaching through the traditional routes. I’m not talking about getting certified through Teach for America instead of the State. I’m talking about life trajectory. In this episode, you’ll hear a bit about Louis’ turbulent middle and high school experience and how that nudged him into teaching. You’ll also hear a bit about a really interesting non-profit he started in his undergraduate work that further pushed him towards teaching. Dynamic teachers also tend to not perpetuate the status quo. Louis’ rather unorthodox approach to the interview that landed him the job at United Friends is proof of that.

One of the wonderful things about Louis’ job at United Friends was that he had the chance to teach the same kids from 4 years old to 13, so he got to watch them learn how to tie their shoes and learn how to navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of adolescents. Louis shares a bit about how this experience has shaped him.

Because the conversation with Louis was so rich, I am going to divide up the episode into 3 bite-sized segments, each of around 20 minutes or so. Perfect accompaniment to a jog or a drive to work! In the first segment, we get to hear about Louis’ rather turbulent middle and high school experience that pushed him into teaching, his unorthodox interview tactic that involved robots and Henry Box Brown that helped him land his job at United Friends, what it is like to be able to teach a child from 4 to 13 years old, and why it is so great when a student asks “why do we need to learn this?” Enjoy!


Episode #2 – Amy Lafty on Motherhood, Project-Based Learning, Losing Control, Prom, and End of Year Blues

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Welcome to the second, leaner episode of The Craft: The Podcast about Teaching, Learning, and School. The obsessive goal of The Craft is to capture teacher stories from all along the spectrum of this beautifully frustrating, transgressive, and elemental practice that is essential to the sustainability of society and the world. That’s right, I said it!

In the first episode, we met David Sokoloff, fourth year high school history teacher extraordinaire, teaching in the Philadelphia School District. In this episode, you get to meet Amy Lafty, six year high school, English teacher, teaching in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She is a journey woman, even though she has only been teaching for six years. Her travels through the Archdiocese are interesting, often comical, and illustrative of how many struggle to develop a career in teaching with the unpredictability of working in certain schools.

We get to hear about what it is like to have a young child and teach, something that is not often discussed in circles outside of close friends and family. Amy shares her challenges with being a young mother as well as the strategies that she has developed to make it work for her and her family.

The Craft would not be The Craft without robust discussion of teaching! In the spirit of sharing the work, Amy takes us into the classroom to hear a bit about a cool graphic novel project she did around Paradise Lost. More and more, Amy is turning to project-based learning to generate the kind of energy needed for enduring understandings. In fact, the pictures that you see here are from two of those projects – the graphic novel project around Paradise Lost and the Grecian Urn project inspired by Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn. Finally, we also get to hear a bit about her project around Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style. If you have never heard of the book, you can check out a sample of it (3)

All of this talk around designing meaningful projects with students leads us to a wonderful conversation about the importance and difficulty of releasing control as a teacher. Now in her 6th year of teaching, Amy realizes the necessity of letting go of control as a teacher. Easier said than done. She shares with us how challenging that can be with certain groups of students.

Since we are so close to the end of the school year, it seemed appropriate to end the podcast with some thinking on how to make the end of year meaningful, particularly for seniors who often check-out around December! And let’s not even talk about the power of prom to disrupt learning! Amy walks us through that humorous world as well.

Amy shouts out to the Bread Loaf School of English and Arcadia University for helping her become the teacher that she is. You can find information about Bread Loaf here and Arcadia here.

Who will be the next guest on The Craft? Maybe you? Feel free to reach out to me and let me know what you think of the show. Share it with friends and family. Let’s grow this to be an essential part of how we understand what it means to be a teacher in this present moment!

As always, keep learning, keep teaching, keep honing your craft.



photoA big shout out to Chris Perrin, the DJ behind the music of Perrin & Tonic that is featured on The Craft. Check him out: