Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

02.10.14Personal Confession: How It All Came Crashing Down

Far too neat to be mine!

Far too neat to be mine!

In my workshops I often like to tell stories about my home life and particularly my wife, Lisa, who is an incredible wife, mom, partner, etc. and who is so busy being those things that she hasn’t really had time to read any of my books.  Bless her, she tries, but every time she starts to read one of them I look over at her and she’s snoring away. She must be very tired, I assure myself, but the words ring false.  There is not much better for keeping you very, very humble than your better half counting sheep after five pages of reading something you wrote and doing that for four years running.

Anyway, the upside of this, which I love to get mileage from at my workshops, is that she does not know about a whole bevvy of techniques she might use to hold me much more accountable!   I mean, it’d be great if she read the books and all but I think I can live with the trade. Plus I get to tell hilarious stories about how different my life would be if my wife read the behavior management chapter in TLaC. And most of all I use the story of my laundry issues to talk about the difference between taking feedback and using it. (See Practice Perfect, rule 23).  Essentially, I struggle to get my laundry in the laundry basket and this drives my wife batty. But, I note, I am very good at taking feedback.  When she tells me how much my laundry habits bug her I nod and look at her earnestly.  I promise to do better. I repeat her feedback back to her.  “So it bothers you that my clothes are only near the basket,” I say in my best ‘trying to do better’ voice. “It’s your closet too.” And then the next day I leave my socks a few feet to the left or right of the basket all over again.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Oh, how I loved telling my audience at a recent workshop that if Lisa ever read the feedback chapter in Practice Perfect, she’d know that she should make me practice USING her feedback instead of taking it and that she should hand me a pile of my stuff and say, “Let me see you get it into that basket right now.” And then: “Good, I will expect that everyday.”  Alas, she has not read the feedback chapter and so, happily, my life goes on pretty much as before, with me obeying the spirit, if not the letter, of the laundry-goes-in-the-laundry-basket law.

Until last Friday, when it all came crashing down.  I was at a workshop busily trying to change the world one reading lesson at a time. I checked my email at lunch.  This is the note I got from my wife:


First, I love you very much. And I appreciate all you do to try to make my life easier – emptying the dishwasher this am was incredibly helpful! (techniques 43 and 44) Second, I’d like you to try again at the end of the day to nail the laundry in the basket thing we’ve been working on.  I’m giving you the opportunity to show me how much you’ve improved!

POW!  Technique 39.

 If this doesn’t work, all those people who come to see you are just wasting their time.  🙂

 Love ,

Your adoring wife

Good Lord, I thought immediately, and not in a positive sense, She’s been reading my books! What would this mean? Could I even go home??!!  And then it got worse.  There was a photo attached to the email- a photo of my laundry basket!  I would share it except that I am not one for airing my dirty laundry–quite literally–in public.  But here’s the tricky part. When I looked at it I wasn’t totally sure whether she was showing me the picture as evidence that I was doing a good job or a bad job. However, I shared it with my Practice Perfect co-authors, Katie Yezzi and Erica Woolway and they assured me that, devastatingly, it was overwhelming evidence of a poor job on my part.

Anyway, I’m not really sure where to go from here.  It seems my impunity is about to end and if she’s read some parts of my book, goodness only knows what other parts she’s read and what other changes and forms of accountability are going to come into my life.  It’s all rather shocking so I hope you’ll have some helpful advice.

No Responses to “Personal Confession: How It All Came Crashing Down”

  1. Juanita Blumberg
    February 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Until you discover what else Lisa has in store for you, Doug,I suggest you perfect your laundry technique. Think of it as a basketball game. Wad up a clothing article, and send it into the basket. Jump shots are okay. Remember, though, if you miss there is no opponent to grab it. You’ll have to try again.

  2. Renee_S_Horton
    February 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    I love your Teach like a Champion book. I used it and have passed it on to new teachers. However, if you can’t get socks in the laundry basket, you’ve got bigger issues. This is a no-brainer and your wife shouldn’t have to teach you. She isn’t your teacher, or your mother, she is your wife and partner. Man up, and clean like a champion!

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