June 11th, 2012
11:20 AM ET

Commencement speaker tells grads they’re ‘not special’

by James Dinan, CNN

(CNN) - Most commencement speeches aren’t very memorable. The commencement ceremonies I’ve attended, both as a graduate and as a guest, featured speeches that sounded like the speaker just phoned it in and could have cured insomnia. All of the speeches talked about reaching for the stars and keeping your feet on the ground – it’s as if Casey Kasem wrote every commencement speech ever recited.

This takes us to David McCullough, Jr., an English teacher at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts. McCullough’s recent commencement speech to Wellesley’s Class of 2012 could be pared down to one sentence: You’re not special.

McCullough, son of the famed historian, told the graduates that they’ve been pampered all their lives by parents, teachers and others, but now they need to slip up and make mistakes as they try to make it as adults. You can catch part of McCullough’s speech in the above video.

Despite the bluntness of McCullough’s remarks, many critics are heaping praise at the speech, saying it is a wake-up call for a generation some say is self-centered and over-protected.

What do you think of McCullough’s speech? Was he mean-spirited, or was he just telling the truth?

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Filed under: Graduation • On air • Practice • video
May 19th, 2012
11:00 PM ET

Joplin student: Lessons learned 1 year after tornado

Editor’s note: Lydia McAllister is a graduating senior at Joplin High School in Joplin, Missouri. She writes for the school newspaper, The Spyglass, plays soccer, is an officer with the National Honor Society and was a member of the school’s state champion Constitution Team. In the fall, she plans to attend the University of Missouri to study journalism.

Last year, Lydia wrote about returning to classes at a temporary high school after a May 22, 2011, tornado destroyed parts of Joplin, including the old high school.

By Lydia McAllister, Special to CNN

(CNN) - It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “What if…?” What if the tornado hadn’t torn my house to mere sticks? What if my dad’s business was still standing? What if my school still had walls?

One year after an F5 tornado blew through town, we’re rebuilding, and we’ve made it through a school year. On Monday, I’m graduating.

The year at our high school in the mall had its ups and downs. I missed having the ninth- and 10th-grade students around, and I know they wish the upperclassmen were with them, but we had to work with what we got - and what we got is an absolute miracle. It isn’t some foreign building; it has really become a high school.

Although laptops make life easier, the change to a “paper-less” school has been hard on the teachers, and I sometimes felt like I wasn’t learning what I could if I didn’t have Twitter open in the next tab. This year taught me lessons that will help me in college: Your education is what you make it. You can choose whether to get a lot or a little from your classes.

Joplin High School will be rebuilt and will open in a few years.

Impact Your World: Rebuilding Joplin

I feel beyond blessed to have President Barack Obama speaking at our ceremony. How many high school students can say that the president spoke at their graduation? I know there are mixed opinions about politics, but this is a great honor. I might not vote for him in the upcoming election, but I can still appreciate how important this is for Joplin.

I can’t help but smile when I drive down Range Line Road on the route to school. It’s been amazing to watch businesses spring up right and left. Now we have Home Depot, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Wal-Mart, Wendy’s, Sonic. My town finally looks like what it should, not like a war zone, but like the place I grew up.


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Filed under: After High School • Graduation • On air • video • Voices
May 14th, 2012
11:36 AM ET

Math whiz Chad Qian on winning

Eighth grader Chad Qian of Indiana took the top prize in the Raytheon MATHCOUNTS national competition which included an $8000 scholarship.

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Filed under: Math • Middle school • On air • video
May 8th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Indiana mom sends son to school with stun gun to confront bullies

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - An Indiana mother who sent her gay son to school with a stun gun after administrators apparently didn't do enough to stop the bullying against him said she would do it again - even though the teen now faces expulsion.

"I do not promote violence - not at all - but what is a parent to do when she has done everything that she felt she was supposed to do ... at the school?" the mother, Chelisa Grimes, told CNN's Don Lemon on Sunday. "I did feel like there was nothing else left for me to do, but protect my child."

The school district held an expulsion hearing last week but no decision has been announced.

Grimes sent her son, Darnell "Dynasty" Young, to Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis with the stun gun after he said he was taunted and bullied for months.

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Filed under: Bullying • High school • On air • Policy • video
May 7th, 2012
02:49 PM ET

Dr. Shaq O'Neal on his new degree

The NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal received his doctorate in education from Barry University in Florida. Fredricka Whitfield speaks with him about the importance of education. O'Neal says, "If you have education, you'll always have something to fall back on."

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Filed under: College • Extracurricular • On air • Practice • Sports • video
May 7th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

DWTS contestants appreciate their lifelong 'stars'

by Tomeka Jones, CNN

Editor’s Note: Monday marks the start of Teacher Appreciation Week and some of the cast from “Dancing with the Stars” stepped away from the dance floor to help honor educators around the world.

CNN asked the stars to put the spotlight on their favorite and most inspirational teachers.  Here’s what they had to say:

Maria Menounos, TV Host, Extra: Mrs. Brunner actually taught me how to speak English so I always start there…

Roshon Fegan, Actor, "Shake it Up!": I'm going to have to give the biggest coach, teacher, mentor award to my father. He is a teacher in every way of life.

Chelsie Hightower, Professional Dancer: My mom is amazing. She's been through so, so much and she's always been so strong for her kids, and always been such a good mom.

Menounos: But, then there's Mrs. Dudley who taught me to love Shakespeare.

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Filed under: On air • Teacher Appreciation • Voices
April 30th, 2012
06:13 AM ET

Should you pay for your neighbor's education?

As President Obama urges lawmakers to keep student loan rates low, Will Cain and Andrew Ross offer solutions with Christine Romans.

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Filed under: College • Economy • On air • video • Your Bottom Line
April 30th, 2012
06:08 AM ET

Presidential battle for youth vote heats up

Christine Romans speaks with University of Iowa upperclassmen about President Obama's recent speech about student debt.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • College • Economy • On air • Policy • Politics • video • Your Bottom Line
April 25th, 2012
03:15 PM ET

National Teacher of the Year's "business model"

2012 Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki shares how she used lessons from her business background in the classroom.

Watch part two of the interview:

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Filed under: Curriculum • On air • Practice • Teachers • video
April 11th, 2012
02:45 PM ET

Weingarten: The importance of showing 'Bully'

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten talked to Soledad O'Brien about the importance of screening the documentary "Bully".

Watch the second part of the interview:

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Filed under: Bullying • On air • Policy • Practice • video
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