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A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.

Until the bureaucrats get involved.

Finishing School tells the story of how teachers, students, and administrators play the learning game.

Trouble is, they didn't all get the same

play book:

  • Administrators want to impress the public with strong test scores;

  • Students don't care much about that, involved as they are in their own mini-dramas and smart devices. 

  • Teachers are caught in the middle of a game they never signed up for: juggling the malaise in their students with the impossible demands of their bosses. 

   And then a new threat emerges, one that affects every teacher's ability to do their job.


Wendy Taylor tries to play nice but never imagined she'd be in a fight

for her very career over it.

If the new

assistant principal has anything to say

about it, she just might not make 

it to Christmas.

With the help of her colleagues,

she hatches a plan to thwart his intentions

and save her job. 

What she discovers in the process

upends her life anyway.

The incredible spin put on
data collection: what does
it really mean?  And does a kid learn just because a teacher places a tick mark on a grid?
Veteran teacher Wendy Taylor
tries to like the new assistant principal because
it’s the right thing to do.
 Plus, he holds her career in his hands, which he knows.
He's made it clear that the key to success in getting a  good review 
is to kowtow to his every whim. But those whims
seem to change every time he pokes his head into her classroom.
Wendy wonders why the joyful days of working earnestly with kids and helping them realize their potential have been replaced by endless documentation  and subjective reviews that form the majority of a performance-based evaluation.
On the plus side, Wendy Taylor may possibly be the only fictional character ever to start her own online magazine.

About our heroine:

So well written, I felt  like I was
in the classroom with Wendy.
-Ms. Zempel's cousin 
Too much emphasis on my mom's snarky inner voice.
-Wendy's teenage daughter, Cassidy 

T.L. Zempel on her character Wendy Taylor:

Author TL Zempel introduces her book Finishing School

Supposedly vs. Supposably

    Why is this an issue?  One is not even a real word!

     As a former teacher, I cannot resist the opportunity to instruct people on the correct uses of language.  But you can only do that with friends and family so often because, inexplicably, they find it tiresome.  

So you get to be the lucky recipient of my language expertise. 


Today’s topic: 

          Supposedly    vs.  Supposably

     Which is correct?  Well, since only one of them is a real word, the answer is easy. 

Now don’t get all preachy on me with the notion that no word was actually a real word until someone coined it.  This isn’t the case of someone making up a word that was sorely needed in the English language to express an idea.  This is the case of people bastardizing a word that already exists, through their own ignorance.  Or possibly, not paying attention in 6th grade English class.  Which leads to the same result:  their own ignorance.


     So which word is the real one and which is the wannabe?  Anyone who has sat through one of my grammar and usage lessons will know that.  Supposedly, as in, 'Supposedly, we all want to improve our communication skills!'

What is syntax and  why does it matter?

Syntax is the way words function within a sentence.  Why do we put subjects before

verbs, usually?  What does it indicate about our communication if we reverse these


     Fluent speakers of a language use syntax as they read to figure out meaning and

nuance.  Writers use syntax to do the same.  The way we organize our words within

a sentence shares with the reader the context we want to create for them.  Strong

writing manipulates syntax so that the reader is inspired to re-read perhaps entire

sections, searching for hidden meaning within the story.

     You can practice your ability to understand how and why words work together

by trying to solve cryptogram puzzles, like the ones available at Cryptograms.org.  

     When I am attacking a cryptogram, one technique I use is to look for where the word "the" might fit in.  I know that a noun will come after the word "the" -- maybe not immediately because of the possibility of an adjective in play, but soon.  Nouns and verbs work together to create complete thoughts, so that helps me to make sense of the puzzle as a whole.

Have fun practicing your syntax skills with these great puzzles.


Did you know that Wendy Taylor loves doing cryptograms?  Read how she solves one on p. 213 of Finishing School.

Why you should have paid attention in writing class

Because being embarrassed in print is a sad way to

make new connections.

Because being creative is a lot easier when you're not

hindered by inadequacy.

Because writing in cliched prose leads to much eye-rolling.

Because adjectives and adverbs are overrated as

livening up dull writing.

Because if you don't know the difference between a comma and an end mark (or a semi-colon), you will only frustrate your readers.

Because speelling and werd choice are, like, super important.

Because strong writers often break the rules of composition we learned as a kid, but it never hurts to have someone else's take on whether it was a good idea to go there in the first place.

Because over-use of a connector word at the beginning of a sentence is really annoying.

What it's all about, boy...elucidate!
- Foghorn Leghorn
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
- Mark Twain
The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit.
- W. Somerset Maugham
The first draft is just you telling
yourself the story.
- Terry Pratchett, English humorist

This week's writing tip

Do not use a comma to separate two grammatical thoughts:

    I cannot abide 

  hypocrites, they

  make me nauseous.

The parts  before and after the comma each have both a subject and a verb.  If you want a comma as your punctuation, add the word 'because' after it.

TL in black.jpg

Ms. Zempel's Writing Class:

About T.L. Zempel

T.L. Zempel, teacher and author

copyright 2020 by TL Zempel