Posted by: Tricia Buck | January 17, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Teacher

My seven year old son has been reading, actually devouring, Jeff Kinney’s uproarious Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  The series chronicles in word and cartoon the life of unwitting protagonist, Greg Heffley, as he navigates the awkward territory known as adolescence, while sharing keen observations such as, “Let me just say for the record that I think middle school is the dumbest idea ever invented.  You got kids like me who haven’t hit their growth spurt yet mixed in with these gorillas who need to shave twice a day.” 


Much of the diary is focused on avoiding the debilitating disease known as the “Cheese Touch.”  The Cheese Touch can only be contracted through direct contact with the piece of cheese that resides on the blacktop of the school basketball court.  The origin of the cheese is unknown, but its presence has been instilling fear in the middle schoolers for two years!  While Greg and his best friend Rowley are extraordinarily serious in their reverence for the cheese and its powers, the entire scenario is a source of sheer hilarity for the reader.


Cheese is not usually the source of inspiration or fear for me, but I had to laugh when my son told me about the dreaded Cheese Touch.  He mentioned it just after I attended an Elluminate session with fellow team leaders in Powerful Learning Practice.  During the session, there was much discussion about the very valid discomfort that teachers face when asked to change, and the fear that often accompanies new endeavors such as the use of social networks for learning.  The instant message chat that was going on during the discussion was lively, and included Will Richardson’s brief reference to the motivational book Who Moved My Cheese?  


Two mentions of powerful cheese in so short a period of time could hardly go unnoticed.  The cheese allusions got me thinking about my own fears, concerns, and discomfort with the radical shifts that have been occurring in my professional life as of late.  Over the last couple of years I have known that there was something lurking on the basketball court, in the hallways, and all around the grounds of Turpin High School; I have felt its presence but often ignored its importance.  What was and is lurking is in fact not cheese, but change…     


The truth that the diary reveals is that Greg Heffley is not a wimpy kid at all.  He is a normal kid, a nice, funny, smart, creative kid with much to offer.  We teachers who sometimes feel wimpy, surrounded by perceived gorillas of the Web 2.0 world are not at all wimpy, we are normal, nice, funny, smart and creative with so much to offer our students.  I can attest that when the growth spurt starts to happen it is exciting, it is liberating, and it is often hilarious…there is a world out there waiting to amaze, delight, and inspire.  What I promise is that if you allow yourself to reach out you will not be stricken with the Cheese Touch that causes people to run away from you in terror, rather you will contract the Change Touch that will bring people to you, learners and teachers of all kinds from around the globe, and will eliminate the walls of your classroom in an instant.  There is definitely nothing wimpy about that!










  1. You are an incredible writer. What a delight- someone with provocative thoughts who can write as well.

    • Thank you Sheryl. My time thus far in PLP has been life-changing. Thanks for providing such inspiration.

  2. Well done, as always.

  3. Another fine blog entry. I agree with you. Change is refreshing, exciting & invigorating. I need it. I can’t imagine teaching the same way from one year to the next. I would get bored. So for me, it is as much about keeping things fresh for myself as well as for my students.

    • You are so kind to take the time to read and reply, Sherry. Working with you has been a great change for me this year!

  4. Gorilla, huh? ;0)

    It really is impressive to look at the way that you’ve embraced and navigated all of this Tricia. You know it’s unusual, right? You’ve become an accepted and vibrant part of the much larger community in a relatively short amount of time, and I’m wondering what you think it is about your character, abilities, etc. that has made this work for you? (See this post for some context.) How much do you think being able to write has to do with it?

    Congrats on your journey so far…it’s fun to watch!

    • I am grateful that you took the time to visit Will, and I truly appreciate your kind words. As usual, you ask a good question. I hadn’t thought about what makes me able to navigate this new world, but my love of writing may play a part. The blog, PLP ning, and my class wiki and ning do give me a great forum for written communication, allowing me to record the many thoughts always floating (sometimes sinking) in my mind. I am reading The Element right now, and I will say that teaching/learning is my element. I am finding myself extraordinarily enegized by the community of passionate teacher/learners that I have found out there in the great wide open. I’ll think about this a bit more and let you know if anything brilliant comes…perhaps after I feed my hungry little ones 😉

  5. You are a very talented writer. You embraced many of my own feelings about change. The unknown and my own lack of know how. I am learning and each new thing that I learn and share with my students is invigorating.

  6. Tricia-very funny and timely post-I too am on the brink of trying to not only embrace but implement all the great things technology can offer. Change is exciting, interesting, scary and most of all mentally challenging. I feel as though I am at a critical point both in my teaching career(already at 20 years!-with many left to go)and personal habits. I look at my mother-in-law who is nearing age 78-who just recently got cable tv and is adamantly refusing to a accept the fact she needs a new portable phone–she hates change. I never want to become someone opposed to new things.

  7. Mrs. Buck I wish you would write more often haha. I love reading your posts even if they don’t connect to me on the surface level. They find a way to connect to what I believe and get me thinking about how I live my life and my path. Expect me to be dropping by your classroom weekly if not daily :).

    • It is so cool to have you as a reader Joe! You have been an inspiration to me this year; you know that it is the students who are often the teachers, right?

  8. Your words were comforting as well as encouraging. I often feel overwhelmed, but your outlook, that of a wimpy kid, put a new face on my situation. Thanks!

  9. If you liked Tricia’s comments here, you’ll love the book, “Who Moved My Cheese.” This is a great book about life in general. As we all go through life, the goal seems to constantly change. It is important to enjoy the journey. Many times the people surrounding us are life’s proverbial roses. We need to slow down and enjoy relating to one another…Student’s personalities included. I believe this is the kind of change Tricia is referring to.

  10. Excellent peice of writing. I can’t wait to get a hold of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I am sure that my son would love it. Heck, I am sure that I would. As I read your blog, I thought of when I first became a teacher. Teaching elementary school, I collected as many childrens books as I could. One of those that has remained in my collection was Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. I have used it in many of my classrooms as well as several speeches that I have given over the years. It is amazing how many messages can come from one little book. One of those messages that I have held on to is that, we have the ability to go out into the world and accomplish anything we want and we can do that with the understanding that there is someone behind us to provide support and encouragement. Embarking on these new techological endeavors is scary but exciting and we can do so because we have the support and encouragement of our peers, administration and students. It is much easier to climb out on that branch when we know that if we fall, someone will be there to pick us up and help us get back on that branch. Like you, I am excited about my journey. I hope that I am able to represent our community as well as you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I know I am not the writer you are, but I hope that I have added something of value to your blog.

    • Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog Chris. You have added value just by coming. I think teachers connecting to make a difference and to support one another on the journey is so valuable!

  11. Reading your eloquent words about your journey inspires me to give more effort to my own. It is in my vision that using these technology tools will actually assist me to become a better teacher for my students and a better partnerhip with the parents of these wonderful teens. Thanks for inspiring myself and many others!

  12. Besides being a facinating blogger you’re quite a respectable line dancer, singer, tennis/ping-pong player, and traveler….so many more connections. I’m looking forward to visiting you site again!

  13. Tricia- LOVE that analogy.
    Totally true. I often feel like a wipmy teacher. So often. 🙂
    Beautifully written too.

  14. Oh dear, now I feel like the Wimpy Kid – how could I write as beautifully as you! And that’s what we find out throughout life: there’s always somebody who does something better than you. The trick is to learn what you do well, share it with others, and try to learn new things.

    • Hi Sarah, judging from your kindness I am sure you are best at many things. Thanks for the encouragment, it is MUCH appreciated!

  15. Wow. I was totally amazed by your blog and your writing. As i go through this cadre the change is enormous. I’ve also been at this 20 years and this learning community as invigorated me so much. Instead of counting down to retirement I’m wondering how I can do all I want to do and what else is out there to learn. What else is amazing is the feedback that you are getting. A blog really does have a wide audience. Definitely something to think about.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Pam, I appreciate your kind words and your passion about your work. I continue to be inspired by passionate peers such as you!

  16. Phenomenal!!! I can just picture the amazement on Nolan’s face reading about a contagious disease caused by touching cheese and the intimidation of attending school with gorillas. I am inspired by the message of embracing change as we are about to turn our lives upside down with baby #2. Thanks for another great entry. I have you on my RSS.

  17. We believe the “Cheese Touch” parallels beautifully with the fear of Web 2.0 in many conservative teachers and even students. It seems the kids in the book are scared of the cheese, but they do not know why. Many teachers and students have a similar fear when it comes to Web 2.0 and using the networking aspect as a number one teaching tool. The awkward kids in the middle school that haven’t hit puberty are compared to the people still stuck in the industrial information economy. People are afraid of autonomy in a sense, because people are used to conforming to what others say they must do, especially in the classroom. Subconciously, many people believe they need structure, since we have been influenced by the hierarchical model for so long; espeically in the classroom.

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