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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Jose LaLuz has such a sad, sad face

"School failure fit Jose and followed him like a shadow." -pg. 6

Ayers captures in this image and quote, a face I have seen far too often in my lifelong relationship with education.  If I go back far enough, I am sure there were many, many moments when this look of despair appeared on my own mug.  It starts with excitement, an attempt to connect and respond with a force that could move the world, and with just a comment, or the failed recognition of the moment, is exhausted like the wind billowing out of the sails, only to be replaced by the emotion of giving up.  This feeling, if fueled, can manifest in the permanent wearing of this mask, and the longer it continues, the more permanent it becomes.

Luckily, we are uplifted in the next slide, and we see Jose with a different face, one of concentration, full engagement, and excitement, why he almost looks happy.  Our hero Bill sees this, but for so many Jose's, educators never do; and while Jose triumphantly fulfills the leadership role that might just re-engage him with school, for too many of our students, this opportunity never comes.

I am lucky enough to be working in a program where the focus and size require me to get to know each student deeply as an individual.  My first month of school is spent probing their successes and stumbles, and finding the reinforcements that draw them out of the protective shells they have built to buffer them from an education system that is not working for them.  I often mark the breakthroughs by the arguments that we encourage, because they allow the students unfiltered moments, and often times room for growth.

This is in stark contrast to Quinn, who we are introduced to on pg. 14.  The "weirdos with the clipboards" observe him in his classroom without enough background knowledge, compassion, competence, or empathy, and discuss him, making judgements that have no bearing.  In a tell-tale slide, one of them is incapable of cutting an apple with the plastic knife supplied by the school and while ignored, Quinn makes a peanut-butter mess.  Left to his own devices, Bill would most likely have sliced the apple, engaged Quinn, and rolled right along.  Ayers challenges us to "see each other generously and whole, rather than bit by behavioral bit" and this section speaks to the mistrust, and autocratic system, which tries to apply black and white rules and assessments to people who come in all shades.

The building bridges section felt a little disconnected and jumpy to me, as I read it straight through. It was only when I finished and re-skimmed it, that the metaphor of a twisting road, with many stops along the way, occurred to me. As Ayers describes to us the importance of finding ways to reach from the content to our students, and from our students to the content, he is interrupted by memories of skillful teachers who made those connections.  The more I consider the chapter, the more I connect with the idea that we are constantly assembling what we know with what we are learning, and sorting and shifting the entire time.  You listen to a story, and think of one similar, then it continues, and you make other connections.  I often read now with google open, and by the end of the session I have multiple tabs open to more deeply connect with the content.  I think Ayers is trying to get us to this conclusion when he asks us to "speak with the possibility of being heard, and listen with the possibility of being changed" which is a useful way of considering the way we learn constantly from those around us, and a positive connection to the Smith article from last week.

One final link, thank you for expanding my vocabulary Dr. Horwitz:   Mushfake it til you make it


  1. Brian, I too loved that Ayers asked us to "speak with the possibility of being heard, and listen with the possibility of being changed." It implies that our jobs as educators mean so much more than the teaching of STUFF, but rather stressing the importance of thinking and feeling. As an undergrad, I remember a speaking/listening activity that we did with Julie that REALLY made me think hard about being the loudmouth speaker that I am by nature. Sometimes, I force myself to stop and think about all of the things that everyone else is thinking and feeling, and I realize that I don't always have to share first, be first, speak first (although you better believe I'll volunteer to present first when I have to!). It was this idea of the "possibility of being changed" that I started to understand as I began to listen more and speak less.

  2. Brian, I too connect with the "idea that we are constantly assembling what we know with what we are learning, and sorting and shifting the entire time," but what I wonder is if our students are doing the same? As adults who are keen on the area of learning I think this is something natural to us. But I wonder if this thought occurs to my middle school students? And how I can lead them to this?