Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We Don't Need Another Hero, pages 22-29

Chapter 3 begins with a summary of what the author believes are Hollywood's gross exaggerations of the conditions in the school portrayed in The Ron Clark Story. Michie compares that with the much more stark and, he claims, more unconventional movie, Half Nelson.

The author compares these movies to the need for change in education and the challenges faced by teachers in urban settings. He then goes into a deeper discussion of the French film The Class and the school in it have failed its children.

Then he discusses a documentary called The First Year, which looks at the needs of teachers - and the need for more teachers - to focus on the steady, personalized support given to individual students and their unique needs, resulting in "a truly humanizing education." (p. 29)

The author closes the chapter applauding those who stick with teaching, especially in urban settings, and expressing relief that some filmmakers are bucking the "feel-good film" trend of over-the-top grand-gesture heroes and instead show educators as they really are: dedicated professionals who affect change every day with small gestures that mean the world to the individual kids they help every day.

Have you ever done something that was simple and small in your eyes but meant the world to a kid? What was it, and how did it affect they way you help kids?

Ch. 2: All Together Now

The chapter opens with the author, a middle-class white heterosexual male, describing an experience as the facilitator for a college-level Diversity course, and how he learned something from his students on the very first day of class.

  • Read the students' responses to Michie's discussion on Page 11:
  • Do you agree or identify more with the last quote by 'Sherelle' or with the last quote by 'Jenny'?
  • Why?

Michie then describes how the course had diverged from 'multicultural education,' or celebrating the vast diversity of cultures and their contributions to American society, to something very different due to tensions that such a focus had caused previously. He also shares his observations and experiences with increased nationalism following 9/11.

The author continues to discuss a couple more activities and describes why he teaches the class: to help students develop their own personal philosophies of education, and how student diversity and equity both play into it. 'Ryan' sums it up best: "I can't believe how much I don't know." (p. 16)

Next, Michie describes how the same emotionally-volatile lesson given to two classes resulted in very different outcomes. He explains, on page 19, that "One of the wonderful, and maddening, things about teaching is that you never know in advance what impact your work will have - or if it will have any at all."

The author ends the chapter discussing educational philosophy and reform. He closes the chapter with very eloquent words:

"What matters is helping aspiring teachers begin to see schools as arenas of struggle and to see themselves as people who can bring about change... that there's no such thing as a neutral classroom, that teaching, but its very nature, is a political act." (page 21)

That makes me think of the old Nike commercial with Charles Barkley, below:

  • Is your philosophy and your classroom more in line with Michie or with Nike and Sir Charles?
  • What can you do to move a little farther along in that chosen direction?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chapter 1

Teaching in the Undertow: 

Resisting the Pull of Schooling-As-Usual 

Image from  
PS: NOT the author

In Chapter 1, we are introduced to the author: a white male South Carolinian teaching 7th & 8th graders on Chicago's south side. Thrust into an environment of control - "don't do this" and "don't do that" - then-idealistic Michie instead endeavors to focus on what his students and he CAN do. This Atlantic Coast native recalls his mother's words: "Be careful of the undertow." Michie connects her advice with his own suggestions for getting through the rough currents at school.

Please feel free to post comments by clicking the "(n) comment" link below. You'll find a few questions there to help guide your reading, thoughts, and posts. I look forward to your input!