Tuesday, September 15, 2015

To Teach...

"To Teach: the journey in comics"

This is my first time reading a graphic novel.  I must say, I thought this was going to be an easy read, but I was incorrect.  I think I focused more on how the graphic novel flowed (meaning, I had a difficult time distinguishing the order of the conversation and the direction it was going).  However, after a few dozen pages, I was able to catch onto how the story was suppose to go.  Also, "reading" the pictures was also something that I had to get accustomed to.

The first part that caught my eye was the "at risk" component.  I took a step back knowing that many of my students would be labeled this stereotype by other communities around the nation.  "...at risk functions like a metaphor... [it] adds an authenticating medical dimension to a prescription made long before any investigation beings" (p. 21).  This automatically helped me to realize that grouping all the students in this "at risk", already makes them a lesser.  To live this everyday and to read it is one thing, but to understand that these labels are dangerous to use, especially when students at the middle level know it is not them, or how they feel about themselves. Some mission statements have this "at risk" component (I've read them at certain schools).  Our school uses "at promise" in our mission, but it 'seems' to be more positive, but as I was reading it still makes me think about the label-- but isn't every student "at promise" for ANY school, not just the schools 'in trouble"?  It was extremely challenging to have dialogue with my team about this.  It might be me over thinking this, but I think the "at promise" embellishes the negativity-- just a bit.

I really tuned into Chapter 3 "Creating an Environment for Learning." I felt this chapter was a large part of work that totally change my pedagogy of teaching.  I read this chapter and feeling the "oh snap" moment.  Last semester I changed my thoughts about teaching by arranging my classroom to fit the needs of students and came across some interesting findings.  "I want to build spaces where the wisdom in the room is uncovered and the experience and knowledge of students becomes a powerful engine for our work" (p. 44).  My students are mathematicians.  I strongly believe what Ayers has to say about organizing a classroom where learning happens for all students in their own way. Classroom are not "informational dumping grounds" they are "informational pumping grounds"


  1. "At risk," "at promise"...they don't feel quite right. I get similar feelings when schools say "scholar" instead of "student." Of course I want my students to be academically successful but I feel like "scholar" has such an ivory tower feel. And of course it is important to assess and be aware of those students who are working through more difficult circumstances. But how much does that label help and/or hinder?

  2. Ken, this is really powerful thinking/writing. I'm so curious to hear more about your conversation with your team about the whole "at promise" piece in your mission statement. I agree with you and Brittany - sticking a label of any sort in the mission statement just places an umbrella over each and every student, as if saying, "you have promise but you're nowhere near it yet." I think this is why I had such a hard time interviewing with a charter school over the summer. It would have offered me a full-time position (and financial stability) for the year, but their values and vision didn't quite align with my own. I'm excited to see what kind of "information" and knowledge we can pump out through the conversations in our classroom tonight!

  3. Ken,
    I am interested to hear your take on whether to design a bridge theoretically, or build a bridge that the classroom turtle will climb up. As an ELA teacher, there are many seamless ways to connect the text to real world examples, which I think increases buy-in, engineering seems like a natural fit for math, what is your experience with this?
    This was also my first time reading a graphic novel, and I found myself re-reading quite a bit, probably more so that if it was a straight text. I'm not sure it is a more effective way to get the message Ayers intends across, or just a different way, which in itself makes it stand out, but I did enjoy the variety.