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John T. Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.
John T. Spencer has written 128 posts for Cooperative Catalyst

What Would You Hack?

I ask my students this question the last three years. Each year it makes me frustrated, humbled (recognizing my own areas where I should improve) and hopeful. I used this as a visual writing prompt. You can check out more of these prompts on the Visual Writing Prompts blog. Luke Neff and I have been … Continue reading

L.A. Riots: An Interview 20 Years Later

My good friend Javier Lucero (@mrlucero82) was a nine year old child during the L.A. Riots twenty years ago. I interviewed him about his experiences as a child and what that means for him as a teacher dedicated to social justice. The interview takes place in a car, so there’s sort-of a third character of … Continue reading

I’m Writing for Fun

I knew it was worth writing when Micah drew it on our back patio I sit at my keyboard, ready to start on a new section of a novel. What am I doing? Who’s really going to read this? Man, the premise is whimsical, silly, dumb. I’m wasting my time. A story about monsters? I … Continue reading

The Real Reason for the Arts

I watched a mediocre, meandering speech by Kurt Vonnegut. The video quality was lousy enough for him to look like he was an intellectual ninja, his mouth struggling to catch up with his voice.  And then, he said what I’ve been feeling about education. “The computer said ‘I’m going to do all the becoming from … Continue reading

The Puritanical Trap

So, I’ve been thinking about the Jesus story lately – not so much from the religious perspective but from the social perspective. I’m thinking about power and agency and autonomy. I’m wondering how a man who deliberately preached non-violence ended up with the death penalty and why his followers, after codifying a system of orthodoxy, … Continue reading

I Want to Play

I wonder how many public school teachers out there hit that place where they realize that the best teaching isn’t teaching. It’s a canvas or a novel or a mural or whatever. God, I love teaching. Seriously. But sometimes I wonder if it’s the best venue. I wonder if what I really love is mentoring … Continue reading

The Paradox of Play

Christy and I are picking orange blossoms. Unlike the desert plants, the blossoms don’t affect my allergies one bit. Between the heavy scent and the thrill of dodging bees, it is hard to imagine that anything else exists in our world beyond the moment. We are lost in a creative endeavor of gathering, smelling and … Continue reading

Creating Places for Play

I thought about making videos. I thought about starting a Bring Back Recess Tumblr. I’m still going to lobby locally – at my school, within my neighborhood, among my state representatives. However, I’m also going to play. Everywhere. I’m going to push to preserve places of play. (See, alliterative word play right there) A Place … Continue reading

Bring Back Recess #letkidsplay #bringbackrecess

My son is a perpetual powder keg of passion. You wouldn’t know that at school. He’s quiet, but not shy. He walks in straight lines and listens closely.  He doesn’t look like the type of kid who needs recess. After all, he behaves. He doesn’t fidget too much. However, the minute he gets home, he … Continue reading

Let’s Be Careful with #Kony2012

On my way to work today, I saw signs at various locations with the words “Kony 2012.” Messages about the film are flooding my Facebook feed. It’s gone viral on Twitter. It would be easy, as a teacher, to use this as an opportunity to get kids civically involved. However, I want to point out … Continue reading

Accidentally Existential

The boys are playing Super Mario: Joel: Get out of your bubble. Micah: I want to be in my bubble. Joel: You don’t do anything when you’re in your bubble. Micah: You’re safe in the bubble. Joel: But you never do anything. I’d rather die than do nothing. I sit on the couch wondering what … Continue reading

Your Son Needs a Haircut (Satire)

The police officer arrived at the doorstep with the letter. “We’re serving you a citation for failing to have your son’s hair trimmed at the local barber shop.” “I cut my son’s hair at home,” the woman answered. “Are you a professional? Do you have a license?” he asked. “No, but I know what he … Continue reading

3 Thoughts on the Real World

Three Random Thoughts on the Real World: 1. I always hated when teachers would say, “In the real world . . . ” to justify practices that felt unjust. Or they would say, “Life isn’t fair,” to explain away something wrong within the classroom. In the real world there are people who fight on the … Continue reading

10 Reasons the Tests Are Lowering Our Standards

we’re creating shallow zombies in the name of high standards Often, the proponents of the drill-and-kill testing environment hold up the banner of “high standards” as a rationale for excessive testing. I disagree with this premise entirely. Here are ten reasons most tests lead to lower standards: Extrinsic Motivation: Kids will work hard to learn, … Continue reading

Hack It, Jail-Break It or Restore Back To Factory Settings?

just a thought . . . PHOTO CREDIT: RACHEL VACEK ON FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS *     *     * John T. Spencer is a teacher in Phoenix, AZ who blogs at Education Rethink. He recently finished Pencil Me In, an allegory for educational technology and A Sustainable Start, a book for new teachers. He also wrote the … Continue reading

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