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reform over a pint

I meet up with Javi the Hippie after an exhausting week of teaching self-contained eighth grade.  I’m raw and anxious and filled with self-doubt.  My summer plans are slowly breaking and I can’t see the beauty in front of me, because I am obsessing about what how far behind I am in my imaginary Timeline of How to Be a Bad-ass Teacher.

“Teaching self-contained was nothing like I thought it would be,” Javi the Hippie tells me.

“What did you expect?” I ask, taking a long guzzle from my hefeweizen.

“I imagined it would be 24/7 social justice.  I thought I’d be raising up a group of social activists who would transform the community. And then I’m teaching them fractions and reading strategies.”

“So you abandoned it?”

“I didn’t abandon it, I just expanded it.  I had this Utopian view of what it would be and within the first quarter, it shattered.  But it was replaced by a real Utopia.  We started out as a group and turned into a community and then a tribe and then a family.”

“A family?  Really?”

“Yeah, we were a family trying to think through life together.  Sometimes it was service, sometimes fractions, sometimes conflict resolution. I had said I believed in a whole education and yet I defined it in very nervous terms of service learning or constructivism or some other type of philosophy.  But at the end of the year, we were just a family trying to learn how to live well.”


About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


6 thoughts on “reform over a pint

  1. Wow! I not sure if those are real character or not, but you perfectly describe what post modern human scale education is for me. I would love to use this exchange for my thesis if that is okay with you. Like Javi, it hard for me to always give “the right kind of education” names, but names and terms and titles are what adults what. I have been rereading the Little Prince lately and reminded of the need of adults to quantify everything. We love figures and love to claim our knowledge as power, but in truth we are missing out on the wholeness of life by fragmenting it all up into names and numbers…. but love the idea that school is just people coming together and trying to learn how to live well together! Beautiful!

    Thank you!
    David Loitz

    Posted by dloitz | September 18, 2010, 2:42 pm
  2. Yeah, Javi is a real person and out conversation was real as well. The pint was real and I have a hunch it was part of what made the situation work. We can’t transfer ideas out of contexts without losing something.

    Posted by johntspencer | September 18, 2010, 2:56 pm
  3. Yep, so true.

    Last call.

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | September 20, 2010, 4:29 pm
  4. great, thanks John. Often times, the most radical, though-provoking and transformational experiences in education happen over a pint. How do we transfer that conversation to the school lunchroom, faculty lounge and strategic planning between teachers, and adminstration/teacher meetings.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Casey Caronna | September 22, 2010, 6:50 pm
  5. Not sure we will ever be able to have pints in school (though I did often drank with my teachers at Calarts), but the honest conversation would have to start with relationships of trust, which by nature only happen in Human scale school. Schools that respect and nurtures both the adult community and the children community that learn inside or outside it. Also as we are starting to show at the COOP, it takes teachers understanding that their voices do matter and that the easiest form of transformation is reflection and going public with our teaching.

    Posted by dloitz | September 23, 2010, 2:25 am
  6. come on now – school lunch milk is the only place i can visualize pint size.. 🙂

    i love this
    we are missing out on the wholeness of life by fragmenting it all up into names and numbers..

    let’s keep working on that guys…

    simplicity wins.

    Posted by monika hardy | September 23, 2010, 8:45 pm

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