John Spencer

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

Why I Won’t Vote for Mitt

Romney is right. The lazy 47% should learn to work hard and acquire wealth the way he did: by inheriting the money, power and prestige from his father. If each American would simply hop on a DeLorean, add a Flux Capacitor and change his or her lineage, we wouldn’t have people clamoring for such luxuries … Continue reading

A Hijacked Hashtag and Student Voice

On an edgy Friday night, as I prepared to plan lessons and update my data, I created an e-card stating, “I became a teacher so that kids can pass standardized tests,” said no teacher ever. I tweeted it out with the hashtag #SaidNoTeacherEver. Soon, others joined me and eventually it started to trend. A few … Continue reading

Why the Open Schools of Phoenix Failed

I talked to someone who went to a local high school in the early seventies. It was built as an “open school,” meaning it didn’t have walls between rooms. She describes it as a place that felt scary, confusing and disorienting. She felt like she couldn’t learn and she felt like the teachers had to … Continue reading

Language Ghettos

Originally posted on Arizona Stories from School blog. These are my thoughts on the rigid four-hour block that pushes out science and social studies in the name of language acquisition. “Mr. Spencer, what is a common assessment?” a student asks. “It’s a test that every student on the grade level has to take,” I explain. … Continue reading

Teachers Need Less Support

imagine if everyone had to use oxygen tanks The quality of a teacher has little to do with “behavioral” objectives, Kagan structures, language objectives, word walls or lesson plan formatting. Instead, it’s about the ability to build a classroom culture and teach in a way that is motivational, meaningful and creative. It’s about knowing students … Continue reading

It Was Free for Me, But You Have to Pay

Marco Rubio thinks immigrants should come to the country the “right way,” like his parents who fled Cuba. However, Cubans get free green cards but Mexican immigrants get sent back. Apparently the “right way” doesn’t apply to a child from Juarez, whose family fled due to the drug wars. Barack Obama thinks I should have … Continue reading

You Can’t Feed Her at Home

The administrator arrived at the door, flanked by a truancy officer holding a clipboard and a stack of papers. “We haven’t seen your child at the local cafeteria for all year. We sent you notices and now we need to see you in court,” the officer explained. “I’ve been feeding her at home,” the mother … Continue reading

How You Like Them Apples?

I recently read an article about apples that won’t go brown when sliced or bruised. Apparently there is a big demand for this and goes beyond the occasional “lemon juice failed to keep my apples crisp-looking” for my fruit salad issue. No, it’s a really big deal. Folks won’t eat apples when served on a tray … Continue reading

If We Say This Is What We Believe . . .

Recently my family visited a small science center that’s attached to a progressive community school. The place was packed, but it never felt crazy or chaotic. It was loud, but not ear-splitting. It was messy, but never dangerous. My kids started out at a glider station, where they designed and raced various gliders using random … Continue reading

From Algorithms to Stories

Warning: This post has nothing to do with schools or education or policy. Just a personal reflection from time spent with my kids. I watch the boys play with reckless abandon in the forest. They run and crash land in puffs of dirt; which they call “magical dust” in the enchanted forest. Brenna picks flowers … Continue reading

Seven Thoughts on Bullying

I recently gave a keynote where I talked about personalized learning. In order to give a sense of the context, I shared my experience being bullied. I had decided the night before to scrap it from the presentation. I was afraid that they would pick up on insecurities that I might still have as an … Continue reading

10 Ways to Cheat-Proof Your Classroom

When I was in high school, I helped set up a system where seven of us would divide up math problems and copy from one another. It was an intricate framework involving which ones we each did on our own and which ones we copied from one another. With the addition of our three separate … Continue reading

Why I Left the NEA

When the Arizona state legislature began cutting funding to education, I met with the union (the AEA, the affiliate of the NEA) and helped pass out fliers urging voters to speak out. When they passed anti-teacher legislation, I wore red and joined the protests. I blogged about it. I tweeted about it. I talked to … Continue reading

What Should We Cut?

Someone asked me recently how I am able to respond to all student blogs, leave feedback for each child on the Google Docs and analyze which standards students are mastering. It sounds impressive on paper, but here’s a little secret: I’ve made cuts. Huge cuts. Massive cutbacks in what I do as a teacher. I … Continue reading

Actually, It Is About the Technology

I have a technophile streak that runs through me. I become giddy when I open up an iPod Touch for the first time. I marvel at how lightweight and instant a Chromebook is. When I was a child, I would dream about a computer that could do games, videos, video-recording, music, audio-recording and connect to … Continue reading

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