John Spencer

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

Do I Still Have a Place Here?

I wish it had been more like this I teach in the shell of a once-suburban enclave of Phoenix. We have pretty euphemisms for it. Low-SES. Title One. Poverty. Underprivileged. Diverse (in the deep-red state of Phoenix, it’s the new red-line phrase warning white flight to move not only across town but into gated cookie-cutter communities). I … Continue reading

Why I Wouldn’t Point My Finger in the President’s Face

I don’t respect the office of the presidency. I don’t think a title makes a person worthy of respect. I have no problem mocking the president or his misguided educational reforms – just as I did with Bush (though it was admittedly easier with a president who used such creative grammatical structures). However, if I … Continue reading

What Would Happen if the U.S. Censored Our Internet?

It would be like China or Iran or . . . the average American school. Maybe it’s time we advocate for open Information in every context.

I’m Not a Moderate (Even When It Looks Like It)

I’m a firm believer in respectful dialogue. I think tone matters. I believe metaphors need to be accurate. I cringe at all things militant (because military metaphors lead to wars and wars have huge casualties), even when we are advocating for revolutionary change. I believe in the power of humility and the necessity for paradox … Continue reading

White Trash

A boy from New Orleans shows up a week and a half after Hurricane Katrina. Being one of only a handful of white kids at our school, he is a little edgy and approaches another white student cautiously. “I’ve never been at a school with so many Hispanics,” he whispers. “It’s Latino. Only the government … Continue reading

The Problem With Being Superlative (A Post That’s Not Really About Education, I Guess)

A Note on the Context: This is a leftover that didn’t make it into Drawn Into Danger. It was a little too dramatic (and there are some serious stylistic flaws) and it simply didn’t fit. But for me, it captures the ethos of what it felt like for me when I was in middle school. … Continue reading

One Size Fits Some

It doesn’t have to be either/or Far too often, people shift from “that doesn’t work for some students” to “this shouldn’t be used with any students.” In the process of reminding people that “one size doesn’t fit all,” people forget that one size does fit some. I’ve met home-schoolers who were deeply wounded by their … Continue reading

We’re Not the Enemy

I’ve heard the arguments and I get it. The industrial model isn’t working. The system needs to change. We need authentic learning. I get it. Really, I do. What’s funny with the whole outdated industrial model is that teachers often agree with the point and in many cases, we’re the ones trying to fight against the … Continue reading

Jesus at Jefferson High

I have heard the word “compliance” too many times for me to count this year. And so, with that in mind, I’m reposing an piece about education and compliance: She still felt naked when the reporters arrived to throw stones. Jesus approached the crowd and silenced them with the permission to criticize and to ask … Continue reading

Actually, You Don’t Hate Math (or Social Studies or English or Science)

“I hate math. When I was a kid, I just couldn’t remember all the formulas and I couldn’t figure out how to take what the teacher did and make it my own,” a friend tells me.  He doesn’t hate math. He probably doesn’t even hate computation or algorithms. No, he hates magical math. He hates compliantly … Continue reading

Pre-Occupy Wall Street

paper, rock, scissors, anyone? Back when the Tea Party started, I found myself agreeing with a few concepts: smaller, more localized government, direct democracy, anger over the bailouts. As it grew more extreme, I thought to myself, “I like nuance and paradox and humility in public policy and this is a bit like the country … Continue reading

Lunar Musings

Somewhere in his first year of life, Micah noticed the moon. I’m doubtful that he understood that it was far away or that it was a sphere or that it orbited the earth. It was a beautiful mystery to him. Somewhere between two and three, he noticed that the moon was out during the day. … Continue reading

4 Stages of Personalization (Music Metaphors Included)

Why doesn’t my supermarket have a live mariachi band? I’m stuck with Carol King. Anticipation? I’m anticipating a day when I can get some corridos live in the produce aisle.   I’m standing in the grocery store aisle, trying to cost-compare in my monumental struggle to find the greatest bargain on black beans. “I hear … Continue reading

Klout Scores, Edublog Awards and Other Things That Don’t Matter

A few years back, my friend Dan called me up on the phone, “John, I read your blog. I don’t usually. It’s mostly teacher stuff. But I read it. And you’ve got to get rid of the badge.” “The Edublog one?” “John, it’s a blog not a Cub Scout uniform,” he said. “But it’s nice … Continue reading

Stop Teaching Kids About Germs (Satire)

The other day, I visited my son’s school and noticed a poster reminding kids to cover their mouth when they sneezed and wash their hands after using the restroom. I looked for the applicable Bible verses offering an opposing viewpoint on germs, but instead I saw other hygiene propaganda without once making a reference to … Continue reading

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