John Spencer

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

The Problem Is Older Than the Factory

“Dad, if ants are so strong why can’t we just make really big machines that are built like ants and can carry heavy stuff for us?” Joel asks me. Being a first-grader, I struggle with how to teach the difficulty of scalability. “Sometimes things that work in small spaces don’t work when they get too … Continue reading

The Real Reason Kids Are Missing From School

Education Week posted a poll on Facebook regarding student absenteeism.  The post does’t ask whether it should be a crime to miss school or whether compulsory schooling violates the rights of parents to raise their own children.  It doesn’t ask whether the implementation of truancy laws has anything to do with the allocation of funds … Continue reading

I Am the Ninety-Nine Percent, And Actually I’m Pissed

So, a few days back, I wrote about privilige and power.  It might have come across as complacent or sanctimonious.  However, I want to make this really clear: I’m pissed. I’m pissed that we continue to fund war without question while schools are stuck hawking “holiday paper” (because, you know, there are a ton of … Continue reading

I Am That One Percent

I also wrote an entry about this in my Ditch That Word blog. Quinn the Business Bohemian meets me for coffee.  Both of us drive our vehicles without a question of whether they will start.  Both of us pay our two-fifty without thinking about where we will get our next meal.  We talk briefly about … Continue reading

What Can I Occupy?

I’ve been away from the online spaceless space for a few days. I’ve read up on the Occupy Education tumblr, tweets and Facebook page. At first, it felt inspiring. It still does. However, when I read these posts again, I feel like a fraud. See, I’m not a “real” teacher this year. I’m a bizarre … Continue reading

Bridges: An Un-School Dad and a Public School Teacher

“Does fence have an e at the end?” Joel asks me. “Yeah, why?” I ask. “Then it’s not following the rules. It should be pronounced feeeeenced instead,” Joel says with a multi-syllable long-e sound. The day before he was upset that tomb and bomb didn’t make the same sound. So, I explained comb just to … Continue reading

10 Reasons Teachers Make Great Punching Bags

a cross-post from Education Rethink 1. Teachers are over-worked. For all the vacation time we are supposed to have, many teachers work additional jobs to make ends meet.  They don’t necessarily have the time to fight the political and economic systems that are at work against the profession. 2. Teachers will take as many left … Continue reading

White Noise

My students are not white.* I am. My students are not middle-class. I am. Many of my students do not have papers. I do. These realities make a difference.  The minute I accept the white noise as normal is the minute I commit myself to cultural imperialism and mental colonialism.   *though the Census says … Continue reading


Crazy that they’re arresting protestors on Wall Street while the men inside who caused our economic collapse are still running the show. Crazy that teachers are asked to take cuts and “bear our burden” when we never reaped the benefits of an inflated, make-believe bubble economy. Crazy that the very structures designed to make things … Continue reading

Ten Reasons to Abolish Homework (And Five Alternatives)

I don’t assign homework and I haven’t for the last four years.  It’s been a slow journey, because it runs against a very powerful ideology within the United States.  Here are ten reasons to abolish homework: 1. Young Children Are Busy: If a child cannot learn what needs to be learned in a six hour … Continue reading

She’s Not Your Hero

This might be outside the zone of this blog.  This might have nothing to do with education.  Or it might have everything to do with it.   Dear Brenna, I watched The Little Mermaid a few weeks ago. I understand Ariel’s curiosity. I get the sense of sacrifice that goes with love. It might seem … Continue reading

You Could Have Been Brave, But You Were Courageous Instead

Dear Joel, You would have been brave if you had smashed that kids face into the ground. You could have done it, too. And you would have been absolutely justified. Bullying is never okay and the victim is never at fault. But you didn’t choose bravery. You chose courage instead. You boldly dealt with it … Continue reading

Fiction As an Act of Healing

“We have to sing a song about the wheels on the bus going round and round and it’s a stupid song,” Micah tells me. “Why do you feel that way?” “They go around and around,” he says with heavy italics.  “But most of the time, they do nothing.  Most of the time busses just sit … Continue reading

Dad, We Spent the First Week Taking Tests

Note: This is a cross-post from my own blog Education Rethink. I asked Joel what he thought of school and he said, “I love it.  We get to play.  We get to learn math.  I’m practicing reading real books.” “What do you mean real books?” “It’s like school finally started.  We spent all of last … Continue reading

Nine Reasons I Quit Listening

Megaphone Man screams gigantic curses at the oncoming traffic.  I stop my bike for a moment, stand next to him, not in solidarity, but not in confrontation either. “Is it possible you might be wrong?  I mean, not entirely wrong.  Not even wrong in your message, maybe.  But is it possible that nobody will ever … Continue reading

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