Monday, September 22, 2014

Why is the sky blue?

“The adolescents with whom we work as educators are cowriting our narratives just as we are cowriting theirs” (Nakkula & Toshalis, pg. 7).  That to me is a powerful statement.  It forces me to reflect on myself as a dynamic teacher and a person who changes and changes again from year to year, month to month, week to week, day to day and even from one second to the next as I interact with those people closest to me; namely, my family, my students and my friends.  These three groups of people each challenge me in ways that force me to be critical of myself.  

As an educator, I will potentially spend 180 hours directly engaged with my students.  Just as I am watching them and learning from them, they are watching me and learning from me.  Some are focused more than others on the curricular objectives that I set out to teach them, but surely they are all learning much more than that.  Chapter one of Understanding Youth: Adolescent Behavior for Educators very closely mirrors Frank Smith’s notion of “the classic view of learning and forgetting” as described in chapter one of his book The Book of Learning and Forgetting.  Learning is continuous.

I see a lot of Antwon in myself (as I was as a teen).  I was the student who some teacher would love and others would hate because I didn’t like (and I still don’t) the hypocrisy of the do as I say not as I do attitudes of the adults in my life.  So, when I felt confronted with situations in which a teacher (or any other person) was being unfair I could hardly stop myself from pointing out the perceived injustice.  I can recall one of those occasions happening in my senior physics class.  I was working on my packet when Mr. ___ yelled at me to be quiet.  I responded by stating that I was not talking.  Mr. ___ disagreed and long story short, I was asked to leave the room and not to return without an apology.  A few days of cutting his class later, and under the advice of another teacher I did return with an apology for the misunderstanding.

I think that a lot of educators forget that the majority of what they teach their students is unintentional and unaccounted for.  The only physics knowledge that I have is that which I learned in college (none at all from Mr. ___).  However, Mr. ___ did provide the opportunity for someone else to teach me that there are ways to work within the system in order to accomplish my own goals.  By apologizing for the misunderstanding I was able to return to class while still maintaining that both Mr. ___ and myself were in disagreement over the incident that took place a few days earlier.

“... it is not enough just to give children books and lessons; development requires providing children with the workings of other people’s minds” (Nakkula & Toshalis, pg. 8).  I think that I can safely say that all parents have experienced the agony of child asking, why.  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why?  Why? WHY?  Why is the sky blue?  If I told her that the sky is blue because the molecules in the atmosphere scatter more blue light, yada yada, she would ask me why again.  However, when I kneel down next to her and praise her for making such a great observation of the sky and tell her how smart she is and how proud I am of her for thinking of such a fantastic question and how I love her curiosity and then tell her that when a rainbow hits the air in the sky the blue light sticks to it and the other colors pass through it she will usually be happy enough to leave it alone.  Is my four year old daughter really that interested in knowing why the sky is blue or is there something else that she is after?


  1. Gabe...I see you as Jeff Bliss!! Great video. I also see you as the teacher that he wants his teacher to be like. The teacher who is wants to instill in his students the excitement to learn.
    I agree that being a dynamic teacher means that you have to be constantly changing and evolving.You said that you are engaging with your students for 180 hours a year. I don't think that was happening for the students in the video.

  2. Hi Gabe,

    It's interesting to me that you were the Antwon--I think that that's why you are the teacher you are today... the outrageous, boisterous, just, and intuitive person who EXPLAINS what's going on and why!!! I like that you ask a million questions in classes and give your daughter and students the forum to do the same. I think that Mr. _______________ from high school should've had a conversation with you privately after class before jumping to conclusions and sending you to the office. I hope that in the next chapter or so, we find out that Ms. Petersen did the same with Antwon. I think we all strive not to make those kinds of mistakes, but in the end, as you pointed out on my blog, we're all only just human. It's good that we're recognizing what those mistakes look like through examples like Antwon, my Spanish teaching video, your teach me! video, and your own experiences as a young and misunderstood "Antwon." I'm liking this calling people "Antwons."