Book Review: Teaching Unmasked

This blog started as a final project for my B.Ed. We were supposed to make a portfolio of all the highs and lows of our year, and then present it in a conference with our supervisors. I looked around at classmates and saw sketches, beautiful handwriting, painting, graphic novels, ornately bound books with leather covers and silk strings for bookmarks, and a host of other creative ideas. As someone who doesn't have very good fine motor skills, I decided I would make a website (funnily, even though this was 2010, I was the only one to use tech in my portfolio, out of close to 70 students in the cohort).

The year had been a challenging year, flipping between diapers and a baby learning to walk and talk, to teaching practicums, lesson plans, essays, and articles. When we were given the task of the portfolio, many students groaned as this seemed like more "work" on top of what we were already doing. Many of them were sick of reflecting (in fairness to them, our instructors did use the work "resonate" a lot), and just wanted to get on with their jobs. I would later learn that this is not a phenomenon that is only in teachers college, and it pretty a standard operating procedure for most teachers in schools as well.

Personally, I loved to reflect. Since I don't write well, and I didn't have a laptop, I used to do it by staring into space and just thinking. Then, I would get home and bombard my wife with ideas, and we would talk long into the night about teaching and learning (later on as I matured as a teacher, we would dissect the idea of knowing as well). It was an intellectually stimulating year, and we both got a degree in education, but unfortunately only I got a piece of paper. Through our reflections, I was able to push myself into entirely new directions.

The portfolio project introduced me to the world of blogging as a teacher. John Spencer's blog was on of the first that I started reading. It allowed me to have an outlet for my reflections, and it allowed me to peer deeper down the hole of me. I become even more reflective.

This is what I love so much about this book. Not that it is providing new ideas for you to use in your classmates (though it does), or it has a philosophical view of schools (though it can at times), or that it is a defense of learning rather than teaching (though it is). I love this book because it is reflective. It is raw reflection, put on display. John Spencer puts himself out there, his ideas, his fears, his mind, everything.

I openly admitted to myself while reading, I can't do this. I could never write like this, with this level of candor and openness, with this level of introspection. My personal life stays as my personal life, and I try not to let it come into this blog. Yes, I am fully aware that who I am in life affects who I am as a teacher. Yet, that part stays off the internet.

That being said, I am glad people like Spencer are out there doing something like this. It challenges me to be more open with my students, to be more human, and to let them know of my faults and flaws.

I'm just not going to blog about it.

It is a personal story, and I would like to keep it that way.


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