Oct 04

The Kids Are As Smart As You

Back when I was in the classroom full-time, a student paid me what I thought was about the best compliment I’d ever been paid as a teacher.

“Mr. Lehmann, other teachers try to prove to us how smart they are. We know you’re really smart, but in your class, you’re always making us feel that we’re as smart as you. Thank you.”

The coolest thing about being an educator is and should be that you get to spend your life with amazing young people every single day. And if you do it right, you get to view the world through their eyes and listen as they explain their views of the world to you and to their classmates.

When we do that, we learn about how many different views on the world there are, and that, no matter how smart you may think you are as a teacher, the kids bring ideas and intelligences and experiences that are every bit as powerful and important — and smart — as your own. And when we listen with an open mind, an open heart, and a true excitement for those ideas and experiences, we model social learning in the best possible way – by learning from our students.

Learning how to listen hard to the kids is a skill we all need to practice every day. From Zac Chase I learned the difference between “What do you mean?” and “Say more….” The second opens the door to more than just explanation, but to a deepening of the ideas, which – I have learned – can be infinitely more powerful.

And when we listen deeply to all our students, we open ourselves up to the powerful intelligence that exists in every classroom. We honor the wisdom and intelligence of the room when we build communities of practice where everyone – students and teachers alike – are better and smarter for the fact that they all have spent the time together.

The power of a classroom should never been that kids walk away thinking about how smart their teacher is… the power of a classroom is best when the students walk away with the confidence of knowing how smart and capable they — and all their classmates — are.

Aug 24

American History — American Story

Matt Baird teachers SLA-ers 11th grade American History. He and I sat down this summer to think about how he could re-frame American History so that we could create an even more direct sense of urgency on why American history can be such a powerful field of study for high school students. Both of us believe that we teach history so that kids can make sense of the world they live in, and therefore, be more informed and active and engaged citizens of that world. That’s not exactly a revolutionary concept, and there are many, many social studies teachers who share that view.

So if that is one of the primary underlying tenets for teaching the class, the question becomes how do you structure the class to engender that sense of urgency? We tossed around this idea, with the idea that the 11th grade theme at SLA is “Change” —

What if we started an American History class with an analysis of the present day? What if we asked students to examine present day society through several intersecting lenses such as the political lens, the demographic lens, the economic lens and the geo-political lens. Kids could start the year reading commentary on the world we live in now from a variety perspectives. That opening unit could serve as frame to now examine our history. Then, as the class dove into our country’s history, there would be a deep context for always examining the events of the past through the lens of questioning how that has shaped the nation we are today. I could even imagine a culminating unit where students had to look forward with a vision of where we are going from here and how and why.

I think – I hope – a class with this frame would deeply communicate the idea of active history for students, and it would solve the classic problem of the American History class that treats American History as stopping sometime between World War II and the Civil Rights Movement. And most importantly, I think the class could – done right – center on the students themselves. A class like this is not about the dusty dates of history, but about their lives – our lives – our country today, seen through the lens of time.

Thoughts?

Aug 23

Community

[This probably isn't all that different from some things I've written before, but right now, I've thinking about many edu-things through the lens of what we see going on in Ferguson, and while I am not naive enough to think that school can single-handedly fix what is broken in America right now, I also think that schools can do much more to create spaces that do not exacerbate the problems we are seeing.]

This week, the SLA@Beeber staff was working together as our second cohort of teachers were learning about the philosophies and systems and structures that inform what we do at SLA. We were talking about advisory and how we try to look at student behavior through a therapeutic lens, rather than a punitive. One of our teachers who is coming from a very different school, and she talked about what a different frame of reference that was for her, because at her old school, it felt like students were suspended for every minor infraction. We were talking about what it meant for every student to have an advocate (their advisor) who could work with the student to navigate the often challenging world of high school, and how we all have to work to create the kind of community where everyone takes care of everyone – students, teachers – everyone. We were talking about what it means when everyone is known, where people truly know one another.

And it struck me that was what was one of the things that was missing in Ferguson. Now, I am not Pollyanna enough to think that if we just all held hands and cared about each other, all that went wrong in Ferguson – institutional racism, abuse of power, fear, militarization of the police… just to name a few – suddenly goes away. There are deep societal and policy issues that need to examined and changed to greatly reduce the chances that what we are seeing in Ferguson – from the changing racial demographics that did not result in a change in political power dynamics, to Mike Brown’s death, to the police reaction to the anger and grief of that town, to the national polls that suggest a wider-than-we-want-to-admit divide between how whites and blacks are viewing every aspect of what has happened.

But also missing was a lack of care – a lack of being known. What if Ferguson had a community policing program where Darren Wilson wasn’t in his car, but was on foot in the neighborhood and knew Mike Brown? Would this have played out the same way? What if the police had thought for a moment about the deeply traumatic effect leaving Mike Brown’s body uncovered in the street for hours would have on the community? What if there had been any thought given to the effect of snipers and military tanks rolling through the streets in the name of order? What if anyone thought about what it does to the humanity of all involved to turn a police force into an occupying army?

I don’t have answers to those questions. I can’t imagine many do. But I want to live in a world where those questions are asked before, not after, tragedy.

And then I start to think about school. I think about how in many schools – especially schools where the majority of children are kids of color and are poor – there exists the educational equivalent of “shoot first, ask questions later.” The message that the citizens of Ferguson received both in the killing of Mike Brown and near martial law that was enforced in the days after his death is communicated in so many of the schools like the one our new teacher described.

It is communicated when suspensions are the first response to any problem.

It is communicated when students of color are suspended at rates far higher than white students.

It is communicated when schools house thousands of kids in a building, and there’s no guarantee that a student who connects with a teacher one year will ever do more than pass that teacher in the hall from time to time for the rest of their time.

It is communicated when teachers have teaching loads of over 150 kids, so that the chance of knowing a child beyond being a student in a seat in a cinder block classroom is reduced even further.

It is communicated when teachers pass off disciplinary problems to a dean or an assistant principal or a school police officer who then simply deals with “the problem,” because listening and responding therapeutically is time-consuming and hard and messy, and the pink slip and the suspension form take less time to fill out.

It happens everywhere the policies and procedures and actions of a school send the message to students that the content of the curriculum is more important than the content of the student’s character.

We can change that. That is within our control.

We can all redouble our efforts to make schools humane and human places where students are known and cared for. We can build the systems and structures that enable students and teachers to talk to one another. We can create policies — and carve out the time — that make it possible for teachers to see students for who they are, to understand the flawed, wonderful people they are and can be, and to understand that there are more ways to deal with the mistakes that kids make than suspensions and the criminalization of non-criminal behaviors.

These are things we should do because they are the right things to do. They are not easy, nor are they silver bullets that will magically cure what ails us. But they might help. And they can’t hurt. And as we continue to watch the events of Ferguson unfold, as educators, it is incumbent upon us to think about how we can help the next generation do better than we have done, and help them see the prospects of a better world than the one in which we currently live.

Doing a better job of caring for one another in schools might be one good place to start.

Aug 16

Leaders Stand Up

This is a post for Scott McLeod’s #LeadershipDay14. Thanks, as always, Scott, for providing a forum for us to push our thinking.

So, there’s a funny thing that has happened with a bunch of SLA teachers over the years. There are several folks who have come to SLA after spending time at schools with leadership who they felt were sub-standard. And, I think, after eight years, I am comfortable with the idea that, while I still have lots to learn as a leader, I’ve passed the “Doesn’t Suck” test. At least most days. So as a result, several teachers have come to me and had some version of this comment:

“Before I came here, I thought I might want to be a principal, but after watching what you do every day, I don’t want to be a principal anymore.”

And here’s the thing… leadership is hard. It just is. Every year we deal with the financial crisis of the School District of Philadelphia, I know that the teachers, students and parents of SLA are counting on me to figure out how to navigate the challenges we face while keeping the school intact.

Because leaders stand up.

And it gets harder at the next level. I was at an event around advocacy for the district recently, and a reporter asked me what I would do if I were facing what Dr. Hite was facing, and my first reaction was, “I’m thankful it’s him, not me.” He has dealt with financial challenges, and he keeps coming out, being visible, talking about the choices he’s making, and owning them all.

Because leaders stand up.

One of the incredible things about leadership is that it lays you bare for who you are. There are rare moments when I am 100% sure of my course of action, but what I have learned is that I have to listen to a lot of people, consider as many variables as I can, and then take action, even when it’s hard. Even when there isn’t a clear path of action.

Because leaders stand up.

And the thing about it is… if you want to be a leader, you have to learn that while you are always searching for the win-win, there are also moments where you have to make unpopular decisions. It’s lonely. It often sucks. And even the folks who you go to to figure it all out aren’t the ones who have to live with the decision after its done. The people you asked for advice… the folks you sought out… they all have the ability to say, “It wasn’t my decision to make.” And they are right. It was yours. If you listened to bad advice, that’s your fault, not theirs. No one holds the kitchen cabinet accountable. Only you.

Because leaders stand up.

And as educational leaders, when there are challenges that affect our kids, we send a message with our actions and our words. If we are unwilling to act, if we are unwilling to speak, our kids will take notice. But when we listen, when we speak, when we are willing to show our kids we care,  when we make sure our kids know that their issues are our issues,  we can be the educational leaders our kids and our teachers need us to be. And because of that, even if it is hard, even if we don’t feel like we know exactly what to say or do, even if not everyone will like what we do or say, we have to be willing to take the risk to do what we believe to be right.

Because leaders stand up.

Aug 13

What Do We Teach When Kids Are Dying? #MichaelBrown

[After the trial where the man who killed Jordan Davis was not found guilty of his murder, a group of amazing educators and education activists (I was lucky to be one of the folks involved) came together to create a teaching guide for talking about Jordan Davis' killing and the trial that followed. Many of the resources -- and equally as important, the frameworks for thinking about creating curriculum -- are equally applicable for creating conversations and curriculum around talking about Mike Brown. And we need to talk about Mike Brown.]

When I heard that Mike Brown was shot – unarmed, multiple times – by a police officer, my thoughts immediately went to the many stories I have heard over the years from my students of color about their experiences with the police. Their stories are not monolithic, and I have students of color who are the sons and daughters of police officers who often bring a different lens to these conversations, but overwhelmingly, the conversations I have heard have spoken to a deep level of distrust and fear between students of color and the police.

With the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin’s death, with Michael Dunn not getting convicted of murder in Jordan Davis’ death and now with Mike Brown’s death, many of SLA’s students of color have come to the understandable conclusion that the systems of American justice – from the police to the courts – are not there for them. Clearly, there are too many statistics that support that conclusion.

And the reaction of the authorities in Ferguson, MO since Mike Brown was shot by a police officer despite being unarmed has looked more like a police state than anything I can remember in America in my lifetime. All over the country, students are on social media asking – what kind of country does this to its own citizens?

For me, both the shooting of Mike Brown the actions of the government to Mike Brown’s killing has made me think of my grandfather. My grandfather escaped Germany in the 1930s, because he saw the writing on the wall and saw that his country was no longer safe for him. When I was young, I remember my grandfather saying to me, “You must remember that you are a Jew before you are an American, because when Jews forget that, Jews die.”  And I think about the many parents and students of color who have talked to me about “the talk” — what to do if a young black man or woman are ever confronted by the police. And I think about how we live in a country where — especially if you cannot pass for white (which I, for example, can most often do) — the rules you live by are different. You are not simply American, you are a Hyphen-American, and for you, the rules are different and not as just. And, much like my grandfather said to me over thirty years ago, if you forget that fact, you can die.

So what do we do as educators? What is our role? For to pretend that this does not enter our classrooms, our schools, is to run the risk of allowing ourselves to be complicit in the system that left Mike Brown’s body in the street for hours. How we teach, how we frame this issue with students is incredibly difficult and complex, and so many of the resources, ideas and suggestions created after Jordan Davis’ killer was not convicted of murder are appropriate again. It is incredibly daunting to think about how we frame this issue in our classrooms, but that cannot be the reason for educators to shy away from it. And, if nothing else, now is a moment where educators need to listen deeply to students who need to express what they are feeling.

And what I have learned in my time at SLA is that when I am struggling with hard questions myself, that those questions are the ones we can ask as a community. Perhaps now is a moment for educators to ask hard questions about our country. Some questions I’ve been asking myself, without great answers lately.

  • What happens to a society that seemingly has one set of rules for one race and another set of rules for everyone else?
  • What happens when too many people lose faith in the government’s ability / will / desire to actually keep people of color safe?
  • What happens when too many people feel that the dream is not accessible to them?
  • What is the role of the police in a civil society?
  • If a society becomes more militarized in the name of “safety” and “security,” is it any wonder that those who were already feeling the effects of disenfranchisement and racism would bear the brunt of the increasing militarization of its police force?
  • How do we get better than this?
  • How do we become a more just society?
  • How do we not lose hope?
  • How do we close the gap between the best ideals of America and the reality that we see around us every day?

I have had to say much the same thing before. I will keep saying it until I don’t have to say it anymore. Mike Brown’s death must serve to remind us that there is no such thing (to quote SLA teacher Pia Martin) as passive anti-racism. His death — and the police state that Ferguson, MO has become since his death — must remind us that institutional racism is the norm in this country and therefore we have to actively work to do better. This must remind us that we are nowhere near being the country we need to be for our citizens of color — and, therefore, for all of us.

Aug 11

The Teaching Life – They Grow Up

SpiritFamilyOne of the wonderful things about the teaching life is that – when we are very lucky – we get to see the adults our students become. This past weekend, I got to see Spirit Family Reunion play a concert here in Philadelphia. They are a wonderful “Roots Music” band out of New York City, and three of the musicians are former students of mine from my days at Beacon.

The show was amazing, and I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. And it was a blast to see some Philadelphia folks who were at the concert as fans of the band, and since I was — ahem – a bit older than the average concert-goer, there was some surprise from these young Philadelphians that I was there. That gave me the chance to brag that “I was friends the band…” which is not exactly something I expect to say often in my life.

More importantly, I relished the chance to spend some time after the show talking to my former students. It was simply lovely to hear about their lives, to hear about the band, and I was touched that they were excited that I had stayed up late enough to come out and hear them play.

Mostly, I was thrilled to see the adults they have become, and I was honored that they wanted to share their adulthood with me, their old English teacher.

I’ve been teaching for eighteen years now. My first seniors are in their mid-30s. I have seen students become parents. I have seen them become PhDs. I have seen students become teachers and lawyers and doctors and programmers and police officers and artists and musicians and more. I have written letters to them in prison. Some former students are now some of my very dear friends. I have celebrated at their weddings, I have met their children and, sadly, I have mourned at their funerals.

And this is more than just an ancillary piece of the teaching life. The perspective of seeing students become adults can powerfully inform the way we teach. Knowing that we can play a small role in helping students on the pathway to adulthood is something that teachers are taught to understand from early on in most pre-service teacher programs, but the reality of knowing the your students as adults is different somehow.

There’s a humility needed to really see them as adults. If you don’t merely want to be part of their past, you have to learn who you are to the person they are now. And you have to see all that they are now, not only the student they were then. You do see the person they were as part of their adult self, but you have to see all that they are. On one level, you feel a little like Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time, seeing two people at once – the young person you know and the adult in front of you who you now get to know. And seeing that journey can — and maybe should — inform the way we work with the kids we teach now.

As teachers, we get to play a role in the development of the lives of our kids. More often than not, the role we play is small but, if we do it right, the role has meaning. And when we are lucky, we get to know the adults our students become.

Aug 09

Maybe We Could Just Get Better

With the start of the new school, educators around the country – especially those in schools and districts that have been labeled as failing – are learning about the new initiatives that their schools will be undertaking this school year. Many of these initiatives will be mandated – top-down – from an administrator at the school, district or state level. And many of these initiatives will be a sharp turn away from the practices of the past year.

And these new initiatives will be enacted in the name of closing the achievement gap, addressing some data-driven problem that has been identified, or somehow finding some magic bullet to raise test scores.

And many teachers go through this process year after year after year.

And it makes me ask a simple question – what if some of the problems of our school is that we never let people get good at any one thing?

This is not to say that schools should look at challenges and problems they face and address them.

This is not to say that educators should not strive to learn new ideas and new practices.

But when do we let teachers get good at stuff too?

Schools need to grow along healthy pathways. So do the teachers and students than inhabit them. When we commit to a pedagogical plan or a new structure or system, and we say, “Barring epic failure, we’re going to work on this strategy for a few years,” we honor the fact that people can learn and get better at their craft.

There are many pedagogical approaches to education. I have a favorite that I am passionate about – inquiry-based education. I have been lucky enough to work with a group of teachers and students who have dedicated themselves to getting better at that craft. And as a community, we very much have gotten better. I am also lucky enough to have been afforded the space and time to get better. I remember the first year SLA took the PSSAs and our math scores were lower than we expected them to be. I was terrified that my regional superintendent, Marilyn Perez, was going to tell me that we had to abandon our inquiry-driven math plan. I called her with the scores – we had done the calculations by hand from state score sheets, so we had the data before the district had calculated the school-wide results – and she said to me, “Now you have your baseline, and knowing SLA, you and your teachers are already thinking about how to get better at what you do.”

She held us accountable for our performance and listened to our plan on how we were going to get better at what we did… not change pedagogy or approach, but evolve and get better. To this day, if Marilyn were to call and say, “I need a favor…” the answer would be unequivocally yes, because she was willing to work with SLA to give us time to grow along a healthy path that allowed us to evolve, rather than shift gears.

We need to create more spaces for schools to define school-wide structural and pedagogical approaches to education, and then we need to give schools time and space to grow and get better at their craft as a community. In too many schools and districts, September represents a time where teachers and students have to throw out last year’s “Best Practice” in favor of the latest and greatest idea to come out of a policy office somewhere.

Perhaps we are a time where we can admit that our best practices are the ones that we actually get the time to practice.

Aug 02

Community and Gratitude

This week, it was announced that I have won the 2014 McGraw Prize in Education. It’s an incredible honor, and I am beyond humbled and honored to win an award that heroes of mine — Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Dr. James Comer, Larry Rosenstock, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, just to name a few —  have won. To see my name listed with theirs is incredible.

And it’s important to note that this is not an award one wins alone. The work we do at SLA is always about the incredible community of people who come together to breathe life into our school every day. The educators, students and families of Science Leadership Academy and Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber make our schools work every day. Our partners at The Franklin Institute have been there to plan with us, work with us, learn with us from the beginning. And while the district has been through many changes in the past nine years, the people of the School District of Philadelphia have been supportive of SLA, creating the conditions through which we could innovate. And, of course, on a personal level, I am incredibly lucky to be married to someone as smart (and as patient) as Kat.

I am incredibly lucky to be the principal of Science Leadership Academy. The past nine years have afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the most incredible people I have ever known. A moment of recognition like this is a wonderful moment to step back and celebrate with all the people who own a piece of this award. It has been amazing to receive emails and tweets and Facebook posts from former students, current families, and colleagues from so many parts of the journey.

I want to simply thank everyone who has helped to make SLA a school that matters. This is a moment of celebration for all of us. Thank you for everything you do.

Jul 08

Different Needs, Speaking For Ourselves and Creating Healthy Spaces

[This post had its roots in my thinking about some of the very ugly behavior that happened on Twitter this weekend. Melinda Anderson and Sabrina Stevens were attacked by teachers for speaking their minds around issues of race and gender. Sabrina, in a public Facebook post, talked about how moments like this - and there are far too many - also speak to why many parents of color are so distrustful of public schools. That led me down this path of thinking. I was deeply heartened to see the hashtags #ISupportMDA and #ISupportSabi as a response to the attacks they were subject to online. Perhaps, this is one way we can all start to make sure that we all can support students more powerfully as well. - Chris]

Teachers’ and students’ interests don’t always align. Sometimes, it’s for reasons that are easy to unpack – a teacher wants a student to do work that a student doesn’t want to do for no other reason that it isn’t a subject of interest to them. Sometimes, it’s for much more complex reasons that involve issues of race, class, gender and power that too often go unexamined in the halls and classrooms of schools. Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit and I Won’t Learn from You by Herbert Kohl are two excellent texts about this – both are must reads for educators, in my opinion.

This matters because we have seen, too often, different educational factions claim to speak for children in schools. This cuts across the edu-political spectrum, and I think it’s time to stop doing it. No one has a monopoly on knowing what students need and want in any given situation, and it is almost a guarantee that if one tries to claim to be that voice, it is inauthentic. And yet, throughout the edu-political battles, you see organizations fighting over who best represents the children.

Let’s simply say this, to say, “I know what is best for the children,” is to run a deep risk of engaging in paternalism. And when that is coupled with teachers who are of different backgrounds – be they racial, socio-economic, etc… – there is an even deeper risk of engaging in colonial patterns of thought and behavior.

Our goal as teachers should be, simply, to help students to figure out for themselves what is best for them.

So we have to be honest about our institutional needs. We cannot and should not assume that students’ needs are best served when teachers’ needs are completely met. In fact, we can probably assume that they are not. And I would argue this – when we assume that teacher needs automatically and always trump student needs we do damage. More to the point, we do damage to the students who are most likely to feel disenfranchised from societal institutions like school, often times our students of color or our students from the most challenged economic situations. This is another one of those moments where if we can reverse that trend, we will create policies in our schools that are actively better for students of color, with the added benefit of creating schools that are better for all students as well.

So how do we proceed?

This requires a deep shift in thinking for many teachers. It requires viewing the classroom as negotiated, co-created space. It also requires acknowledging that here is an inherent power dynamic between teachers and students that can make honest co-creation of space more difficult for students. It is, in fact, a risky proposition for a teenager to speak their needs – their truth – to a teacher who is not acknowledging the need to listen to it and take action.

There are ways to do this as a school community. Teachers and students can co-create shared norms for the classroom. Students can be full voting members of teacher hiring committees. Project-based assignments can be open-ended to allow for student choice and voice in meaningful ways. But all of that can fall short of the goal of truly negotiated and co-created spaces if there is not a mechanism for resolving the inevitable conflicts between a student and a teacher in a way that honors the needs of both.

This is one powerful purpose that Advisory can serve. The advisor-student relationship can – and should – include moments where advisors can serve as advocates and mediators when conflicts between students and teachers occur. The dynamic between a student and a teacher changes when another teacher is in the room with the express purpose of serving as the student advocate with the charge of navigating the space between.

When we do this, we actually create the space for teaches and students to be more honest with each other. I have seen SLA teachers engage in some of the most profoundly vulnerable and honest moments with kids in these mediations. There is something very powerful when a teacher says to a student, “This is what I need.” It turns out, it is a much more powerful moment than the artificial moment of a teacher trying to tell a student that something is actually good for the student when it’s really what the teacher needs. It also creates the space for students to speak to their needs as well. And in the honest discussion of each others needs and wants, we can find common ground. We can find compromise. We can find the space where we can come to agreement about what is the best solution for all parties, even if it is not the perfect solution for any one party.

And yes, in many ways, this requires a profound rethinking of the role of the teacher in the classroom for many people. It requires more humility than many teachers are used to showing in the classroom, and it requires a great deal of inner strength to have that humility. It means understanding that while teachers are authoritative voices in the room, they should not be authoritarian. It requires understanding there are an incredibly diverse set of needs in the room – including our own – and that navigating those needs is challenging. It requires learning more mediation skills than teachers are generally taught. It means inviting every other teacher in the building into your classroom as observer, advocate, mediator, negotiator. It means understanding that, while the outside world is very hard on teachers right now, that never – ever – makes it o.k. for teachers to lash out at others because of their own pain.

Finally, it means understanding that our classrooms and our schools will be better healthier places when everyone in them can feel like they are places where no one get everything they want, but each person can feel like she is heard, she is cared for, and she gets what she most needs.

May 06

This is Not a Review: Jose Vilson’s “This Is Not a Test”

[As many folks know, Jose Vilson is a dear friend of mine. He is also, in my opinion, one of the biggest thinkers we've got in the world of education today. I've been trying to write a traditional review of Jose's new book, This is Not a Test, for several days now. I can't. If you need to read a review, go read Audrey Watters' review of it. It's better than anything I could possibly write. What this is, simply, is an exhortation.]

There are books I read where I simply love the writer’s voice so much that I cannot put the book down.

There are books I read where I just find the message so compelling that I cannot put the book down.

Then there are those rare books that I read where the author’s voice is so powerful and the message so compelling that not only can I not put it down, but I find myself “cheer-reading,” with vigorous head-nodding and calls out to my wife, so I can read her passages that are particularly moving to me. Those are the kinds of books where I am inevitably sad when I come to the end, because I simply want to keep reading and learning more.

Jose Vilson’s This is Not a Test is one such book.

If you are familiar with Jose’s blog, you might already know that he is one of the most powerful writers on education that’s out there on the internet already. And if you only know Jose from his blog, that’d be enough to go buy the book. (And if you aren’t reading Jose’s blog, why aren’t you?)

But as good as his blog is, the book is better.

The book is a powerful commentary on the world of school today, woven through his narrative as both a student and a teacher. Jose uses the lens of his own experiences to speak to some of the most important issues facing our schools, from issues of race and class in our schools, to the need to understand our students as far more than a test score to answering the fundamental question of “Why Teach?” This is Not a Test is a deliberate creation of both memoir and social commentary that is woven together in such a compelling way as to remind every reader of the power of story to educate us of what we can and should value in our schools and in our society.

If you teach, if you have kids in school, if you live in the world of education policy, or if you simply care about the present and future of education in this country, you must read this book.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, the book is on sale (30%) through Haymarket Press. Simply buy it through the publisher and enter the code NOTATEST at checkout.

Go. Now. Buy the book. Read it. Tell others to read it too. Because, indeed, this is not a test.