A Short Conversation with…John T. Spencer
I recently discovered a website named Teachmeet New Jersey: Fresh Ideas for Education. The site introduces educators to its readers by conducting short interviews. I really like that idea so I asked a few people from my PLN to answer a few questions about education. Enjoy.
How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching for seven years in an urban, low-income school district. I’ve taught seventh and eighth grade the entire time.
Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
I came in with a strong sense of social justice. I still have it, but I have a bit more nuance. I went from “teach kids to think well so that they can make a difference” to simply “teach kids to think well.” I’ve grown into paradox and I believe that we need to see a humble revolution. I know that sounds bizarre – humility and revolution. But we (including myself) need to listen more, be open to old and new perspectives and ultimately understand that teaching is almost always about paradox.
If so, what led to this change? Was it a gradual process or a specific event?
It has always been a gradual process combining specific incidents with philosophical reflection. For example, my belief that “less is more” came through a series of lessons. My belief that authenticity is paramount began with my own experiences with toxic learning environments. The changes were also a blend of both internal and external forces.
Has Twitter played a role in your evolution as a teacher? If so, how?
Not as much as I would have hoped. I like Twitter. I really do. However, Twitter has mostly been a tool to help me get to know fellow bloggers. Truly, it’s been the blogs that helped me evolve as a teacher. To me Twitter is the social hour that leads to deeper friendships. Blogs are the online version of a pint. (Too many and you’re drunk, but the right amount and it’s a beautiful thing).