“The popular notion of what it’s like to teach in urban America is dominated by two extremes” (Michie, 1999, p. xxi).
Gregory Michie succeeds admirably in rendering his teaching experiences in the complicated reality between two extremes in his book Holler If You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and His Students. Many people hear about the horror stories, portrayed by the media mainly, that schools in urban America are nothing short of chaos; uneducated and uninterested kids. Then there are other stories that are rarely heard of, about the one teacher who makes the difference in such a school. Michie’s account in his book skillfully avoids the simplification either extreme would demand. Holler if You Hear Me touches on a variety of the fundamental challenges of teaching: classroom discipline, teacher frustration, racial and ethnic differences, student apathy, relationships with students and with other teachers, and the list goes on. Throughout the book, Michie balances his tales of struggle with moments of joyous success. Not surprisingly, the successes are often related to the development of deeper connections between teacher and student. This aspect is so detrimental to the educational system. As teachers we need to make that connection with our students. To not do so would be taking away from their experience as a student as well as ours as teachers. Isn’t this why we teach to begin with? This goal may seem high considering you have to add on top of curriculum, standards, rowdy students, the personal connection of teacher and student. It may seem this way, but if it’s not set, then everything else does not seem worth the trouble at all. Esmé Codell states my beliefs on this topic beautifully: “The goal is not necessarily to succeed but to keep trying, to be the kind of person who has ideas and sees them through” (Codell, 1999, p. 5). I may not succeed in reaching every student I teach, but if the effort is made on my part, if I set this goal...
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