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Lives on the Boundary

Dec 20, 2004 1260 Words
Midterm Essay Question: Discuss the benefits one may obtain form reading Mike Rose's book citing specific examples. How may this book be used to help shape a teacher's philosophy and effectiveness? The book Lives on the Boundary, written by Mike Rose, provides great insight to what the new teaching professional may anticipate in the classroom. This book may be used to inform a teacher's philosophy and may render the teacher more effective. Lives on the Boundary is a first person account composed of eight chapters each of which treat a different obstacle faced by Mike Rose in his years as a student and as an educator. More specifically in chapters one through five Mike Rose focuses on his own personal struggles and achievements as a student. Ultimately the aim is to highlight the underpreparedness of some of today's learners. First and most importantly Mike Rose writes the book in the first person. This provides an invaluable view to the actual thoughts and perceptions of a student who considered himself to be underprepared. Mike Rose begins his accounts in grammar school when he felt lost in the material. The teacher did not hold his attention and therefore he began to "daydream to avoid inadequacy" (Rose 19). Mike Rose does not describe himself as a nuisance, but as a student who was overlooked. This treatment was very a detriment to his education. "I would hide by slumping down in my seat and page through my reader, carried along by the flow of sentences in a story." (Rose 19) He discusses the teachers' inability to "engage the imaginations of us kids who were scuttling along at the bottom of the pond." (Rose 26) This strategy combined poorly with the attitudes of other students who did not want to work hard, who just wanted to be average. (Rose 28) Mike Rose describes that mix of students and how it affected his own perception of education: "School can be a tremendously disorienting place… You'll also be thrown in with all kind of kids from all kind of backgrounds, and that can be unsettling… You'll see a handful of students far excel you in courses that sound exotic and that are only in the curriculum of the elite: French, physics, trigonometry. And all this is happening while you're trying to shape an identity; your body is changing, and your emotions are running wild." (Rose 28)

Without reading Mike Rose's detailed descriptions of his experiences as a learner a perspective teacher may never suspect that the quiet student in the class is daydreaming to avoid the material that he/she does not understand. By reading Lives on the Boundary a new teacher may be able to recognize the struggles that a student is facing due to physical and psychosocial changes. Mr. Rose presents many descriptive vignettes of teaching professionals in his life who have influenced him both positively and negatively and whom he has retained for emulation or distinction. These characters in his life include teachers from grammar school throughout his college experience. All have in one way or another left a considerable imprint on his recollection of school and learning. Mike Rose experienced a few teachers who used corporal punishment to control their classrooms. Brother Dill for example he describes as a "troubled and unstable man who also taught freshman English. When his class drifted away form him, which was often, his voice would rise in paranoid accusations, and occasionally he would lose control and shake or smack us." (Rose 25) Rose also described his physical education who would use violence to "make men out of us." (Rose 25) Mr. Mitropetros was described as not having much training in teaching English so therefore had students read aloud from Julius Caesar over and over. This did not provide any understanding of the text, only a memorization of the dialogue. (Rose 25) Rose also describes several other teachers who did not have a positive affect on him, but left him questioning their knowledge of the subject they taught. Rose was placed, in error, in a vocational group of students, which was a lower level. He spent two years in that track before being rescued by Brother Clint. Brother Clint realized the error and recommended advancement to the College Prep program. (Rose 30) This is the first account of a positive experience Mike Rose had with a teacher. The next positive experience Rose details is with Jack MacFarland. Mr. MacFarland was described as a "beatnik who was born too late." (Rose 32) Mr. MacFarland introduced Rose and the other students to a world where learning was interesting. It was because of Mr. MacFarland's influence that Mike Rose entered college and experienced other educators such as Frank Carothers. Rose describes Carothers as professor who "enjoyed the classroom, and he seemed to love the more informal contacts with those he taught, those he once taught, and those who stopped by just to get a look at this guy." (Rose 52) There was Father Albertson, who encouraged the students to make connections between art and literature. And Dr. Erlandson, who would help Rose work on his writing style without making it seem as if it was work. All of these teaching professionals have, unbeknownst to themselves, written a biographical chapter in Mike Rose's book. It is a sharp reminder to those seeking a profession in education that every thought and action in and out of the classroom potentially affects each and every student learning from that educator. It is essential that a teacher remain open-minded, attentive and compassionate with regard to student needs. Reading Rose's book one can make the connection between teacher behavior and students success and how different teaching methods may influence students. Rose also offers a psychological perspective on why certain students lack self-confidence and may fair poorly in the classroom. It is not just teacher behavior and attitude that determines the success of the student; there are other outstanding factors that play huge roles. Foremost is the students' individual lack of ambition from the inside and peer pressure for the outside that can contribute to the unease of the student. From Mike Rose's very first feelings of insecurity in the in grammar school classroom as a child, when he would hide and daydream, up until his first years of college, when he would avoid areas that were difficult, the author recognized that there was important link between challenging the student on a meaningful level and the degree to which the student eventually produced. "I felt stupid telling them I was… well – stupid." (Rose 43) Here, Rose shows an example of how poor preparation and low standards in the classroom can make a student feel inadequate. Indeed, one can see how many things seemingly unrelated do affect a student's ability to learn. Reading Mike Rose's book Lives on the Boundary one can benefit from his efforts as a student and educator. It is a tool that can be used to motivate teachers to produce interesting lesson plans and to be aware of their students in all aspects. The book provides concrete examples of good and bad teaching all related through the author's personal history. Finally, the book-as an account of one man's personal struggle – reflects on the inner psyche of the marginal student and prompts the reader to be more attentive to each and every learner.

Work Cited
Rose, Mike. Lives on The Boundary. New York, NY: Penquin Books. 1989

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