Our EdSurge bookshelves are stuffed with serious, important books about education. Hot off the presses, for instance, is Dale Russakoff’s The Prize (about how Mark Zuckerberg spent $150 million in Newark). We’ve got the epic trio of books on blended learning by Michael Horn (Blended), Liz Arney (Go Blended!) and Esther Wojcicki (Moonshots in Education). We’ve got books on race and class in education, such as Jose Vilson’s This is Not A Test, and yes, Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error.
Every once in a while, though, a work slips through, unheralded by mainstream publishers. Really, more of a coffee conversation with a friend.
Dawn Casey-Rowe’s self-published Don’t Sniff The Glue falls into this category. It is alternatively, a sweet ode to teaching and a rant about the challenges of the job. Here are a few excerpts that resonated with us. We are delighted to share them with, particularly at the beginning of a school year. Enjoy!
On what teaching is really about:
Only another teacher knows the truth about teaching, the joys, the heartbreak, the absolute need to save the university. My teachers spotted something in me. I now see this in others. It’s not as simple as a desire to save the world—it's a desire to watch people lift themselves up—to provide a guiding hand with a smile. Done right, it’s a combination of mentorship with the absence of ego. When my students become bigger than me, I've done my job. The best teachers hope for this.
On a color she will never forget:
Room 222. My room. It was an odd color. Salmony-barf. I’d seen that color before. I couldn’t place it. It tugged at my mind..... Jail.....Salmony-barf was the color of Youth Max. The state must have gotten a massive sale on salmony-barf.... And I was one of the lucky ones. Some of the rooms were an unpainted cellblock gray.
On the introspection and self-questioning that comes with the job:
Teaching isn’t as much about ‘teaching’ as it is about becoming a character, about using the character to convince students to learn. I left my old ‘Casey’ at the door and assumed a character with the same name. With twenty-five eyes staring at me from the footlights to the nosebleed section and the curtain rising on opening night, the question became, ‘Who do I want to be?’
On being careful with words:
It takes a moment—a single word, a fragment of a sentence—to build someone up. Or destroy them completely. A posture. An offhanded remark. As a teacher, mentor, guide...What I say matters. Not only in the classroom, but on the street as well.
On how the education system needs to step up:
Often, kids make the effort to work hard simply because they like me. They trust I’m giving them something of use. But in the midst of the chaos—where each day crumbles, I wonder—what can the education system do to be a lifelong friend—to teach students that no matter the problem, we can support them, lift them up, show them a way to make it better one step at a time?
Great question, Dawn, and one that should echo in our heads every day.