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Friday, November 1, 2013

Boys don't need your Common Core?

I woke up in the middle of the night. I was dreaming about trick or treating with my sister Maryellen on Halloween. She was still alive, and we were having so much fun, talking, laughing, and saying Boo to everyone we met. It was as clear as the back of my hand. I could feel my hand in hers. I could not go back to sleep. While the dream was beautiful waking to her not being here hurts deeply. I went online looking for news, but found none. I ended up on the CNN News webpage, and came across this "Readers sound off: Books that changed your lives."> <
I started thinking about the books that make me who I am. I remember reading John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany" with some trouble eight graders. It was the only all boys group I ever worked with. They were the greatest group of boys. I can't remember who cried more when Owen Meany died, them or me.

Death had come to almost every boy in that class that year, and me as well. We teachers know bad things happen to good people, but there is nothing in our training to help lessen that pain. Teachers live the pain of every child they teach. It is a rewarding job, but those rewards carry both joy and pain. It was a long year of funerals. No one stops the world. You pay your respects, you hug, and somehow you go on teaching. You question it all. You hold on for them. Sometimes, however one beautiful moment can melt all your hurt away.
Some say working with socially emotionally disturbed boys is a challenge, but to me they're just boys. What do you say to a young boy whose mother dies from an overdose? I'm sorry only carries you so far. You crumble inside everyday knowing his pain. You do everything possible to make school better. You go on with the show. You wrap all that hurt inside. You bury it deeply, and you go on teaching.

I remember the lines that taught us books can heal that year.   
“When someone you love dies, and you're not expecting it, you don't lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time - the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades away from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes - when there's a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she's gone, forever - there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.”  
I read it a hundred times before, but my sister died earlier that year after a life time of substance abuse.  Then seeing his tears roll down those cheeks, knowing he just lost his mother less than a month ago. Well nothing on earth was going to stop my tears while reading those lines. It's all silent, it's like church, and we're all crying. Then every boy walks over and hugs me. He comes over saying, "Please Sir, don't gets better, they never leave our heart".... Sometimes a room full of tears is a room of healing.

Who will read Owen Meany to our boys in this education reform rush to lessen narrative readings under the Common Core? Tell me again what the heck do Student Learning Objectives have to do with reading?
The power of narrative makes us human, and the more narratives we read the more human we become. Our students need narratives more than they need non-fiction.
"A Prayer for Owen Meany" taught me it's not the books, but the people that change our life. My life was changed by an older sister who took her baby brother trick or treating, and an eight grader who said "Please Sir don't cry.. it gets better...they never leave your heart".  
Boys don't need your Common Core, 
Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

If you want to know what song this walking man is listening to through his's Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" > <


  1. and what test score did you receive in those life impacting moments........????? those boys will remember that..... it was real......... no teacher can replicate that lesson..... ever.....exactly as it all went ....that year for were vested in their lives uniquely well might not be able to recreate that in yet another class, in another year, due to all of the variables.......this is badass teaching at its heart...........heaters have cores..... teachers have hearts.....children have hurts.....and we should not compound them any further.......people can become incapacitated through helped those youth persevere....but not by medicating.....not by escapism......not by skewed translation to cried and read.....and leaned....and embraced.....the emote........that is an education worthy of all due respect......thank you for sharing.......... ^0^

  2. What a fitting, moving post for November 1. Thank you, Jesse. It touched my heart.

  3. These are the moments teachers live for, and children remember for their entire lifetimes.

  4. What teachers do tater, and the children we teach matter. Standards and testing are not the end all of teaching and learning.