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To Teach: The Journey, in Comics

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This graphic novel brings to life William Ayers's bestselling memoir To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, Third Edition. From Ayers's early days teaching kindergarten, readers follow this renowned educational theorist on his "voyage of discovery and surprise." We meet fellow travelers from schools across the country and watch students grow across a year and a lifetime. To Te This graphic novel brings to life William Ayers's bestselling memoir To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, Third Edition. From Ayers's early days teaching kindergarten, readers follow this renowned educational theorist on his "voyage of discovery and surprise." We meet fellow travelers from schools across the country and watch students grow across a year and a lifetime. To Teach is a vivid, honest portrayal of the everyday magic of teaching, and what it means to be a "good" teacher--debunking myths perpetuated on film and other starry-eyed hero/teacher fictions. Illuminated by the evocative and wry drawings of Ryan Alexander-Tanner, this literary comics memoir is both engaging and insightful. These illustrated stories remind us how curiosity, a sense of adventure, and a healthy dose of reflection can guide us all to learn the most from this world. This dynamic book will speak to comic fans, memoir readers, and educators of all stripes.


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This graphic novel brings to life William Ayers's bestselling memoir To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, Third Edition. From Ayers's early days teaching kindergarten, readers follow this renowned educational theorist on his "voyage of discovery and surprise." We meet fellow travelers from schools across the country and watch students grow across a year and a lifetime. To Te This graphic novel brings to life William Ayers's bestselling memoir To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, Third Edition. From Ayers's early days teaching kindergarten, readers follow this renowned educational theorist on his "voyage of discovery and surprise." We meet fellow travelers from schools across the country and watch students grow across a year and a lifetime. To Teach is a vivid, honest portrayal of the everyday magic of teaching, and what it means to be a "good" teacher--debunking myths perpetuated on film and other starry-eyed hero/teacher fictions. Illuminated by the evocative and wry drawings of Ryan Alexander-Tanner, this literary comics memoir is both engaging and insightful. These illustrated stories remind us how curiosity, a sense of adventure, and a healthy dose of reflection can guide us all to learn the most from this world. This dynamic book will speak to comic fans, memoir readers, and educators of all stripes.

30 review for To Teach: The Journey, in Comics

  1. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    I picked this book up because I wanted to learn about the conundrums and difficulties of teaching from the inside, which graphic novels are often quite good at expressing. I felt that this book taught me nothing that I didn't already know or could idealize on my own though. Kids are people too. Labels shouldn't replace looking at the whole child. Perceived weaknesses are often strengths in a different environment. Et cetera. It's all true, but it could all be said in less space, perhaps leaving I picked this book up because I wanted to learn about the conundrums and difficulties of teaching from the inside, which graphic novels are often quite good at expressing. I felt that this book taught me nothing that I didn't already know or could idealize on my own though. Kids are people too. Labels shouldn't replace looking at the whole child. Perceived weaknesses are often strengths in a different environment. Et cetera. It's all true, but it could all be said in less space, perhaps leaving room for the dilemma of teachers being both admired by society while being crucified by parents and the media for not doing enough. Too much burden is put on teachers. They are a single leg in a three-legged chair, the other supports being the kid and the parents themselves. It's easy to say, "This is how it should be." I was more interested in learning why it isn't that way, why that's easier said than done, and the unfiltered version of what it's really like. Education is a complex issue and I wanted to hear it from the trenches, not from the top of the mountain.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenell

    Enjoyed reading this more the second time around!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian Charest

    This is such a great book. Ayers takes many of the key passages from the original and reimagines them as graphic stories about real teachers and students facing the tough questions in schools (What's worth knowing and doing?). This books stands for everything that learning could be (i.e., inquiry based, student centered, interest driven), if education leaders and union leadership had the courage to demand that we support and provide for students and teachers in every community. The truth is that This is such a great book. Ayers takes many of the key passages from the original and reimagines them as graphic stories about real teachers and students facing the tough questions in schools (What's worth knowing and doing?). This books stands for everything that learning could be (i.e., inquiry based, student centered, interest driven), if education leaders and union leadership had the courage to demand that we support and provide for students and teachers in every community. The truth is that the ideas in this book are hardly new and that elite schools serving the most privileged have for a long time and will continue to support the teaching and learning models described in this great book. Why not give every child this type of education?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Malbadeen

    A few pages into this I thought I was going to be in for an eye rolling walk done cynicism lane but I have to admit that I mostly agreed with the author. On the surface it seems a little hipppy-dippy but at end of the day, I think it mostly does a good job of capturing some of the frustrations and challenges of teaching in the aftermath of Bush's NCLB without going so far overboard that it digresses into an intelligible rant like so many other anti-NCLB can easily do. Some of the panels I especia A few pages into this I thought I was going to be in for an eye rolling walk done cynicism lane but I have to admit that I mostly agreed with the author. On the surface it seems a little hipppy-dippy but at end of the day, I think it mostly does a good job of capturing some of the frustrations and challenges of teaching in the aftermath of Bush's NCLB without going so far overboard that it digresses into an intelligible rant like so many other anti-NCLB can easily do. Some of the panels I especially agreed with are as follows: "To name oneself as a teacher is to live with one foot in the muck of the world as we find it- with its conventional patterns and received wisdom - and the other foot striding toward a world that could be but isn't yet." "Learning stuff is the easy part, and yet that's all our schools obsess about. Thinking is tough,... and that's what I'm interested in." "The struggle is not to stockpile ideas, but to find the core values that define classroom life"

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    To Teach the journey, in comics is a radical vision of teaching as a journey toward a better world and teachers as fellow travelers on an adventure of discovery alongside their students. The author uses stories of creative and nurturing ways he engaged his kindergarteners and profiles of other empowering and inspiring teachers to illustrate his core values of love, seeing students as people, compassion and building relationships and a sense of community in the classroom and the world. I think pr To Teach the journey, in comics is a radical vision of teaching as a journey toward a better world and teachers as fellow travelers on an adventure of discovery alongside their students. The author uses stories of creative and nurturing ways he engaged his kindergarteners and profiles of other empowering and inspiring teachers to illustrate his core values of love, seeing students as people, compassion and building relationships and a sense of community in the classroom and the world. I think presenting William Ayer’s original traditional book as a graphic novel was a brilliant idea, as the format focused on the most important concepts and the pictures kept me engaged. While I think Ayer’s vision may not always be possible, it is a beautiful ideal to work towards and reading this book inspired me to meet his challenge to be the best teachers we can imagine being. I recommend this book to all educators and anyone who wants to understand what it’s really like to be a teacher and how transformative education can be. Thank you Peter for a wonderful Christmas gift.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Keeton

    William 'Bill' Ayers shares his teaching philosophy in To Teach: The Journey, in comics, both by elevating excellent educators in the field and critiquing the system of education. Ayers champions a social justice based curriculum as well as a nontraditional approach by decrying the use of standardized tests and advocating for more authentic, project-based learning experiences. Though Ayers makes an interesting argument, I wonder who his target audience is. Both educators and preservice teachers William 'Bill' Ayers shares his teaching philosophy in To Teach: The Journey, in comics, both by elevating excellent educators in the field and critiquing the system of education. Ayers champions a social justice based curriculum as well as a nontraditional approach by decrying the use of standardized tests and advocating for more authentic, project-based learning experiences. Though Ayers makes an interesting argument, I wonder who his target audience is. Both educators and preservice teachers will likely be familiar with his pedagogical stance, and if they are not, likely won't be moved by his prescriptive tone. Still, this book presents familiar philosophy in an accessible, alternative format.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Radical and philosophical are two words I'd use to describe To Teach by William Ayers and Ryan Alexander-Tanner. It will make you question every tradition, rule, and classroom procedure we foist upon children in the name of education and discipline. In this book, Ayers attempts to squash the notion of the mythical heroic teacher "saving" his students from their lives, but in a somewhat contradictory fashion, this book is also a kind of hero's journey in its own right, as the teacher sets out on a Radical and philosophical are two words I'd use to describe To Teach by William Ayers and Ryan Alexander-Tanner. It will make you question every tradition, rule, and classroom procedure we foist upon children in the name of education and discipline. In this book, Ayers attempts to squash the notion of the mythical heroic teacher "saving" his students from their lives, but in a somewhat contradictory fashion, this book is also a kind of hero's journey in its own right, as the teacher sets out on a quest with her students and returns transformed. Read my entire review on my blog.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I've never groaned so much at a comic. Incredibly self-satisfied, pedantic, and generally plain old annoying. I'm on the side of progressive teaching for social justice etc. but just ugh. The format made the message incredibly irritating. Never should have been put in comic form. I've never groaned so much at a comic. Incredibly self-satisfied, pedantic, and generally plain old annoying. I'm on the side of progressive teaching for social justice etc. but just ugh. The format made the message incredibly irritating. Never should have been put in comic form.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I really appreciated an alternate format to talk about teaching, and that one of my professors selected this book for their course. But I can't really say that I learned anything that I didn't already know, thus the three stars. I really appreciated an alternate format to talk about teaching, and that one of my professors selected this book for their course. But I can't really say that I learned anything that I didn't already know, thus the three stars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Molly Klodor

    I loved reading this book as it was a nice break from the traditional text books. While I can't agree with his argument completely, I respect the work and value Ayers' opinions. I loved reading this book as it was a nice break from the traditional text books. While I can't agree with his argument completely, I respect the work and value Ayers' opinions.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kathrina

    CREATIVE INSUBORDINATION. Clip the wires to the damn loudspeaker. Go Ayers!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    If you are a teacher, are thinking about being a teacher, have a child in school or pay taxes to a school system, read Bill Ayers' and Ryan Alexander-Tanner's book, To Teach, the Journey, in comics. But be warned, school isn't like that. Some, a few schools and a few classrooms, are like that. Classrooms and schools could be like that, but, most aren't. But it's important to have an alternate perspective, especially when your child comes home crying that they hate school. Ayers' name was weirdly If you are a teacher, are thinking about being a teacher, have a child in school or pay taxes to a school system, read Bill Ayers' and Ryan Alexander-Tanner's book, To Teach, the Journey, in comics. But be warned, school isn't like that. Some, a few schools and a few classrooms, are like that. Classrooms and schools could be like that, but, most aren't. But it's important to have an alternate perspective, especially when your child comes home crying that they hate school. Ayers' name was weirdly familiar to me, but I couldn't think why until I read his bio at the back of the book. It turns out that this distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois was also one of the founders of the Weather Party of the early 1970s. Way to go, Bill. He took his early idealism and channelled it into something ongoing that really helped thousands of people. Ending the Vietnam War, Ayers' earlier passion, helped millions of people too. Anyway, this graphic non-fiction book, which I have to confess, I read because of a book challenge, chronicles Ayers' early career as a kindergarten teacher, where his students call him Bill and they engage in journeys of self discovery together. My not so rosy experiences in the classroom made my inner voice say, where are the kids who are hitting each other, or crying because someone took their cracker or running around the room because their mothers never taught them an iota of self control? Huh? Where are they, Bill?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    To Teach is a graphic novel about the elements of being a good teacher. There is a lot of pontificating and getting up on soap boxes, but as a teacher, I loved it. The book is peppered with vignettes of incredible teachers and stories within the author's own classroom. Even though I don't teach young children, I could myself identifying with so many situations and so excited to teach. The intro to the book is material straight out of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, so if you find yourself ena To Teach is a graphic novel about the elements of being a good teacher. There is a lot of pontificating and getting up on soap boxes, but as a teacher, I loved it. The book is peppered with vignettes of incredible teachers and stories within the author's own classroom. Even though I don't teach young children, I could myself identifying with so many situations and so excited to teach. The intro to the book is material straight out of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, so if you find yourself enamored with concepts of how artists make meaning through the medium of graphic novels, then look that way. For parents, administrators, and of course teachers, this book is an excellent read. And thanks to its form factor, it's also a bit easier to digest!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Shuman

    I am not normally a lover of comics or graphic novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I read it little by little throughout the school year (my first year of teaching), and it was a continual reminder of the bigger picture and the greater goals of teaching, a field in which I quickly discovered that it's very easy to get caught up in the immediate problems and frustrations. 10/10 would recommend to all teachers, whether you're just starting out your career or nearing the end, to keep you fo I am not normally a lover of comics or graphic novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I read it little by little throughout the school year (my first year of teaching), and it was a continual reminder of the bigger picture and the greater goals of teaching, a field in which I quickly discovered that it's very easy to get caught up in the immediate problems and frustrations. 10/10 would recommend to all teachers, whether you're just starting out your career or nearing the end, to keep you focused on what really matters as a teacher!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Exavidreader

    Definitely a fresh way of getting the message across about how we're not alone in thinking the system really is flawed and we're not alone in our efforts to fight the system in subversive ways for the sake of our children. And if we ever feel it's just not worth the fight, we should persevere because one day our children will thank us. A definite must have for all teachers, and the bonus is that it's a well-written, well-drawn, humorous book where pictures cover the pages more than the words. Definitely a fresh way of getting the message across about how we're not alone in thinking the system really is flawed and we're not alone in our efforts to fight the system in subversive ways for the sake of our children. And if we ever feel it's just not worth the fight, we should persevere because one day our children will thank us. A definite must have for all teachers, and the bonus is that it's a well-written, well-drawn, humorous book where pictures cover the pages more than the words.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Candance Doerr-Stevens

    This was an inspirational read. I can see myself coming back to this again and again as a text to help me gauge my inner compass, a reminder of why I do what I do. This is a great gift book for a teacher friend. Favorite quote: “Good schools are places where students come to believe in their own capacity to change the world,” (p. 101)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ingrid

    Got about halfway through before calling it quits. I was expecting it to be about what it's like to be a teacher, when really it's more of an illustrated telling of this guy's personal teaching philosophy. While I agree with a lot of what he's saying, it doesn't make for an interesting read. Got about halfway through before calling it quits. I was expecting it to be about what it's like to be a teacher, when really it's more of an illustrated telling of this guy's personal teaching philosophy. While I agree with a lot of what he's saying, it doesn't make for an interesting read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brynn

    This is a phenomenal read for future teachers or teachers who want to challenge what they know about teaching and change the course of their students and classroom for the better. This text was incredible and I learned so many things to take with me into my own classroom.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sohini

    "To name oneself as a teacher is to live with one foot in the muck of the world as we find it -- with its conventional patterns and received wisdom -- and the other foot striding toward a world that could be but isn't yet." crying in the classroom rn, i loved reading this. "To name oneself as a teacher is to live with one foot in the muck of the world as we find it -- with its conventional patterns and received wisdom -- and the other foot striding toward a world that could be but isn't yet." crying in the classroom rn, i loved reading this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    This book does a great job capturing the magic of K-12 classroom teaching.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mr. Smidl

    Some good points about the practice of teaching and that good teachers never know everything. We continue to educate ourselves to educate others. Learning continues to evolve as we do.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Glynn

    Sweet, simple, made me cry and encouraged me to finally enroll for my master's in education which starts this summer. Sweet, simple, made me cry and encouraged me to finally enroll for my master's in education which starts this summer.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nadia

    Excellent book on how teachers can wield creative lessons. Ayers uses himself as an example of a teacher being creative through the restraints of stifling standardized education.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Belynda Weber

    A fun way to learn different teaching strategies.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Random Scholar

    This graphic novel (geared for adults) provided a philosophical overview of what it means to be a teacher today. Although the illustrations were fun and engaging, this book was just okay for me. I studied famous education theorists before reading this book, and I found many elements of John Dewey in the writing of this book. Many of the ideas were not new. For example, one idea that kept getting raised was that education should be relevant to students lives. This is not a new idea, and we have s This graphic novel (geared for adults) provided a philosophical overview of what it means to be a teacher today. Although the illustrations were fun and engaging, this book was just okay for me. I studied famous education theorists before reading this book, and I found many elements of John Dewey in the writing of this book. Many of the ideas were not new. For example, one idea that kept getting raised was that education should be relevant to students lives. This is not a new idea, and we have seen numerous progressive reforms fail in the past because there was too much emphasis on making education relevant to students lives and not enough on promoting common core knowledge that students need to know in order to be successful in today's economy. School is not always going to be fireworks and candy. There will be some information that students need to learn to literally help them get decent paying jobs (like how to read contracts, write resumes and cover letters). This will not always be fun, yet this book seemed to emphasize fun activities over anything else. What the author failed to mention was that schools have tried this in the past and unless the students already came from a privileged, educated family, they did not learn anything by just playing games all day at school. I also didn't agree with the portrayal of assessment in this book. The two executives who were asking about student test scores were portrayed in a very negative manner, and this did not paint a realistic picture of what assessment really is. If the assessment is done correctly, it can provide accurate and timely information on what students already know and what they still need help with.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Thanh Do

    Read for a class

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mahailey

    One of the easiest textbooks I've read. One of the easiest textbooks I've read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kristina King

    OMG WEATHERMEN BILL AYERS MOONMEN OBAMA! William Ayers became a national name during the 2008 presidential campaign, where it was revealed he taught Barack Obama how to build bombs. Young Obama was just eight years old when he went on missions with the Weather Underground Organization, a revolutionary group hellbent on destroying Freedom. While Ayers was never convicted of any crime, his name is forever synonymous with violent radicals. As a Chicago resident (and Obama campaign donor), his decades OMG WEATHERMEN BILL AYERS MOONMEN OBAMA! William Ayers became a national name during the 2008 presidential campaign, where it was revealed he taught Barack Obama how to build bombs. Young Obama was just eight years old when he went on missions with the Weather Underground Organization, a revolutionary group hellbent on destroying Freedom. While Ayers was never convicted of any crime, his name is forever synonymous with violent radicals. As a Chicago resident (and Obama campaign donor), his decades-old activities became linked with our current President. So? I picked up To Teach: a journey, in comics after reading about it on boingboing. Of course I'd heard Ayers' name before, but mostly as a pejorative. I knew I'd never get around to reading the extended cut of this book, the non-graphic To Teach: A Journey . Although I teach, I'm not one for other teachers' memoirs. There's just too many damn books in this world for me to catch up with. But the journey, in comics, looked brief enough to sneak in while reading something else. Plus, as its title indicates, it is illustrated. And fittingly whimsically, at that. This book shows the wonder of young children (and Ayers!) learning; it is fitting the illustrations are sparkling and vibrant. The journey, in comics, was a quick little read, but that's not to say it lacks substance. It reminds you that students are people. It reminds you to consider where they are a coming from. It has many heartwarming moments, and many "Hey, Bill, way to eff the system!" moments. If you find yourself dissatisfied with the bureaucracy of the educational system, you'll find yourself agreeing with the message in the book. If you aren't satisfied with public education because you believe it needs teacher pay based on standardized test results, screw you. And definitely don't read this book. So how do you apply all of the lofty nuggets in this book? I don't know. (If you're looking for that answer in a book, I suppose you'll have to read longer works, complete with chapters of footnotes, to figure that out.) But I really enjoyed this book, for it was brief yet substantive and heartfelt. It reminded me why I've always wanted to be a teacher. (Even though I've had my moments—and year-long job—of doubts, I think back to various "letters to myself" where I wrote I wanted to be a teacher [or graphic designer, or newscaster, but that's beside the point. Teaching has been consistent!].) It's because of things like this (44): I want to build spaces where each person is visible to me and to everyone else—and, most importantly, to themselves. Students should sense their own unique power and potential. In this classroom, each is known and understood, recognized and valued... I want to build spaces where the insistently social nature of learning is honored, where knowledge and power are shared and not hoarded. Knowledge, like love, is something you can give away without losing a thing. If you teach, have taught, or consider doing so, I recommend you read this. It reminds me that I'm on a life-long journey as a teacher, and it is okay for me to be questioning my path. Complacency doesn't work in this profession. If you think it does, you shouldn't teach. KK P.S. Dhalgren is still up next; I just read the last chapter of this lil' book after reading it on-and-off for a few weeks.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    I really, really, really like this book. It's like a heart-felt love-letter to teachers. And it's a great distillation (with pictures!) of what I believe education SHOULD be about and the things I continue to strive to embody in my own teaching. Ayers (and by consequence Alexander-Tanner's artwork) focus on the importance of seeing the individuality of students and knowing that teachers and learners build knowledge together; the importance of creating physical spaces that honor, inspire, and sup I really, really, really like this book. It's like a heart-felt love-letter to teachers. And it's a great distillation (with pictures!) of what I believe education SHOULD be about and the things I continue to strive to embody in my own teaching. Ayers (and by consequence Alexander-Tanner's artwork) focus on the importance of seeing the individuality of students and knowing that teachers and learners build knowledge together; the importance of creating physical spaces that honor, inspire, and support rich, quality learning; the immensely vital need to link learning with students' lives, of building on previous knowledge and experience as foundations for deeper learning; the power of engaging a living, breathing (rather than a stagnant, unresponsive) curriculum; and the importance of authentic assessment as a tool for informing and supporting continued learning. LOVE IT! Now, I'm probably a bit biased. First, I've met Bill Ayers several times at conferences, talks, and educator gatherings. He's a really cool dude, but more importantly a really reflective, dedicated educator. Plus, he started out teaching Kindergarten, so his reflections and Alexander-Tanner's illustrations of that time in his career really connect with me. I have found it rare for educational theorists/practitioners to have a strong connection with early childhood settings; they often ignore the powerful and insightful voices of little people. But not Ayers. Also, lots of the references in the book -- people and places in particular -- are really familiar to me. Having lived in Chicago, I go, "Oh, that's the Field!" (pg 97) or "You are SO right about standardized test questions. Do kids in Iowa even know what the projects are?!" (pg 86) And I know some of the educators Ayers uses as examples in the book. (I've met Dave Stovall several times and a friend did research with him at Social Justice High School -- one of the small schools that is a part of the Lawndale Little Village High School, a Chicago public school.) So, when I read this text I see pieces of my own story, pieces of a city I've called home and its history, and reflections of educators I know who are hard at work trying to make education what it should be for all learners. To Teach: The Journey, in Comics is a great read and such an amazing way to introduce, reintroduce, or remind those thoughtful about education about some of the most important issues at its core. It makes me want to go pick up and read the original text -- To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher -- which I just might do!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    Just the right read to lift my spirits as a teacher. This book was so fun to read and thought provoking as well. It brought me to center to remind me of the idealism and principals that drew me to the profession but with a realism to the obstacles and experience that honors the profession as well.

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