by Gregory Michie
(Teachers College Press, 2009)
Reviewed by José Vilson
Middle School Math Teacher & Coach (NYC)
Teacher Leaders Network
It's been 11 years since Gregory Michie's book Holler If You Hear Me was first published, but the lessons we glean from this book are just as relevant. Take that how you will. With all this talk about education reform, a book like this would do well in everyone's teacher prep curriculum, particularly for those who are coming into an environment disparate from their own. Allow me to explain.
Gregory Michie goes from idealistic newbie to inspiring veteran in a few critical years. He does an excellent job of letting the actions and events of his career speak for themselves rather than bludgeoning points onto our heads about how to approach children. He tries his hardest to meet the students where they are, and give them the tools to analyze themselves and the people around them, only implicitly moving them in a good direction. We see the toil of his transformative curricula, arguing deftly for thematic classes and media literacy. We see the mistakes that trickle into disasters.Throughout, I found myself putting the book down often, wincing at every sad tale of a misunderstood kid getting in trouble with the law and nodding delightfully when he reached those small moments of euphoria. Unlike other teacher-story media, you're pulling for Michie because he gets it. This "get-it"-ness comes through even in the introductions by Sandra Cisneros and Luis J. Rodriguez, who give insightful perspectives on this seminal work. With the droves of teachers now coming from all parts of the country into spaces where they don't understand the people they're working with, this is the type of insightful material they need to have on their list of mandatory reading.
In the last few pages, Michie likens some of the reviews of his first edition to a bad made-for-TV movie, where many of the experiences the reviewers describe are more fiction and exaggeration than actual text from the book. And it's probably best left that way. Books are much better than movies at conveying stories like these. Michie keeps it real.
José Luis Vilson is an educator, writer, and president of the Latin Alumni Network of Syracuse University (LANSU). He's co-author of the upcoming book Teaching 2030 and blogs his life.