This is not a review.
Rather, reading This is Not a Test has given me much to ponder over the last couple of weeks and I want to say thank you for that. So many topics have cropped up in my reflections: race, privilege, US public education and the ills which seems to plague it…all these themes which give me pause again and again.
And yet, what makes this book, your book, stick in my mind and resist dissolving like a thousand other texts in my fuzzy memory, is the deeply personal nature of the writing. In bringing so much of yourself: your history, relationships, hardships, victories, progress and setbacks to your work and therefore to your writing, you have provoked me to study my own narrative and perhaps for the first time truly see how the dots connect to create meaning.
Here’s the thing: as I read This is Not a Test, I found myself underscoring the differences between your situation and mine (age, gender, subject, grade level, school type, location) and every time being drawn into the narrative more deeply by the kinship of color, teaching, language, love of students and clearly, love of learning. There are parts of the story which make me uncomfortable or which elicit a sense of guilt for not having pursued a particular path. My inner dialogues in response to your story have pushed me to examine the fact that as I stake my reputation on being an outstanding listener, how often am I using that to avoid speaking out? When you described finding your voice as a blogger and activist, I wondered to what degree I already filter and block much of my own content to insure that I don’t offend anyone.
This kind of probing reflection does not come with each new clever title. No, it is specifically you, proud black Latino male teacher, papa, activist, author José. And your impact on me, proud African-American female PE Specialist turned leadership coach living in Austria, is indeed something to write home about. When we dare to write and put ourselves on the page, the words, sentences and paragraphs are but a fraction of the whole package. Yet sometimes that very unique fraction is just enough to budge the needle in the direction of change; in fact, of being changed.
No more excuses, it’s time to make my own fraction count. Thank you for providing the impetus.
P.S. The print version of your book arrived with Leo Buscaglia’s Love: what life is all about (1972) in the same package. A fine match.