Burning the Brazen

by beccaborrelli

My Crazy Wild River Was in Fire. Denis Collette. 2008

“Why do you do that with your eyes?” says J.

I’m startled. I have a nervous habit of fluttering my eyes, and students always ask why I do it.

“It’s nervous habit,” I say.

“Why are you nervous? I haven’t seen you twist your hair in awhile. I bet now you’re fluttering your eyes instead!” he says with a mischievous grin.

Minis have a hard time comprehending “social niceties.” Even though I’m not used to it, I appreciate it.

Admittedly J makes me nervous. He reads people far better than any other 8 year old I’ve ever met. Sometimes I think he reads me better than most adults- which throws the teacher/student role on it’s side.

J is also a special needs student. He is labeled special needs because he struggles with language comprehension. His peers who have far fewer social recognition skills, will never feel the stigma of being labeled “interpersonally deficient.” If Howard Gardner is correct in his contention about multiple intelligences– J is “Interpersonally gifted.” But data driven instruction doesn’t measure person to person intelligence.

“My contention is that every child has gifts… and we are squandering them. Pretty ruthlessly.” — Sir Ken Robinson

When I read Multiple Intelligences, I am struck by public ed’s glaring inability to teach to the whole child. Gardner points out that public ed comprehensively teaches to only two of eight intelligences. It strikes me that teaching to the whole child could not possible occur 8 hours a day for 180 days. By a few select people. In a building. With RTI interventions, and risk assessments.

I wonder, what is the point of formal, institution style education?  I find no satisfactory answer to this question. And like many times before… my brain arrives at the same conclusion.

Throw it all out. Start over.

I remember the world is far too intricate and interconnected to make such brash moves. Pulling an apple out of the bottom of the cart makes everything roll every which way.


Oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico flashes on the locker room flat screen this morning as I get ready for school. I hear Meredith interviewing a spokesperson for BP. As oil creeps closer to the mouth of the Mississippi river, we are realizing just how bad this could get. It always seems catastrophe begets brash, positive change. The yin and the yang baby.


I haven’t written in over a month. I wish I could say the reason… but I’m not entirely sure if it isn’t just that I don’t have much to say. It seems lately that all of the questions in my heart melt into a peaceful puddle. The Brazen seems as outdated as the oil crisis.

When a forest becomes overgrown, it catches on fire. It burns and in the ashes new seeds take root. The forest does not need to struggle, it does not need to cry and pound it’s fists or construct new and more efficient systems to deal with it’s overgrowth. One day it just burns. The system is eloquent and perfect without outside intervention.

I’m hoping one day the public ed system burns. I’m hoping something fresh can grow. I wonder if our technology puts out the good fires- and some bad stuff has grown far too big. This is what happens when I don’t write for month. A philosophical rambling about 8 year olds and forests. I’m not sure what to write on a blog about a brazen teacher who isn’t brazen anymore. Maybe it’s time to burn her too.