Somewhere along the line, in the more than a decade of attending EduCon, I realized that if Matt Kay was doing a session, I wanted to be there.(One of the best and worst things about EduCon is that there are several folks I feel that way about…) Matt is an English teacher at SLA and I would love to take his class. I enjoyed my English classes in high school and liked my teachers, but if I could have had the teachers at SLA I’d have made the trade.
Since I first learned that whatever Matt had to say was something I wanted to hear, he has written a book, Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom. It’s clearly designed for teachers of high school students, maybe middle school students. I teach 3rd graders. It doesn’t matter. The book is brilliant. When my parents were here visiting not long ago I loaned the book to my dad. He is not and never has been a teacher. He was a computer programmer. He loved the book. Loved it so much he bought a copy so my mother (a nurse) could read it as well. It’s a book that should be read by anyone and everyone.
Take a look at his twitter bio, it’s awesome. He’s a teacher and a writer, but also the executive director of the Slam League in Philadelphia and he coaches basketball and football. That’s a range of interests and, more astoundingly to me, skills that is impressive. When Matt shares videos of his students in the Slam League it is inspiring.
As I think about writing these notes it occurs to me that the people who come to my mind are all folks who put students first. The things Matt does are done with students in mind. When he writes, the book or his columns, the writing is for educators but it is all about how to do better by our students. The respect and care for kids should be a given, but we know it isn’t always, and very few do it as well as Matt. He is also always looking for ways to do it better and credits those who help him in that way. He called out Zac Chase when he shared a strategy he’d learned from Zac to support his students.
I read Matt’s writing and attend his sessions and follow him on twitter because I know he’ll show me new and better ways to do and be, as a teacher and as a person.