Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version


Document Type



The Nebraska Educator 1 (2014), pp. 148-156.


Copyright © 2014 University of Nebraska-Lincoln


This reflection focuses on the case of a student who failed my English class when I was concurrently a PhD student and a middle school teacher. The pedagogical insight imbedded in the story of our time together adds to the literature on teacher content knowledge Shulman (1986) called the missing paradigm. The piece takes an unorthodox approach to a case study based on the twofold identity of the author as a researcher intrigued by the complexity of teacher thinking and an educator driven by concern for a particular student. This case reflects back on my experiences teaching this young man, whom I failed to bring out from under an oppressive system (Friere, 1970). The reflection unfolds into a fantasy of an emerging, poetic curriculum I wished I had created for this student, rather than assigning him a failing grade. This approach to curriculum could “allow students their full humanity and allow me to stay alive as a teacher” (Ayers, 1993). Based on Dewey’s conception of a poem as “a universe” that is “self-enclosed and self-limiting,” (1934, p. 250), I construct a metaphorical understanding of my ideal teaching as a poetic creation. Through a careful rebellion against constraints created by policy and school governance, my teaching could be a model for students, whom I hope will become “strong poets” (Bloom, 1978) with the confidence and space to write their own beautiful learning agendas.