"That's the problem with you, Minor" a student huffed. "You want to make everything about reading or math. It's not always about that. At school, you guys do everything except listen to me. Y'all want to use your essays and vocabulary words to save my future , but none of y'all know anything about saving my now . " In We Got This Cornelius Minor describes how this conversation moved him toward realizing that listening to children is one of the most powerful things a teacher can do. By listening carefully, Cornelius discovered something that kids find themselves having to communicate far too often. That "my lessons were not, at all, linked to that student's reality." While challenging the teacher as hero trope, We Got This shows how authentically listening to kids is the closest thing to a superpower that we have. What we hear can spark action that allows us to make powerful moves toward equity by broadening access to learning for all children. A lone teacher can't eliminate inequity, but Cornelius demonstrates that a lone teacher can confront the scholastic manifestations of racism, sexism, ableism and classism by "We cannot guarantee outcomes, but we can guarantee access" Cornelius writes. "We can ensure that everyone gets a shot. In this book we get to do that. Together. Consider this book a manual for how to begin that brilliantly messy work. We got this."
Because I'm wearying of professional literature that claims to have equity at its center but only regurgitates the same old information in a new package, I was hesitant about this book. However, my preconceived notions were wrong.
I was pleasantly surprised by Minor's insistence that equity begins with the small decisions we make in our classroom every day. The suggestions he offers of how to do this are immediately helpful without being prescriptive or simplistic. I currently have a class of seniors who has been giving me grief, and this book gave me several ideas to incorporate more of their voices in our classroom. In addition to practical frames for thinking about how I approach my classes, this book has also given me a renewed growth mindset when it comes to my teaching. Minor consistently asserts that teaching is messy practice, not perfection: "Dream work is messy, but when faced with the choice between the sometimes broken reality of what currently exists and the messy reality of progress, it is better to live in the mess."
I have reservations about the idea of teachers being heroes that is woven throughout the book, though. Minor does complicate our traditional notion of teachers as heroes but calls for a reimagination of what a hero is instead of a denunciation of teachers as heroes altogether, something I might be more likely to agree with.
I've seen Minor speak in person twice, and we share a beloved professor, Bill Teale, in our hearts.
This book is pretty good. But since I just went to a PD with him before reading the book, turns out there were a few (important, hefty) things in the PD that he must have come up with after the book.
He talked a lot about the three biggest ways we disenfranchise our own students, often without meaning to, and often in ways that are deeply ingrained within the teaching profession because of the fact that it exists within a system of oppression (of many types):
1) deservedness. we perform well only for the kids that "deserve" it. we take things away or deny kids access when they don't. This has historically resulted in coded racism--with black and brown kids not "deserving" it. His message: Kids deserve our best without earning it. That's our job.
2) the "should know"s. only teaching for the kids that come in "knowing." this kid "should" already know this, so I'm not going to teach it. This has been used as socioeconomic stereotyping--someone (sometimes a parent, sometimes a previous teacher) should have had the time to teach you this. (Not all parents have disposable time or income.) His message: If they don't know it, you should teach it. Doesn't matter when you think they should have learned it--they didn't. If you don't teach it, they fall further and further behind.
3) gratitude. saving our good teaching for the kids who are demonstrably thankful for it. This is relic of colonialism, "after all I've done for you." His message: They deserve your best, no matter what. Not contingent on behavior, not contingent on them then being grateful or expressing positive reactions.
I love his voice. I'm excited to see where he goes next.
Cornelius Minor makes his thinking about teaching interesting and accessible by first critically dismantling the teacher-as-superhero dynamic and then walking through how he constructs his relationships with students and his classroom. My only qualm is that there was so many things I wanted to take notes on is that I couldn't play Animal Crossing while listening to this book.
Highly recommend for teachers who need a confidence boost and solid strategies for the hand waving of "relationship building is the best classroom management!!!!"
So many Post-its on this one. So many tidbits and bites and thoughts that you can chew on to update and change your practice.
What I love completely is the visualness of his presentation from the illustrations and discussion bubbles and figures that included so many quick sheets to track your changes, address your students, or think through problems on paper. Minor's sharing of little and big conversations he had with students to these worksheet/spreadsheets are worth their weight and his inspirational title "We Got This" does truly stand up to what he's saying-- one of our former principal's used "the answer is in the room" quite frequently in trusting us to do what is right. Minor believes the same thing and his message shows from start to finish. Adapt and overcome. Learn to say no. Question. Get a group of people together. Enlist YOUR students to improve your practice.
This is an unequivocally a powerfully inspirational message to all educators who want to make little and big changes with little reminders about why you probably got into education to start with.
I sat down and read this a few hours. I barely stopped except to eat, address my children, and use the necessary. Cornelius Minor's clear and rhythmic prose, honesty, and practical tools pulled me right through the text. (And Jamal Igle's art adds to the aesthetic experience.) I kept thinking that I want Minor's brain -- how he looks at the world and children, teaching and the classroom, ways to evolve and slow thinking and practice--he breaks it down, provides models, and tells honest stories. Although Minor is a middle-school teacher, his thinking and organization are easily applied to a high school classroom. I dog-eared several pages that I will revisit in the next few days before the return from break and over the summer when I assess the year past and plan for the next. Thanks to the tweeting blond woman who teaches on a Minnesota Reservation who sat next to me at Minor's NCTE presentation, won the book, and gave it to me since she already had a copy!
First - I LOVE Cornelius Minor. Second - this book is beautiful - why can't all education books have artistic qualities as well as solid content? What I love about this book is that Minor doesn't simply draw attention to equity issues but offers practical classroom solutions. For me this is where the breakdown occurs - there's lots of talk about the problem and theoretical solutions but these solutions fail to offer practical steps of how this plays out in classrooms. This would be a perfect book for departments to read and discuss.
The thing that I appreciate most about about Minor's writing is that he so clearly leads with love. Education could use much more of that. The thing that I appreciate second most is the way he's able to take really complex ideas about how to shift one's teaching practice and communicates them in ways that are actionable. Education could use much more of that as well.
This book piqued my interest because of two words in the title: equity, access. Those are big National Board pieces, and I'm always looking for ways to help teachers explore new ways to think about these issues in their classrooms. What I DIDN'T expect to see was all the attention to reflection as a practitioner.
For Minor, the quest to BE who our students need is grounded in reflection. Questioning ourselves, challenging our every decision. Returning to lessons and conversations to see what there is to learn. This is a treasure trove.
One quibble about the layout...Minor has created lots of forms to help us look, see, recognize, question...but because of the size of the book, these forms are tiny. There is a companion PDF that I haven't explored yet, and I'm hoping that will let me study these.
The word "BE" resonates with me. I was asked once if I couldn't be a teacher, what would I be...after sputtering, I answered that I can't BE anything but a teacher. Minor seems to understand. I always wanted to BE the teacher my students needed...young teachers have a better chance, with Minor's help of becoming a reflective teacher who seeks justice for every student.
Wonderful and easy to read professional development book for teaching. I thought this was going to be another "how to include your student of color/how to be an anti-racist book" but it was not! It felt like the type of book I read in grad school, except this one was easy to read and I actually want to use the graphic organizers! I think that all the staff members at my school should read this. Also, it's great that I was able to participate in a live online zoom keynote address with the author and will also be attending a Q&A with him next week. Very cool.
Such a great read for educators! Minor takes a positive approach to problem solving the issues we face as educators. He gives concrete examples and gives actual strategy rather than just rhetoric. I love his thoughtful approach to educating kids and being a hero for them.
2021: We are at a turning point in education. This book offers the tools to help us make the necessary changes. Are we (semi-)brave enough to do take on the challenge?
2020: Rereading this as I prepare to return to school during a pandemic after a summer of racial tension couldn’t be better timing. Always relevant but more urgent now.
2019: Impressed! Minor creates credibility with his own stories and experiences he shares before delving into the purpose and immediate need for such changes. Then, he offers practical strategies to be more intentional about making sure all students feel heard. This offers something for all teachers to improve their practices.
Wow. Cornelius Minor is lightning. He is a spark. He is the whole forest fire. This dude will ignite your passion to ensure that you have equitable instruction in your classroom and the school. He will help you to remember that you are more than a cog in the machine. You have a voice and you are powerful. But more than that, he will remind you about how very powerful your students' voices are. He will get you passionate about helping them find and use those voices. He will remind you why you wanted to be an educator and then make you believe you can still be that ideal version of yourself. Read this book.
Are you an educator looking to bring about change, and to learn about practical and realistic strategies in a quick and engaging professional development book? If so, Cornelius Minor's We Got This is the perfect book for you! Cornelius Minor, a former seventh grade language arts teacher, is student centered and one that incorporates change. As a teen, Minor loved skateboarding and reading the graphic novel Hardwire, by Dwayne McDuffie, and he shares an important message from the story. "Many of us mistake being out of cages for being free" (p. 73). "The villain is inflexible thinking...our superpower is listening." (p.9-10) He equates a teacher who plows ahead with his or her vision a "colonizer" (p. 30). He encourages teachers to learn about their students' lives, homes, interests, strengths, and values and to incorporate this into the classroom, to "change the way I do school to help all kids to succeed." (p. 32) I appreciate Minor's practical suggestions, such as to teach how each child can be successful in your class and also thing to avoid, and to base instructional changes on the success of a diverse pilot group of students. "If my new thing includes more children and engages them productively, then my new thing was the right thing." (p.44) Otherwise, educators run the risk of trying to colonize children (p. 49).
We've got to listen to them. Especially when it's clear that they're not listening to us." (p. 80) As a school librarian, it is very important to know your school's community and the students' interests for collection development and programming. This inspires me to continue to include our group of student helpers as a part of an informal committee, to help with special projects and to add their opinions and suggestions for the collection and for changes to the library space. Another great suggestion was to "look at the curriculum and to slow it down; be choosy and prioritize things that really matter." (p. 115) This concept directly relates to Project Based Learning where students are more engaged as active learners. While the book promotes a student centered approach, it would have been enhanced to have referenced excellent resources in an appendix for readers to reference, or notes on resources. I truly enjoyed We Got This and would highly recommend this book to educators everywhere.
A quick but powerful read, one that affirms my methods and beliefs as an educator. In searching for the best ways to give kids access to what we teach and the justice they deserve, Cornelius Minor describes his methods of reflection and development which turn out to be something I would describe as radical responsivity. Listening and hearing what students say through their words, and especially through their actions and behaviors, can inform teachers about what those kids need in order to learn. Having rationale beyond “this is how school works” is critical not only for our Black, Latino, and indigenous students, but also for LGBTQIA+ and most pandemic impacted kids too. As I have spent this year responding more to my student needs than I ever have been to offset the effects of the schooling of the pandemic, I find this responsive teaching helps all students. I love how Mr. Minor blends what seem to be inconsequential life moments with the things teachers do naturally because of teaching and a formal method of reflection and disruption and change. He frames the book with the idea that we try to be superheroes as teachers, but we have to release ourselves from that expectation to truly make progress with real kids.
I really loved this. Equity pedagogy theory texts are very important but often too theoretical and abstract for undergrads/preservice teachers, and overwhelmingly my undergrads say, “this theory is great, but what does it look like?” or “but how do I do this without losing my job?” Minor takes so much from culturally sustaining and activist pedagogies and makes it tangible, even modeling “what this might look/sound like” in the text. He acknowledges all of my undergrads’ questions from the place of a K-12 teacher who is doing this work every day. I’ll be using select chapters in my methods class next year (actually used his intro last semester to help students craft a first draft of their own “teacher stories”), but if I taught a larger education foundations class or teaching seminar, I’d assign the whole book as a central text.
Don’t sleep on the extra materials either—there’s about a 2hr extra at the end of the audiobook that you can also find for free on Heinemann’s podcast (along with a couple of the chapters for free) that are excellent interviews with Minor talking about the text and teaching.
Insightful, thoughtful, inspiring; Cornelius Minor's debut book, We Got This, is a must read for all educators. He is a champion for giving teachers the encouragement to do what is right for their students. Using anecdotes and companion materials, he provides guides to replicate the compassionate work he does with students. He provides systems for change that are reflective and intentional. He guides teachers through the process using whatever systems their schools use. As you close the last page you will feel empowered to be the teacher your students need you to be.
This is the professional development book I needed right now- a balance of positivity and practicality, filled with (with links online) samples of flowcharts to help move your practice and your environment forward...and also poster worthy quotes. It's about helping yourself be the best teacher that your kids need, and that can be applied to situations about mediocre curriculum, classroom culture, learning differences, or historically marginalized populations. Cornelius Minor is my new favorite teacher cheerleader.
This book has some great guidance for thinking through our lessons and classroom management through student eyes. I really wish I had read more of it before school got shut down this year. Now the challenge is how to apply his methods of student management to this new online/distance learning we are in. The questions of why students aren’t doing the work, or are only partially engaged aren’t any different, but my responses will have to be very different in this new model.
I recommend this book to anyone who is teaching students who need extra attention and thought — there are great ideas to be considered in this book.
After a string of really disappointing education books lately, I’ve hit the jackpot on the last two. I genuinely wanted to sit down and read this. I wanted to do what Minor suggested. I was inspired, but also felt like I was getting really practical advice on how to create the kind of classroom I want to have. This should be on anyone’s list if they want to teach (and it truly applies to any grade levels!)
This was phenomenal. Cornelius Minor doesn’t just offer another overview of the inequity many of our students are facing; he offers practical strategies for change and resources to help educators enact that change, while also acknowledging the realistic obstacles that teachers face everyday in this profession.
Highly recommend this book! I love the accessibility of this book...how easily the info is given and consumed. What I appreciate more is the practicality and illumination on the “me” factor of teaching. How focusing on “me” can help and hurt students depending on the “why” of your focus.
I think all the charts and organizational tools will come in handy for those who like that, but the voice in this book is the best guide to success. I felt like I had a trusted colleague sitting with me as I read through this book, encouraging me to do the things I hold most dear, but sometimes feel too tired or unsupported to act.
So many quotes and notes were taken from this book that I can’t not act in them. Thank you Cornelius Minor.