Teaching is a “Living Act”

“…people teach as an act of construction and reconstruction, as a gift of oneself to others. I teach in the hope of making the world a better place” (Ayers 20).


“Teaching is more than transmitting skills; it is a living act, and it involves preference and value, obligation and choice, trust and care, commitment and justification” (32).

When Ayers argues that teaching is “an act of construction and reconstruction,” I infer that teachers are not just trying to “construct” students’ abilities, they are trying, within the confines of the classroom, to break down the constructs of the outside world (even the world within the school) and show the remnants to the students, to facilitate explorations and discussions and recognition of where we are now as a community, country, world, and model the act of “reconstruction”–be the example showing students that just analyzing and dissecting is not enough, they need to take the pieces and rebuild the world into a better place. This itself is the “living act” of teaching.

A “living act” is an act that reproduces itself, an act with effects that cycle and get recycled, and “construction and reconstruction” are those things. It seems a reasonable argument that how we live today at this precise moment is a construction and reconstruction of how things were ten years ago, a hundred years ago. The “living act” of “construction and reconstruction” is never ending and I think it is part of a teacher’s responsibility to engage in self-efficacy, as Ayers says; address and share your “preference and value,” exhibit “obligation and choice,” have and deserve “trust and care,” and exercise “commitment and justification.” It is an act of the living to question, probe, analyze and decide whether life is acceptable as it is or if it can be made better by deconstructing and reconstructing or constructing from little to nothing. Teaching is taking on the responsibility to model this ability in front of students and show them, transparently and while admitting mistakes, they have the power and ability to construct, deconstruct, reconstruct.

In his introduction, Ayers explores Dr. Martin Luther King’s “‘revolution in values,’ which would shift us from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society” (3). In his first chapter, Ayers gives us a blueprint for leading and living such a revolution in front of and for our students. We address “preference and value,” admitting that we as individuals, as an entire community and/or country assign certain values as worthy or unworthy, display values that are worthy or unworthy, and perpetuate values that are worthy or unworthy. We exercise “obligation and choice,” taking our social responsibility and turn it into our calling or “vocation,” answering the call of duty not solely out of necessity, but because we believe and choose to address that necessity (36). We have to “trust and care” in ourselves as educators and in our students as the living, breathing vessels of our attempts to exercise “obligation and choice.” We have to have “commitment” to this “revolution in values” and to the students we will come to rely on to lead it and we will be required to use “justification,” to argue for and defend our “living act.”


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