Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Teaching Matrix

It was my first day of substitute teaching and as I sat alone in the teacher's lounge - soaked in my own flop-sweat after a morning that could be best described as arduous.  As I tried to regroup from two hours of pure hell and confusion, I sifted through the LA Times "Help-Wanted" trying to find what I was going to do for the next thirty years of my vocational life, I was suddenly introduced to the matrix....
No, not THAT Matrix, THIS Matrix.....

It was found in this book and it changed my life - at least my professional one. 

 As I looked at the Matrix, I could see each "Problem child" I had encountered on that first morning of teaching could be placed into one of the four squares of the Matrix and hence I could take the appropriate action to give them what they needed to help support them and lessen the conflict in my classroom.  It was  like Orpheus had stepped into that small teacher's lounge to say, "The time has come to make a choice, Mr. Anderson. Either you choose to be at your desk on time from this day forth, or you choose to find yourself another job...."

Unlike all those other pedagogical vomit-fests of teaching rhetoric - books whose only purpose was to cut away trees and staff development hours, this book actually had something to say.  And not only that, it was said it in a clear and precise way that read:


That was it.  The whole crux of the book spelled out as plainly as that.  YOU can change your class environment,  your students, your school but it starts with you NOT them.

Inside Ms. Karns great book, she explains that ALL students act in ways that benefit them.  Even if it doesn't seem like it - there IS a reason as described in the Matrix below.

So I pushed aside the help-wanted ads, scribbled some notes onto the back of some realtor's flyer, advertising "Every teacher should be able to afford a home!" and realized if I was going to be a teacher, I was going to adopt this philosophy as my own.
If only Neo had posted this on his wall....

As a sign from the education God himself (or herself) I was finally approached by an older teacher who had been peeling a hard-boiled egg in silence.  He walked up to me and pointed to the book with his egg-covered fingers,  mumbling, "You can take it if you want, it's been sitting there for weeks..."

So I tossed the help-wanted and the realtor's flyer into the trash, grabbed the book and to this day - some twelve years later - I still read this book on those days when I forget that one important teaching truth:  I am the cause.

Keanu Reeves, as NEO, once said he didn't like the fact that he wasn't in control of his life - no one is.  But at least with this 
Matrix, you will have a better chance.  

Alan Aymie is a critically acclaimed writer, performer and educational activist, living in LA with his wife and three children.  He is currently performing his critically-acclaimed, A CHILD LEFT BEHIND' - currently running at the Santa Monica Playhouse.  For more information, you can visit

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