The Stenhouse Blog

Review of Not Light, But Fire by Matthew R. Kay

Posted by admin on Dec 1, 2018 1:25:19 PM

Recently, Peter Anderson, an English Language Arts teacher from Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Arlington, VA, sent us his take on Not Light, But Fire: How to Have Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom by Matthew R. KayHe very articulately put into words what we at Stenhouse all think about this important book and its potential impact on classrooms across the country. We had to share.

Not Light, But Fire is a masterful combination of pedagogy and critical consciousness. It is impossible to come out on the other side of this book without experiencing some sort of growth. It was like Matthew had watched videotapes of my most ineffective teaching moments and devised a plan to help me improve. I’d been that teacher who engaged in privilege walks and shock pedagogy in the misguided belief that this would help my students engage with race. I had watched my classroom discussions flounder, unaware that I was setting my bar too low and staying away from the ‘hard problems.’ Thank goodness Matthew Kay is willing to share his own path and his own knowledge with folks like me. Every chapter contains relatable anecdotes, instructional strategies, and incisive commentary. Matthew Kay pushes us to see ourselves and our students as scholars, critical thinkers capable of high-level discourse. In an ideal world, my teacher training would have prepared me for the ethical and professional challenges I (and any teacher) face on a daily basis. But it didn’t. For that and other reasons, I am profoundly grateful that this book exists.

One of the sections I found most powerful was the very brief discussion of the different reasons teachers wish to incorporate social justice into the classroom. As someone who has tried to consume a steady diet of anti-racist texts in the last year and a half, I identified with the social justice warrior category. And it was wonderfully humbling.”

Pick up your copy of Not Light, But Fire HERE. Start having the tough, but essential conversations in your classroom and empower your students to find their voice.

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