In a departure from the usual style of my blog, I want to pay tribute to a man whom I hardly knew personally, but whose influential work has inspired me since first meeting him in 2014. Joe Bower, a Canadian middle school teacher and blogger, died suddenly on 3 January 2016 – from a massive heart attack. Joe was only 37 and left behind a young family, so his untimely death is tragic in so many senses.
In December 2014, I spent a few days with Joe at a conference in Barcelona. Apart from being a tremendously entertaining companion, Joe impressed all at the conference with his energy, enthusiasm and understanding of the complex terrain of schooling. As a blogger and user of Twitter with tens of thousands of followers, Joe exemplified all the best potential of social media to spread ideas, inspire people and even start revolutions. Joe was a tireless advocate of a learner-centred approach to schooling, and a keen disciple of Alfie Kohn. His blog and Twitter account are still online; if you want to know more about Joe, his work and his legacy, please visit them while there are still available (see http://www.joebower.org/ and https://twitter.com/joe_bower).
I finish this brief post with a plea. Joe filled a massive niche in education as a teacher blogger and an activist for a better system. He was a powerful advocate for the classroom teacher, and the for children and young people who attend our schools; theoretically informed, research aware, and yet with feet planted firmly on the ground of classroom practice. He was a wonderful example of the sort of activist professional that we desperately need. There are more aspiring Joe Bowers out there – let’s see them following his example.