Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose Essay

Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose Essay

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Lives on the Boundary by Mike Rose


The book Lives on the Boundary, written by Mike Rose, provides great insight to what the new teaching professional may anticipate in the classroom. This book may be used to inform a teacher’s philosophy and may render the teacher more effective. Lives on the Boundary is a first person account composed of eight chapters each of which treat a different obstacle faced by Mike Rose in his years as a student and as an educator. More specifically in chapters one through five Mike Rose focuses on his own personal struggles and achievements as a student. Ultimately the aim is to highlight the underpreparedness of some of today’s learners.

First and most importantly Mike Rose writes the book in the first person. This provides an invaluable view to the actual thoughts and perceptions of a student who considered himself to be underprepared. Mike Rose begins his accounts in grammar school when he felt lost in the material. The teacher did not hold his attention and therefore he began to “daydream to avoid inadequacy” (Rose 19).

Mike Rose does not describe himself as a nuisance, but as a student who was overlooked. This treatment was very a detriment to his education. “I would hide by slumping down in my seat and page through my reader, carried along by the flow of sentences in a story.” (Rose 19) He discusses the teachers’ inability to “engage the imaginations of us kids who were scuttling along at the bottom of the pond.” (Rose 26) This strategy combined poorly with the attitudes of other students who did not want to work hard, who just wanted to be average. (Rose 28) Mike Rose describes that mix of students and how it affected his own perception of education:

“School can be a tremendously disorienting place… You’ll also be thrown in with all kind of kids from all kind of backgrounds, and that can be unsettling… You’ll see a handful of students far excel you in courses that sound exotic and that are only in the curriculum of the elite: French, physics, trigonometry. And all this is happening while you’re trying to shape an identity; your body is changing, and your emotions are running wild.” (Rose 28)

     Without reading Mike Rose’s detailed descriptions of his experiences as a learner a perspective teacher may never suspect that the quiet student in the class is daydreaming to avoid the material that he/she does n...


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...ild, when he would hide and daydream, up until his first years of college, when he would avoid areas that were difficult, the author recognized that there was important link between challenging the student on a meaningful level and the degree to which the student eventually produced. “I felt stupid telling them I was… well – stupid.” (Rose 43) Here, Rose shows an example of how poor preparation and low standards in the classroom can make a student feel inadequate. Indeed, one can see how many things seemingly unrelated do affect a student’s ability to learn.

Reading Mike Rose’s book Lives on the Boundary one can benefit from his efforts as a student and educator. It is a tool that can be used to motivate teachers to produce interesting lesson plans and to be aware of their students in all aspects. The book provides concrete examples of good and bad teaching all related through the author’s personal history. Finally, the book-as an account of one man’s personal struggle – reflects on the inner psyche of the marginal student and prompts the reader to be more attentive to each and every learner.


Work Cited
Rose, Mike. Lives on The Boundary. New York, NY: Penquin Books. 1989

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