Burro Genius Reflection Paper
Dr. Cynthia DuBois
John C. Heath
Victor Villaseñor’s, “Burro Genius” touched me in many ways. While this is
probably not a book I would have picked up on my own, I found this book drawing me in
and hooking me. The characters were lively and real and I felt as though they were my
own family and caused me to care for them as well.
As many of my classmates have noted, I also recognized many of the characters
from the book. Some of the teachers I had when I was in school and some of the teachers
I have worked with, and even some of my students. I hope I never displayed some of the
undesirable characteristics that these other teachers have shown. I also realize that I am
not as strong a character as I could be or should have been for my students.
I have been in the classroom for such a very short time but hopefully I have made
a positive influence on at least a few of the students that I have interacted with. At one
time I had several Spanish only speaking students in my class and I went out took a
Spanish class and tried to learn Spanish in order to be or help those students get through
the material. Being a math teacher I did learn the numbers of fairly well, and was able to
use the numbers and their workings. When you're ridiculed for not speaking the language
or not speaking well, some of us have a tendency to stop trying altogether.
I did identify with Villaseñor’s main character in some respects; I was never
ostracized or attacked because of my skin color or my background. I was always the new
kid or the outsider simply because we moved quite regularly. Between the time I started
first grade and time I graduated high school I had lived in three states and been through
eight different schools.
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I also suffered from dyslexia and did not discover it until I was an adult with
children of my own. When my children were in elementary school they were diagnosed
with dyslexia and as the counselor was explaining to us what dyslexia was I stated to her
that I had had this problem as well. My form of dyslexia was obviously not very severe
and I was able to overcome or work around this problem while I was a youngster and got
a fairly good at reading. I still made straight A’s all through grade school up to high
school in spite of this.
Villaseñor wanted to show some of the atrocities mankind inflicts on each other in
the course of life, either willingly or in ignorance of what they are doing. People have
been doing terrible things to each other since the beginning of history. Though we might
try to pretend that we have come a long way towards curing these evils, and we might
have made some progress but we still have a ways to go. These atrocities still exist and
mankind seems determined to find new ways to exploit one another. I am probably just as
guilty as anyone else of trying to improve my own situation at the expense of someone
If all teachers were to read this book and really get involved in it, maybe we
would at the very least think about our students as people with feelings and emotions and
in some cases excess baggage brought in from outside the classroom. These feelings and
emotions will affect the ways in which these students will learn or not learn while they
are in our care. As teachers, we have obligations to our students, which go way beyond
just presenting them with loads of information for them to absorb. We must understand
and reach our students where they are in order to the help them get where we want them
to go. Where they are may not be some place pleasant for us, but we must get in there to
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help them get out. Sometimes we have to do things that we would not consider normal or
pleasant but for the sake of students and ourselves we sometimes must do these things.
A student may look a lot like you, a little like you, or none at all like you, but that
does not mean that they have the same experiences as you. So you can not make any
assumptions based on what you think you see in the student or what the student looks like
to you. In order to make decisions about how the student learns, you must use all of the
tools and your toolbox to discover what is going on with this student. Certainly there will
be the similarities between yourself and your students and you can use the similarities to
improve your relationship with the students. You will not know what similarities are until
you get to know your students.
Villaseñor tells this book from the perspective of the student or a young child,
which is a perspective that many teachers or other adults forget to look at or even think
about. Once we become an adult, we forget that children have ideas, opinions and actual
thoughts of their own that may not be the same as an adult view. Teachers need to listen
to these ideas and opinions instead of just ignoring them or brushing them off to get on
with the business of the day.
The teacher does not know what information or background knowledge a student
has unless they get to know and ask the student. Sometimes the student has great
knowledge but just the lacks the ability to convey that knowledge in a satisfactory
manner to the teacher. So the teacher needs to be open to any form of communication
from the student, and willing to spend a little time with each student to form the bonds
necessary for learning to take place. There are students who will open up to you and tell
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you their entire life story if you are willing to listen, while others will not even give you
the time of day no matter how you ask them.
“Burro Genius” if nothing else should cause teachers to think more about their
students and what they bring to class with them. Hopefully it will cause teachers to think
more about what they bring to the classroom themselves. What biases and prejudices how
they favor this side of the class over that side or these students over those students. Some
teachers have a tendency to do some of these things without even realizing they are doing
them, and unless they take notice they will keep on doing these things. Many times it
doesn’t take much to let them know what they're doing, just calling attention to the fact
that you call on boys ten times out of twelve may cause them to take note and correct it.
While other teachers may need to be hit upside the head before they would notice that
they’re doing anything wrong, and even then they probably would not admit the fact.
Like Captain Moses at end of the book, “Didn’t we have fun in those days?” As
far as he was concerned he didn’t do anything wrong. Those were the good old days and
he did the best that he was able to do. An old teaching adage, “We teach the way we were
taught!” sometimes we have to break the mold and start all over again from scratch. We
have to throw out the old, the bad and collect all the good things, the positive things that
we’ve learned and use what works. Sometimes we don’t know what works or what will
work for this particular child, so we have to try new things try more than one way to
discover what works for this child and no two children are the same.
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