I never met Joe Bower but it seemed easy to imagine knowing him. He was one of those people you meet online who exude warmth and seem larger than life.
When Joe burst into the Twitterspere in 2009 it was like a blast of fresh air. He was ready to take on the world and he generated an energy and enthusiasm that were contagious. He had courage, he took risks and he always had a solid footing.
He was one of the few voices then who were trenchant in their opposition to grades and standardizing testing and the degrading practices of aspects of traditional education.
While Joe was always learning and always asking questions you always knew where he stood. “Assessment is not a spreadsheet — it’s a conversation” he proclaimed to all who cared to listen.
He was confident in his opinions, forceful but never arrogant. To have a Twitter back and forth with Joe was to play with words, share ideas and become grounded in conviction. He was always clear about what he thought and why it mattered.
He was a champion of progressive education and social justice. He was most of all a passionate voice for children and their learning.
One of his last tweets was on a topic dear to him: assessment:
And his blog followed suit, offering post after post about the things he cared most deeply about. It had a clear purpose, focus and voice. His last post is a classic Joe:
Thanks Joe for always being so clear, straightforward and forthright.
If the world really is made up of foxes (who know many things but superficially) and hedgehogs who know one big thing then Joe was a hedgehog.
The Love of Learning is an incredible legacy and a record of Joe’s thinking and learning about what he cared about when it came to education, schools, social justice and the learning lives of children. We are lucky to have this treasure trove of progressive thinking and practice.
In email exchanges and messages he and I explored the possibility of his coming to Poughkeepsie Day School to lead a workshop. The timing was never right and it never happened. Too bad because Joe seemed to be a teacher’s teacher and I can only imagine some of the connections and conversations.
Joe had one of those Revolver site meters on his site.
Just for fun during one of our twitter exchanges I Stumbled a bunch of his pages one after the other and it lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree.
I was there today – and it is still lit up that way. Without a doubt Joe made an impact on the world and his influence will be long felt even on those who never knew him in person.
Joe died unexpectedly on Sunday after experiencing a heart attack. He will be deeply missed by his legion of online friends with whom he had developed close, constructive and meaningful connections. He was loved, admired and respected.
But most of all, of course, he will be mourned by his irl friends and family for whom this must be a time of inexpressible sadness and loss. Sometimes Joe shared glimpses of that life in his tweets but he made it abundantly clear: It was his family and home that mattered most.