What if #education wasn’t about politics? More important, what if lives and quality of life issues weren’t tied to the political decisions of people many will never meet? Really, what would happen? I’d like to pretend to be aiming at something poetic here, but really what would happen? Would it be better? Worse? Different? In what ways? Why do demigods exist?
A place of intellectual uncertainty is a good thing. It means learning is taking place. I am in that place. It’s like jumping from a window and not knowing exactly where the ground is, you just know it is there. I’m trying to mediate between thought, word, and deed. Disequilibrium is exciting. Not good or bad, but exciting. Cheers for reading.
#education #SOSchat #occupyedu #OWS
The concept of teaching for revolution extends far beyond the classroom. Yes, teachers teach for change. We want the learners in our care to leave with skills and understandings that will enable them to succeed. We want to provide the opportunity to access keys to a better future. But what is a better future? Is it simply graduating, going to college, getting a good job? Is it enlightenment? Is it power? What? If we are preparing our students to be consumers alone then we are doing them a monumental injustice. It’s possible to view success as access to products and services. But, could success be viewed as a transfer of power from one entity to another? A shift in the status quo? An outright overthrow or disruption? An equalization of powers? I think we should seek to answer these questions. Certainly, teaching for social justice has a root or two in the understanding that there is an imbalance of power. People, the People, must always push against authority when it becomes oppressive, suppressive, and flat out greedy. I don’t believe education as a whole will go the way of this form of teaching, but it has it’s place among the people who are blindly crushed beneath the heel of a leviathan. If you see injustice, if you know it as constant force in our day to day existence, help us gather and continue sharing ways we prepare our learners for success.
#SOSchat @coopcatalyst #education
Originally posted at http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/
I’m sure this topic has been explored to some extent, but I’d like to add my perspective. I’ll attempt to work towards a concise explanation, but I surely won’t arrive there on the first attempt. I’ve digressed before beginning.
Beginning. My initial purpose for beginning my blog, educatedtodeath.com, was simply as a means of maintaining sanity and hopefully to reroute some developing cynicism. As many teachers are, I was isolated, exhausted, and becoming disheartened. My classroom was going the way of my dwindling spirit. I started to blog. Very quickly writing required reflection and a thrust back to some theory. I started reading with regard to my practice again— something that is easy to do after leaving academia. Quickly my writing evolved or evolved me into a more honest person. Not necessarily in word, but in deed. All I was doing was putting my thoughts down— and publishing them. I’ve journaled quite a bit about my practice in the past, but have fallen out of practice either because of contracted technical or academic writing. Writing that was to be seen was very purposed and directed by a force outside of myself. This writing was beneficial to me, but not on a terribly personal level. But again, I digress. So first, the blog has forced me to take my personal experiences, thoughts, rantings, idiosyncratic thinking, and so forth and put them on paper (a seemingly anachronistic and abstract word now)— oh yes, and make those thoughts public.
That’s the kicker. The making it public part. That’s where I have found the most benefit. It’s the community. Social media has become, for me, a professional learning community (That should be stating the obvious, by the way, but it is not universally obvious to those who don’t, for whatever reason, participate). Participation in this learning community has taught me more about my practice and myself than formal institutions or private reading has. I have access to quality professional development, that is free, experts, and the understanding that my expertise as a teacher is also valuable to others. It is quite empowering to be able to informally and semi-formally interact with colleagues in a way that lends itself to collaborative problem solving on an often global scale. Participating in social media has provided me with a sense of community. With that sense of community also comes a new awareness.
The new awareness/es are many. First, with the awareness that what I am writing is being read and taken to heart by others adds a level of responsibility, just like speaking to a group does. I am responsible by choice for providing my readers/partners with pieces that are at least thought provoking, informative, and at best transforming. I don’t, however, think I should attempt to be clever, careful, or overly responsible. I have tried, and am trying to chart my growth by writing or attempting to write what is truthful to me in that moment. I try to save heavy editing for higher stakes writing. This allows for risk-taking.
I think risk-taking in this setting is important because it allows my input and understanding to be accepted, denied, or transformed by the community. The community appears to function as a collective consciousness that is constantly morphing. The power is democratic and dialectic for the most part. Ideas that are accepted are amplified, others are shot down, and others still become points of contention that can produce an even greater learning experience for involved parties.
So in the cloud above, I have submitted some ideas that will be viewed, and supported, dismissed, augmented, diminished, etc., etc. Either way, My experience has been incredibly fruitful. Help me understand it more.
Addendum: I didn’t manage to discuss twitter participation. It has affected me in a similar, but different way than blogging. Tweeting, especially in chats, has been tremendously beneficial. It’s nice to have near real time communication. I’m steadily learning more about its uses as a political, social, activism, grassroots, professional tool. I’ll write more, and do share.
I’ve noticed (not for the first time) that what I am reading affects my writing, thinking, and other readings. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s testament to the ongoing process of meaning making. As I interact with texts I am changed, and as I am changed the texts are also, at least my readings of them are. Further, it’s testament to the concept that reading and writing are reciprocal processes. Each interaction serves to change me ever so slightly. This is not to say that I topple with every new idea, rather, that I sway like a sapling, flexible, but rooted, but still changed by the power of the wind. By learning how I learn, know, and understand helps me understand why and how I teach. Equally, it’s a step in creating/allowing authentic learning experiences in my classroom practice.
#education #edreform #race #equality #class #SOSchat
So often the proverbial horses we beat are not all dead to all people. Equally, some of the windmills we fight are not windmills at all; some of them really are raging giants. I submit, the monster, the giant, the pulse of the horse is to be determined by those nearest to them. If you’ve beat your horse completely to death or conquer your windmill, congratulations. Move onto the next one or help me conquer mine.
What, if any, is the role of chaos in the classroom?
A monopoly on Truth is dangerous if we are concerned with the well being of humanity. #education #edreform
#race #class #SOSchat #occupyedu
I am becoming aware, brutally aware, that my experiences in public education are not common. There are people who see public education as a mildly problematic institution that generally does a good job of providing children with a basic education. There are others who find public education more than satisfactory. Children are treated in a humane manner and even allowed to thrive. Some of these children are affluent. Some are not. So I stand corrected in some areas. I’m glad that public education is serving some people a “good lunch” of equality and positive experiences. No doubt teachers work hard no matter the situation. But, there is still a stone unturned. My experience of public education as a teacher, a speaker, even a student.
First, I teach, have taught, attended, and am connected with educators who work in schools that primarily serve people of color, that is, anyone other than white. I think I have arrived at a point that requires questions, rather than attempted answers. Hopefully, those answers will arrive soon. So here goes. Are there schools, districts, and systems that ensure non-white students are treated equally to their cross county/city/neighborhood/any other division counterparts who happen to be white? Perhaps there’s a better way to phrase that question. Are children of color who are poor, illegal, ostracized from mainstream society, valued as much by any institution as other children? If so, where? I hope my experiences are very narrow. I hope the experiences of my peers who share my experiences around the country are narrow as well. But, even still, I am not satisfied. If my experiences were limited only to me, and I am totally disillusioned with a system to the point of being blinded to the good it does, then why are the children I teach less important than someone else’s children? Why are the children I have taught less valuable? Why don’t they receive the resources others receive? Why are they considered criminals the moment they are born, or the moment they enter kindergarten? And this view is not necessarily perpetuated by their teachers. I’ve taught alongside many understanding and frustrated teachers. I’ve taught with deeply committed people. I cannot call this an exception or a rule. I have found groups of teachers around this country that equally see this as a problem. But, to say that all teachers or people understand this would, in fact, be a sweeping generalization. That’s a good thing I suppose. And good for those who don’t understand this. But for those of us who do, what can we do? It’s appalling to know that people are still valued over other people. And they are. It is not possible to apply full blame to any single entity, but there certainly are directions in which we could wander. I hate that I am confused on this issue, and I’m not sure the question “why?” would even begin to answer or unravel the problem. Further, the problem neither begins or ends with public education as an institution; it is a problem, the problem of race, class, and equality, that runs throughout many of our American institutions. These problems certainly aren’t new, and I don’t know how to begin solve them except through dialogues that may lead to a new and revolutionary awareness of people who aren’t treated with equality that they should be. And let me rephrase that. Transformational dialogues must be a part of any shift in power. People who are oppressed, and there are people who are deeply oppressed this United States, but begin to function democratically, they must become a part of the change that affects them. For equality, power must shift. By which means, I dare not speculate. Certainly, this is the “real world” and students must learn to function within certain frameworks. But, what if those frameworks are not actually accessible to everyone? Or maybe just less accessible? What are we to do then? Are we to stay the course of public education and offer general courses in bullshit? Or are we to offer some alternative?
Regarding Freire in PK-12 education, if there is a third world in our backyards, what means does the third world have to access a first world? If there are parallel societies* in the US that function alongside mainstream society, but mostly separate, how is that gap to be bridged? Forcefully? Through dialogue? Mutual transformation? Who knows. I think that should suffice for now, from my vantage. I’m not sure how to go about answering these questions, just as I am unsure about answering them, but they need answering. I can’t foresee answers coming easily.
Please offer corrections to my assumptions and misperceptions.
*Parallel society- those groups and subgroups who live within a society who are not represented by the lawmaking body, but subject to its imposed illegalities and punishments; an underculture. What is to come of these groups of people?
Today I saw students with their eyes as bright as they can only be when the souls they house are doing exactly what they’ve been prepared to do. They were perky, focused, and engaged. They were in their element. But, should testing really be their element?
#satire #SOSchat #education #Race2Equity #edreform
Today, I’m drunk with power. I am a test administrator, I mean a Test Administrator (proper nouns are better for powerful people). I am the tip of a finger on the hand of an arm of the State that swears on Holy things that it is just. I command students to focus on their tests, not to talk, not to sleep, to fill in bubbles and prove their worth or I am not worthy as a teacher, and the State will sever me from its hand and I will then have to beg the hand from which I was severed for food, money, an dignity. I am drunk with power and filled with despair. I am powerful but weak. I know that I am doing good while doing harm. I work for the greater good of the children. I am a master of doublethink, doublespeak, and self-preservation. I know what I believe. I believe what I am told. I injure humanity while doing “good”. If I allow even a drop of the above thought into my mind I will become an enemy of the body of which I am a part. I will no longer function properly. I will become infected and hopefully fall off. But, again, I am gifted with a masterful doublethink— an outright genius. Fitzgerald said in The Crackup that, “the mark of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in the mind at the same time without cracking up”— something to that effect. I’ve not cracked yet. I’m still harming for the good and doing good for the harm. I am a
Test Administrator. I honor the Test. I will not speak ill of the Test. I will honor security measures and will never throw the Test in the dump on the way from point A to B. I will keep students focused and remind them they are not human, but numeric. I will love the proficient and remediate the minimal. I will feed my family and remain a tip on the finger of the hand of the most just arm that keeps me as a liar, criminal, and at war with myself. God bless the Test.
#education #SOSchat #edreform
I have, perhaps, sullied our interaction by not offering you a window into my classroom. I’ve offered the impression of looking into other windows and unfairly describing the experiences of others. I do not wish to ever make light of the successful and hopeful experiences of others.
Unfortunately, some points cannot be made, in order to be clarified, without making some generalizations and accusations, at least at my skill level. While there are places that offer children who live well below the poverty line an equitable education, there is a plethora of others that do not. This is not to say that there aren’t teachers giving their all and busting their asses to maneuver around and through multiple impasses. Teachers, principals, and communities often do incredible things with meager resources. Many are able to do these amazing things despite punitive and restrictive top-down measures. Schools are people not buildings. I’ve taught in schools where I could see the dirt through holes in the floor, with no heat or A/C. The teachers were dedicated and gave less than a rats ass about just appeasing auditors. However, changes had to be made to ensure the school remained open, jobs were maintained, etc. Some tightening of the belt was needed, and the school began to more closely resemble a test factory. Teachers and students were dealt with more harshly. This is not an uncommon practice—not just in schools where I’ve been, but anywhere schools are in trouble. Perhaps, I digress.
I will make the commitment to you, dear reader, to open my window a little wider. And, I will commit to sharing the things I see, hear, and begin to understand. A system cannot change if we worry too much with niceties. Education, in many places for many people, is inequitable. Equally society is inequitable. We have a third world hiding in our backyards. Many do not see it. We continue to live in a place that has a significantly fossilized system of segregation. Education systems are a part of this and will continue to be until _______. Continue to offer your scrutiny and your experiences— they’re far more conducive to generating thought and change than peer review and higher institutions. It is only through authentic human interaction that we change. I, in turn, will continue to grow and learn. We must tell our stories, the story, a story. We must push, complain, fight, agree…until we find a place for all our children, people, neighbors, and anyone else seen or not. It’s up to us. Cheers.
#learning #SOSchat #communication
If one school is a testing factory, it’s one too many. If one student is trained instead of supported as a learner, it’s one student too many. I’ve not visited many places where shadows of the third world, or even the third world itself, did not loom silently a few blocks or miles away. The educational response to a growing third world, class divisions, achievement gaps, etc. can either be along the lines of external sanctions, remediation, paternalistic interventionism, and coerced assimilation, or it can be through the development of programs that are internally sustainable, critical, transformative, and cooperative.*
The severity of educational, institutional, societal, and cultural problems vary according to myriad criteria ranging from region, to exposure, to personal bias, and so forth. Unfortunately, crises only exist when the powerful, whoever they may be, determine they exist. Crises exist where we choose to look.
We have the opportunity as educators and people to at least enter into meaningful discussion. We certainly stand a better chance of engaging in meaningful action if we seek agreements and deeper understanding over absolute differences. We are all different, with unique and valuable experiences, backgrounds, beliefs, expertise, and on and on. This is a strength.
Some may be smarter than some of us, but none are smarter than all of us. Happy moving and shaking.
*Note: definitions should not be provided by an individual with a monopoly on knowledge/ language/ action/ power; rather, they should be arrived at collectively through discussion, debate, dialectic, argument, whatever.
I am grateful for contributions and discussion regarding this blog. Criticism, support, dissent, dialogue, and so forth, are all deeply enlightening and helpful, for me, at least. It helps me to gain perspective, focus my story, and consider some redirection in places. We all have unique experiences and must work to frame them all within their appropriate contexts. Thank you for sharing your points of view, pointing out weaknesses, and offering reference to common ground. May we continue in dialogue that we may all become better educators, and communicators of our experiences.
#education #SOSchat #k12chat
Classroom management styles vary from teacher to teacher, school to school, and often from socio-economic class to class. Before delving a little more into that, I think we make a grave mistake if we try to segment “classroom management” from “learning” or how the class is run. In a perfect world they all work in concert to create a lovely teaching-learning environment where everyone is engaged and on-task. This is the reality for some, but, I dare say, this is not the norm. In schools where students are less affluent, meaning more free/reduced lunch, higher poverty rates, lower quality of life, less upper/middle class, classroom management functions more as a measure or set of measured imposed upon a class. These schools, and I will stick to ‘these schools’ because that is my experience, often function under a highly top-down and behaviorist approach to management of students and teachers. I’ve had the privilege to visit more affluent schools either as an observer, professional developer, or speaker, and have noted a much different environment. Freedoms are more plentiful, it seems. Things as simple as a lunch period where students are free to sit where they like, a break, recess, etc. These are things that all students should take for granted, but cannot. I acknowledge that this could have all been a charade, and in no way normal, but there certainly was a different feeling.
Behavioral and teaching styles range from the highly constructivist to the behaviorist end of the continuum. The desired outcome usually determines the method of delivery. For instance, a school struggling to meet standards, that is, they are in trouble, will often resort to a very rigid and behaviorist structure. Skill and drill. It just so happens schools that are in trouble tend to be low income schools. To continue, skill and drill is boring and not very engaging. There is little time to chase rabbits and nurture curiosity, in turn, bored, understimulated children become behavior problems (this is not the only cause for behavior problems, of course). And, this does not include just a small handful, say that 5% that actually are in need of authentic behavioral interventions; rather, the majority of the population becomes unruly. Multiply that by 10-12 years of constant understimulation, boredom, external behavioral measures that are often punitive, and you have a recipe for absolute dependence on an external force to dictate learning. In these cases the banking model of learning, a top down, teacher controlled model, becomes the only option. Curiosity has been killed. Independent learning lay barely breathing to the side.
At the other end of the spectrum, is the very loose and free constructivist model that allows for free exploration of one’s environment. These classrooms aren’t very intervention heavy as students often enter these educational environments with there needs already met. They enter school with exquisite vocabularies and myriad experiences. They’re not leaving one stressful environment and entering another. In such environments there is little perceived need for “harsh” external measures because, to be frank, the kids are already under control, as dictated by pre-existing social norms. Plus, parents wouldn’t stand for such measures in a school like this. Not to say that parents in other schools enjoy having their children treated like they are in a test/prison prep program.
Schools that are struggling come with all sorts of subtle propaganda that is cleverly woven into the general consciousness of administration, teachers, parents, and students. Motivational meetings, assemblies, newspaper reports, parent contracts, zero tolerance, fear mongering, the general idea that “we have to work together to get our school out of trouble”, and so forth all run together into the message that the school and all its constituents are in a crisis. And, everything is justifiable during a crisis. This may not be the overt intent, and it probably isn’t deliberate, but this mentality allows for practices that are less than helpful to our students, teachers, communities, etc.
To name a few “harsh” practices I’ve encountered in these schools:
excessive corporal punishment, training students to respond to clickers (yes, dog clickers), removal of recess, removal of anything “fun”, i.e., music, art, and P.E., and making them rewards rather than activities factored into a regular day. I could go on. The point I am trying to make, and probably should have made with greater brevity, is that anything that looks, smells, or sounds like training is not the best practice in management or teaching. Students have a right to free will, critical consciousness, open discourse, and so forth.
If we simply train those in poverty, and nurture the wealthy, what do we have other than some revisiting of feudal society with a healthy touch of Huxleyan eugenics?
I submit styles of management and teaching affect the learner far beyond the content being taught.
Yes. I’ll try to have something up in day or so. Thanks for asking.
#education #revolution #SOSchat
Alinsky teaches that generalizations are dangerous. One who speaks in generalizations is often distant from the practice of which they speak. I agree. For my own sake I will write in specifics as best I can, and I will forego editing for flow today. Let’s keep the thoughts raw.
I teach and have taught in what would be considered the third world of the United States. In these places violence, rape, drug abuse, gang activity, incest, illiteracy, etc. are the norm.
Communities suffer. Kids suffer and are hopeless. It is transforming to teach in these places. The fight against cynicism requires strong language and ideology.
Their general attitude is “fuck the test”. Mine has become quiete similar. Paying lip service to doing what is “best for children” by supporting “best practices” that get the “best results”, but still leave children illiterate, hopeless, and suffering is not acceptable. If the communities were changing as a result of our “best practices” I could get behind it.
I taught algebra in these communities. Lived within earshot of the gunshots. Helicopters for drug raids. Raids of migrant camps and immigrant housing. Been threatened, intimidated, frightened, triumphant, etc. I see systems that simply do not acknowledge the people I know, love, and trust. I did not bother teaching entirely to the test, even though that consumed some of my time. Rather, we worked on connecting mathematical concepts. Making them accessible and applicable. We investigate together using any tools we could find. We did word puzzles, riddles, brain teasers, textbook work, used wikis, YouTube, cellphones, anything to learn algebra, but more important to learn to access information— to become powerful. We also wrote programs, created art, literature, music. We cried, laughed and argued. We became and become family. Of these kids, “poor”, “hopeless”, “abused”, “forgotten”, “invisible”, many outperformed themselves, their peers in better settings on standardized tests (blah, blah). They’ve gone on to colleges, first generation to college. Some of the younger ones have entered schools of math and science. Others entered the military. Some have chosen non-violence as a means of participating in violent communities. Others have been murdered. Some are in prison. Some will be. Some will never be. The impact, however, is not because of me, though maybe some of my practices made their successes more likely. If anything, I let them be, we worked together. We learned together. I did not teach.
Some of these students arrived at the understanding that they were being paddled too frequently, and with too much force. They were. It was daily and disgusting. They opted without my knowledge to steal and destroy said paddle. They arrived at this power shift through their own discussions, perhaps having stemmed through what was learned in a few classes. A moment of individual transforming power can alter the course of a life.
I left algebra to get away from the testing. I still help with it, but more as a consultant to other teachers and academic coaches. I teach music for my soul, and the opportunity to engage more freely in open discussion and creative action with my students. We create culture together. It’s similar to my practice in maths, just with fewer constraints. We have the option to discuss at length when someone saw someone get shot the night before. When someone dies or goes to prison. We get to interact more naturally. We get to create for the sake of creating. We can even focus on remediating lost skills—math, literacy, content literacy— with no pacing guide, and through arts integration methods. All students should be able to arrive at new understandings and build language for expression and transformation through learning. I get to be a part of this and I am grateful.
I am a radical teacher. I fail. Persevere. Agitate. Teach. I will continue doing these things.
Until people are equal, I suggest we continue fighting. We’ll rock the boat until it tips over.
My practice is not unique. It is not the norm in many cases, but is neither original nor unique. It’s modeled after admirable practices of other teachers, mentors, philosophers, and is dictated by the needs of the learners in my care.
#education #literacy #revolution
Originally posted January 2012, but fitting for today
I was told once that we (the Royal We I suppose) write to know what we think. Over time I’ve found this to be true. But, beyond that I’ve found that what I think is inconsistent. Not terribly inconsistent, just inconsistent enough to make me unsure of what exactly is going on within this old noggin of mine. I wonder if I am adding value to a body of written work or culture, or if I am simply making a lot of noise. And beyond that still I understand that I am, in fact, doing both simultaneously. The noise I make may do nothing more than rattle something out of or into my own consciousness. That helps me understand writing as a revolutionary meaning. Revolution involves change; change often, perhaps always, begins within oneself. The change that occurs within oneself as a result of writing surely better informs one of how to better live in a world, or of how to better affect that world. Sometimes the writing is lovely, a story to a friend. Other times it’s a quarrel within one’s own head, my own head. That is perhaps poetry. Writing is a necessary result of actively living within the world; that is, we write to interpret our own experiences for others (our future selves included) to share in those experiences. It is a result of reading or partaking in the experiences of others. It is baffling and beautiful. Thank you, whoever you may be, for joining in my quarrels.
Finally, the scent of nutmeg that inspired this strand of writing is inexplicable. I caught a whiff and my mind bounded away in a lovely direction. And it’s good if you sprinkle it on your milk, and if you put a bit of scotch in that milk. Cheers friend.
#education #occupyedu #ctchat #occupy
Why teach critical thinking of not for revolution? Revolution is change, transformation, innovation. It’s a concept that is inevitable if people learn to think, learn to learn, learn that they are the creators of culture. Critical thinking embraces the individual power to create, collaborate, question, reinvent, and so forth. When we teach or help learners develop their critical thinking, we are not teaching revolution in the political or economic sense, though either of those may come; rather, we helping learners revolutionize their own consciousnesses. Revolution of consciousness is far more threatening than political or economic revolution because it is permanent, sustainable, decentralized, humanizing, and is multifactorial. As teachers, as humans we must strive for this sort of revolution. The world belongs to those who own their own minds.
I will not attempt bore you with a classical critique of classroom management as if it were some brilliantly constructed concept, nor will I try to awaken you to any revolutionary idea— though I can only rejoice if you awaken even more than you already are. I will, however, discuss the concept and language of “classroom management” as we have come to know it. The heavy focus is a symptom of our terribly mis-focused educational system. Rather than providing learners with interesting and stimulating activities through which they cal learn, we are being forced to coercively deposit information that has no purpose beyond a test. Naturally, our unstimulated and bored, but curious students rebel and resist the forced “education”. From this rebellion is born a new focus on keeping kids in line, quiet, and automatic. With recess, break, and talking at lunch gone, the students need an outlet—the classroom. To combat this we can implement a subtly churched-up form of brainwashing called classroom management. I will focus on two points for this discussion. First, forms of classroom management goes beyond discipline by seeking to alter or suppress certain cognitions and behaviors that result from certain thoughts. And second, the term ‘classroom management’ has no standard definition and can be used to demonize a teacher with language alone.
Classroom management is an updated version of classroom discipline. It’s classroom discipline 2.0 with an expansion packet. Where discipline punished “bad” behavior, and even overt attempts to rebel, classroom management attempts to eliminate the possibility for said “bad” behavior. Theoretically rebellion is not possible with classroom management, because it squashes the thought before it can enter the child’s head. I do not intend to say an orderly classroom is not a good thing. It allows for learning to take place and things run better; but, there’s a fine line between orderly and completely automatic. Many elements of classroom management resemble classical conditioning. If we want critically thinking people, IF we want them, conditioning them to thoughtlessly respond to stimuli only counters and complicates our goal. As teachers, we must be careful to distinguish conditioning from better practices, such as constant, high quality discourse, that encourage critical thought.
Second, classroom management has no real definition— at least, not in standard terms for practitioners. When a teacher doesn’t deliver the perfect product, administration takes a look at “classroom management”. At interviews potential candidates are asked about “classroom management”. People provide answers that include keeping students on task, engaged, and focused on the task. All good things, but the how can be a different story. Classroom management can mean myriad things. One principal may look for a quiet classroom; another may expect minimal discipline referrals. Seldom is there a clear expectation. The answers teachers are taught to provide in interviews are rarely the real desired outcome or what is supported; however, they are the unmet expectations used to put teachers on improvement plans, and put dismissal procedures into action. The point is, there is no standard definition. Classroom management can have different styles, but if someone is to be disciplined according to their “poor classroom management” ability, they should know how and why they are being put on the chopping block. This is not to say that there aren’t principals who provide a wonderfully clear definition and expectation for classroom management. These principal’s support teachers to maintain a healthy classroom that fosters learning.
*It seems the more harmful versions of “classroom management” are more present in high poverty schools. However, there are ample exceptions either way. The schools that serve the lower SES populations are often in “trouble” because of testing, and are subject to more punitive top-down measures. This makes the climate perfect for harsh classroom management practices.*
Classroom management as an idea is not such a bad thing. Some of the practices aren’t too bad either. It just takes a critical eye when it comes to implementation. Our learning environment, that of test, test, test, lays the foundation for our hollow practices. “Get it done or your job is gone,” makes taking a stand difficult. It pressures us to do some things that we wouldn’t otherwise do. But, this isn’t acceptable. We have to stand against anything that interrupts real learning. We’ve all ventured down dark educational paths from time to time. We just can’t continue that way. Keep harmful classroom management practices away. Fight the Testocracy.
#education #SOSchat #k12chat
Last time, we discussed some of the theory behind classroom management. It was discussed with the understanding that it has come to mean various things to multiple people, but is best understood, for our purposes, as a way of fostering a generally organized environment, free of confusion, so learning can take place. In this second installment of ‘…Mayhem…’ we’ll look at some specific elements of classroom management: rules, procedures, directives, and my favorite, discourse. As always, if you feel the need to skip ahead, disagree, or deconstruct anything please feel free to do so. This is about conversation.
Rules state the behavioral expectation of the class, school, etc. Rules are often predetermined by administration, an individual teacher, Harry Wong, and sometimes the students themselves. Ultimately, the teacher determines the rules, and how they are enforced. Regardless of which rules are posted, you determine how the class is runs, at least on a behavioral level. Rules succeed and fail for many reasons. There success and failure has a great effect on classroom and school-wide outcomes, behaviorally and academically. Rules often fail because there are too many, they’re arbitrary, they’re stated in such a way that they guarantee failure, or they’re unenforceable (this is not meant to be exhaustive). Rules should be a general list of do’s, rather than an exhaustive list of don’t’s. When rules can be combined, they should. When they can be left more open for interpretation and/or discussion, they should. Clearly this will not suffice for a highly authoritarian classroom. Open rules require constant dialogue between teacher and student. The law will not be maintained by the posterboard labeled rules; rather, they will maintained through open discussion. Of course, there must be rules, so here’s an example. Instead of the faithful, “Don’t fight”, “Don’t cuss”, “Don’t spit”, “Don’t litter”, etc., try “Respect all people in classroom (school, etc.), and respect the classroom environment.” It’s positively stated; that is, it tells students what to do, rather than what not to do, and it’s easy to remember. Such a rule will require discussion, which should probably be ongoing. But, the rule will stand. It makes sense, it’s not arbitrary, and the students can see how it applies to them in multiple places— in and out of the classroom.
If you have to dictate a student’s every move and behavior, then there is a deeper problem. So rules shouldn’t dictate every behavior. Maybe they should set the mood.
Procedures, as many of us know, dictate the way things are run. These differ from rules because they deal with the day to day operating of a classroom. They cover things such as, turning in papers, entering and exiting the room, whether or not students must raise their hands to speak, and so forth. Procedures should be clear and they should be consistently enforced; that is, of you want a consistently run classroom. The enforcement can be as simple as requiring the students to comply with said procedure before continuing. If you want hands raised, do not answer a question if the student has not raised his or her hand. If you don’t give in, they’ll eventually get the point, or be ignored. Procedures need to be set at the beginning. They need to be clear. They need to be consistently enforced. Quality procedures can eliminate wasted time, confusion, and potential disruptions. They can pave the way to a smoothly run classroom.
Procedures fail when they’re not consistently followed. They are the guidelines for how a class operates. They also should be simple, and very clear. Students can take part in their development if you so choose. And, they can be amended. If they are ineffective, fix it. There only purpose is to make the class run smoothly. Like rules, the power is not in the posterboard, but in their constant use.
Directives, Discourse, and other Communication
Finally, directives. Directives and communication are the most important of all the classroom management tools, or whatever they’re called. We’ll tackle directives first. Directives are the explicit directions you, the teacher, gives a student. They should be clear, and let the learner know exactly what you mean. For instance, if you want a student to sit in their desk, tell him, “Sit in your desk”. Be direct and clear. Don’t continue with more directives until the first one is met with compliance. This goes back to the old concept of mean what you say. It builds trust through consistency. If you don’t care if the student sits or not, don’t give the directive. A clear message prevents confusion. Confusion equals chaos, and from there the dominoes tumble.
Directives should only be used for non-negotiables. They deliver your clear expectations as a teacher and set the groundwork for learners’ success. So, they’re important. Directives can be given verbally or in written form, like directions on a test. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being clear and non-ambiguous. What directives don’t deal with should be left to discourse.
Discourse is the lifeblood of any non-authoritarian classroom. It’s a requirement for successful democracy on small and large scales. So, it should go without saying that we should concern ourselves with developing opportunities to participate actively in democratically functioning organizations, institutions, and activities. This does not mean that we just vote on rules at the beginning of the year, or vote on homework or none; rather, it should be a commitment to engaging learners constantly in dialogue that leads to the formation of knowledge and understanding. It means they’re generating questions and answers, rather than having them deposited by an all knowing teacher. Discourse should not be limited to the academic realms. It should extend through every aspect of the the learning experience—academic, social, behavioral, etc. Discourse is a generalizeable skill that, when integrated into our daily lives, will affect the way we reason, behave, and interact with the world around us. It is an invaluable tool for empowerment for teachers and students. As we are looking at classroom management, discourse seeks to eliminate the need for external enforcers of behavior and rules. Discourse involves the entire group in a living discussion. The class becomes theirs. With an active action oriented discourse learners and teachers alike will witness the transformation of rhetoric and dialogue into action and culture. There is much, much more to say about discourse, but this should suffice for now.
Rules, Procedures, Directives and Discourse— the greatest of these being discourse— all shape the way a class functions and to what extent learning takes place. The educator has the choice to what extent any of these elements are implemented. These elements can be as rigid or flexible as you decide. I submit, the way these factors are implemented has the power to deeply affect a learners’ understanding of democracy and their consciousness as a whole. Choose wisely. Be reflective. Be critical. I implore you to teach and learn with human beings, rather than control and train robots. Cheers.
#education #TrayvonMartin #SOSchat #RaceintheUS
A 7th grader asked me: “Why do we have to say the Pledge of Allegiance everyday?”
“Why do you ask?” I said.
“I don’t know what it means really. I don’t think anybody does. And, the part I kind of understand doesn’t really seem true for everyone.”
“Which part is that?”
“You know ‘Liberty and Justice for all’, it should be ‘Liberty and Justice for most’, or even ‘Liberty and Justice for some’. Trayvon Martin doesn’t have justice. And he doesn’t have any liberty anymore.”
“My friend got shot by a cop in front of my house a few years ago. He just had a bag of chips and it was dark. He didn’t have justice either.” another student added.
“So what should we do about it?” I said.
“We should protest or do something. Show solidarity. Or I could write a book. Or we could call Congress again like we did for SOPA. We should make people think.”
The discussion went on for a while longer. Then we had to discuss prefixes for the fast approaching test.
A student remarked, “It seems kind of dumb talking about prefixes after talking about liberty and justice and people’s lives and rights.”
“I agree,” I said, “We’ll get through the grammar quickly.” We did, and we returned to our conversation. Myles wanted to sing a protest song and wear his hoodie. We sang. I wish this was the focus of our schools. Grammar matters, but only if it helps communicate big ideas, or small ones. We had an important class session. Humanity took the cake today, not the test.
#education #edreform #SOSchat
I am not pro-testing. I view education as a humanist activity. You know, supporting our fellow human being. Mass Testing does nothing to support our fellow human being. Testing is forcefully imposed upon us. It tears us apart, and transforms teaching and learning into terror, stress, and mind-numbing test prep. Mass testing has changed the face of education. It was not perfect before, nor will it ever be, but we should strive for something more than the mass dehumanization of everything the Education System touches. Who knew we were a part of Midas’ touch, only gold is too expensive so everything just turns to shit.
I’d just like to see light in the eyes of students and educators again.
#education #testing #SOSchat #bullshit
This morning students were herded into the gym to be “motivated” and reminded of the importance of the test and the impending week of extreme test prep. In faculty meetings there has been talk of being positive and trying to encourage students to do there best. Propaganda, but generally non-threatening. When my students made it back to class I asked them how the meeting went. They were really mopey walking back to class. Frankly, they all seemed a little pissed off, and downtrodden. I smiled sarcastically and asked if they were “motivated” yet. One student spoke up, “Really, it was more to tell us how if we didn’t come to the test we would flunk and be suspended.” Another student chimed in, “Yeah, it was like a threat, or something.”
All this “positive” talk is quite confusing to teachers and students. There is mention of “making sure we’re doing what’s best for the kids”, and “If you’re not here for the kids, please don’t come back”. “Doing what’s best for the kids” equates with doing what’s best to keep one’s job, from top to bottom. And, the ones “not here for the kids” are the ones who are not tactful about refusing to give up their usual subjects to skill and drill these next few weeks. Science teachers want to finish teaching science, social studies want to continue, just as all other non-tested areas want to continue. Are these naysayers just being defiant or have they had enough of not having any control o what happens in class? Many teachers acquiesce out of fear. Others rebel subtly while paying lip service to the system (currently I fall into this category. I’ll live to fight another day and do what I know is best in my classroom). And, then there are those who are just fed up. I neglect to mention the very tiny percentage of those who are here for the wrong reasons or have reached there threshold for giving a shit. Regardless, we’re all in a strange situation. We say one thing, but mean another. Some of us have accepted what is said as full blown truth, if only for the sake of maintaining a semblance of sanity. The students are threatened and then told they are being encouraged. Everyone’s stressed. Fights are breaking out more frequently. Brows are furrowed constantly. Teachers are bickering. Meetings are foreboding. This is what education has become. I don’t like it around this time of year. It’s inhuman.
#education #revolution #SOSchat
Teaching is quickly being reduced to a process of depositing information in the minds of our students for the simple purpose of them regurgitation the info onto a bubble sheet. Good teaching = good test scores. Good test scores = caring teacher. A = B and B = FU. We’re in this terrible cycle of educational propaganda that tugs at the hearts, minds, and souls of teachers. We’re confused. The triangle has been called a circle so much we no longer know the difference. So, we must combat this by reworking our language.
Rather than teaching, we must assist learning. I “taught” them the quadratic formula can no longer suffice. It must be replaced with “I helped them to learn the quadratic formula and its applications”. This simple restructuring of a phrase is the difference in a paternalistic teaching practice, and helping a learner become critically aware. With the changing terms comes a change of mindset—a transformation. It requires, me, the teacher to view myself as an assistant, rather than a ruler. It forces humility. It requires a benevolent and democratic spirit to admit the small role of helping someone else learn. “I taught” is an exceptionally self-aggrandizing statement. “I taught” gives credit where credit should be shared.
I am asking you to join me in the challenging task of replacing paternalistic language with democratic language in the teaching practice. It will be a challenge, and a slew of failures. It’s necessary for me to teach with the intent of building a democratic critical consciousness among my students and myself. We must redefine teaching with our language. Our actions will change as our consciousness grows. We must reclaim teaching from the deformers and the testers. We must help our people.
#education #behavior #SOSchat
I’m reluctant to discuss classroom management as I don’t like the terminology or many of the reasons behind it. Nonetheless, it can be a problem for all of us from time to time. It can be especially daunting for new teachers. Additionally, classroom management, if we must refer to it in such a way, is presented as a formula with little discussion as to how or why some things work and others do not. Running a classroom takes experience, skill, patience, and reflection. Allowing learners to learn to run the class takes even more. But, for now we’ll touch on the concept of classroom management with little criticism for the purpose of keeping me focus (I’m sure we’ll discover this statement to be a falsehood).
The broad and brighter idea behind classroom management is if behavior is “under control” or a non-issue, then instruction/learning can more easily take place. In other words, if you’re not having to deal with behavior problems, more saliently, general confusion, then teaching becomes the focus of the class.
Of course, the active definition of classroom management is usually determined by administration and can range from the pragmatic orderly classroom where learning can take place, to a judgment based simply on number of office discipline referrals, to demanding a silent class. But, for the purpose of our discussion let’s try to stick with classroom management for the purpose of learning. However, I don’t think it will be possible to avoid drifting into some of the darker reasons and necessities for classroom management.
Back to the thesis, if a classroom is orderly then learning is more probable. By orderly, I do not mean silent, automatic, dead, etc.; rather, I mean safe and fairly predictable in terms of the behavior of the teacher and the learners. Order can provide an environment conducive to learning. The ways by which order is achieved and maintain also weigh heavily on this discussion. Order can be maintained through fear or love. Fear is punitive and generally authoritative, overt or covert. Love involves a more democratic and humanistic process. The more humanistic approach functions to allow students to work within a given framework with great freedom. Their ideas, goals, and curiosity direct the class. This is difficult to pull off in our current environment where the test dictates all, but it’s still possible to allow students a level of freedom and still work within the prescribed curriculum. Parameters still will be drawn, and the test will still be the final punitive dictator of action.
Theory aside, let’s look at some specific components of classroom management and why they work or fail. We’ll take rules, procedures, and directives. We’ll count the rules and procedures in the category of more permanent classroom governance, and directives will be the day to day, moment to moment communication between teacher and student. I used the word “directive” to reflect the punitive nature of the testing environment. We are positioned in a system that requires a level of punitive action. We will also look at ways to lessen the punitive effects, if they can be lessened. Maybe they can only be disguised. I’ll attempt to unravel that, too.
Tune in tomorrow for more mayhem.
#education #SOSchat #self
I will attempt to amaze you, dear reader, with my death defying attempt at reinventing the will. I will answer the question: what is education? I think it is important for any educator who claims to be critical in any way to attempt to define education. It is especially important for me to write in the first person in order to prevent myself from wandering into the unnecessary territory of absolute theory and generalization, though theory and generalizations may well be a part of the impending diatribe and exploration. It is important for me to do this for the sake of understanding my own practice and how my practice differs from prescriptive practice of education. I assume this venture will most likely attempt to justify my practice, and give credence to my constant straying from the prescribed curriculum, or perhaps I will find myself to be a fraud. Perhaps my meandering will be of some use to you, dear reader. If not, disregard it as the ravings of a shithouse rat. I will cut the crap and begin.
What is education?
Education is the means by which one comes to know, learn, and understand.
(Very general and somewhat useless)
A) Education is the means by which one comes to know, learn, and understand his or her own experience.
B) Education is the means by which one comes to know, learn, and understand the experience of someone else.
C) Education is the means by which one comes to know, learn, and understand that they are useless and nothing more than a number.
D) Education is a tool that can be used however it’s distributors choose.
I’m sure anyone of these answers could suffice, but what is it to me? I view education as a tool to be acquired and used by individuals, communities, and so forth to transform there worlds. Education is a tool for transformation. It shouldn’t free anyone; rather, it should give people the tools to free themselves. Education is awakening to the reality that power is not fixed. It belongs in the hands of those who realize they have it. Education allows people to maneuver social classes, oppression, suppression, it equally gives people the power to oppress and suppress others. Education provides choice. Choice is freedom. The more choices, the more free. So, how does my practice as an educator reflect my current definition of education (current because it’s subject to change at any moment, but hopefully with some warning)?
First, I am inconsistent. As a classroom teacher I naturally war between my understanding of education and the prescribed method. I think this is a natural symptom of institutional function. While it may not completely dictate my actions, it forces me to at least maintain a level of compliance. I still must function within the institutional framework or else, I cannot say if this is good or bad. My reflection must become more complex, I suppose.
How do I temper my understanding of education with what is prescribed? What does this do to my view of myself as a teacher?
Foremost, I come to view myself as a rebellious individual. I position myself against the system of which I am a part. This is, at times beneficial to the students in my care, especially when I choose to allow them to take the lead in class. When we let curiosity take the reigns in the class we (students and me) learn, discover, understand far more than if we stuck to any narrow curriculum or even my narrow wishes as the “leader” of the class. I find this as true as a music teacher as I did as an algebra teacher. This is true also when I “teach” teachers. All learning settings are improved by the freedom to explore problems as they arise. While this allowance for freedom may be deemed rebellious by me or an onlooker it seems to be the only way for meaningful learning occur. There are problems that occur as a result of my dualistic view of myself in the classroom. It can be a Jekyll and Hyde sort of reaction. It certainly was more of this at the start of my career. I’ve become more efficient at doing what I deem best as I’ve advanced as a teacher; nonetheless the required doublethink can result in the emergence of a very ugly creature from time to time. Temperance is the key.
There is more to write on this topic, but I will stop here. Education, as I understand it is the means by which an individual acquires choice. It involves personal power. Education is not given; rather, education enables one to acquire. Thanks to Freire et al. for all the thoughts I’ve borrowed and am attempting to process. I hope to continue this process with the aide of colleagues and tempering dialogue.
#education #SOSchat #revolution #edreform #p2
As educators we must constantly assess why we continue as educators. We must examine our practice daily through reflection and evaluate whether or not we are teaching for what we deem to be the right reasons. It is up to the teacher, alone, what those “right reasons” are. There are many reasons for teaching, just as there are many reasons for education. Education as a system is dictated by various political and corporate forces; ignoring this is simply naïve. As educators, we are the final barrier between policy and the humans the policy affects (this flows up the bureaucratic continuum, as well— principals have some control over the way policy affects teachers and so forth). It must be noted that our refusal to carry out certain policies will undoubtedly result in disciplinary action of some sort, but if we deem a policy or anything stemming therefrom harmful to the learners in our care, it is our duty to disrupt said policy. I do not mean to say, at least at this point, that we should all openly rebel and refuse to do our jobs. Rather, we must be critical and vigilant in our pursuit of providing a “quality education” for the learners in our care. We must first identify within ourselves our own definition of quality education.
If the current system offers a complete and meaningful education with opportunity to learn, explore, and become more actualized then stay the course. If the system is beneficial to society as a whole, furthering the participatory processes necessary for the maintenance of an open society, then stay the course. However, if the system shows little or no intention of providing a context for enlightenment, empowerment, and even liberation, then the system cannot be considered benevolent and must be dismantled, and most certainly disrupted.
Teachers are not policy makers. We are at the bottom of the top-down bureaucratic pyramid. We have little say in what is prescribed for our classes and students, but we do have the choice to swallow the pill. We have the choice to follow doctors orders or not. I lean toward the belief that true education is necessary for people to be free, and fully human, especially in an institutionalized society. Humans should have a right and the power to determine how and if they are institutionalized. Society should be open. If we do not help the learners in our care build their critical minds and spirits, then they will never have a choice in anything. We did not have that choice. We were pushed through one institution and into others with little choice, many of us never questioned the validity of the practices that affected us, many of us still have not or will not. What I am proposing, I suppose, could lead to anarchy of a sort. Our institutions certainly provide structure, and there is a need, at least currently, for a structure. But, we, the People, should have a strong say in the structure. We have a right, a natural right, to determine what is best for us.
As teachers, we have the choice to provide learners with skills, tools, and experiences that will make possible their own personal enlightenment. We can also orchestrate their uninterruptible submission to corruption, consumption, and greed. We can mold critical free people, or we can create subservient sheep. I submit that my views may be absolutely wrong and should be questioned and scrutinized without relent, unless, of course, you find the critical spirit abhorrent, in which case you should quickly swallow any bit of snake oil sent your way. As educators, we must be critical. We must understand our power. We must act.
We are not radicals; we simply want what’s best for our students, our neighbors, communities, and countries. We will do what’s best. We will teach.
#occupyedu #SOSchat #edreform
Yes, education should have standards, and yes, those standards should be tested with corporations in mind. The STANDARD should be that all learners are equipped with the critical skills to participate in an open society; that is, learners should be literate, connected, and aware. The test will be if power shifts, or not. If not, then we should rethink our standard. For this standard to be met, there will be steps to take. We will have to extend education beyond the first 18 years of life, and encourage learning and growth for all. Standards based learning, of course. But we just need one loose standard—that the People be allowed to acquire education that will benefit them.
We will bang out the how’s and why’s together.
#SOSchat #education #occupyedu
It is beneficial to teach non-violence in the classroom, and to discuss its implications elsewhere. Non-violence is not always natural, but its a valuable tool and adds to the learner’s toolbox. Dialogue regarding violence, conflict resolution, and dealing with and around authority is invaluable. Time is not built-in for such conversations, but to neglect these topics is to set learners up for failure, danger, or death. The underground curriculum cannot be ignored.
I’ll expound later.
#occupyedu #SOSchat #p2 #revolution
Originally posted December 2011
Perhaps teachers and school leaders should work to help communities strengthen themselves and organize against oppression. Teachers could teach problem solving and work with students and community members to develop a curriculum aka an action plan to address specific problems within the community. Sure literacy. Sure math. But mainly relevant problem solving. Economic development. Crime prevention. Adult education. Early childhood. All in between. What if schools were designed for enabling community transformation. What if we spent time on rebuilding communities instead of worrying with national standards. What if standardization was concerned with a high quality of life for everyone instead of a number?
#SOSchat #revolution #p2 #OWS
If education is necessary for society to remain open or democratic or participatory, then what are we providing our students? Would it be too radical to say that engaging in stringently paced test prep, or test prep at all, drastically impairs the ability of a learner to grasp the concept of rule by the people much less participate in it? Education can function as a system of subversion or of liberation and enlightenment. A system that is built around a test can in no way be a system of liberation. I’m not sure that enlightenment can be standardized either. If we are aware of this, then why or how do we continue? Do we continue doing the same thing, the same bland test prep, the same churched up test prep? Do we continue to systematically disable the generation in our care (mind you we will soon be in their care)? If we remain passive, then we are the architects of their demise, and ours. We are building the machine that will destroy us.
If we, as educators, are believers in open, democratic, and participatory societies, then we must resist. We must survive, yes, but resist more. We must do everything in our classrooms to ensure learners learn to participate, learn to become critical, learn to smell and identify shit when shit abounds. We must enable thinkers and doers, not sitters and getters. We are not blameless if students leave our classrooms as passive automatons. Find a way to disrupt and resist corruption. We must find a way to affect things outside our classrooms. We must engage other teachers in resistance. We must encourage teachers to really teach. We must engage each other in dialogue that leads to informed and effective action. We must find a way to effect policy. We must disrupt and alter, for the better, the punitive top down measures that stand to prevent the possibility of liberating and enlightening education.
Most important, we must connect with and support one another. We must engage others. The change necessary cannot be implemented by a few, if it is we stand to see another version of the same system emerge, only with a slight twist. We, educators, parents, lovers of democracy and open society, must stand together and build support for whatever change we see as best. Power in education has been in the wrong hands for too long. The pendulum need not swing the other day. The pendulum needs to stop swinging all together. The paradigm has shifted, but the pendulum still stands swinging as a political seismograph. As long as education is dictated by those whose interests lie outside the realm of education, then the education that enables critical thought and participation will not be possible. If we’re fine with the current system, then we should let it stand. If we’re not, then we should change it. But, it will not change if we remain passive. It will not change if we or our neighbors are asleep. For now, it’s time to wake up.
#testing #SOSchat #satire #occupyedu #edchat
When referring to the Test it is important to make it a proper noun. The first ‘T’ in Test shall always be capitalized as we reside, teach, and learn in a Standardized Testocracy. Failing to use the name of the Test properly shall result in “swift and just discipline”. The Test is all knowing. The Test is all giving. The Test is just and true. Test is beauty; beauty is Test. Test with a capital ‘T’. Great is thy Testiness, Test Unto Me. These are the hymns of our fathers, the custodians of this great Testocracy. Test Save the Test. We teach the Test for the sake of the Test. We must be thankful for the Test, for it provides us with our station in life. It is giver of remediation, and dictator of pace. The Test embodies time and space. It tames our evil minds. Thank you Test for all you’ve provided. Thank you Test for pacing guides. Thank you Test, for I had no clue what to teach before You.
Wake up and drink the Koolaid, or be Remediated.
#education #SOSchat #revolution #occupyedu
Through writing, meditation, soul searching, dialogue, dialectic, and debate, I have arrived at a point of tension that requires some form of release. The crisis is that of my questioning and understanding of my role in public education. This moment is no new moment to me, nor is it original to me. It is a crisis that befalls, though it seems I have pulled it down upon myself very intentionally, anyone who participates within any institution; further, anyone who has any naïve belief in an institution and is gradually awakened to the reality of their chosen institution or institutions. I say this with the understanding that I have never doubted or been blind to the fact that public education has functioned in a sinister manner to divide and suppress people, at least this is my claim. I do, however, believe in the intention of many educators to work toward the liberation and enlightenment of the people with and/for whom they work (I would hope to be considered among this class of educators). Therein lies the crisis, educators want to aid in enlightenment and liberation; the system functions to divide and suppress. The system as it is functions to eliminate any possibility of a critical and literate populace through bland and numbing test prep from kindergarten forward. Mass standardization and narrowing curriculums do not lay the ground work for an open democratic society; rather, the road is paved for any form of rule by few without dissent or question. These ideas do not belong to me alone, but would be realized by anyone with a critical eye toward the practice of education— perhaps more saliently, the results of education as it is. Education, standardized education, has not closed any achievement gap, has not changed communities for the better, has not put more or better food on a table for the recipients of education. People have made money, but not the People. So, I arrive at my personal crisis. Where do I go? Do I continue working in an institution that seems to do more harm than good, especially in this climate? Do I fight from within? Do I seek more education? Do I seek more influence? Do I keep chopping away with many others in the blogosphere? What
can I do to amplify my voice, my struggle, and that of others? I’m not sure. I know the answers to my questions aren’t simple. I know I keep asking these questions. I do know that I need to continue seeking answers and asking questions. I need to keep connecting to other educators, rabble-rousers, and revolutionaries. There is a great beast enveloping and facing us. We must stand in solidarity to deliver ourselves, the beast, and help those being crushed deliver themselves. Scrutiny is important. Language is important. It is important that we remain humanistic and not humanitarian. It’s important that we listen. It’s important that we act. What next?
Writing educatedtodeath.com has been a mind altering venture and adventure. I set out to be reflective, and attempt to maintain sanity in what seemed, and still seems, to be be a corrupt system with other things at play besides the well being of children. As a result, I have become a part of a larger conversation and community of educators, critics, grassroots reformers, and so forth. I have learned far more from you than I have from any formal education I have received to date. It has been invaluable to me as a teacher to be a part of such a vast conversation that leads to action and future action. I am far less isolated as a teacher, as a critic, as a human. I am far more aware of who I am as a teacher, as a critic, as a human. Writing, chatting, thinking, and quarreling here has urged me think, rethink, and think again about my practice and my contribution to education and the education debacle. I have asked myself myriad questions: Am I a part of the problem or the solution? Is it so simple? What to I need to do as a teacher to help end alter or end the standards movement? What can I do in my classroom/school/district to disrupt some of the harm being done by standardized and massifying education? I’ve asked if I should be asking these questions? Are these questions answerable? I am currently seeking some answers and questions dealing with eugenics and education? I, along with others, am asking simple questions and learning to ask and generate more difficult questions. I am arriving at a point where I think I need to take a few days to ask questions and seek answers before I write much more. I need to spend more time listening than talking. I need a break. This need for respite luckily coincides with Spring Break. Surely, as a I say I need a break I will be overwhelmed with the urge to write. Perhaps I need to write this blurb to keep myself moving forward.
At any rate, I thank you for reading and helping me learn. I am reticent to post this, but I think it’s necessary for me. And, I must always return to my original purpose for writing this— to maintain a level of sanity and reflect. I will return to my original thesis and see where it leads. Cheers.
Something drastic needs to be done to alter the course of public education. It has become a testocracy. Curriculums have been molded to dictate that instruction revolves around test prep, rather than best practices in education. The culture of education, teaching, and learning have changed drastically as a result of the testing industry. Regardless of the industries intentions, money is being wasted on testing. Millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars have been and are being poured into this industry and related products and services. Many are being crushed under the weight. Ultimately, a generation has received an inappropriate and lacking education. How can we fix this?
I’d like to propose a grassroots movement and organization designed to educate and empower teachers, administrators, and the public about the disastrous effects of the propagation of this education debacle. Perhaps the organization could be called the Center for Teacher Empowerment, or maybe the National Organization for Teacher Empowerment (NOTE). The group/movement will work to empower education professionals to create and implement change in classrooms, schools, districts and in state and national politics. The goal will be to empower educator-activists and support them as they enable education communities to create sustainable change from within. Simultaneously, the group/movement will need to acquire and develop a powerful political voice that can influence and dictate policy change. Additionally, attention needs to be granted to changing public opinion about educators and education. The public needs to be educated. Propaganda needs to be countered.
National Organization for Teacher Empowerment (NOTE)
1. Empower and educate education-activists to implement and organize sustainable change within their immediate area (classroom, building, district).
2. Build a diverse and powerful grassroots network of educators, parents, communities dedicated to proper educational change.
3. Develop an influential political voice on local, state, and national level.
4. Correct public opinion of educators. Counter negative, show positive, and progressive.
5. Build support
It is important that we talk about making reflective and powerful change. Inaction and silence are not an option. We must carefully build support and take great care not to alienate supporters. I’d like this to be an open conversation. Is something of this magnitude doable? Help me define some goals, tactics, and options. Let’s look at what exists. Let’s join forces. Let’s continue working.
#education #edreform #SOSchat #control
(Please, if what you find below is a waste of time, skip to the *; don’t waste your time on a fool’s attempt to make sense of the senseless. Cheers.)
I want to begin by stating that I am a proponent of a critical internal locus of control for human beings— that would, of course, include students. It’s important to use ‘critical’ as a qualifier, as well, because so much of what we think is internalized has been conditioned and now seems internal. Additionally, ample argument can be made that every action is made externally. By that I mean we are constantly responding to stimuli no matter how we intellectualize it. I will not try to tease out these complications, frankly that would be a trite go at rhetorical masturbation for which I do not have the time.
That said, external motivators are a must for our current educational model of skill, drill, and test to be effective. Students, and teachers, for that matter are not working on anything truly stimulating provided by the state. The curriculum is cold and pointless, schools function more as prisons than places of curious exploration, any attempts to find glimmers of hope are subdued quickly by the pacing guide, the examples are endless. External control is required when forcing someone to be a something. Education, as it is (arguably education in general), seeks to alter the natural flow of curiosity. It seeks to apply discipline to the mind, and discipline is important. Change, growth, transformation all require a level of discipline, a great deal of it, in fact. Intellectual growth, the building of skills, thinking, and so forth all require discipline. But, discipline in itself is not the problem. The problem is, at least, two-fold. First, in our system of institutional function, the discipline, the locus of control, is not returned to the individual without rendering it less that operative. Second, the current system requires a form of external control that will prevent resistance— the content is so numbing, and the structure so dehumanizing that any soul will and rightfully resist. As a result, external motivators are a must in schools, then people can wander aimlessly through the remainder of their existence from institution to institution seeking refuge from any lack of structure. This is not a phenomenon caused entirely by education, but is simply a part of the function of western society. But, back to school. Testing especially has required motivation to be more and more external and punitive. If it isn’t then quotas won’t be made, curriculum won’t be covered (understanding is not a consideration), and testing will not boom. The industry would crumble of we had kindergartens crawling around playing with blocks, and 8th grade biology classes spending several weeks dissecting frogs. The test must happen. That is the aim. All of life is a test— a standardized test. With all this testing, the control can never be returned to the individual. What would they do? Would they rebel? Not if you’ve destroyed the will too. So while the gradual release of responsibility is present in word, if the responsibility was never developed and nurtured, then it may never appear without intensive democratic intervention that seeks to liberate the colonialized mind and being.
*I quite possibly got lost in the circles of rhetoric above, the problems of our education systems and society are multifactorial and interrelated. So, in summation, without extreme external control our education system, with its current goals, would not function. Tests would never be bubbled, remediation and remediation specialists would have no place, reformers would have to do something else, the industry would change. The means is an end in itself. Control people from as early as possible, and they will belong to their controllers forever. Hopefully, they will never even noticed they’re being controlled. I mean what would the world be like if people went around asking questions and making choices? Reasonable, perhaps?
#SOSchat @DianeRavitch #occupyedu #revolution
What will it take for learners to take matters of testing into their own hands? Can it be done? Students subconsciously resist abusive testing practices through ‘means’ that have created the classroom management focus we have today. Resistance, conscious or subconscious, is not an option. The human spirit requires rebellion to counter oppression— always. But, what will it take to move this rebellion to the front of the mind? What will be the catalyst for a truly organized kids liberation? Voices from teachers and parents ring loudly against the constant onslaught of corporate reforms and ridiculous education practices. We talk and talk. We continue to teach, when and how we can. Students continue to struggle. The learners are beneath the heel of this entire debacle.
What would happen if, come test day, students didn’t show up at all? What if they all showed up with, say, a stomach bug and soiled all the testing materials with vomit? What if they broke their no. 2 pencils and walked out? What if learners all stood up and demanded to be taught? What if they halted all education until it became their education?
Children are being treated as pawns in this education nightmare. No one should be a victim of his/her education. No one.
Until some mass resistance by students PK-12 begins to end this crisis, there will be minimal change, a lot of rhetoric, and wasted education. We will stand beside you as you continue resisting in your souls and actions. But, we are adults, we grow more and more powerless, we divide into camps and fear for our jobs. We do not have the answer here. The time has come for the children’s liberation once again. Perhaps there is a Mother Jones among you, us, or they? Learners unite, and demand your education. It’s time to flip this pyramid on its point.
Please pass this along. Give it to students, teachers, parents. Education can no longer be denied and deformed.
#education #SOSchat #revolution
Underground Education is revolutionary, but does not aim to teach or incite external revolution; rather, it aims to nudge minds awake. Underground education begins the moment you see something that needs to be taught, and you teach it regardless of time allotted. Teachers engage in this daily. It is not a specific plan or curriculum. It is simply teaching, an art that has been and is being rendered obsolete through excessive and oppressive testing procedures. Underground Education begins with you, the teacher, examining the current curriculum as is, and critically supplementing it with what you know to be educational best practice.
Early elementary teachers often don’t have time to help their learners master the skills necessary for reading. Take the time. Make sure they really learn to read. You know how to assess their literacy. Help them develop every single tool they need to engage in ‘reading’— their worlds
and the word. Talk to them, let them talk. Spend time questioning and exploring. Build motor skills and number sense. If a concept is tough to grasp and you must move forward, don’t neglect to go back even if is just for that one child. Teach. You know how to do it. No evaluation, third party, or administrative office can tell you to neglect a child in the name of an assessment. Underground teaching is about providing learners with what they need. It’s about exploring curiosity. It involves teaching and stimulating every child and mind as though they belong in gifted classes. Early elementary teachers build a firm foundation. The slogans say this is so, teachers make it so.
Upper elementary teachers face the fourth grade slump. The transition from learning to read to reading to learn, and beyond that, an even greater emphasis on testing. Learners arrive lacking basic skills for numerous reasons, teachers don’t have time to go back and teach K-4. You don’t, but you must. This is a tough critical slump. The focus, as you know, must center around enabling the learners to glean information from texts— math, reading, social studies, science, the physical world, cultural contexts, etc. This period is quite critical. Learners decide at this point if they can “learn” or not. So often kids never learn to glean any valuable or interesting information independently from the texts lain before them. This is the point where a decisions made about whether “learning” is cold and pointless or meaningful and enriching. Behavior problems blossom out of thin air for those who are behind and lost. Every child should be able to pick up a book or look at a problem, on paper or in world, and glean information and generate critical questions. They should have vocabulary and the ability to acquire vocabulary to talk about what they experience. The vocabulary and language must belong to them, it must be internalized. Of course, there is no time for this in a class full of 30+ struggling fourth graders. You’re frustrated, exhausted, beat down. It will take you chasing rabbits in class, letting them explore seemingly random trains of thought, hallway, lunchroom, and playground conversations. It will require think-alouds and scaffolding of cognitive processes galore. It requires teaching and nurturing critical thinking and problem solving skills constantly and weaving instructional strands together. It requires teaching social skills and building language to express complex emotions. It involves dialogue. Much of this sounds like teaching according to “best practice”; it is teaching the child, the human, not the test. To recap and summarize, upper elementary must aim to enable a child to learn and know s/he can learn. The tools must have a chance to be used. Learners must develop a stake in their own learning. Their curiosity must be explored. They must find what motivates them. They must be successful more than enough to have the desire and payback to continue learning.
From here forth, education involves mass testing. Everything is for the test. Students are known as proficient, basic, and minimal. Names are lost. Discipline, emotional, academic, you name it, problems multiply at this point.
Anything missed in elementary, say fractions, is multiplied from here forward. A kid without a solid understanding of multiplication can derail a pre-Algebra class in a second. The trend is triage. Help who you can. This does not suffice, of course, but what can you do? Parallel curriculum to supplement, reinforce, develop, skills to scaffold this learner to be as close to where they need to as possible. There is not time for this, I know, but it must be taken. The second half of education— middle school, junior high, and high school function academically as a place to deepen skills and augment learning. Pacing guides and high stakes testing obfuscates this though. Secondary teachers beat their heads against their cages trying to figure out how to help their learning learn independently. Kids arrive with so many pieces missing. By this time the cumulative affects of missing pieces here and there make the puzzle seem impossible. Teachers are forced to make tough decisions. The outliers are often thrown out with the bath water. Educational triage- teach to the middle. Learners and teachers are beyond frustrated at this point. It’s survival.
What can be done? Help them, the learners start connecting information, give them problems to solve. Perhaps its a problem in their own world. Something they can arrive at in dialogue. Help them, or watch them work it out through dialogue. Note their cognitive processes, go back and help them notice those processes. Help them learn to understand how they are thinking, how they are solving the problem. Let them see that they are critically working through cognitively complex stuff. Help them write it. Help them teach it. Slowly draw these skills into academic sundries. Help them note their own problem solving/learning ability. Turn them loose on a skill within their ZPD (remember that?), encourage them to teach that skill, to a neighbor, to you, to the world. Help them become powerful learners and collaborators. Everyone has mad skills that can contribute to the group. Perhaps Johnny isn’t the best reader, but his reasoning skills are out this world, his contribution to the collective intelligence of the class, this world is invaluable.
The world functions as a huge cooperative learning project. Schools do not, but they don’t then victims are left behind without a clue they ever had anything to offer— learners and educators. Education leaves people disillusioned and lost, Underground Education seeks to empower and awaken. Underground Education will not allow a learner to pass through a system without finding their value. Underground Education is not dictated by the test or the State agenda of intellectual suppression; rather, it is dictated by the needs of the learners in your care. Here, the educator is the professional. Reform is in your hands, not the hands of the distant, gravy-train riding, ed policy pricks. A top down model cannot work in the underground. Education is for the People. It is by the People. It does not celebrate labels, failures, or separation by assessment measures. It seeks to teach and help learn.
Most important teachers who bother to teach in the Underground must be connected. We must band together in this struggle. We must collaborate and innovate. We must share our methods and our aims. We, together, can revolutionize education. We are not reformers or policy makers; we are teachers, we make decisions, we implement them. We stand together.
Share your experience. firstname.lastname@example.org
#occupyedu #revolution #SOSchat
Education functions either as a means of liberation or suppression. It’s difficult to tease the two apart. All that public or formal education claims to be is chock full of contradictions. Less is being done to hide these contradictions, but the rhetoric remains the same. Reformers such as Michelle Rhee claim to be “working tirelessly to build educational environments that foster learning”, while working with entities that function to suppress thought and learning through extreme testing measures. The testing is in the name of good, but has horrific affects. The fallout of all this “good” that has been done is comparable to a Chernobyl disaster of the mind. Minds have been left deformed and incapable of critical thought or participation through rigorous testing practice that leaves no time to develop basic skills. Achievement gaps continue to widen as does The chasm between rich and poor. The language of reform is confusing and misleading. We’re told and tell ourselves, as we’re told, that we are working for good.
But, we see no signs of improvement. Reformers provide us with new slogans to keep morale high.
Is all hopeless? No, but we are certainly seeing the moment nearing it’s crisis. People grow restless as conditions worsen in every area. Slogans only work for so long. What role do educators have in all of this? We function ‘in loco parentis’. We serve in place of the parent in the schools. 8+ hours of the day, 186+ days of the year. We have that much time to aide in the liberation of minds, or suppress them. There are measures taken against us if we work on the behalf of liberation. We will be labeled ineffective enemies of by those who work “tirelessly” to “foster learning”. If we do not work to civically engage our students; that is, to engage them and help them engage in critical dialogue and deepen their understanding of their own world, then we help our nations and fellow people slip deeper into apathy and passivity. ‘In loco parentis’ puts us in a place to disrupt suppression of minds. We must take that opportunity.
Teachers can no longer afford to just be teachers. We cannot be passive. The People pass through our classrooms; they stay there for 13 + years. We have to unite as teachers and ensure the best possible education for those in our care, even of its an underground curriculum, and it will be. We cannot afford to let “Education” destroy generations and minds and souls. We must enable critical learning. We must disrupt this travesty.
#government #democracy #occupy #p2 #ctl
How can anyone call this a democracy? Sure. People can participate. But, participation is limited. Very limited. People are detached from the government. It is not the people’s government. It is ‘certain’ people’s government. It is a government that belongs to ‘certain’ organizations. The candidates and current politicians rarely have any true connection to
the people, and vice-versa. A politician is nothing more than a distant celebrity who has power reaching far beyond entertainment. We, the people, vote, or not, for someone who has the funds to advertise and sustain a campaign— and they have staffs who are quite savvy in the fundraising department. These people, if they remain to be that, are distant entities from what what the common folk would know as people. Their station in life has endowed them with myriad opportunities and freedoms that only money and connections can buy. We are run by a ‘them’ that wants to be known as ‘us’.
Has this separation from the ruling spawned great apathy? Of course. But, apathy may not suffice. Apathy indicates the absence of what once was. Have we, all the people, ever really been involved? Or, has participation been limited to the wealthy, and upper middle class? All participation from the lower and working classes have seemed to require some form of public struggle. Demonstrations, strikes, civil disobedience, and so forth, seem to have been the only means of persuasion for the lower socio-economic majority of our people. Much of the change that has come about through demonstration has been a result of public response to the excessive force used by authorities. Change does not seem to come through any sort of benevolence, but only for the sake of public opinion. Change comes for the sake of keeping a name squeaky clean to those who can see. This does not seem like democracy. It closely resembles the behavior of colonialized societies, where the oppressed classes have to fight tooth and nail for every smidgen of dignity they receive, or have to turn to alternative economies and protection structures. Societies like this have huge underclass systems that operate completely separate from “mainstream” society.
Surely, I’m confused. Please explain. Am I allowed to ask these questions? Do I have any rights? Why do I feel uneasy putting this into print? Paranoia is perhaps creeping in.
#teaching #education #humanity
I blew up at one of my classes today. I made quite the ass of myself. I yelled until I could feel my face flush, and feel my pulse in my temple. It was ridiculous, sophomoric, and non-cathartic. Sure, I have been sick. Sure, I had a headache. Sure, they refused to comply. They, my class of 7th and 8th grade girls were being ridiculous. They’re capable and have not been living up to it. To top it off I got in a yelling match with one student. After what seemed like an eternity of ass-ery, I had them sit down and proceeded to deliver punitive notes for some impending punitive test. The notes largely consisted of definitions pertaining to music, all terms were in French or Italian.
I made an ass of myself. I went to the office immediately after class to confess. I simply told the principal I over-reacted and stated what I stated above. Maybe I hoped for a reprimand. Rather, I got a simple, “I understand”. So, what’s my course of action? This isn’t the first time I’ve overreacted, and it certainly won’t be the last. In the past I’ve apologized for flying off the handle, and I will do the same tomorrow. We’ll probably take our punitive test, and discuss today’s tomfoolery. I
am a teacher. I am a professional. And, I certainly am a human. It’s important that I own up to my mistakes. Humility toward a class of adolescents is deeply important. They must know that teachers are human. It would never suffice to let this pass, or to hide it, or deny it. It would break trust. It would be outside of the bond required for authentic teaching. I will do better. I will be honest. We, as a class, will move forward together. No One, me included, left behind.
#education #humanity #occupyedu
My students can give me Hell from
time to time. They’re middle school/Jr. High kids. We carry a lot of baggage into the classroom. We had a guest come in to audition them for an advanced choir, a possibly an opera camp. Keep in mind this is no arts school, we’re Title I, free lunch, and are situated in a Hell of a neighborhood. These kids struggle. We struggle.
They each delivered an impressive performance. Not impressive for them, or for their situation, just impressive. They’re badass kids. Beyond that they exercised the finest savoir faire, rivaling any junior league prick— mine can fight better too. I don’t take much time gloating, but I will today. I’m proud of my students. They are mastering their worlds, they’re learning to maneuver social classes. They are becoming masters of themselves.
#teaching #SOSchat #revolution
Quality teaching means two things. Her test scores reflect her quality teaching; or, her commitment to her students reflect her quality teaching. One statements reflect a commitment to test scores, the other to students. Does the public have a means of determining the difference? Only if they’re aware that there should be a distinction to be made. Many teachers are not even aware that there should be a difference. It’s difficult for a teacher to separate themselves from their test scores. It’s a cognitive miracle. The importance of the test is constantly reinforced through slogans, media, and, of course, evaluations. The slogans are branded onto the psyches of children from kindergarten fore. Teachers are asked (required) to participate in the branding— after all, it’s their job on the line. It behooves a teacher to create a test taking machine, further, a self-motivated test taking machine. It makes the work easier. Full buy-in to the testing system means success for all, or at least uniform massification for all. Dissidents beware. Anyone who speaks against the system, teachers, students, or parents, should expect to be branded a radical yahoo. Dissent will make the system crumble. Students who resist are suspended, expelled, remediated, and so forth. Student dissent is often subconscious and springs forth from the knowledge that forced compliance is unnatural. Defiant teachers are ostracized until they comply. They receive poor evaluations, are put on improvement plans, or fired. Some are just considered radical, and have to function more like spies than “teachers”. It’s an act of sneakily teaching the student with the appearance of teaching the test. A conscious teacher must be a master of doublespeak and fully aware of the doublethink required to function in the education system. Principals who dissent are brutalized and blackballed and the punitive measures continue to the top I’m sure. The carnage is widespread, but covert. The ones harmed the deepest are the students and teachers, oh, and society as people function less and less as human beings and more as automatons. People are being corralled into increasingly separated classes and camps. The poor, and barely making it in one camp, and the demigod rulers somewhere else— somewhere like the heavens where healthcare, literacy, and vacations are copious. Where is the solution? Who knows? Perhaps in community involvement, or better teacher evals. Maybe in representative democracy. Hell, maybe it’s somewhere in 18th century France. Viva la value-added measures my ass.
#education #revolution #SOSchat
Testing, high-stakes testing, is a fact of life in public education. I struggle with what stance to make in my writing, speaking, and day-to-day interactions with teachers. As educatedtodeath I have chosen to take an idealistic stance. This is not to say that the writing is not based in action. It is a combination of reflection and action future, present, and past. I write with the intention of growing my own practice and hope to have some greater impact, either by spawning a desire for transformation, revolution, or wakefulness in a reader, or by affirming the thoughts of another. Beyond that, and more important, I write to know what I think, and to participate in a larger conversation about where education needs to go and how to get there. I know how things are. They need to be changed from within.
As a speaker, though I have reduced my speaking tremendously this year, I try to lend practical solutions to pressing problems and lend some insight into bending the rules; that is, really teaching and preparing for the test at the same time. I try to focus on sharing my knowledge and experience with best practices in teaching. I want teachers to see that they are already implementing best practices. Sometimes they need some tweaking, but mainly teachers need to see what they’re doing right. We examine parallel curriculums and ways to quickly scaffold lacking skills to build efficacy among struggling students. We all need to know how to navigate this screwy system. We can’t do that thinking we have nothing to offer. We certainly can’t do it if we’re being crushed under the weight of the almighty test and the minions that seek to make it the Way.
As a teacher, I work to navigate the system as best as I can. I’ve always enjoyed slipping in and out of things, accomplishing someone else’s goals and the important things simultaneously. When they can’t be accomplished together it’s time to call bullshit. I’ve called bullshit, and I try to call it daily. But, I digress. My teaching practice revolves around learning for transformation, for teachers and students. It requires that we look at the test as a very present threat. It is here, we have to deal with it. We have to, “whip it”, but the test cannot be our master. No student should have their soul crushed in the name of the test. I’m sure I’m guilty of letting that happen. I can only strive to prevent that.
My writing here is for the sake of what is right. It has become a telling of the struggles I see
and endure. I thank you for struggling beside me and making this world smaller. Cheers.
P.S., If there is anything I can offer you in the area of pedagogy, classroom stuff, motivation, intervention, advocacy, etc. please let me know. I’d be glad to share, discuss, struggle with you. Email me at email@example.com
Teaching is an action that requires love, science, foolishness, and persuasion all to work in concert. It’s a near impossible task to teach anyone anything, but somehow, through the above formula, people learn. Have you ever tried to teach a small child to blow their own nose or to tie a shoe? It’s miraculous that anyone ever learns either of those skills. Reading is no different. There are all these little bits that must be assembled by someone for reading to become meaningful. There is nothing simple about it. The credit cannot go to one person alone. Every experience a child has becomes a tool, a cog, a weight and balance in the odd amalgamation of skills and experience that are eventually referred to as print literacy. It comes with steps forward followed by numerous steps back. Theory has a big role in explaining this process/es, but the role of dogged perseverance is stronger.
Just to teach a simple skill requires the love, science, foolishness, persuasion algorithm. Teachers have to have great love for their students, and perhaps for humanity, to engage in such a daunting task. Without love we would quickly turn away from the deluge of frustration and seek higher more quickly rewarding ground.
The science behind teaching and learning, whether or not it is understood in scientific terms, is vast. First, research based methods are implemented in classrooms daily. There are, of course, basic learning theories, crowd psychology, neuroscience, and so forth. All teachers are not versed in the science of their practice, but undoubtedly implement solid research based strategies, that are recreated and invented over and over again because that is what is required. Teachers are constantly experimenting with different ways of teaching. Each year, each day, each class period the dynamics of the classroom change. What worked for one group may fail miserably. Teachers adjust, many so fluidly that it isn’t even noticeable to the teacher or observer. It’s a think on your feet kind of job.
Teaching requires a level of foolishness. What is the limit of perseverance? When do people give up? I teach alongside forty year veterans who have day in day out taught the same subject, never ceasing to try and teach basic multiplication to kids who are years behind. Teachers who patiently help high schoolers sound out words they should be reason fluently. These teachers see students grow, struggle grow some more, experience set backs, and keep going. This can all happen over the course of a day, hour, year, whatever. Teachers don’t quit. Each year regulations get tighter. Teaching becomes more impossible. We see budgets cut. We dig deep. We become less revered, more hated. Teachers are abused. Abused. Abused. And they/we keep at it. Foolish? Perhaps, but people need to learn. There is no time to hang on a cross. Each generation has needs. Our society needs literate people. We’re trying. It’s difficult, but God knows we’ll find away.
Teachers must be incredibly persuasive. Could anyone learn algebra if they weren’t? Teachers must motivate a group of students to learn to learn. We are perpetually leading people to water, and trying to help them learn to drink. We try to stir hope in hopeless people. We try to help students see their own potential. We stoke the fires of curiosity, when not impeded by test prep. We stoke the fires anyway. We try to keep learners learning even though learning seems futile.
It seems cold and pointless when it all seems to lead to a cold and pointless test. But, we don’t teach for a test. We teach for humanity. Education has a chance to be a great equalizer. It is turning quickly into something different. The great equalizer is not education as a system, but the ability to learn and navigate systems. We are fighting to give tools to people who can take them and transform their own worlds. We are fighting for our own worlds. We are fighting, hopefully, for humanity. We will continue without regard to blockades on our journey. We will
stick to love, science, foolishness, and persuasion. Say what you want, but we are teachers. We are committed. We enable our neighbors to transform their own worlds as we change ours. Keep at it.