0200: Flashing Lights, Zero Tolerance, and a Fight
#education #zerotolerance #discipline
As I was leaving school yesterday, driving through the neighborhood I saw 3 cop cars pulled over, lights flashing. I drove slowly by only to see one of my students and another student from school sitting in a driveway heads down hands cuffed behind their backs. I pulled over and asked a lingering student what had just gone down. “They were fighting” he told me, “over something stupid.”
I arrived at school this morning and was told to watch for them, they were to be sent to the office upon arrival. For fighting they will be suspended for 10 days. It’s the protocol adopted by the district. Zero tolerance. The fight was over something that had supposed transpired on Facebook.
The suspension is no surprise. Again, it’s protocol. However, as many of you know these students will now be out of school for 2 weeks which will only lead to more problems. They’ll be behind. They are home with little to know supervision. It will be nearly impossible to catch up. They’ll lose motivation. The student I teach comes from a less than joyful home environment and has been working on her anger. This is a major setback.
There must be another alternative. Surely, we could spend time working to improve their ability to communicate or solve problems or something useful besides worrying about test scores so much that we okay zero tolerance policies that deny students education when they slip up. And, 3 cop cars was a little excessive.
The result will not equate to kids who have learned to deal with problems or function better in society. The arrest and suspension will only add to a list of recidivists who are more than acquainted with the damning nature of our punitive systems.
0199: Good Morning: A less than bland way to talk about arts #education
#arts #equality #teaching
I have two dreams that I have been able to articulate in my life. One is for me and the other is seemingly more benevolent. As I get older I see they can be intertwined. The first is to work as a performer. I want to be a musician, a dancer, and an actor. I love being on stage. I do it a lot. So that dream can happen. Daily I work with a great group of artists.
My second dream is to ensure others who want these opportunities have access. I want to see equal access to the arts and quality education. I want to see kids learning to read, write, and create—never domesticated. Empowered. Literacy through the arts is deeply empowering. It isn’t the sort of literacy that involves just calling words or even gleaning meaning from a textbook. It is a new and wider literacy that can encompass those things, but it reaches far beyond that. It leaves children, humans, empowered to do what makes them happy. It gives them the power to see what is important. It gives them the ability to choose their path instead of leaving the choice in the hands of another. It is empowering to create. It’s equally beneficial to learn the discipline and perseverance required to master and art form. Arts puts power and responsibility in the hand of the creator. The internal discipline required spreads to every area of life. It allows a drive that otherwise would not exist to develop, and it’s self-reinforcing.
From time to time I forget why I do what I do. I remembered this morning.
0198: Permission to teach or a trap: When evaluators start speaking of #freedom in the #classroom
It’s time to start writing again. First, the third party lords of our schools are back at work. And, I’m getting more and more spam from sites that want me to call upon my inner seventh grader.
Yesterday we had a meeting about questioning and shifting to a more constructivist style of teaching. Of course, the explanation was very vague and condensed. The presenter did a fabulous job of saying: “you [the faculty] teach in an antiquated manner. You must replace your broken teaching style with this new one, and then figure out how to also prepare your students for the test that measures the old way…and while we’re at it, we will be evaluating you with this new form.”
I am not opposed to a style of education that is more liberating. Students actively constructing their own knowledge and understanding optimizing their personal skill sets and developing new ones is marvelous. I strive for that in my classroom…when it’s possible. There is no doubt that I have some hang ups with this cavalier attempt to reform this school and district.
For starters, I’m concerned that teachers here will be evaluated with a corporate instrument that is designed to measure a teacher’s implementation of practices that very few understand. I gather the instrument will seek to quantify something that isn’t terribly quantifiable unless heavily deconstructed.
Further, teachers around me already smell the next best thing. Utterances of “this too shall pass” were audible in the meeting. There will be little to no training beyond the simple “here are some strategies we will be looking to see you use.” An entire philosophical construct will be reduced to mere strategies.
Finally, they recommended teaching less content in order to allow the students develop their own understanding. Help them learn deeper. A fantastic idea, but will the test change? Are we going to have time to help learners adjust? Will teachers have a chance to adjust?
Is this a trap or permission to really teach?
The Power of No
I have spent the year in a virtual haze due in part to my choice not to say no. I used to say I lacked the ability to say no. It’s a choice, often a difficult choice for whatever reason. My choice today, to say no to non-priority activity that would be taking my time, energy, and more was difficult but necessary. I will be better for it. I feel better. I will write again tomorrow I expect.
0197: A broken Hallelujah, of sorts, but a warm one
#education #teaching #life #humanity @CletisStump @dloitz
It’s Christmas Eve, or the start of it at least, and I can’t seem to stay asleep. I haven’t been able to really write for the past few months—not consistently. Things have been topsy turvy at best personally and professionally. As a teacher, I’ve been in a haze, as a human I’ve been more awake then ever before. And to avoid being completely obtuse I’ll be flat out truthful. We almost lost my mother-in-law a few months ago, my focus shifted to supporting my wife. She’s still recovering, but doing so nicely. Then, after that seemed to be clearing up, my wife was in a head on collision. She called my from the accident when she came to, before or after calling for help. She told me “I’ve been in a head on collision, and I can’t move.” I was on lunch duty. I walked out grabbed my things, and told my principal I had to go. He took care of things that day and the next. My wife is still recovering, by the way, and back at work. Not paralyzed. Still struggling though.
A week or so later, the school shootings. A colleague shared with me that one of her grown personal children had been attacked by their spouse. Attempted murder. Just blow after blow. And, of course, the punches keep on coming. Out of it all, the adage, “Any day above ground is a good one.” comes to mind. A bar tender in college told me that. That bit of wisdom passed to me through a most perfect human interaction has brought me such joy; rather, it has made me aware of the joyous things right before me in such a seemingly bleak time.
And this moment of joy reminds me of why I teach. Teaching is one of those jobs that allows for, demands even, that we connect with our fellow human being. We are not teachers to meet some quota, or make test scores happen, or discipline people, or train automatons, or even happily keep our jobs. We exist to help make possible the awakening of a consciousness from this dismal world of subsidized slumber. We hope beyond hope to be a part of the humanization of another and to join in the mutual benefit from that moment.
I’ve tried to revive my hope in my chosen profession, to much avail, through philosophical ponderings and pontification. And it is bleak. It’s the system and its trappings that are bleak, not us. We are human beings. We teach human beings. If ever I have had reason to write a Hallelujah, this is it. Cheers dear friends.
neverirreparablybroken721 asked: The way you talk about how your school runs does indeed sound like a prison. Especially the post you made about the "silence" that your school enforces when kids misbehave; "to teach our new seventh graders how things work around hear"? Wow. That sounds like a nightmare. May I ask what grade you teach?
I teach 7th through 9th grade. The nightmarish parts of my job involve bureaucrats and enforced impediments to children. Education is either freeing or binding. I’ve seen so many work to turn the minds of children and humans in general into terrible bonsai tree-like entities. It’s disheartening. The key seems to be aware of if and when we as teachers are becoming binders of minds. And it’s quite the challenge we have to educate for enlightenment and liberation while appearing like we’re following the “rule”. Quite a bit of doublethink and speak involved. What is your teaching experiences like if I may ask? Thanks for the chat.
I was giving my students a stern talking to this afternoon, what my grandmother would have called a “come to Jesus meeting”. An evaluator walked in in the middle of our “meeting”. I continued as usual. The kids have given up, or have just decided they’re finished trying until after the holiday break. I understand. These things happen. Sometimes we all need a little motivation, even if it’s a little stern, a little loving, and a little not in line with the chosen objective that’s on the lesson plan on the board. I will hurry to my box in the morning to see what charming remarks my dear friend left me. We have to teach. I have to teach. Nothing happens if I keep jumping through their hoops.
0196: Living with Pirates on Your Ship…and getting back to the teaching.
#education #learning #k12 #piracy
I’ve written a series of depressing posts. Perhaps I’m in my blue period as a teacher. I certainly find the mess surrounding me depressing. My conversations with teachers at my school are similarly hopeless. But, we are not without hope. Before proceeding, the juxtaposition of my position, and the position of the students I serve and the educational bliss experienced by the kids and teachers across the railroad tracks is a bit disheartening at first glance.
What is “my” situation? Why is it so awful? Is it as awful as I perceive? What can I do?
To begin, I am not without hope or fight. I am greatly concerned for my students and the teachers with whom I share this sinking ship. Our vessel has been boarded by pirates who have the golden elixir that will systematically heal all that ails us. I could have called it a coup. Intervention is too benevolent of a term. You intervene when you care, not when you wish to take control. And that’s what’s happening here (and in many other places). Our “interventionists” are here to “organize” our already ineffective system into a smooth operating system that will close the achievement gap and heal the societal wrongs that can only be measured with a standardized test. How can this be done?, you may ask. You take an existing structure that is dying or in crisis (a created crisis, mind you) and you hire outsiders. Pay them at least three times as much as the teachers. It never hurts if they drive and wear their wealth. It makes it easier to distinguish the teachers from the saviors. These saviors will bring with them a plan to be implemented by the teachers and administration. It will involve a lot of paper work and extra meetings. In these meetings teachers should analyze every aspect of the school function, from finance to curriculum. The kicker is that you must ask the teachers for suggestions how to make improvements and then shoot them down kindly. Say something like, “that’s a really great idea, but it probably won’t work for us.” Do this until teachers understand that their voice will not be heard. Also, pit teachers against one another in meetings. Give then things to debate and use emotional topics to divide them. Or better yet, just frustrate them with opposing ideas that could never be mitigated. And so on so on so forth.
We have three outside organizations in our school working to help us “fix” the problem. That comes to approximately 3 evals a week with at least 4 more walk throughs. We have quality in house academic coaches by the way, but they’ve been deluged with even more paperwork. We’re under constant surveillance. We’re internalizing that and beginning to function as we are being watched constantly, and not to the betterment of our students. We’re following a simple algorithm for staying out of trouble, not teaching.
The answer? Conversation. We, as a faculty have to talk. We have to join forces. I’ve seen it work before. The faculty came together and agreed to teach regardless of the outside forces. We supported each other. We banded together. We talked. We became closer in and out of the work place. We made a huge impact on our students, each other, and not surprisingly test scores. We’re just a little further down the hole here. This faculty has been incredibly divided for some time now, but the other one was too. That’s the answer, we have to give voice to our problems. We have to wade through the never ending pile of papers and constant observations and observed meetings and really work together. I don’t know if I’m in a position to do this at this school, at least not overtly. We’ll see what happens.
And, then to tackle this on the systemic piracy.
0195: Drowning as an Educator or Finding the Surface
#education #teaching #SOS
Over the past few weeks I’ve struggled with my problem with top down models of education. I attempted to allow the thought “this is for the greater good” into my mind. I tried to hold it in my mind and make it fit. It only made me sick the way the body rejects foreign objects. I’ve labored over the necessity of my concern. Will contemplation of this directly benefit my students? Will it benefit me? Or should I simply give in and follow orders in order to be at peace? If I can’t fall in like with the system perhaps I should quit? Is resistance futile?
I’ve also questioned the purpose of writing and publishing these internal quarrels. Do I write to benefit others? Am I simply an exhibitionist? Am I writing so someone, anyone, will hear my cry as my ship sinks slowly? Am I looking for a rescue? Support? Perhaps I’m planting a revolutionary seed that will grow beyond my imagination? I hope all of the above are true. That is for you who finds this message in a bottle to decide.
But, back to my original aim and/or question: should I resist or acquiesce? Certainly, if you are familiar with me or my rantings and raving you know that acquiescence is not an option. Compromise is a possibility and is best, but is not always possible. I have to also wonder if my rantings are spur me, or someone, on to action or am I merely bitching. If my reflection does not lead to action it is nothing more than mental and rhetorical masturbation which is the utmost waste of time and energy.
So, has my worry recently been of use to me? I think so. It’s helped me to understand where I am and what I’m doing professionally and personally. I’ve certainly lost sight of why I teach for a stint. My focus has shifted from the students to pleasing evaluators and jumping through hoops. I’ve tried to keep the devil off my back, and in doing so I’ve forgotten the world of which I’m a part. I’ve simply lost sight of anything. I can only compare to the panic that occurs when one believes they are drowning. The only fight is for life. I’ve been in that fight as a teacher. I’ve spoken of that fight theoretically, but no matter how much we practice or reaction to drowning there is no comparison to the real thing.
I’m fighting to regain footing to I can teach what I know is best. I am a mediator between curriculum that is prescribed, which is not necessarily to be rejected, the curriculum that is needed, and the human beings that are, or should be the recipients of what will be taught. I think I’ve found the life vest. It’s time to move forward. It’s time to teach, and resist, and voice my dissent. It’s time to reconnect. Thank you for your constant support, dear reader. May my confusion ever be of some benefit to someone.
I teach in a prison for kids. I try to see it differently, but I can’t. It’s a corporately monitored public prison for less than wealthy kids. Here’s to the top down managerial model of authoritarian education.
Bleak, I know, but this moment shall pass.