0142: #Teaching for #Revolution
#education #SOSchat #occupyedu #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.
0156: Chairman Mao, the Lunchroom, and #Teacher Talk?
#education #p2 #SOSchat #prison
Note: This is a bit disorganized, but I’m going to publish it. Find what is helpful. Disregard what’s not. Offer construction where you see fit.
A fellow teacher called me Mao Zedong at lunch the other day, and rather harshly too. She expressed a desire to have police crackdown harder on “these criminals” and said we should do the same with our students. She said our students are already criminals with records and all. And, to her credit, many have records and parole officers. To her comment I responded, “Maybe we should crackdown on the people who contribute to the economic conditions that create a framework for such crime.” She wanted to know to whom I was referring, but before I could say she jumped in, “You mean corporations and republicans don’t you! The people who are creating jobs.” There was a pause and then she continued, “This is the land of opportunity. Anyone can succeed if they try hard enough.” Our custodian interrupted, “That’s not true. Maybe for some, but most people are born into a class and stay there.” She bit back, “Education can make it better. It gives opportunities. People just need vouchers to go to good schools.” And the conversation went on for a bit to no avail. I left. She called me a Maoist Socialist who should probably not be teaching because I believe that wealth is unevenly distributed. I equally have some concerns. First, I think we should recognize that there are class divisions in the United States that are very difficult to overcome. There are obvious inequalities that come with these class divisions. Rights and consistent access to those rights are in reality divided in many cases along racial lines. This happens in many institutional settings, including schools and prisons. Prisons are filled with non-white individuals who often commit crimes that would not be necessary if poverty was not such an issue. Many prisoners are in prisons for crimes that do not even compare to the crimes of those with great power and money. A bag of weed vs. making healthcare inaccessible to many people, and then those people die or live with terrible ailments, that sort of thing. So much for the land of opportunity. By recognizing inequality we have an obligation to do something about it. As teachers our power is in our ability to allow, encourage, and facilitate learning that contribute to a toolbox that will make possible any social action deemed necessary by our learners. This toolbox might include any number of critical skills such as, dialogue, social media, discussions that lead to a deeper understanding of their own situations, multi-literacy skills, anything that contributes to them being able to manipulate their environments (e.g.,videoing police brutality). This toolbox can be built from the moment students enter kindergarten simply by allowing learners to know that their world knowledge is just as important as academic knowledge and finding time for rich conversations, good books, safety, and quality play— even if the test is on your back. Finally, I am concerned with racism and classism among my colleagues (I’m sure they have concerns about me, expressed through the Maoist comment). I’m not sure how one could genuinely and authentically teach a student who they believe to be a criminal who needs to be punished. Would that belief not be carried out through teaching methods, discipline, and so forth— it certainly plays out in the number of Office Discipline Referrals. Does the belief that everyone really gets an equal shot affect teaching? Does the refusal to see one’s students as human-beings before seeing them as criminals affect the way teacher and student interact? Certainly.
0144: #Classroom Management in Contexts of Affluence and #Poverty
#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.
0139: “Liberty and Justice for Some?” she asked.
#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.
0122: Surely I’m Confused. Which ‘People’ are the “People”?
#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.
0096: How to Teach the Test: A Guide for Radical Teachers
#education #occupyedu #revolution #school
Public education has been reduced to the narrow teaching of a narrow curriculum by teachers who fear constantly for their jobs. Educators have been or are being rendered powerless by egregious reforms that harm students and teachers. Testing as the goal of education is criminal. It is brainwashing through the systematic dumbing down of an entire generation. The constant test prep and dehumanization leaves untold destruction that we have not even begun to uncover. Our hands are tied. So what can be done? In short, rebel. Tell the truth. Teach the test. Teach about the people who helped make testing a reality. Share the reasons for testing. Share with your students how testing is a tool of class division and community disruption. Tell them how testing has and is destroying people’s ability to think freely. Tell them how test scores are used to close schools and banish committed and caring teaching from public education. Tell them how testing has created a crisis which has opened a market, school privatization, that seeks capital gains. Tell them how the textbook industry starves their brains and provides incomplete curriculum to undertrained teachers in order to sell more remediation. Then teach them the subject matter you’re paid to teach. But, help them learn. Help them learn to learn. Teach them, rather help them learn that they are powerful and have much to add to culture. Instill in them the power to create. Nurture their curiosity. If you teach algebra, teach algebra, not the bastardized Glencoe McGraw-Hill fully aligned version. Teach for the joy of teaching. Help learners learn to crave understanding. Teach the Test as the monster it is. Motivate the students to learn beyond the test, thus crushing it’s power as a tool of class separation and subversion. It’s a beast with which we must reckon daily as teachers, but it’s a beast that we must and shall defeat.
0092: School Lunch Conspiracy?
#education #nutrition #poverty
At the risk of sounding alarmist, several students at my school have passed out just after lunch or
breakfast. The paramedics have had to be called each time. Conspiracy? Who knows, but it sure is strange. This morning one of my students became dizzy. It’s choir so I thought he had locked his knees and just needed to sit down. He wasn’t looking any better so I had a student walk him to the office. He staggered that way. He was dazed. Maybe he had taken something on the way to school? I went to talk to the paramedics after I found someone to watch my class. They couldn’t take him to the hospital, because he wasn’t in immediate danger and there was no parent to be found, but I digress. I got back to class, the custodian was watching it. He told me that this had been happening all week, and just after meals. Then he said, “You know, I think it has something to do with what these kids are eating. The government said we gotta give ‘em healthy food, and they’re in there serving sweet tea and all sorts of sugary things. All these kids have is sweets and hot chips.” I nodded. We discussed the quality of food at different schools and in different places for a minute, both remarking how the wealthier schools have a little better quality food with a little more focus on good nutrition. Additionally, the wealthier kids eat outside of school on a regular basis. Our kids get two meals a day at school and whatever snacks they can get their hands on when they aren’t here. Sure, they have health where they’re “taught” to make healthy choices, but those aren’t reinforced by the cafeteria. We have chili and sticky bun day for God’s sake! The sticky buns taste great, but healthy? Get out of here. The foods not good. Lots of fatty meat. Processed meat, starches and sugars. But, they do serve wheat rolls. There’s also fruit, but its in syrup. Ranch dressing is served with everything. Salad is an option, but they only make ten per lunch period which serves about 200. This spread of food had been the norm at each school I’ve taught. Filling and fattening foods with sugary foods or chips for sale by the cafeteria. Free lunch is restricted, but the kids can buy junk food—ice cream, candy, chips, etc.
I am no nutritionist. I like food that tastes good. I even indulge in the occasional gastrointestinal sin, but I have access to good, fresh, and healthy food. It seems that we, the United States, are feeding an impoverished population junk that keeps them full, but undernourished. We’re keeping them occupied, and distracted. Is this some sort of eugenic mechanism? I don’t know, but I feel uneasy. Something’s not right.
0085: Unpacking the phrase “education is your ticket out of poverty.”
#teaching #revolution #literacy #education
I heard the phrase “education is your ticket out of (insert situation)” used by teachers, principals, parents, counselors, etc., etc. I’ve used it. I think it is often spouted thoughtlessly in the attempt to focus students on the task we choose for them. It positions education as a panacea and me, the educator as the distributor of that all important cure. This phrase, when used like this, turns into a tool of oppression, forcing students to focus on the falsehood that I, the teacher, have something that they need, and will withhold it until they bend to my will. This statement asks for non-critical compliance. By saying, “education is your ticket out”, it is implied first that the learner is already in an undesirable situation. Judgment is passed, the learner is told that he or she is inferior and needs a way out, the way which is provided by the educator or the education system. Second, the statement implies that the alternative is better. By leaving one class of people, the family, friends, and neighborhood the recipient of education will suddenly better off. They will then be the haves, having left the have-nots behind. This language does not encourage transformation; rather, it encourages blind abandonment. It serves to turn the underclass and the oppressed into oppressors themselves. Additionally, it positions teachers or the education system itself as the catalyst for change or even as savior. As long as the oppressed believe they require a savior they will always be oppressed. Transformation must be the aim of education, not forced dependence.
I do not mean to say that education is not a tool for transformation or even transcendence. It is. Unfortunately, it is often poised as a means to “leave those poor people behind”. As long as education is just a ticket out then there will be no transformation of the rapidly growing underclass in our country. Education should benefit the community not just the individual. As teachers, we must be cognizant of our language. We must do our best to empower learners and communities to do what’s best for them. If that means leaving, so be it. If it means uniting to become better educated, and to reduce crime, and build their own economy, then let it be. As long as teachers function as missionaries who drop in, feed the ailing and runaway, then there will be no change. True education is not a ticket out, it is a tool for transformation.
0083: Schools as Guardians of Class Division
#education #poverty #class #slum #edreform
Schools are marketed as beacons of hope. A proper education promises a better future with access to a college education, to riches, a good job, and stuff. This is the carrot we hold before our students to encourage them to work hard. It’s the stuffed bunny at the dog track. The definition of proper education, for sometime now, includes high test scores. Good schools have good test scores, right? No school is exactly performing on par. We’re all looking for some better measure, some alternative for accountability— at least we’re hoping for something different.
But, the problem isn’t exactly as simple as test scores. Education isn’t even the problem. The problem is that “education” the miracle cure is curing nothing. There is no social mobility with schooling. Slums stay slums, and middle class neighborhoods become slums. Schools are of little benefit other than supplying teachers like me jobs. We buy into the system of hope and try to share that hope with our students, but they’re not buying it. Education fails miserably at empowering people to transform their communities and lives. Rather than being a catalyst for empowerment and transformation, schools function as institutions that enforce socio-economic stagnation. They keep the classes separate. People who go to poor schools live, and continue to live in poor communities. Sure, there are people who make it out. They crack the glass ceiling. They transcend class, but that is not the norm. We teach a state standardized curriculum that does little more than bore our precious students and extinguish their curiosity. We kill minds systematically with tests, forced compliance, and meaningless curriculum. If schools were ever doing what they claimed to do there would be fewer slums. Public education, from my vantage, is doing little more than providing the textbook industry with a steady demand for remediation materials.
Someone please correct me of I’m wrong. I need hope.
0063: On ‘Noblesse Oblige’, Free #Education, and #Revolution
#Teaching seldom includes acknowledgement of the secret rules of success. We teach overt rules. Hard work. Honesty. Or what seems like honesty. We don’t teach collaboration. We give our best kids false hope with the wrong keys. We should give them the right keys. We should let them know that some of the keys have to be stolen, or forcefully borrowed, others have to be gingerly manipulated into place. The classroom and our present system of schooling teach jumping through a series of hoops to bring about a certain outcome. It teaches that there is a logical outcome to logical steps. This is far from the truth for many. There are, in fact, countless outcomes from each step, from each decision. The only constants are flexibility and persistence. There are no guarantees.
Many teachers don’t know the rules either, after all, they’re secret rules and hidden golden keys. There is no fair. There are no rules. There is only revolution. We teach order to maintain order. Only those who transcend order can have what they want. Freedom requires transcendence. It requires a certain obliviousness to the frameworks of society. Should this be taught? Can this be taught?