0174: #Teaching, a noble profession? In a noble field?
#education #SOSchat #occupyedu
A friend of mine and I were discussing an assessment class he is taking to complete his teacher certification. He said, “It feels like an homage to standardized testing, and everyone’s buying it—even the professor.” We’ve had numerous discussions along this line throughout his teacher education training. A topic that resurfaces time and again is the propaganda that is shared, spewed, and reiterated from some of his should be mentors. Other professors are a little more straight forward. “It’s like they’re pumping us up to go into battle,” he mentioned, “they tell us what we’re doing is noble, but I don’t know if I agree.”
His crisis is valid. We are members of a profession that is called noble by those within, without, and above; and then demonized by those same people. But, above all we’re taught, pumped up, to believe what we’re doing is noble, especially if we’re following the rules, keeping quiet, and maintaining the status quo.
So is it a noble profession? Is education a noble field? I’d like to think so, I’ve given a nice hunk of my life to it. What are we to make of what we’re taught to think? How do we tease the good from the bad? I’ll do my best to do some personal teasing, what I don’t do, or do wrong, you can work on.
The field of education is not in and of itself noble. The system itself is quite corrupt and at least highly dysfunctional. It works for some, and leaves quite a few more with scraps and in the cold. Could the Wobbly adage “An injury to one is an injury to all” be applicable to inequitable system? It most certainly could and should. Our system and its mechanisms are inviting attitude that would oppose this line of thinking. “My school functions well”, “My students have good scores.”,”I’m a good teacher.” might function as rationale to demonize or at least disregard the experience of another teacher as bad, ill-informed, or dysfunctional. Perhaps this is why the field is not noble. There is no merit in supporting one’s neighbor. As if the notion of “neighbor” were permitted in many of these testing factories. How many of us have experienced teacher isolation simply because we were to busy.
If the field, as is, is not noble, then what is to be gleaned from this trash heap? Some schools, districts, teachers, and students thrive. Others struggle to stay afloat, but they give it their all. There is no accounting for the myriad reasons why some students do better than others, though there is ample research to say why. We know that some teachers are more effective than others, at times, and at other times are just as useless as the worst of us—at least that’s how we might feel if we’re honest. So where is the nobility?
It’s in the people, of course. It’s in our willingness to fight, though not always on a unified front, for our students. It’s in the ability to see beyond one’s own classroom, no matter how difficult, and support and understand a struggling colleague (near or far). It’s in our ability to do what we know is best, because we are professionals and we have critical minds, despite what we are told is best. This system is failing because the best interest of the stakeholders is not guaranteed by its biggest investors.
Our power is in our refusal to be pawns, and our refusal to swallow the pill. What’s best for profits is not what’s best for kids. We are noble when we teach critically. We are noble when we stand for the learners in our care. We are strong together.
0170: Dear teachers, students, and other dissidents
#education #SOSchat #revolution #occupyedu
We’ve been conditioned to do nothing more than consume. While we hear whispers of competing in a global market, and communicating and collaborating on a grand scale, these are but whispers. These are whispers that are intended to silence the would be revolutionaries and sate those of us who are just progressive enough to hope and reflect, but too weak and fearful to act. For years we’ve been subtly conditioned to love the machine that oppresses us. We’re taught to feed it. We teach others to do the same. If we don’t, we’re written off as lunatics or ineffective. As some of us grow weary of lies we become restless and a mite bit bold. We approach the curtain that conceals the fool who claims to be the wizard. We’ve been taught to be blind and love the lie.
If you see or are beginning to see you must do what you can to resist. If you are a teacher, you are the one’s to whom I primarily write, you must do whatever is in your power to lay yourself on the cogs of this machine and disrupt the standardization and massification of the people. Problematicize your lessons. Teach critically. Reject the doublethink and speak that perpetuates the current system.
The specifics of your own action is to be fleshed out by you. I offer no direction other than an idea that may function either as a catalyst or encouragement. You may dismiss me as a fool or embrace me as a friend. I do not intend to be neutral and neither should you. Cheers friends, and happy reflecting.
0093: They were “taught” or “helped to learn”? Directing our #language to benefit our #student s
#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.
0134: Why Teach? A Charge to Critical Educators
#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.
0091: #Testing doesn’t measure this.
#education #occupyedu @RheeFirst @StudentsFirstHQ #nonviolence
Two girls in my class got into an argument yesterday. They both have a tendency toward violence. Both have been arrested for fighting, and neither of them like to back down. I witnessed an amazing thing yesterday. Just before blows they simultaneously looked at me then back at each other and stopped. Brianna moved across the room. Gabby said we’re ready for class now. I complimented and thanked each for their restrained and told them that I understood the strength that took. We had class.
This would not have been, and in fact was not, the case at the beginning of the year. Tests don’t measure this kind of growth. Tests don’t measure humanity.
#freedom #occupy #anonymous #corporations
[Man] has become free from the external bonds that would prevent him from doing and thinking as he sees fit. He would be free to act according to his own will, if he knew what he wanted, thought, and felt. But he does not know. He conforms to anonymous authorities and adopts a self which is not his. The more he does this, the more powerless he feels, the more he is forced to conform. In spite of a veneer of optimism and initiative, modern man is overcome by a profound feeling of powerlessness which makes him gaze toward approaching catastrophes as though he were paralyzed. From Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom
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.
0077: #Teacher Training, Professional Development, and the Mysteries of the Hotdog Fold
#education #critical #edreform
I gave my students a quiz this morning and I asked them to fold their paper lengthwise and pass it in. They didn’t exactly understand lengthwise so I said “a hotdog fold”. They quickly made the correct fold and passed in the papers.
The term “hotdog fold” brought about a series of flashbacks to undergraduate education classes and useless professional developments I’ve attended that spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing and explaining the difference between a “hotdog” and a “hamburger” fold. I mean I’ve had this explained to me at least fifteen different times in different settings. I’ve been appalled every time. The instructors or professional developers have defended that teaching a common language for folding paper is important for classroom procedures. And, that instructional time was often lost because of things as simple as passing in papers. I couldn’t agree more. But, how wasteful and insulting is it to send a teacher, pre-service or in-service, to a workshop on folding paper. Additionally, the reason behind folding the paper is never explained without the presenter being asked. Wouldn’t it be better to help teachers learn to reflect properly about their practice? Or, teach them how to conduct effective discussions that foster critical thinking and dialogue. Teachers could be taught how to teach lessons in a way that allow students to arrive at answers on their own, or even how to design problem-based learning activities. They could be instructed on ways to properly teach and help build their learners vocabularies, so they can read, write, and think more freely. Instead, teacher training is often limited to a few principles of classroom management, memorizing the definitions of the elements of literacy, a class or two in how to write lesson plans, and of course a lesson or two in folding paper. These basic lessons are repeated in new teacher orientations and at schools PDs. They’re all focuses on standardizing teacher methods to produce a similar product. I had one professor in Undergrad who focused entirely on critical literacy and social justice. One three hour course out of who knows how many was the only reason I completed a degree in education. That combined with past study of linguistics and literature.
Teaching is not limited to coloring within the lines. Thusly, neither should teacher training or education or whatever you call it be limited to such narrow outcomes either. I am not suggesting that teacher education programs produce only activists and social reformers, that would be ludicrous. Such activity must come from passion, awareness of injustice, and deep reflection. But, programs should produce cognizant and critical teachers who understand that their roles go far beyond that of folding paper and writing plans. Teachers should understand their roles as advocates for their students and themselves. They should have the skills walking into their classrooms not after they’ve been struggling as a teacher or five years. There is an abundance of literature focusing on teacher training. It should go beyond preparation for the praxis and a lifetime of coddling children. That is in no way what teaching is. And, regarding PD, it’s seldom that it is more than an occupation of valuable time that results in blank stares and checking cellphones. If you teach paper folding, perhaps shake things up, and focus on the way the information and critical thought is going to be put on that soon to be folded paper. Teachers are dedicated and hardworking people who are far more capable of complex thought than they are treated. Give us some credit.