0054: Am I an Unintentional Imperialist? What am I really doing?
#teaching #learning #revolution
I’m coming to a point where I don’t believe. I’ve told myself “education is a tool for transcending any obstacle”. I’ve told students, parents, and teachers that. I’ve been an education evangelist. But, my faith is running thin. I’m preaching, but I’m not believing. And, this disagreement between word and belief is grinding my soul to a halt.
Going to work each day believing I’m making a significant difference in the lives of students is a thin lie that I have bought into. Beyond a lie, it is a paternalistic lie. I sweep down from some ivory tower with theories and practices designed to “liberate minds and souls”. I go to work as a missionary, fighting the sins of the “uneducated”. But, isn’t missionary another word for imperialist? Am I an unintentional imperialist? Is my actual job to tame an otherwise wild citizenry? And, by “tame the wild” I mean systematically align the thought processes of groups of children with an agenda designed to…I’m not sure, maybe not really function. Maybe not thrive. Maybe not make waves when injustices are committed against them or others.
Am I a part of an unstoppable system that functions only as an organ in the greater oppressive body that is our society, a body that keeps all its parts starved so they will be obedient.
I am a teacher, and I sneak little tidbits of rebellion into every lesson. I teach radically, and “teach for social justice”. I talk about amazing things. My students talk with me about these things. But who is transformed? Me? I live a middle class life. My needs are met. I am doing a job that pays me. That is wonderful. But each day, when the work is done I get to go back to my middle class reality. My things that keep me satisfied. My things that help me not worry so much about my neighbor across the bridge. Don’t get me wrong, I barely have enough to get by…but I have enough. I have to budget, but I have enough. I am a part of a system that doesn’t work. I need the system to feed me, so maybe I won’t stir any trouble. And if I do, I’m an alarmist or a fool. We are a part of a well oiled machine.
Each day I suppose I am chipping away at a wall. But, is sitting in classrooms talking about hope, or more realistically having algebra and grammar shoved down their throats really helping them transform their own communities?
We teachers try each day to do our best in a system that produces semi-literate people. There is no intention of making people thrive with education. If it was for that then people would thrive. People would be really literate and would be problem solvers. If people were really educated they would revolt. I don’t like being a part of a system that somehow starves people. People are straining for hope, and we give them algebra. I may be completely off base. If I am tell me. Help me see the light. I am missing it?
I know one thing, education is not the only problem. It does not function, but it seems it’s only one of many diseased organs.
0020: Time to Talk Race, Class, Gender, and Sexual Orientation in Middle School
Time has to be made for relevant discussion in classrooms. We’re all fast away making sure curriculum is being learned in a timely manner, and it’s easy to forget to involve the students. Sometimes it’s frowned upon. Students have issues that need to be heard, and they’re not all pretty. But, they need help dealing with emotions, fears, and so forth. They need help putting words to what they’re experiencing, and that help comes from someone listening.
I had the chance to engage a class in good conversation this morning. I’ve heard quite a few of my students (and many others) outside of class calling each other “gay” or “fag” along with a slew of other terms. This has been an issue in every school I’ve taught. It was when I was in school and quite possibly will continue to be until people stop to talk about it. The discussion got to go beyond “don’t say that” and turned into a discussion lead mostly by the students about homophobia and the cultural acceptability of people who identify as gay in their community. I’ve always been impressed by students’ willingness to engage in these conversations an voice their opinions. Furthermore, their ability to examine themselves honestly during these discussions in amazing. I find myself drawn in and pensive during these, as they always move me into self-examination. The conversation continued into matters of race and class when a student expressed a desire to be white. A few students got mildly hostile at first, but when prompted to listen to her understood better what she meant . We discussed the importance of finding peace with who you are regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation.
This discussion will be ongoing, and many things weren’t remedied, but we entered into the dialogue. We walked away from the discussion today a with a little more self-awareness and a better understanding of each other. I relish these moments as a teacher as the most important part of the job.