0163: A response regarding “An insidious idea behind classroom management.”
#education #SOSchat #dialogue
Note: I’ve chosen to reblog this interaction for clarity, and I’m embarrassed to say a bit of vanity, as the response I provided was not formatted in an appealing way, and I am away from my computer, composing from my phone. Up front, I’d like to thank positivelypersistentteach for the response, and for forcing me to refine my ideas.
“I think you have a misunderstanding of what classroom management entails.
In my classroom, classroom management includes rules, which we as a class agree upon.
It includes positive phone calls home, complimenting the students that are following directions, and providing time for students to calm down if they are upset about something.
Classroom management is providing routines and procedures, so we can focus on learning.
Classroom management is teaching students to think about how their actions affect others and to take responsibility for what they do.
Classroom management is teaching students to use their words, their minds, instead of their hands.
I think you have a lot more to learn about classroom management. Discipline is not a synonym for classroom management. Does is it include discipline? In most classrooms it is necessary, but aren’t there also consequences in the outside world? Discipline isn’t the whole of classroom management, and it is not an evil thing.”
I very much agree with you about your definitions of classroom management. You speak of the ideal, and I’m pleased that you are able to work in such an environment that the practice you share is the norm. Further, I agree that there should be a clearer delineation between what is known as discipline and classroom management. Or, maybe they should each be defined with less ambiguity. Unfortunately, they, like all words and phrases that are applied to human interaction, are subject to myriad interpretations based on political, cultural, regional, social, etc. factors. What you and I may understand as an appropriate way to manage a classroom may not be accepted by fellow teachers, administrators, some community members. My experiences certainly don’t speak for all of education, nor do they the regions and cultural climates in which I’ve taught. But, there are numerous schools, not all, across the country that implement such practices.
However, in this article I made little mention of any specific practice. I simply shared an idea that has roots in forms of social control. The Servan’s idea: “…When you have thus formed the chain of ideas in the heads of your citizens, you will then be able to pride yourselves on guiding them and being their masters…” uses antiquated language, but it was a part of the spawning of disciplinary practice that would work with minimal overt intervention. The idea is to transfer the locus of control to the individual, but through external means of training, conditioning, and forms of teaching. Teaching can be considered in multiple forms. One form aims to enlighten and liberate; the other works to control and suppress. Both veins have existed for centuries and each are present in our current understandings of teaching, learning, management and discipline. It’s quite convoluted now, and as a whole cannot be completely teased apart as good and bad. Something as simple as training children to walk in a line to the cafeteria can be the start of something that leads to an extension of the external rule that trains to an internalization of that outside power.
Classroom management practices aim at eliminating disruption, which is a wonderful thing. They do, however, borrow from Servan’s idea of forming a “chain of ideas” in the heads of those being controlled or ‘controlling’ themselves. Many classroom management techniques utilize behaviorist practices such as conditioning and external motivators to alter behavior. External motivators are highly effective. We work for a paycheck, the affection of a partner, a laugh at a dinner party— all external motivators. The problem can arise when the external motivators strip an individual of their ability to think and function without the reward or punishment, even worse when one is trained to believe the reinforcer does not exist.
My aim is not to demonize classroom management, simply to highlight the roots of certain practices. Further, I want to show how our current educational climate that puts such emphasis on testing opens the way to practices that focus on control (even subtle control) rather than freedom. It’s difficult to imagine education without some of these practices. They’re functional, but not best. We work with what we have. We work around red tape and things we deem ineffective or inhumane. A better way would certainly actually be more democratic, student centered, directed by curiosity; you mentioned some of this. You develop rules with your students and help them understand their actions and help them learn to take responsibility for them. I assume you lead them in the direction of truly understanding they are the masters of their own minds by actually giving them power. The successes you encourage at their own hands builds efficacy and with that comes the understanding that they are fully capable of succeeding without you. Again, this is not the norm everywhere, and isn’t always encouraged. Sometimes it’s actively discouraged, of not through word, then deed. With the weight of testing and educator witch hunts, it would be impossible to believe that all schools are actively promoting humane treatment of students. Maybe it’s sold that way, but advertising can work miracles with perception.
On a near final note, my title, “An insidious idea behind classroom management.” does not imply that it’s the only idea; rather, it’s “an idea”, a part. As discussed earlier it is nearly impossible to tease all the good from the bad. As education is a very political field, it is impossible to find a solitary version of the truth about anything in it.
Finally, if you’ve made this far in reading this, I’d like to thank you for hearing me out. It’s lovely to share in discussion with colleagues. This dialogic format of teacher interaction most certainly leads to better understanding of theory and practice, at least on my end. I hope I didn’t ramble too terribly. I’d be glad to answer any other questions you have. Thanks for your comments and commitment to education.
A monopoly on Truth is dangerous if we are concerned with the well being of humanity. #education #edreform
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.
0143: About my practice, radicalism, and strong rhetoric.
#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.
0133: Standards-Based #Revolution, I mean #Education
#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.
0111: What can be done to empower teachers? More Rules for Radical Teachers
#education #revolution @educatoral
I’ve heard a lot of talk from the “higher ups” and some media outlets that “we need to make teaching a respected profession again”. There are several problems here. First, teachers have always had to fight for their dignity. We’re constantly fighting the image of “coddler”, “babysitter”, replacement parent (in loco parentis), “bad teacher, whatever. The teaching profession has struggled for any bit of dignity it has been given. Second, any dignity it has been “given” has been earned by teachers who have stood up and demanded changes be made.
For there to be any solution, we have to create it. Waiting for Mr. Duncan or anyone else to make the teaching profession respected again will result in nothing more than twiddling thumbs and more of the let down that has accompanied our profession for so long. The solution must begin with teachers becoming educated for creating change. Teachers must become activists, agitators, and advocates. This will not and cannot happen all at once, of course, it will require patience and commitment to becoming empowered, and then empowering those around you.
Foreseeable problems: Many teachers (in certain situations most teachers) have either never been in a position to advocate for themselves
Many teachers have existed in passivity throughout their careers. Their passivity has been either forced or allowed. Teachers who’ve advocated for themselves have often been forced back into passivity through threats, reprimands, or worse. These teachers are reluctant to bother with anything that might expose them to trouble.
Other teachers, similar to the first type, have been rendered subservient through years of subtle conditioning. If you do this, then this will come. Retirement being the carrot.
Some teachers follow the “don’t make no waves” policy. In many cases education is a field of self preservation. The survivalist mentality that is promoted through high stakes tests, evals, and other fear-mongering strategies keeps teachers separated, isolated, and passive. So what can be done?
Possible solutions: Foremost, the silence must be broken. Teachers have to come out of isolation. They have to be able to articulate their issues— publicly. Many teachers are quite skilled at venting their problems, but will not stand behind what they say behind closed doors. There is a lot of talk with little action. So, maybe stating the “problem” is not the answer. Maybe it lies in discussing pedagogy. I submit that if you get
teacher talking about teaching they (we) can’t shut up. Teachers want to teach, and they want to arrive at solutions. If you’re the catalyst for change that is on its way, it might behoove you and your cohorts to engage any teacher, especially the reluctant ones, in conversation about solutions to the problems they’re having— behavior, academic, etc. This builds an atmosphere of collegiality that is non-conspiratorial. It’s less threatening. Talking about teaching is not a coup; it’s a productive activity. The revolution, if you will, must develop slowly as the teacher/person/student becomes actively involved in reflection of their own practice and
begins to feel mildly in control.
How do these conversations begin? Carefully. No teacher wants some pompous activist, consultant, or hoodlum coming into their classroom and telling them what to do. Teachers need people who listen first. So, if you’re involved in change, remember to listen. Help neighbors arrive at their own solution. Help them realize their own power. Revelation happens quite easily once one begins to reflect. Revelations bring about internal revolutions.
So, take your planning period, lunch period, chat in the parking lot, whenever, and ask a fellow teacher for help. Get them to help
you solve a problem. You need their help. By engaging them in solution building you are gaining a colleague and acting as a catalyst for your neighbor’s transformation. Be a listener and a learner. Engage everyone. As many as you can.
Change takes time, humility, and a
willingness to engage everyone. If you can engage even the most treacherous administrator you’re taking a right step toward sustainable change.
(Rules for Radical Teachers http://educatedtodeath.com/post/16870273089 ).
0107: That which renders us powerless, and what to do about it*
#education #revolution #SOSchat #occupy
I am an educator, and a staunch supporter of public education and teachers. However, I find it increasingly difficult to support a system(s) that, from the moment it accepts a child, seeks to disable any critical spirit of humanity and replace it with an eternal need that can only be sated by some an institution. Our systems do not create participatory individuals. They create passive recipients of services needed. This does not seem to be a new phenomenon. Schools along with other social services have supplied the needs and thoughts of America’s underclass for quite sometime now. The middle class has equally been rendered just as passive, only having been allowed the illusion that they work for their own benefit, when in actuality, the middle class is no more free to participate than the poor. The poor are assistance and/or wage-slaves. The middle class are slaves to their debts and ideologies of security. Neither class works to benefit or affect themselves.
The poor have been rendered silent by being made dependent. They schools work to tame their spirits and limit their thoughts. They are allowed only basic literacy skills and never allowed to create. Testing has helped to narrow the curriculum and keep teachers and students focused on curriculum rather than problems. This strata is kept entertained and barely comfortable. If they step out of line they are beaten into submission, ushered into prisons, or other institutions. Individuals who escape the grasp of poverty are encouraged to continue the upward climb, abandoning the problems from which they were delivered. The version of success given them was that of the oppressor, and by eliminating critical consciousness there is no need to stop an reflect on one’s actions.
The rapidly diminishing middle class has been ushered through existence with a focus on maintenance of that which has been acquired. Their social structure has allowed for an illusion of social mobility through petty promotions and similar reinforcements. Some have been able to attain varying degrees of power through higher education and business, but the middle class, with a few exceptions has remained just as powerless as the poor, they’ve just had more choices of distraction. The institutions of the middle class very much allow the illusion of participation in democracy, but their choices are often small, and predetermined, for many, by sectarian or party affiliation. Churches and other similar social institutions among the middle class help dictate beliefs of the middle class.
Many people escape into the realms of academia which equally has its own fixed ideologies and requirements for advancement.
The ruling elite are incomprehensible beyond the fact that they have no choice but to fight to maintain their own power at any cost. For the ruling body to remain the ruling body it must either forcefully or insidiously keep the masses occupied with internal conflict and struggle, along with copious distraction. The people are divided by class, race, political affiliation, misinformation, prejudice, and so forth. I do not intend to say that these are completely manufactured, but the structures in which we survive allow for the development of such fears and divisions. People who fear one another can be easily controlled.
All that said, the problem is a lack of critical consciousness among the people. People do not participate, because their participation has been meaningless in the past. We learn as school children that we are incapable of really making any decision. We are nurtured to be consumers. Information is deposited in us by teachers. Teachers simply deliver the curriculum. We are passive within our communities. We wait for things to be changed. Some of us call our congressmen and speak with their aides, but we are only one vote. Everything is provided for us. If it isn’t, we don’t know what to do.
How is this solved?
We begin by eliminating the distance between ourselves and our neighbors. Nothing will change as long as we are a nation of others. As long as I am on the side of right and everyone else is wrong, I am nothing more than a puppet of my chosen or ‘chosen for me’ ideology. We cannot continue as a divided people. As we grow closer we must become more involved. We will become more open. As we become more open, our society must, as a direct result, become more open.
The answer to this debacle is not simple or solitary. Just as the problem itself can not be isolated, neither can the solution. However, entering into dialogue, or the dialectic sort, can only serve to bring us closer together as human beings. By becoming more interconnected we must become more involved. As be become more involved we are no longer just a mass of sheep, but a force. We will become an open or a more open society.
*I must acknowledge that my ideas could never be called entirely my own. They are a culmination of my experiences with my own world, and my readings of the experience of others. I write this to acknowledge my understanding of my development as a part of a collective consciousness that is not entirely my own. My experiences have served to force me to open certain books at certain times that have either shaped me, or more likely, shaped my understanding of my own experience.
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.