0075: Re: The US Third World, Its Children, and the Obligation of Educators
#teaching #poverty #literacy #revolution #occupy
I teach, like many of you, invisible children in an invisible neighborhood. They are, to many, the nameless, faceless children of the third world within these United States. They will grow up witnessing violence and drug use. They will be victims of violence. They will commit acts of violence. They will be victims of every sort of abuse imaginable. They will be unemployed and incarcerated. Many have been incarcerated many times already, some as young as ten years old. They are told that a good education is the way out of their situation, but they are served a steady, non-critical diet of tests and test preparations. They are passed from grade to grade without every fully becoming literate. They’re born into an unfair playing field that has a glass ceiling. Their schools are often filled with well-meaning, but overwhelmed teachers who fear for their jobs and are thereby tied to the test training program. The students who need critical thinking skills are taught to consume. They are taught to listen and not speak. They are taught that if they do speak no one will hear. They are taught that no one has time to listen because there is a test in the near future that is more important than their needs as human beings. The school system that has taken over the job of Parent neglects them emotionally and spiritually.
These offenses to humanity are evident to teachers and others who struggle within these environments. But to many, they are legends and ghosts. The learners in these schools are without voices to bear witness to the injustices they endure. Their voices are never developed by the people who are in the position to aid in their development. They are too busy following orders to nurture the curious minds at their feet.
The American Third World is silenced by the system that claims to give it a voice. Oppression is allowed by making oppression incomprehensible. Teachers must teach critically. They must turn their attention to helping learners come to an understanding of the systems economic, educational, political that perpetuate their oppression. It is our job as teachers to bear witness to the injustice before us, and give voices to the voiceless. It is not acceptable to simply “teach” according to plan. Teaching must be authentic and problem based. The curriculum provided is sufficient only to keep a segment of society starving and dependent.
Teaching is a revolutionary act. It transcends curriculum, test scores, and systems. Teachers bear witness. Readers do the same. Education is a tool for social mobility, but only when learning occurs— only when learning is critical.
Yours very truly,
0073: #Education as Utopia, or Heaven, or Not so boring, or Humanizing
#SOS #revolution #teaching
If I had my way, if schools were to slide from the dystopian clutches of training and ennui, then how would they look? I struggle to produce an image, and I find it hard to recall what I know about how people really learn and function. But, here goes.
We’ll start with the teachers. Teachers would work together, and now just during rare and pointless faculty meetings. Teachers would plan, teach, and reflect together. It would be a team effort. Subjects would not be segmented, they would work in concert to solve problems, some real and some invented for simulation. So, I suppose all curriculum would be problematicized, problem-based learning. Of course, basics would be taught, literacy, math, etc. And, those basics would be mastered. But, while they were being mastered real problem solving would be in progress. Teachers and students would work in collectives to solve problems. I think that would suffice as curriculum. People would all have strengths and weaknesses, different strengths and weaknesses, and strengths would be used, and some weaknesses would be strengthened or forgotten (teachers included). Additionally, something practical and tangible would come from the work done in school, a product, new information, perhaps money, something other than a score. Decisions would be made democratically. That means the role of principal and upper administration might no longer exist. That might mean teacher training would have to be different. It might exclude or include some from the teaching field. Teachers would have to be devoted to the process, and self-disciplined. Education would be participatory. No top-down bullshit.
I would love for the building to look different, less institutional. It’s a problem when schools and prisons use the same aesthetic. What if schools weren’t confined to specific buildings? Perhaps there was a building, but more time was spent elsewhere. What if we did more? What if we performed and produced instead of just sitting and getting? What if? What if? What if, these were realities and not what ifs? I know I’d be more eager. I’d teach forever. Changes must be made, and not just bandaid reforms. It’s not the curriculum. It’s not just the bureaucracy. It’s the whole damn system. The intention is wrong. People need to thrive, not just survive. How can this change? Who will change it?
0069: A reflection on a humanizing moment in #teaching
Amidst the hustle and bustle of education reform, curriculum changes and concerns, focus on the problems of education, my bleak twitter feed, and world turmoil I forget about the here and now. I forget that I’m in a classroom within a school working alongside brutally devoted teachers who deal with the same concerns. We don’t get to chat too often. Many have been in the field for years and have stood strong not because they believe in the education system, but because they believe in humanity— and believe in the children they teach even more.
One of these veteran teachers who is now an academic coach and former principal in another district visited my class today just to impart some wisdom to a group of teenagers who seem to be pissing away some opportunities. She devoted much of her talk to the importance of self-discipline over having others enforce their behavior. She was kind and patient with these student. She amazingly humanized herself before them sharing that while teachers are adults, and perhaps an opposing force, that they are human as well. She shared some of her own recent troubles she had endured. She spoke with the students, not to them. It was a beautiful moment. They were shocked to make such a connection with someone who seems like a distant figure. I am grateful for the lessons I learn from my fellow educators in kindness and humanity.
0059: What does the #occupy movement mean for educators? Who are the educators?
#OWS #teaching #revolution
Is the occupy movement the rallying of the troops before a revolution? Or will the regime just topple? I think we are all on the edge of our seats, or in the streets, filled with hope. This is a hard time for all of us, but for once there is a unified us. I am young, but I feel like I have neighbors, true neighbors, everywhere. The occupy movement is clearly a major movement and a seemingly unique movement with broad implications for a broad group of people— the 99 percent. And, it matters as much to 18 year olds as it does to 80 year olds. We all are stakeholders in this vast place we call our country. We all give a damn.
I’ve been trying to figure out what this movement means to me, a teacher in an urban southern middle school, or, what it would have meant to me when I was teaching in a really rural school. First, the results of this movement, if it continues, will come slowly. This idea of social, cultural, and economic revolution is highly viscous. It was not born in September, nor will it suddenly die. This movement is the culmination of a group of people who have voices who have been trampled steadily and slowly for quite some time. I expect this movement to be more than just a unit in a textbook. Perhaps, it will be the end of the textbook. Maybe it will bust the textbook companies and text will become relevant to the people who read it. Maybe this movement will continue to affect people in such a way that they realize they are capable of contributing to culture. That society belongs to them. It is certainly teaching us to communicate. It is teaching us that we are actually a people. We are not as distant as we were a year ago.
I don’t know the impact on the system of education this movement will have. But I see it changing our perceptions. It is an infectious and transformative idea that is burning. If anything we are looking at each other differently. We are idealists. But, our thoughts are not without deed. We are undefined, but are stronger in our mutual existence. We are peaceful, but not silent, and certainly not passive. We are the educated. We are being educated. We are educating. We are the people. And, we are the revolution. We are awake!
0058: On Silence, Education, and the Community
#school #community #silence
I am always amazed by the responses I get from people when I tell them what I do. All I do is teach children who are invisible in our society. Thy are part of an underclass of people that have been segregated into their own schools and neighborhoods so the safe and wealthy don’t have to see them. They’re neatly tucked away and punished with excessive testing and remediation so they will never see the light of the great white world. Beyond testing and a second rate education they are criminalized. Many enter seventh grade with a parole officer and a healthy criminal record. Some of these records began with a fight at school that could have been avoided with a little more supervision, or had other measures been taken ahead of time to address the problems that result in violence. Or, we could choose not to send little kids away in a cop car. There are no 7 year old criminals, maybe assholes, but not criminals. The odds are brutally stacked against these kids. And, the fact that many people don’t bother to understand that these are people with tough lives and not criminals making their own lives tough doesn’t help matters. Prejudice is strong in our world. So is ignorance, and it doesn’t belong to the poor people of our neighborhoods. The ignorant are the ones who choose blindness, and perpetuate the mentality that people are divided into us and them. We gotta open our mouths and open our eyes.
“Our merciless silence is deafening, and threatens the longevity of our social history.”
- from ‘Teachers as Cultural Workers’ by Paulo Freire
0048: Education for the Prevention of Transforming Thought: Keep the Chain Short
#sschat #teaching #oppression
I wonder to what extent the elimination of social studies and civics in many schools has done to the detriment of our students. If it hasn’t been eliminated it has been downplayed by the fact that it is not a tested subject. The civics class has in many cases become a place to practice for the Language Arts portions of standardized tests. Kids in these social studies classrooms read page after page of arbitrary material and answers multiple choice questions in the format of their multiple choice standardized test.
The social studies classes I attended in my K-12 experience varied from involved and project based, to simply copying definitions and learning dates. The classes I see now do even less. The students I see each day are not learning history even. They learn a few factoids and discard them. There is no relation made to the students’ lives or concerns. It is, in many cases, a class with no meaning. I’ve found music class to be the perfect place to engage students in civic discussions, although when I taught Algebra for those years it was the perfect place. But, over the years I’ve noticed a disturbing pattern. Students know have not really learned anything about important social movements that are very important to the state of human freedom in our country. Additionally, they lack the language to engage in meaningful discussions about these events. The civil rights movement is limited to a single sentence definition and a date. Freedom is a word that is arbitrarily related to our flag. And, these are difficult concepts and require a lot of background knowledge and experience to fully grasp them.
What is wrong with the picture? Inequality is rampant in our schools and societal stratification. The people who need the ability to discuss inequality are not exposed to the language to do so. Perhaps, they are kept away from the language. Maybe everyone is kept from the concept so no one will bother intervening. But, intervention is only so powerful. The individual needs the power. The “interventionist” or teacher or organizer needs to be able to walk away quickly so the people will take over for themselves and do the things they need. So, denying our students exposure to these concepts in that classroom and school systems is preventing the question of say equality or freedom from ever being born. Is that the goal, or is it just an unfortunate side effect?
0041: An Educator’s Guide: Learning to consume together! (Hey, what about creating together?)
#teaching #edchat #rebellion #consumer
Each day students awaken from their sweet dreams in their rich and peaceful 3 car garage homes in white neighborhoods and come to schools where their reveries can continue. Because of their natural privilege they are allowed to enter classrooms that have a marvelous curriculum of consumption. Fortunate students are blessed to “sit-and-get” knowledge each day that will allow them to perform well on their standardized tests. These standardized tests allow them to be given numeric values as human beings. Note: there is nothing more humanizing than a numeric value. These numeric values allow them to be properly sorted for better processing. It helps the schools decide how much remediation material to purchase. Luckily, almost everyone needs remediation materials of some sort. Numbered people need remediation. Usually these remedial people have strange behavior patterns that must be managed. They often squirm around and try to force their teacher-depositor to chase rabbits. The chasing of rabbits is strictly prohibited, as it distracts from what is truly important. If these remedial humans continue to chase rabbits, they can be remediated with medication. Then they will no long distract from what is important. Sometimes the teachers need remediation, especially if they insist on wasting time with discussing and reteaching material that was already consumed at its determined time on the pacing guide. These teachers usually learn to behave with a simple reprimand, but many of them need to be put on improvement plans. We must accept that the curriculum is designed and scheduled by someone who is an absolute expert. They specialize in curriculum mapping. They know the curriculum. That’s their only job. They don’t have time to waste with students and pesky misbehaving teachers. Sometimes, too, principals try to interfere with the process of organizing the numbered individuals, by defending certain practices that rebellious teachers implement. These rogue principals can usually be reprimanded, or relocated, or terminated. So, there’s no need to worry there.
It’s of the utmost importance that we as educator-depositors remember to avoid collaboration and discussion with our peers. We have consumers to groom. We must model, by properly swallowing each pill we are given. Lead by example, they say. And, we shall! Be a leader. Lead by following. We have consumers to groom.
Finally, we must remember that the task of creation should always go to someone else. This could also be said for collaboration. Education should not concern itself with creation or collaboration. Consumption is the goal. Otherwise, our economy will fail and we will have to rely on one another. How awful.
0030: For the Love of Pete, Stop the Assembly Line! #teaching
Strikes have worked in the past as a means of making the assembly line a better place to work— higher pay, lunch breaks, better hours, enough money to buy all the nice things we rich teachers like to buy. The last I heard every teacher drives a Benz and eats every meal at 5 star restaurants. But our great wealth is not why I write. And in case some high authority comes across this post— we are not rich and can barely afford the basics. I digress. The assembly line does not need to be improved. It needs to be STOPPED and DISASSEMBLED. Our system is a relic from a past time, when the future was guaranteed, and Ford prevailed. We know all this. The system is going to take years to finally die out. So what can we, who are still on the line, do?
We certainly don’t want to just stop production. We want the little cogs that we put on the machine to do their part. We want the end product to be a critical thinking, critical consumer and producer to be the final product. We want to send forth independent thinkers who will become our neighbors and colleagues. But, all this is not the end result of the assembly line. The assembly line produces blindly consuming automatons— perfectly standardized in every way. So what do we do? I propose a rebellion of sorts. Teach your prescribed curriculum as a small part of your practice. Teach it within the framework of critical education. Perhaps the budding learners can spend time analyzing the shortcomings of the curriculum. Teach about testing as a means of oppression and segregation. When I was teaching algebra we did this. We learned algebra, and we learned social theory, and the reality of the problems of standardization. These kids were poor black kids in rural Mississippi, by the way. Every student I have taught has had a vague understanding of the injustice they experience everyday simply by attending school. They are never ignorant of inequality; they might not know how to express it, but they are acutely aware. Coursework should focus on the state objectives, of course. Kids should learn algebra, grammar, reading, social studies, and so forth. They should learn the Hell out of it. And, then they should have a healthy dose of social foundations of education. All this should all be combined into one huge think-tank you call your class. Social media should be taught anytime you get the chance, and the faces of school board members, politicians, and Arne Duncan should be shared so the kids will know whose asses to kick when they fully realize their own power. We, the teachers of the oppressed kids of America, must make these kids the most powerful people in the world. We must help them by allowing them to awaken and realize their own genius. It’s tough, and there will be headaches and Xanex, but for the love of our own futures we must stop the assembly line.