0172: The Sullied Good We Do: Teachers as Cogs in the Machine
By the very nature of our position as teachers we have the ability to do many wonderful things. We equally have the power to do great harm, with or without intention. Our system of compulsory education is at the very least imposing, beyond that it serves to colonialize and massify every soul that passes through its machinery.
These statements and ideas are bothersome as they serve to split me, the teacher and human, in half. They indict me of some unconscious atrocity committed at whim my own hands. Further, by making such statements I run the risk of alienating myself from anyone who finds them as offensive as I do, and guarantee that I will be misunderstood on some level. But, I believe the duality of our profession holds truths well worth bearing witness to. To not notice the dual nature of what we do would be negligent. By understanding it better and our role within it, we are better able to disrupt what needs disrupting and bring forth our more valuable attributes.
My intent is not to expose some conspiracy by some powerful few; rather, I want to understand my role in a system that functions beyond the intention of the pieces that work within it. It’s a system that is both benevolent and useful, and equally harmful. There are aspects that enlighten and liberate, and suppress and colonialize. Unfortunately, as the tiniest pieces of this machine, teachers, it is not always possible to decide how our duties will be carried out, besides outright rebellion.
I debate whether I should provide a laundry list of specific characteristics of the machine, its cogs, and their functions. I think this would be trite, as we all have our own understandings that hopefully are perpetually changing. The truth I put forth is simply that, my understanding of the truth. I challenge you as a teacher, human, thinker to examine your understanding of your role within the system. Be honest in seeking the good you do, and the atrocities, no matter how small, you commit. Honest reflection is a means purging and pruning anything unnecessary or ill.
I will make one solid indictment of the system, its teachers, and consequently myself: all children are not served equally; some experience great gains, others have experiences that are detrimental to the educational, personal, and public lives.
As we are cogs in a machine, so is the education system. Blame and intention are too minute to tease from the grand playground. Disrupt what you can, and be conscious.
0158: Not Myself: A Critique of My Schizoid* Practice
#education #SOSchat #teaching
I anticipate this post being rough for me. I have some personal criticisms of my own practice as of late. I espouse a democratic classroom. I expect my students to participate in the decision making process, engage in discussion, disagree, agree, and so forth. The class should have a dialogic motor so to speak. I’ve run my classes this way as a choral and music history teacher, I did the same when I taught algebra. It is notable, that the classroom do not always function in a democratic fashion. There have always been times when I’ve limited freedoms and resembled a despot more than a facilitator of learning. In all cases the despot comes out when I feel pressure, external or internal, or when I just get stressed out.
The year is nearing an end. Spring concerts are fast approaching. There’s one more round of standardized tests with which I will undoubtedly be involved. The school has benchmarks to meet to prevent a state takeover. I’m a part of those efforts too. The kids are tired, thus a little unruly. Personally, money’s tight. I’m busy. Blah, blah. The life of a teacher. And, it seems I’ve uncovered some of my problem.
Allowing a class to run democratically requires trust. It requires me to relinquish power and collaborate, rather, than me enforcing my authority. With the risk of straying from my topic I’ll pose a thought. It seems that teaching in some settings/situations/etc. requires or forces a sort of schizoid nature. I’m required to do one thing while believing the opposite. As of late my classroom practice has been the opposite of what I prefer and believe is best. Am I to excuse it with “I’m just doing what I have to do?” Is it the nature of the “system” that is forcing me into a crushing state of doublethink? Am I just being lazy? Am I caught between conflicting sets of expectations?
I’ve arrived at questions. I know things will lighten up soon. But, in the meantime I hate to do harm.
* I struggled between the word schizoid and duplicitous for the title. The informal definition better reflect my sentiment here, as I want to reflect on a the conflicting and disparate elements of my actions as a teacher. Duplicitous reflected a more deliberate and malicious state of being.