Monday, February 18, 2013

0201: Coming Clean and Stirring the Pot

#education #learning #resistance #CCSS

I’ve not stopped teaching subversive things. I’ve not stopped teaching purposeful defiance—civil disobedience. Classes revolve around revolutionary actions of the past and how they’re relevant today. Through this we work to develop language and thinking skills to make action possible if the learner deems it necessary. We build foundations. Topics are selected, analyzed, possible action is discussed. I’m teaching my students. We’re also learning proper technique, comprehension skills, analysis of new media, and lots of other thing CCSS claims to have invented.

However, I’m failing by being silent in meetings—sometimes not even attending them. They’re funneling in more and more complicated ways to evaluate us. They’re demanding things be done that have no research base. They simply demand our conformity. I’ve made my class an island. I lie low and am making no waves. By the way, the “they” is the 3rd party reform company that is colonializing the school district. Our little piece of rttt.

Everything has become a crisis. They’re demanding constant group work, learning centers that be in constant use, even though most of these secondary teachers have no training in developing them. They want lecture to end entirely. Students should construct their own knowledge, but their has to be a foundation. Our students lack a lot of foundation. Years of testing has eliminated that foundation or never built it. Higher order thinking skills aren’t entirely observable on a four minute pass either. There are demands being made with no presented research, or corporate research with no correlation to our students. I’ve kept my mouth shut during meetings for the first time in my career. I’m tired of fighting a losing battle, but not speaking is doing harm. It’s allowing harm to be done with only a few being aware. Perhaps I’m silent because I’m changing locations next year. I have a senioritis of sorts. I’ve been copping out to avoid the headache.

I’ve not written out of shame. It’s time I open my mouth again. I have no purpose in this terrible business if I’m not going to challenge those who make it terrible.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

0194: Why I don’t “just find another job”

#education #occupyedu #revolution #teaching #surveillance

I have a bit of venom toward the system that employs me. It has been suggested that “if [I] don’t like it, then leave.” That suggestion discounts my reasons for staying, and indicates that I’m concerned namely with/for my own well-being. I can see how an outsider might see it that way. Alas, I am a teacher—misunderstood, angry, and often misinterpreted. Those things are constant, but I’d like to speak to ye naysayers and support those who understand because they’ve stood where I have.

To the common comment “if you don’t like it, then leave/find a new job/go to a better school/etc.” Statements such as this one seem to assume that I have dissatisfaction with the work I’m doing. Which would be true to an extent. I’m bothered greatly by the structure of the system, and the way it presents itself. School, public school, presents itself as a benevolent system aimed at making lives and communities better. This also is true to an extent. Certainly, we teachers strive for that goal. However, actions are being taken to measure our effectiveness. Also a good thing, but no one is sitting down and looking at the qualitative data to see how a child is succeeding because of her interactions throughout her schooling. The way she has developed as a human being is given no credence. The way she can read and comprehend and understand and then apply to make her world better is never considered. She is a piece of data presented by a 3rd party testing corporation that measures arbitrary bits of information to compare data set to data set. Legislation has been passed to ensure this practice continues. The data collected is required and the companies that have lobbied for such mandates profit and profit and profit. The statement that I began with assumes that what is being done with public education is actually for the benefit of the children. “If they score better on these tests, then their lives will be better, we’ll have proof.” Of course, there is no real concern for such trivial things as well being.

Yes we live in a world that equates everyone with a certain group of numbers and data. Our existence can be summed up in numbers, if we allow that to be. As teachers we must resist the pressure to dehumanize those with whom we share this world. As humans we must strive to interact as humans and not as divided beings. I will continue teaching in such a way that values the human above the test score. I cannot allow myself to see data instead of kids. This continued belief will be my professional undoing. I refuse the newly prescribed definition of teacher. Perhaps partner in humanity would be better. I’ll be a wrench in the cogs until I’m plucked from the machine.

Monday, June 4, 2012 Thursday, April 12, 2012

0147: The intoxicating power of the Test

#satire #SOSchat #education #Race2Equity #edreform

Today, I’m drunk with power. I am a test administrator, I mean a Test Administrator (proper nouns are better for powerful people). I am the tip of a finger on the hand of an arm of the State that swears on Holy things that it is just. I command students to focus on their tests, not to talk, not to sleep, to fill in bubbles and prove their worth or I am not worthy as a teacher, and the State will sever me from its hand and I will then have to beg the hand from which I was severed for food, money, an dignity. I am drunk with power and filled with despair. I am powerful but weak. I know that I am doing good while doing harm. I work for the greater good of the children. I am a master of doublethink, doublespeak, and self-preservation. I know what I believe. I believe what I am told. I injure humanity while doing “good”. If I allow even a drop of the above thought into my mind I will become an enemy of the body of which I am a part. I will no longer function properly. I will become infected and hopefully fall off. But, again, I am gifted with a masterful doublethink— an outright genius. Fitzgerald said in The Crackup that, “the mark of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in the mind at the same time without cracking up”— something to that effect. I’ve not cracked yet. I’m still harming for the good and doing good for the harm. I am a
Test Administrator. I honor the Test. I will not speak ill of the Test. I will honor security measures and will never throw the Test in the dump on the way from point A to B. I will keep students focused and remind them they are not human, but numeric. I will love the proficient and remediate the minimal. I will feed my family and remain a tip on the finger of the hand of the most just arm that keeps me as a liar, criminal, and at war with myself. God bless the Test.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

0146: Education, Big Words, and a Concerted Effort

#education #SOSchat #edreform

I have, perhaps, sullied our interaction by not offering you a window into my classroom. I’ve offered the impression of looking into other windows and unfairly describing the experiences of others. I do not wish to ever make light of the successful and hopeful experiences of others.

Unfortunately, some points cannot be made, in order to be clarified, without making some generalizations and accusations, at least at my skill level. While there are places that offer children who live well below the poverty line an equitable education, there is a plethora of others that do not. This is not to say that there aren’t teachers giving their all and busting their asses to maneuver around and through multiple impasses. Teachers, principals, and communities often do incredible things with meager resources. Many are able to do these amazing things despite punitive and restrictive top-down measures. Schools are people not buildings. I’ve taught in schools where I could see the dirt through holes in the floor, with no heat or A/C. The teachers were dedicated and gave less than a rats ass about just appeasing auditors. However, changes had to be made to ensure the school remained open, jobs were maintained, etc. Some tightening of the belt was needed, and the school began to more closely resemble a test factory. Teachers and students were dealt with more harshly. This is not an uncommon practice—not just in schools where I’ve been, but anywhere schools are in trouble. Perhaps, I digress.

I will make the commitment to you, dear reader, to open my window a little wider. And, I will commit to sharing the things I see, hear, and begin to understand. A system cannot change if we worry too much with niceties. Education, in many places for many people, is inequitable. Equally society is inequitable. We have a third world hiding in our backyards. Many do not see it. We continue to live in a place that has a significantly fossilized system of segregation. Education systems are a part of this and will continue to be until _______. Continue to offer your scrutiny and your experiences— they’re far more conducive to generating thought and change than peer review and higher institutions. It is only through authentic human interaction that we change. I, in turn, will continue to grow and learn. We must tell our stories, the story, a story. We must push, complain, fight, agree…until we find a place for all our children, people, neighbors, and anyone else seen or not. It’s up to us. Cheers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

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.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Former Teacher for America teacher shares his experience (VIDEO) #education #edreform #SOSchat

Friday, February 24, 2012

0110: I have a proposal. Teacher-Researcher-Policy Maker Hybrid?

#SOSchat #education #edreform

The course of education is charted in a strange way. Teachers teach and implement decisions made my some distant policy maker or maybe a demigod. The policy makers make decisions based on research someone did somewhere other than a classroom. The researchers are likely to be professors of maybe education, or maybe a part of some miraculously funded think-tank, or, and I had a chance to do this, by some meagerly paid ghost writer who probably needs a little money and will accept a couple of grand to do some hurried research, turn it in for review, and then have to alter the research to “better fit the needs of the organization” (won’t be doing that again— I have debt what can I say). And the cycle continues. Either way, the process is diluted, dishonest, and disconnected.

So, my proposal:

First, we alter the roles of all parties involved— researcher, policy maker, and teacher. We create a hybrid profession. Teachers will act as researchers, using their own research based practice to further develop solutions to the problem that is education. Then, they work on policy. Teachers who are researcher could go an write the policies that affect them and their students. But, what about the researchers and policy makers. They get to do the same thing. Each party works on all of it.

But, how could we do this? Teachers are underpaid, and many researchers and policy makers aren’t teachers. Exactly. We’ll deal with the pay later. Teachers become empowered when they control their own destiny. People are no different. Teachers need to be a part of making the decisions that affect them and their students. By participating in research they will undoubtedly become more reflective and analytical. The goal is to end the passivity and victimhood that often accompanies the profession. Policy makers and researchers would benefit from working in the field they are affecting. “Having worked in a field” and “working in a field” are different things. It’s easy to throw daggers if you know you’ll never be hit. And yes, I understand that there are experts. “Experts” and third parties can be helpful. It helps to have a critical eye, but the idea here is that we turn every eye critical, equally active, reflective, and productive. No longer would we have teachers, researchers, and policy makers (or reformers); rather, we would have Teacher-Researcher-Policy Makers, a brilliant hybrid of empowered and powerful educator-reformers. It would be true democracy. Now there would be many details to iron out, and much more chaff, but it’s a start. It’s a step toward democratic function.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

0109: Our Schools Have Been Hijacked: Join me in a conversation about how to take them back

#education #SOSchat #revolution #edreform

Contact me at educatedtodeath@gmail.com

What would it take to provide a “world class” education? Is it possible in the U.S. public schools system as it is? I venture to say no. If the answer is ‘no’, then what needs to be done? Is the answer in democratizing our schools? Eliminating bureaucracy? Liberating the education system from corporate control? Putting decision making power in the hands of educators?

How could some of these things be accomplished? Are they feasible goals? Would it be possible to create an alternative? Could educators create a sustainable alternative to the education system we have today? Could we have grassroots schools that taught children what they needed to know? We don’t want or need more charter schools. We don’t want corporate fingers dictating the every move of educators. We want, I believe, to provide an equitable education that creates the possibility for an open society or democracy in the future. We want an educated citizenry. We need that if we are not to fall into the clutches of some not so distant corporate totalitarian regime. Our public schools have been hijacked. It is becoming increasingly impossible to provide the education we know should be provided. What can we do? How can we take back our system or create an feasible alternative? Do we need to teach outside of school? We, the teachers, need to change this, but how. I’d like to start collecting ideas and collaborating. Let’s have a conversation. Please contact me at educatedtodeath@gmail.com . Let’s figure something out.