Friday, January 24, 2014

Thank you for sharing this.  It moves me to tears every time I here it. I first heard before I started teaching.  It has meant more and more to me through the years.  

piapplepi:

gneissteacher13:

Every teacher should remember this

I just got chills. THANK YOU FOR FINDING AND SHARING THIS. #powertothateachas

Thursday, January 23, 2014

No. 2 #Resistance in the classroom: Starting Small

Micro-resistances. The after my my first few years of teaching I discovered freire, alinsky, and a few more along those lines. Revolutionary ideas flowed easily. His lovely translated words meant things. Prefaces and introductions to his writings were also chock full of words and phrases I could use. Phrases about empowerment, revolution, resistance, and maybe an ultimate change that was down the road. That if “I” could organize our teachers, communities, etc. something big could happen. I thought I was doing this work. 
I was resisting, yes, but in a different way. While I hoped for something grand - a total and permanent revolution, at least in education - I was hard after another sort of work. My students were too. I think they were more aware than I. 
We, daily, carried out micro-revolutions and micro-resistances by engaging in tiny acts of defiance. One kid might refuse to pick up her pencil when told the first time, another might ask a question completely unrelated to the topic. How ridiculous that I probably got annoyed with this from time to time. There was ample time to chase rabbits. I couldn’t see it then all the time. I see differently now. My daily resistance was wrapped up in openly deconstructing the curriculum and the structure with the learners. I didn’t know the word deconstruction then. Hell, I barely know it now, but I feel it. Basically, I made it a goal to be honest with my learners. If we thought something like the test for instance, or some of the punitive decisions made by administration were rash or unnecessary (they all were), then we’d talk about it with as a class. We’d think/talk about why these things were problematic. Why the test related to disciplinary action. Why school felt like a prison. Why none of us could leave when we wanted. 
These “why’s” were usually prompted by a student question. I suppose I was resisting also by allowing such questions to be asked. It wasn’t uncommon for such questions, questions!, to result in a trip to the office in some   other classes. I recall getting into trouble as a child over such questions. These defiant acts of questioning(?) we’re usually punished with a paddle, ISS, or at least a phone call home. Punishing questioning and criticism. Wow.
It should be pointed out too, that the hands of administration seemed to be tied too. Everyone there was doing their best to not crumble under the weights of myriad policies/rules/dung, or be pulled apart by the day to day struggles of keeping a school/prison running as smoothly as possible. There’s something wrong…
I never did anything of use that wasn’t out of some sort of defiance.  Teach to alter the curriculum/environment of my classroom.  Resist the vomit yellow cinder block walls and make a classroom an inviting place to learn and explore whether Old Father Curriculum told us to or not.  By making a classroom a place to chase rabbits and follow lines of flight into amazing territory AND still managing to cover the curriculum and have kids pass or improve on their test scores (#idontcondonetestscores) we learned, we had a good time.  We suffered together.  Experienced loss together.  Hope and joy.  These moments aren’t written in to the curriculum.  And there certainly isn’t time allotted.  These stolen moments are the moments when we approach what is truest and most wonderful about teaching: the moment when we all forget that we are student and teacher, the moment when we become human together.  The moment we remember we aren’t there to memorize and regurgitate State defined rubbish.  It’s the moment when we all experience life/humanity/existence/turmoil/resolve together.  In these moments teaching ceases to be a learned method or formula, and becomes human interaction and exchange.  Togetherness and other seeming warm fuzzies. It’s funny that authentic learning (you define it) is not valued by the curriculum which shapes nearly everything we do in our classrooms, whether we resist or not.  Not resist, choose not to repeat and reproduce what is not useful or beneficial, or refusing to be defined by a narrow definition.  
Friday, January 17, 2014 Monday, January 13, 2014

No. 1 To Hope, New Teachers, and Re-awakenings #education #learning

I started this blog a little more than two years ago to voice what I was experiencing in my classroom and the systems I had worked in and was working in at the time.  I didn’t know where to start, I just needed a place to shout from.  After shouting for awhile a few folks started shouting back.  Finally one of them (adventuresinlearning.tumblr.com)  invited me to come shout with a group of other shouters (coopcatalyst.wordpress.com) and the rest of the tumblr education group).  This made a tremendous difference in my life as a teacher - and a person, and on and on.  Connecting to you expanded my increasingly myopic view. Stress, burnout, and cynicism from teaching in less than perfect communities and systems had narrowed my view and weakened my soul.  I felt like I was done. 

As many do, I left the public school system with the hope of untangling my experience/s and hopefully opening up some new possibilities for others.  The future is, of course, unclear.  I sorely missed teaching face-to-face.  Interacting with my students, fellow teachers and being a part of the communities I served.  It was disillusioning.  I had jumped from one isolating system to what seemed like another.  I was wrong - about both institutions (being wrong is a skill that is cultivated with age and humility I suppose).  
My path crossed with former students over the holiday as I travelled to visit family and friends.  One was a student from the very first class I taught.  The other was from my most recent public school teaching experience.  The first was such a surprise.  I didn’t know if I’d ever reconnect with that group of kids.  S is now a few years into college and is doing marvelously.  I’m so happy.  D is also doing well.  He’s in a new school in a new district (I started educatedtodeath while in his former district) and is thriving - “killing it,” he said.  I told them both that I was about to start teaching soon to be teachers, and that I was nervous about it.  I asked D, “Where do I start? I know the content, but what do I teach?”  He replied, “Just be honest like you were with us.  You had bad days and good days.  We did too.  But you were always straight with us.”  Where did this 10th grader get so much wisdom? Brilliant.  So I’ll have a go at that.  
I’m coming back to this blog as a new teacher.  A teacher of teachers.  They are marvelous people with such hope in their eyes that I can’t help but start seeing a bit of that same spark in my own when I glance in the mirror.  They all have lives that are on hold - electricians, geologists, scientists, camp counselors, missionaries, athletes, musicians, coaches, students, and on and on - as they are working to become teachers.  They can’t wait to get their own classrooms.  I’m looking back and they’re looking forward.  We’re going to learn quite a bit together.  
I’m teaching them about literacy in the content areas, and I’m hoping to facilitate this through blogging and other social media outlets.  In other words, I’m sending them to you, the way I went, to learn from masters - I’ll put my two bits in along the way as well. The network I built changed me tremendously.  My voice and experience is just that, mine.  We need each other.  I thank you for your support, and ask that you will join in support for these brilliant minds.  Thank you and cheers.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

0207: On Blogging as a #Teacher - #Learner

#blog #education

I have taken a valuable break from the blogosphere. I think this break has allowed me to distance myself from my blogging and consider the value of blogging: in general with value manifesting itself in the practice and mind of the blogger; blogging in terms of value to a greater community of bloggers, i.e., my (every blogger’s) contributions are valuable to the community and co-construction of knowledge; and value to me as a consumer of other bloggers writing an experience. We shape each other beautifully. This was most helpful to me as a teacher. My position in education has changed, but the value of this will not.

More benefits from my hiatus: I’ve considered some of the ethical implications of blogging, especially within the world of education blogs. The things we say have weight, potentially. Our position in popularity rankings etc. give us tremendous influence over consumers of the things we put forth. Should this limit what we say? I don’t think so. While I-you may have influence, it is our combined contributions that have power. Blogs are not static. They are not books on which a society may someday be built; rather, they are a portion of dynamic thought that shows our growth or changing as connected individuals who work in convert for change of some sort.

How has blogging helped you?

Friday, May 10, 2013

0206: To Hell with Curriculum, the Joy is in the Interaction

#education #revolution #occupyedu

I’ve devoted much of the past decade either preparing to teach or teaching. Never once have I been interested in being called a teacher. My sole interest, though often disrupted, has been to interact with other humans and share my love of learning—my love of becoming more and more human. I took my first job as an algebra teacher even though I was less than qualified with the subject matter in a relatively dangerous school just so I could share what had been shared with me through the years. I’ve taught different subjects, but have found the same joy of sharing with people. I teach what I know. They teach what they know. Each party grows a little. To Hell with the curriculum; education lies in the interaction.

Anything useful I have taught has been through honest interaction. In these moments I didn’t act as a pious sage. I was simply human. It never came from a book, although it often directed learners or myself to some source. Lessons aren’t prepared, they develop. My education on how to education was far different from what I am asked to enforce by administrators and evaluators. I’m asked to control kids and numb them with useless talk and practice that can be tested. The system of which I am a part is bunk and harmful to children and humanity. I am less convinced each day that there is any reform that can fix mess of a system—this beast of a machine. There are countless caring and well meaning educators whose efforts are thwarted by a brilliantly vile system. Cheers to you all. I need to make a step in a direction for the sake of myself and those around me. I want to share this life with thoughtful humans not mauled by a machine. What to do friends?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

0205: #Teachers accountable to teachers: busting #bureaucracy organically

#education @coopcatalyst #occupyedu

Suppose we looked at teacher accountability in a new way? I propose we trust teachers—a little laissez-faire education if you will. This might require higher pay and a serious look at teacher education and quality, but it’ll balance itself out. With less money thrown at testing and corporate remediation materials plus the slew of highway robbers and scripted consultants there would be billions leftover for real improvement.

Let’s start by looking at real professional learning communities like tumblr education or Cooperative Catalyst (http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/). These are communities of educators who engage in constant self-assessment and community growth. They are teachers who challenge each other to be better teachers. There is constant debate and discourse. The collective knowledge and understanding of the teaching practice is ever growing and changing—it’s a lovely organism.

Teachers can be professionals. We are. Put it in our laps. We’ll make the changes. Hell, give us a politician to answer to, just see to it that we’re making the decisions. Many of us do anyway. The education revolution begins with us. It’s our ability to engage and organize—not politically, but intellectually, dialectically, and professionally?— that enables us to make tremendous changes with or without the support of our beloved bureaucrats.

Change occurs in our classrooms. It is spawned from our learning communities. Let’s keep pulling others in. You have made all the difference in my career.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

0204: Yes Men say “No”. An accreditor tells the Truth

#education #ccss #occupyedu

I was asked to sit on a panel of teachers to represent my school district during the accreditation process. I assume I was chosen because I am eager to speak in meetings and apparently speak well. This makes me think my administration has only enjoyed the sound of my voice and not the content of my O so bold oration.

I noticed quickly that I was in a room full of yes men and women who teach in the more affluent schools in our district. They all smiled and sat nicely. They were there to be slaughtered like good little lambs. The team of teachers surrounding me, my co-teachers, were, not unlike me worse for wear and doubting. Lips pursed, eyebrows cocked, notepads out. We were prepared for whatever we were going to he expected to swallow without question. Of course, my group did not act in complete accord. One just parroted off whatever was expected. Another would nod in agreement with the rest of the flock.

This accreditation team is from Advanced Ed, a voluntary “quality assurance” company that comes in for a hefty price and helps ensure that schools are quantitatively meeting standards. They provide services ranging from professional development to teacher evaluations to curriculum development to brainwashing desperate administration. The people on the teams I have met are high paid zealots who offer instruction in best practices from corporate research done in schools far different from the ones they are currently serving. This is no shock. I’ve been impressed with their ability to stick to their script even when challenged. They utilize a method similar to Bill O’Reilly’s when challenged. They simply repeat their original point in a different tone and then say “well we don’t have time to continue this” or “for the sake of time we have to move on”. But they’re generally nice people.

Back to the meeting and the flock.

We were asked general questions regarding the state of our facilities, safety on campus, professional development related to Common Core, whether or not the professional development was useful, and many more. Most people nodded along in agreement with the flock.

And then we were asked if we thought our kids were prepared for college and/or the “real world” when they left or high school. The flocked bleated, “Yes”. They provided examples, “I am a product of this district and I was more than ready.” Several referenced themselves as examples.

I asked the “accreditors” who were superintendents from other states if they thought the students leaving their districts were prepared. They paused and looked at one another. I continued, “is it possible with the way things are segmented, and the focus on testing and extreme standardization for anyone to leave a school completely prepared?” The other teachers in the room began speaking. One shouted out, “I teach at the community college in the summers. Our students almost always have to enter remedial reading courses.” Another offered her child as an example stating how his first year of college was devoted to college prep courses.

The accreditors said we had to move on, but first he said: “off the record, we’re all in trouble.” And was back to the agenda. It was an interesting moment to see a stone face break for a moment. It was a nice moment of breaking from the flock for the teachers around me. It’s nice to see a Yes Man say no.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Are schools and our educational system intended to benefit children and communities? #edchat

Thursday, April 4, 2013

0203: Is stealing bad if your family is starving? Cheating on tests.

#education #ATL #testing

The current testing cheating scandal in Atlanta makes a strong statement, not about the integrity of those involved in cheating, but about the system that puts such pressure on teachers and administrators to produce results that they are pushed to ethical limits.

Cheating is quite the temptation in schools and districts that serve low SES populations—not all. They’re often down or behind from the start. Resources aren’t always available or as available. Teaching staff often has troubles. Students don’t always have a consistent education as kids with other resources/different SES levels might. Of course, problems with cheating aren’t limited to the poorest schools. But, if anyone will be caught it will be among these.

This will certainly be used to further demonize educators and administrators. This is a scandal that is not isolated. It happens all over. The culture testing has created is terrible. I’ve heard people tattle on others and themselves. I’ve known people to lose their license for cheating. I’ve seen teachers go before tribunals because vomit was on a test booklet. The whole thing is a farce. Testing and accountability are one thing but this is a culture of madness. It’s some creepy fascist society.

Who benefits from putting these people in prison or prosecuting them? They were trying to survive. Desperate times often force bad ethical decisions. The tests certainly don’t benefit the kids. We neglect them educationally, socially, emotionally, etc. just to keep our own heads above water.

There are myriad things wrong with our system. It would be nice if this spectacle would do something besides sully the name of educators further. Unfortunately the money and power to defame is not in our favor.