0183: The beauty of stepping aside
#education #teaching #revolution #SOSchat #student
I teach so my students will have the voice and the power to do what they think needs to be done. I’m passing the buck. I hope for the day when they rise up and demand equality. I hope I’m giving them the tools. I’d like to see a lot happen, but some of the things I want to see happen will not happen because of me. It’s no longer my job to change the world. It’s my job to help a few people (my students) create the tools themselves. If revolution is the outcome—good for them. If they decide I should be removed from this world during said revolution—good for them. If they choose to go in an entirely different direction that they deem worthy and fitting, then so be it.
I have my views. The kids I teach don’t get an equal portion of the pie. None of the kids I’ve worked with have. I’m a mite bit angry about it. It should be evident. That anger, as unscientific as it may be, drives my action. My passion aside, the world is theirs. My challenge is to offer the tools and get out of the way.
0182: Why doing my “job” isn’t enough
#education #testing #teaching #SOSchat
I’m a teacher. I am required to prepare students for a test the neglects to recognize their humanity, and evens asks me to neglect their cognitive development. If I focus on the test, I’m doing my job. If I oppose the test, especially in a vocal manner, I am not only neglecting my “duties”, I am shirking my ethical obligations as a state employee. However, as a teacher I have a true ethical responsibility to engage (and enable) those in my care in learning and thoughtful reflection. My job is to increase and allow free thought and independence, but my “job” is defined by the narrowing curriculum before me that exists to prop up a huge industry.
If I do my “job” of training test taking automatons rather than teaching humans, even if I was doing my job, am I guilty of lending to the (intellectual, cultural, possibly spiritual) demise of a nation? Absolutely.
0181: #Teaching and a few “Why’s”
#education #SOSchat #blogging #k12chat #revolution
I can’t put a finger on the solitary reason I teach. I believe we all do it for a slew of reasons. I know there are certain beliefs and goals behind what I do. The theory affects the practice and vice-versa.
Sharing these inner workings of my practice may seem exhibitionistic, and it may well be. Much of my blogging revolves around me pushing the inner thought outward through writing so I can be better aware of why I do what I do. Doing it publicly allows an audience to possibly benefit from my own discoveries, but more important you, if you choose are able to participate in my transformation by commenting, discussing, and so forth. So that’s the ‘why’ of what I’m doing, or at least a part of it.
Back to the vague thesis: “why I teach”. I gather this could be extended to why I blog. Teaching is a form of communication, and the more interactive, the better.
At the root of the ‘why’ is the rather lofty goal and belief in cultural revolution. That could be translated into transformation, and that might be a better term. However, I like the power and perhaps even a bit I the aggression that is embodied in the word revolution. It evokes the concept of change for and by the People. Hopefully, by writing and teaching I can be a part of shaking something loose in someone, that may shake something loose somewhere else.
Or perhaps, I teach and write stir something that will expose the need to create the skill that will lead to personal transformation in another, or more likely, myself.
There is the stark possibility that I am an attention whore, accompanied with the deeply selfish hope that I will change the world. That sounds rather megalomaniacal when written, but hey.
The above ideas are aimed at ideals and idealism, and a bit of narcissism. But, there are more immediately rewarding factors. Smaller goals that are more quickly and obviously attainable and wonderful. For instance, getting to witness a moment of discovery in another human being. Teaching (and writing) are full of tiny miracles and transformation of minds and realizations of humanity. I like to be around when that stuff happens.
Flat out, I like to teach, write, communicate, show out, and so on so forth. I have fun. It’s difficult and grueling, but it’s wonderful. I get to fight for what I believe, and I get to help other learn to fight for themselves, and realize they’re worth the fight. Teaching is full of “I get to’s”.
I could write more, and I will, but this is enough for me today.
0179: All Praise the Mighty Scantron. Back to School Y’all
#education #occupyedu @dloitz #SOSchat
School is coming back into focus. This week, as many first weeks past, will be filled with assemblies and meetings—some useful, some not. Today was what would fall into the mostly useless category, while there were better moments. We got to meet the new teachers who would be joining our staff for instance (we had a big turn over last year).
Our district wide assembly was devoted to recognizing the schools that had done well on improving test scores. There was entertainment: choirs, skits, movie clips, and the like. Teachers proudly wore their school colors. It really was a nice pep rally. We cheered when we were told we’d made AYP. There were some somber faces in the crowd. Everyone didn’t make it. But alas, we can’t all win.
Our gathering was beautiful. We congratulated each other. We clapped, cheered, and chanted. We had a celebratory meal as a district. We worshipped out gilded cow. We fell prostrate to give thanks for the learning that had taken place, and the quantitative, corporate proof we had.
We took the host, never doubting it’s authenticity, but the host is false. The bits we nibbled were nothing more than crumbs of propaganda to keep our eyes on our graven image. We celebrate a form learning. A bastard form. We did not revel in the victory of liberating creativity, or even true productivity. We celebrated a scantron. What a beautiful day.
0113: What Happened to the Learning?
#testingisnotteaching #edreform @arneduncan
I heard a veteran teacher, principal, and school board member (all the same person) speak yesterday. She entered public schools before segregation. She spoke passionately about her love of public schools. She, like many, expressed how she learned to read, write, think, speak, problem solve, cooperate, and collaborate in public schools. Her children did too. I did. I know many others who did too. What has happened? Why were we different? None of us were from the wealthy elite. I finished school just before testing became the end all be all. The school was large, mostly free lunch, and had problems, but people learned, left, became employed, went to college. This was in Mississippi by the way. The veteran educator who spoke was from an inner city district in Tennessee. Learning has happened for years. It seems to have suddenly ceased.
Did the learning stop because testing, that is the great high stakes standardized test? I couldn’t say, but then again maybe I could. Perhaps the test itself didn’t destroy the minds of a generation, but it required that it happen. Testing, as many know, has taken and continues to take every resource— mental, physical, and monetary— and put it toward some type of test preparation. Basic skills are neglected for the sake of a pacing guide. Kids aren’t able to fully learn to read or fully figure out multiplication because there is no time. Testing keeps the ball moving. Rarely can we go back and reteach. In fact, reteaching has been replaced with reviewing (the quick and shallow sibling of reteaching). The damage done from shallow, incomplete teaching is cumulative. Please be aware teachers don’t set out to teach shallowly. They/we are essentially tied to the pacing guide, or else. If a kid doesn’t fully develop as a reader in K-4, which isn’t the only focus of K-4, then other skills won’t develop. The foundation will not be there. K-4 has all sorts of testing rigors as well. Kids and teachers are stressed, learning is not allowed to be complete, and kids have to move forward without ever having built a proper foundation for learning. This lack of foundation snowballs into myriad other problems from academic deficiency, to behavior problems leading to in school arrests, and the school-to-prison pipeline continues.
The effects of testing are broad and can be summed up through the stories of those teachers, students, communities, and a nation affected by the attention deflected from actual education in the name of a test.
0174: #Teaching, a noble profession? In a noble field?
#education #SOSchat #occupyedu
A friend of mine and I were discussing an assessment class he is taking to complete his teacher certification. He said, “It feels like an homage to standardized testing, and everyone’s buying it—even the professor.” We’ve had numerous discussions along this line throughout his teacher education training. A topic that resurfaces time and again is the propaganda that is shared, spewed, and reiterated from some of his should be mentors. Other professors are a little more straight forward. “It’s like they’re pumping us up to go into battle,” he mentioned, “they tell us what we’re doing is noble, but I don’t know if I agree.”
His crisis is valid. We are members of a profession that is called noble by those within, without, and above; and then demonized by those same people. But, above all we’re taught, pumped up, to believe what we’re doing is noble, especially if we’re following the rules, keeping quiet, and maintaining the status quo.
So is it a noble profession? Is education a noble field? I’d like to think so, I’ve given a nice hunk of my life to it. What are we to make of what we’re taught to think? How do we tease the good from the bad? I’ll do my best to do some personal teasing, what I don’t do, or do wrong, you can work on.
The field of education is not in and of itself noble. The system itself is quite corrupt and at least highly dysfunctional. It works for some, and leaves quite a few more with scraps and in the cold. Could the Wobbly adage “An injury to one is an injury to all” be applicable to inequitable system? It most certainly could and should. Our system and its mechanisms are inviting attitude that would oppose this line of thinking. “My school functions well”, “My students have good scores.”,”I’m a good teacher.” might function as rationale to demonize or at least disregard the experience of another teacher as bad, ill-informed, or dysfunctional. Perhaps this is why the field is not noble. There is no merit in supporting one’s neighbor. As if the notion of “neighbor” were permitted in many of these testing factories. How many of us have experienced teacher isolation simply because we were to busy.
If the field, as is, is not noble, then what is to be gleaned from this trash heap? Some schools, districts, teachers, and students thrive. Others struggle to stay afloat, but they give it their all. There is no accounting for the myriad reasons why some students do better than others, though there is ample research to say why. We know that some teachers are more effective than others, at times, and at other times are just as useless as the worst of us—at least that’s how we might feel if we’re honest. So where is the nobility?
It’s in the people, of course. It’s in our willingness to fight, though not always on a unified front, for our students. It’s in the ability to see beyond one’s own classroom, no matter how difficult, and support and understand a struggling colleague (near or far). It’s in our ability to do what we know is best, because we are professionals and we have critical minds, despite what we are told is best. This system is failing because the best interest of the stakeholders is not guaranteed by its biggest investors.
Our power is in our refusal to be pawns, and our refusal to swallow the pill. What’s best for profits is not what’s best for kids. We are noble when we teach critically. We are noble when we stand for the learners in our care. We are strong together.
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.
0170: Dear teachers, students, and other dissidents
#education #SOSchat #revolution #occupyedu
We’ve been conditioned to do nothing more than consume. While we hear whispers of competing in a global market, and communicating and collaborating on a grand scale, these are but whispers. These are whispers that are intended to silence the would be revolutionaries and sate those of us who are just progressive enough to hope and reflect, but too weak and fearful to act. For years we’ve been subtly conditioned to love the machine that oppresses us. We’re taught to feed it. We teach others to do the same. If we don’t, we’re written off as lunatics or ineffective. As some of us grow weary of lies we become restless and a mite bit bold. We approach the curtain that conceals the fool who claims to be the wizard. We’ve been taught to be blind and love the lie.
If you see or are beginning to see you must do what you can to resist. If you are a teacher, you are the one’s to whom I primarily write, you must do whatever is in your power to lay yourself on the cogs of this machine and disrupt the standardization and massification of the people. Problematicize your lessons. Teach critically. Reject the doublethink and speak that perpetuates the current system.
The specifics of your own action is to be fleshed out by you. I offer no direction other than an idea that may function either as a catalyst or encouragement. You may dismiss me as a fool or embrace me as a friend. I do not intend to be neutral and neither should you. Cheers friends, and happy reflecting.