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.
0118: The Test, Writing for Change, and Practice
#education #revolution #SOSchat
Testing, high-stakes testing, is a fact of life in public education. I struggle with what stance to make in my writing, speaking, and day-to-day interactions with teachers. As educatedtodeath I have chosen to take an idealistic stance. This is not to say that the writing is not based in action. It is a combination of reflection and action future, present, and past. I write with the intention of growing my own practice and hope to have some greater impact, either by spawning a desire for transformation, revolution, or wakefulness in a reader, or by affirming the thoughts of another. Beyond that, and more important, I write to know what I think, and to participate in a larger conversation about where education needs to go and how to get there. I know how things are. They need to be changed from within.
As a speaker, though I have reduced my speaking tremendously this year, I try to lend practical solutions to pressing problems and lend some insight into bending the rules; that is, really teaching and preparing for the test at the same time. I try to focus on sharing my knowledge and experience with best practices in teaching. I want teachers to see that they are already implementing best practices. Sometimes they need some tweaking, but mainly teachers need to see what they’re doing right. We examine parallel curriculums and ways to quickly scaffold lacking skills to build efficacy among struggling students. We all need to know how to navigate this screwy system. We can’t do that thinking we have nothing to offer. We certainly can’t do it if we’re being crushed under the weight of the almighty test and the minions that seek to make it the Way.
As a teacher, I work to navigate the system as best as I can. I’ve always enjoyed slipping in and out of things, accomplishing someone else’s goals and the important things simultaneously. When they can’t be accomplished together it’s time to call bullshit. I’ve called bullshit, and I try to call it daily. But, I digress. My teaching practice revolves around learning for transformation, for teachers and students. It requires that we look at the test as a very present threat. It is here, we have to deal with it. We have to, “whip it”, but the test cannot be our master. No student should have their soul crushed in the name of the test. I’m sure I’m guilty of letting that happen. I can only strive to prevent that.
My writing here is for the sake of what is right. It has become a telling of the struggles I see
and endure. I thank you for struggling beside me and making this world smaller. Cheers.
P.S., If there is anything I can offer you in the area of pedagogy, classroom stuff, motivation, intervention, advocacy, etc. please let me know. I’d be glad to share, discuss, struggle with you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org