0175: #Teaching is
#education #learning #SOSchat
Teaching, regardless of the state of education as an institution, requires a choice to live beyond concern for the individual self. It is a vocation, that at some level, requires its participants to concern themselves with the wellbeing of humanity. Teaching is an act of love at its most base level. It seeks the good of others and society. There are numerous interruptors to the act of teaching that blurs the initial goal and meaning that critical educator must disrupt themselves. We must remember—I must remember—education is an industry, teaching is not.
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.
0135: What is Education? For my own sake, and maybe yours.
#education #SOSchat #self
I will attempt to amaze you, dear reader, with my death defying attempt at reinventing the will. I will answer the question: what is education? I think it is important for any educator who claims to be critical in any way to attempt to define education. It is especially important for me to write in the first person in order to prevent myself from wandering into the unnecessary territory of absolute theory and generalization, though theory and generalizations may well be a part of the impending diatribe and exploration. It is important for me to do this for the sake of understanding my own practice and how my practice differs from prescriptive practice of education. I assume this venture will most likely attempt to justify my practice, and give credence to my constant straying from the prescribed curriculum, or perhaps I will find myself to be a fraud. Perhaps my meandering will be of some use to you, dear reader. If not, disregard it as the ravings of a shithouse rat. I will cut the crap and begin.
What is education?
Education is the means by which one comes to know, learn, and understand.
(Very general and somewhat useless)
A) Education is the means by which one comes to know, learn, and understand his or her own experience.
B) Education is the means by which one comes to know, learn, and understand the experience of someone else.
C) Education is the means by which one comes to know, learn, and understand that they are useless and nothing more than a number.
D) Education is a tool that can be used however it’s distributors choose.
I’m sure anyone of these answers could suffice, but what is it to me? I view education as a tool to be acquired and used by individuals, communities, and so forth to transform there worlds. Education is a tool for transformation. It shouldn’t free anyone; rather, it should give people the tools to free themselves. Education is awakening to the reality that power is not fixed. It belongs in the hands of those who realize they have it. Education allows people to maneuver social classes, oppression, suppression, it equally gives people the power to oppress and suppress others. Education provides choice. Choice is freedom. The more choices, the more free. So, how does my practice as an educator reflect my current definition of education (current because it’s subject to change at any moment, but hopefully with some warning)?
First, I am inconsistent. As a classroom teacher I naturally war between my understanding of education and the prescribed method. I think this is a natural symptom of institutional function. While it may not completely dictate my actions, it forces me to at least maintain a level of compliance. I still must function within the institutional framework or else, I cannot say if this is good or bad. My reflection must become more complex, I suppose.
How do I temper my understanding of education with what is prescribed? What does this do to my view of myself as a teacher?
Foremost, I come to view myself as a rebellious individual. I position myself against the system of which I am a part. This is, at times beneficial to the students in my care, especially when I choose to allow them to take the lead in class. When we let curiosity take the reigns in the class we (students and me) learn, discover, understand far more than if we stuck to any narrow curriculum or even my narrow wishes as the “leader” of the class. I find this as true as a music teacher as I did as an algebra teacher. This is true also when I “teach” teachers. All learning settings are improved by the freedom to explore problems as they arise. While this allowance for freedom may be deemed rebellious by me or an onlooker it seems to be the only way for meaningful learning occur. There are problems that occur as a result of my dualistic view of myself in the classroom. It can be a Jekyll and Hyde sort of reaction. It certainly was more of this at the start of my career. I’ve become more efficient at doing what I deem best as I’ve advanced as a teacher; nonetheless the required doublethink can result in the emergence of a very ugly creature from time to time. Temperance is the key.
There is more to write on this topic, but I will stop here. Education, as I understand it is the means by which an individual acquires choice. It involves personal power. Education is not given; rather, education enables one to acquire. Thanks to Freire et al. for all the thoughts I’ve borrowed and am attempting to process. I hope to continue this process with the aide of colleagues and tempering dialogue.
0129: So I’ve arrived at a personal tipping point, where do I go?
#education #SOSchat #revolution #occupyedu
Through writing, meditation, soul searching, dialogue, dialectic, and debate, I have arrived at a point of tension that requires some form of release. The crisis is that of my questioning and understanding of my role in public education. This moment is no new moment to me, nor is it original to me. It is a crisis that befalls, though it seems I have pulled it down upon myself very intentionally, anyone who participates within any institution; further, anyone who has any naïve belief in an institution and is gradually awakened to the reality of their chosen institution or institutions. I say this with the understanding that I have never doubted or been blind to the fact that public education has functioned in a sinister manner to divide and suppress people, at least this is my claim. I do, however, believe in the intention of many educators to work toward the liberation and enlightenment of the people with and/for whom they work (I would hope to be considered among this class of educators). Therein lies the crisis, educators want to aid in enlightenment and liberation; the system functions to divide and suppress. The system as it is functions to eliminate any possibility of a critical and literate populace through bland and numbing test prep from kindergarten forward. Mass standardization and narrowing curriculums do not lay the ground work for an open democratic society; rather, the road is paved for any form of rule by few without dissent or question. These ideas do not belong to me alone, but would be realized by anyone with a critical eye toward the practice of education— perhaps more saliently, the results of education as it is. Education, standardized education, has not closed any achievement gap, has not changed communities for the better, has not put more or better food on a table for the recipients of education. People have made money, but not the People. So, I arrive at my personal crisis. Where do I go? Do I continue working in an institution that seems to do more harm than good, especially in this climate? Do I fight from within? Do I seek more education? Do I seek more influence? Do I keep chopping away with many others in the blogosphere? What
can I do to amplify my voice, my struggle, and that of others? I’m not sure. I know the answers to my questions aren’t simple. I know I keep asking these questions. I do know that I need to continue seeking answers and asking questions. I need to keep connecting to other educators, rabble-rousers, and revolutionaries. There is a great beast enveloping and facing us. We must stand in solidarity to deliver ourselves, the beast, and help those being crushed deliver themselves. Scrutiny is important. Language is important. It is important that we remain humanistic and not humanitarian. It’s important that we listen. It’s important that we act. What next?
0128: Thank you for listening and helping me learn. Time for a respite.
Writing educatedtodeath.com has been a mind altering venture and adventure. I set out to be reflective, and attempt to maintain sanity in what seemed, and still seems, to be be a corrupt system with other things at play besides the well being of children. As a result, I have become a part of a larger conversation and community of educators, critics, grassroots reformers, and so forth. I have learned far more from you than I have from any formal education I have received to date. It has been invaluable to me as a teacher to be a part of such a vast conversation that leads to action and future action. I am far less isolated as a teacher, as a critic, as a human. I am far more aware of who I am as a teacher, as a critic, as a human. Writing, chatting, thinking, and quarreling here has urged me think, rethink, and think again about my practice and my contribution to education and the education debacle. I have asked myself myriad questions: Am I a part of the problem or the solution? Is it so simple? What to I need to do as a teacher to help end alter or end the standards movement? What can I do in my classroom/school/district to disrupt some of the harm being done by standardized and massifying education? I’ve asked if I should be asking these questions? Are these questions answerable? I am currently seeking some answers and questions dealing with eugenics and education? I, along with others, am asking simple questions and learning to ask and generate more difficult questions. I am arriving at a point where I think I need to take a few days to ask questions and seek answers before I write much more. I need to spend more time listening than talking. I need a break. This need for respite luckily coincides with Spring Break. Surely, as a I say I need a break I will be overwhelmed with the urge to write. Perhaps I need to write this blurb to keep myself moving forward.
At any rate, I thank you for reading and helping me learn. I am reticent to post this, but I think it’s necessary for me. And, I must always return to my original purpose for writing this— to maintain a level of sanity and reflect. I will return to my original thesis and see where it leads. Cheers.
0114: “Why’s”, “How’s”, and Other Critical Questions for Teachers
#education #SOSchat #teaching
It’s possible to pass through one’s own education and into the teaching field without contemplating the reason for our learning, or a motivation beyond our teaching. As students we learn segmented bits of information, skills, and algorithms. If we’re lucky we happen upon poetry or quantum physics— anything to boost our minds into the metaphysical realm. Entering the metaphysical realm in thought might serve as a catalyst for one asking the age old question “why?”. Schools as they are don’t instill or stir the curiosity that spawns the “why’s” and “how’s” that lead to deeper understanding; rather, those questions are suppressed.
Those same questioned often go unasked in the teaching profession, and many others, as well. Sure, we’re asked to write our philosophy of teaching in our undergraduate teaching programs and on some job applications, but do those questions continue? Do our answers evolve? Are we aware that they have evolved? I submit that it is better to ask these questions of ourselves regularly than to be forced to ask ourselves these questions under duress. If we are seeking answers to the “why’s” and “how’s”, we are active. We are alert. The answers often lead us to participate in ways beyond our perception. These questions and answers are good to share and struggle through with colleagues, friends, etc.
The questions should be asked on a macro and micro level. We have to connect our experiences. We have to be in the process of knowing why we do what we do. We must be active.
Why do you teach? How has your philosophy evolved over your career? What questions do you need to ask?
Please share in the comments section, submit your answers/questions, or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
0082: 7th Grade Student reflections on participating in SOPA Blackout and Calling U.S. Reps
#BlackoutSOPA #Democracy #education
These are a few of the responses my students wrote regarding their participation in their democracy. Keep in mind they are in the seventh grade. Additionally, the school is nearly 100% free lunch, and we are at risk of being taken over by the state for test scores. Does testing assess this?
I felt surprised and excited at the same time. I felt those ways because asking someone to vote against SOPA and PIPA was the first time I been a part of helping. I was surprised because I had never associated with anyone from Washington D.C. before. I was excited because the next day they started changing their mind.
Yesterday, by calling the National Senate to vote against SOPA and PIPA, I felt like I did something extremely historical and important. I had this feeling because I felt that I did something that would’ve helped everyone later in life. By keeping this a law or enforcing it will lower our intelligence and cause a lot of problems later on in life. Being a part of this moment of history will be remembered. No free Internet is just like having a school with no children. Going against this, I know made history.
What I did yesterday was amazing. I did something that could change history. I told someone to vote against SOPA and PIPA. It’s a blackout. We called Washington DC and ask if they could go against SOPA and PIPA because we need the Internet for school and so we can do projects. And now they’re going to vote on it on January 24 2012
I felt so important asking them to vote against SOPA and PIPA. It made me feel good about myself of what I did. I was happy about calling the senators. That was the best thing I did that day. When I got home I wanted to call them again, I wanted to tell my whole family about it.
So yesterday we protested and I feel good because we helped someone. Most of the people I helped were my very own school mates. We need the Internet and its websites. We should vote against PIPA because it affect information and free rights to download things and post things so just vote against it for the sale of every child’s learning.
0069: A reflection on a humanizing moment in #teaching
Amidst the hustle and bustle of education reform, curriculum changes and concerns, focus on the problems of education, my bleak twitter feed, and world turmoil I forget about the here and now. I forget that I’m in a classroom within a school working alongside brutally devoted teachers who deal with the same concerns. We don’t get to chat too often. Many have been in the field for years and have stood strong not because they believe in the education system, but because they believe in humanity— and believe in the children they teach even more.
One of these veteran teachers who is now an academic coach and former principal in another district visited my class today just to impart some wisdom to a group of teenagers who seem to be pissing away some opportunities. She devoted much of her talk to the importance of self-discipline over having others enforce their behavior. She was kind and patient with these student. She amazingly humanized herself before them sharing that while teachers are adults, and perhaps an opposing force, that they are human as well. She shared some of her own recent troubles she had endured. She spoke with the students, not to them. It was a beautiful moment. They were shocked to make such a connection with someone who seems like a distant figure. I am grateful for the lessons I learn from my fellow educators in kindness and humanity.