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?

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, October 8, 2012

0191: Swallowing the Pill: It’s good because I was told

#education #occupyedu #subversive #revolution

It’s sad to see educators so committed to their prescribed “job” that the question, “Am I really doing what I should be doing?” becomes impossible to ask. Unquestioning subservience is an easy trap. It’s required to an extent. If teachers are to hold onto their jobs, they must, at least, pay lip-service to their prescribed roles as test trainers. This sort of unwavering support for the dying and toxic system must be in place throughout the entire system. Dissidents are deemed insubordinates and will quickly find themselves without jobs. There is no need to seek out the verbal rebels, those who complain about the system. Most bend their actions to meet the requirement of the state. We’re evaluated, audited, and constantly watched. We turn in self-evaluations. We tell on ourselves, and trick ourselves into believing we are doing what is best by doing what we’re told. Eventually, we find ourselves resigned to the fact that we are powerless against such a powerful system. That or we become so cynical that we should leave the classroom.

Are our only options to submit or leave? Surely not. Our rebellions must be tactical and individual. Support often can be found outside of our schools, often on blogs, and throughout social media where subversive teachers gather and speak openly about the tactics they use to actually teach in a system that has replaced teaching with training.

I’ve minced my answers and comments with my own questions I’m seeking to answer. Have you, dear reader, found it as productive as I have, or necessary as a human, to foster discussions that lead to a discussion of the education system among students? The discussion often has begun with a student asking why we must bother with a test rather than actually learning.

I aim to be honest in my practice and allow some free drifting, though I’m subject to inserting my own bias.

We teach people not curriculum.

(I apologize for not opening comments on this blog. I write from a smartphone. I cannot figure it out. Please feel free to post questions or comments, or email me @ and on twitter @educated to death. Thanks.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

0190: Collaborate, but collaborate better than thy neighbor(?).

#education #occupyedu #SOSchat #deleuze #revolution

We’ve had several meetings this year that have all had a similar message: “create a competitive environment in your classroom to motive your students”. We are told that they respond well to competition. They should always strive to do better than their neighbor. We are also expected to tell them that they are working toward a reward, even though we can’t decide what the reward will be, or even if it will exist at all. And, at the same meetings we are told to put students in groups to “work together”.

I understand what “we’re” shooting for at my school. We’re in trouble with the state—deep. Our goal, rather, our prescribed goal is to do anything we can to get the state of our asses. Administration is fumbling for any answer—little bits of 3rd hand research they’ve picked up at workshops and mashed together with whatever dung the consultants have passed down. Encouraging heavy competition between individuals and then asking for group collaboration is a bit contradictory. I understand this is an oversight. They’re worried. We fear for our jobs.

The collaboration side of this equation gets swept to the side fairly quickly unfortunately. It’s the unfed dog in the fight. Collaboration does not come naturally among my colleagues. We’ve been compared and divided by test scores, academic subject areas, grade levels, and meetings involve listening to one person ramble on about how we need to work together, but we never get the chance. So teaching collaboration is quite foreign for many—impossible for others. And, it cannot be ignored that the real goal for the higher-ups is to get the scores up to keep jobs and what-not, and I’m sure somewhere the really-higher-ups just want to keep everyone divided and on the never ending challenge of always outdoing thy neighbor (I’m sure this statement is just a mad raving of a cynical fool).

So what are we to do? What am I to do if I find encouraging brutal competition among my students unethical, cruel, counterproductive, and unfortunate? I’ve been reprimanded for not putting the sticker charts on the wall for my students to chart their progress against their neighbor. My learners happen to be working with each other—motivated as a group for the sake of the group and the learning.

Certainly, humanity first.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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.

Friday, August 17, 2012

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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

0142: #Teaching for #Revolution

#education #SOSchat #occupyedu #occupy

Why teach critical thinking of not for revolution? Revolution is change, transformation, innovation. It’s a concept that is inevitable if people learn to think, learn to learn, learn that they are the creators of culture. Critical thinking embraces the individual power to create, collaborate, question, reinvent, and so forth. When we teach or help learners develop their critical thinking, we are not teaching revolution in the political or economic sense, though either of those may come; rather, we helping learners revolutionize their own consciousnesses. Revolution of consciousness is far more threatening than political or economic revolution because it is permanent, sustainable, decentralized, humanizing, and is multifactorial. As teachers, as humans we must strive for this sort of revolution. The world belongs to those who own their own minds.

Monday, June 11, 2012

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.

Friday, June 1, 2012

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.