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.
0125: Dear #Students, Take Back Your #Education
#SOSchat @DianeRavitch #occupyedu #revolution
What will it take for learners to take matters of testing into their own hands? Can it be done? Students subconsciously resist abusive testing practices through ‘means’ that have created the classroom management focus we have today. Resistance, conscious or subconscious, is not an option. The human spirit requires rebellion to counter oppression— always. But, what will it take to move this rebellion to the front of the mind? What will be the catalyst for a truly organized kids liberation? Voices from teachers and parents ring loudly against the constant onslaught of corporate reforms and ridiculous education practices. We talk and talk. We continue to teach, when and how we can. Students continue to struggle. The learners are beneath the heel of this entire debacle.
What would happen if, come test day, students didn’t show up at all? What if they all showed up with, say, a stomach bug and soiled all the testing materials with vomit? What if they broke their no. 2 pencils and walked out? What if learners all stood up and demanded to be taught? What if they halted all education until it became their education?
Children are being treated as pawns in this education nightmare. No one should be a victim of his/her education. No one.
Until some mass resistance by students PK-12 begins to end this crisis, there will be minimal change, a lot of rhetoric, and wasted education. We will stand beside you as you continue resisting in your souls and actions. But, we are adults, we grow more and more powerless, we divide into camps and fear for our jobs. We do not have the answer here. The time has come for the children’s liberation once again. Perhaps there is a Mother Jones among you, us, or they? Learners unite, and demand your education. It’s time to flip this pyramid on its point.
Please pass this along. Give it to students, teachers, parents. Education can no longer be denied and deformed.
0072: Public #Education, #Schools from Hell, and the Dystopian Landscape
#SOS #revolution #teaching
I think my view of public education via my experience, micro- and macro-, has merged with my views of dystopian realities. The places I’ve worked give or take a few have filled me each day with that feeling of grayness that is delivered in Orwellian dystopias. Bells ringing each hour, students being herded through halls to their next box for training, a regimen so strict and insidious that it can’t even be escaped with outright rebellion, students occasionally disappearing to alternative schools who can quite cut the mustard, and finally the Test. Those are all environmental, but the worst part is the deadness in everyone’s eyes. Every pair is overcome with a great sense of ennui and spiritual resignation— every pair, teachers, students, administrators. We are all chained to our numbers, our scores.
I left the glorious field of algebra, to a kinder music for this reason. I get to try to rekindle a fire of some sort in those eyes. I, with my class, get to try and create another reality. But, it’s always cut short with the bell. And, I must also focus on the test, building vocabulary and the like, but I am free and crafty enough to do it in my own way. My chain is longer now than when I taught algebra. Surely, it will be tightened when we enter test review, but for now it’s a bit longer.
Freedom, stolen or perceived, in a public school is a rare commodity, and if it is to be had it must be stolen. That is tragic, and a travesty.
0065: Institutions Fail, but People Persist, so must I (refocus)
#edchat #teaching #occupy
I spend too much time pissing and moaning about a broken system. Yes, the education system is dysfunctional, inequitable, and unfair, but, and I forget this, teachers are still teachers. We work daily to do our best to produce a critical citizenry. We, the teachers, interact with our students with varying degrees of success (day to day). My cynicism need not destroy my love of teaching and of my students. The system is broken, but that is the case with many institutions. Patients get sick and are treated by doctors (accessibility varies) regardless of the myriad problems within the healthcare system.
Institutions are failing, but people do not have to. I need constant reminding of this fact, lest I choose to wither and dry up. I am a teacher because I believe in the humans with whom I get to share this space. I believe everyone should have access to a quality education, that is, they should get a chance to learn and think, and be permitted to know that they have power within themselves. I teach creators, innovators, and disruptors who aren’t always privy to that self-knowledge. My purpose is to help them unlock that understanding themselves. So, rather than pissing and moaning I need to refocus my writing. I need to focus on action taken to progress my students. I need to focus on the critical discussions we have, the dialogues between other educators and myself. I need to look at the people around me for awhile, rather than the whole system. Institutions fail, but people persist. We are not defined by the systems we work within. We are humans. We have voices, and we are heard together. Not as members of systems, but as the voice of humanity
0064: #Teaching, #Doublethink, and the Learning Wasteland
There is a required cognitive dissonance that must accompany the teaching profession. Conscious teachers are forced to hold two contrasting thoughts at once often having brutal and erratic side effects. On the one hand, teachers must hold true to the belief that they are helping, that they are somehow bettering society by teaching a group to be better thinkers, maybe even enabling them to be more free. On the other hand, there is the constant nagging, perhaps of the conscience, that what I am doing is, in fact, of no use other than to provide a place for students to occupy their time with boredom and repetitive tasks that are harmful. Buried within the intention of public education is not to create a free human being, but the goal to create a compliant citizen who will never cause too much trouble because the will to do so will have been educated out of him or her.
So, what is the truth? Where is the mean of these two ideas? Are they each correct, simultaneously? I tend to think that the latter idea is more true even though it is enshrouded in the first, more hopeful idea. We are better able to swallow the two if we hold fast to the better ideal. We do good overtly, we provide hope and a “future”, while providing little more than rhetoric and training.
What can be done? Am I missing something? Please correct me where I falter. I have somehow misunderstood, surely?
#edchat #teacher #holiday
Tired and weary educators if you haven’t begun your holiday, you will soon. Enjoy some time to yourself free of thought about what may come. Be quiet and still. Quiet your weary souls. There will be more to do when you return. The fight will continue. You are a teacher, but first you are a human. Go and make merry. Cheers to you all.
0058: On Silence, Education, and the Community
#school #community #silence
I am always amazed by the responses I get from people when I tell them what I do. All I do is teach children who are invisible in our society. Thy are part of an underclass of people that have been segregated into their own schools and neighborhoods so the safe and wealthy don’t have to see them. They’re neatly tucked away and punished with excessive testing and remediation so they will never see the light of the great white world. Beyond testing and a second rate education they are criminalized. Many enter seventh grade with a parole officer and a healthy criminal record. Some of these records began with a fight at school that could have been avoided with a little more supervision, or had other measures been taken ahead of time to address the problems that result in violence. Or, we could choose not to send little kids away in a cop car. There are no 7 year old criminals, maybe assholes, but not criminals. The odds are brutally stacked against these kids. And, the fact that many people don’t bother to understand that these are people with tough lives and not criminals making their own lives tough doesn’t help matters. Prejudice is strong in our world. So is ignorance, and it doesn’t belong to the poor people of our neighborhoods. The ignorant are the ones who choose blindness, and perpetuate the mentality that people are divided into us and them. We gotta open our mouths and open our eyes.
“Our merciless silence is deafening, and threatens the longevity of our social history.”
- from ‘Teachers as Cultural Workers’ by Paulo Freire