0071: Teaching as an Act of #Freedom vs. the Existential Crisis
#teaching #rebellion #revolution #ows
I entitled one of my previous posts “Testing, the Existential Crisis, and Hope in #Rebellion”, but did not devote much, if any time, to defining said existential crisis. I could have even been so brazen to include “existential crisis” as a means of making my title more interesting while menially discussing any sort of crisis that teachers experience. So, I intend to delve into the existential crisis that I associate with teaching now.
Teaching is a process of helping others learn. Or maybe helping others learn to learn. I think that’s a pretty good definition of what really teaching is, regardless of the institutional, and pejorative, definition, which is to train or prepare for a test. And, therein lies the crux of the so called existential crisis. There is a tremendous difference between what teaching is and what it should be. We should be focused on helping children learn to learn, learn to read, learn to think, and so forth. Unfortunately, those verbs, to read, to write, to learn, to think, have been severely bastardized. Those words have been reduced to terms defined by the assessments that measure them.
Teaching now involves looking over your shoulder. Teachers are waiting for the axe to fall. We’re too busy “managing” our classrooms, making sure we are en pointe with the pacing guide, and anticipating the tests, instead of stimulating and nurturing the curiosity of our students. We work each day for a score. We fight to work for our students, but we can’t stay if our scores aren’t high enough. Schools suffer, teachers suffer, students suffer. Society is suffering. Teaching requires doublethink now. It’s never been an easy task to teach students to read, write, learn to learn, and so forth. Now we are pretending to do these things. We are teaching to a test and our students aren’t learning. Scores may say they are, but a test doesn’t say who thrives because they can think and reason, it just says they can bubble correctly, and maybe outsmart the test creators. Real teaching requires a blind eye to the consequences of really teaching. Real teachers teach. They help students uncover their own consciousness. They build thinkers. They rebel. They don’t worry so much about the test scores as they do their students. They know there is a time for every purpose under heaven, and are mindful of a balance between walking the line and out-right rebellion. They live to fight another day in the corrupt system, but they are ever aware of the corruption that surrounds them. I am growing tired from the box I am in as a teacher. I know I do some good, but it is with great struggle. When I am a good teacher I am the least involved; that is, I am flowing along the waves of my students’ curiosity. My moments of excellence have not involved the prescribed curriculum. They’ve involved moments when my students and I shared moments of humanity.
The crisis is constant. Apathy is tempting, but as long as teachers fight to teach, as long as teachers are radical true learning will take place. And if that ceases then students will not comply. People are free, they just have to discover that. Perhaps the best thing we teachers can do is model the struggle for freedom— in and out of the classroom. Teaching, true teaching, is an act of freedom.
0066: Third Party Mercenaries to Save Our Schools
#education #testing #bullshit #SOS
There is a new hope! There are educational mercenaries for hire who will rescue our schools from the idiot teachers who wrongfully subject students to activities specifically designed to teach kids thinking skills and innovation. What are they trying to do? Create a critically thinking citizenry? Why? But, don’t worry. We have people to quell these pinko teachers. They will come in and enforce the Glorious Testocracy that we have. All Hail the mighty Standards! As one we will bubble. As one we will thrive.
For a small price several organizations can come in and tell what your teachers are doing wrong, and might can even give a few tips to the administration. The first thing they may do is set up a triage unit. They’ll help you pick out the students who are worth saving and find something to tide the others over. You we as a society must understand that there is no one in your school system who knows what they’re doing. No teacher, no principal. It’s a mystery to everyone. “What am I supposed to do with all these kids,” a teacher might ask himself. Or worse. the teacher might think it’s important to build thinking skills that would help them better understand texts and their worlds alike. That is ridiculous. Every kid needs to be a better test taker. Our Glorious Testing Company needs our offering. Think of it as a tithe to them who have our true interest at heart. I mean look at all the jobs that have been created. Now we can put more students in a classroom with one teacher. Fire the ones that are old and get paid too much. And hire mercenaries to come in and let the solitary teacher know what she’s doing wrong. Surely it’s classroom management and the inability to differentiate. Consultants need jobs, and consulting firms need contracts. Testing is so important to our education. I didn’t learn to bubble tests as a kid, and now I’m lost. A fool hearted teacher trying to teach. How foolish of me. I am a blasphemer and a heretic, but I’m getting better. Soon the rebellious spirit of free-thinking will be dead in my heart and then I will be able to bubble peacefully.
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?
0046: Stop Recess: We’re in School Improvement
#teaching #testocracy #rebellion #test
I’ll be brief. Schools get into trouble because of poor test scores. This “trouble” stirs fear. People fear for their jobs from the top down. Threats are made, also from the top down. And then, a symphony of knee jerk reactions.
I was in a school that cancelled recess, music, and P.E. from kindergarten through sixth grade. These were noted as a waste of time when “we should be preparing for state tests”. The kids went wild and classes didn’t run as smoothly. No shit, right? People need balance. Anyway, some teachers took their kids to recess, and we’re written up and reprimanded. Other teachers had recess in their classrooms, looking out for the wandering administrative spy. Teachers did what they needed to do, but to their own avail.
There was also a ban on silent sustained reading. This was labeled a “waste of time”. Teacher’s were told that kids had time to read outside of class, and reading should “just be taught”. We know that there are myriad benefits for free reading time from motivation to reinforcing skills to better behavior because the kids get a moment to debrief and venture elsewhere in their minds.
These knee jerk reactions are harmful. They are based in fear and not in research. Principals, think before you react. Don’t harm your staff, and ultimately the students in your care. Teachers, be bold and clever in your rebellion for the betterment of your students. Everyone is under the gun, and it’s causing permanent damage. Standardized testing and it’s fallout is injuring a generation of our society. So be bold. Do what you can to survive, but don’t forget you’re responsible for the survival of others too.
0037: Ode to Standardization and Guerilla #Teaching
#humanity #edchat #testocracy #revolution
I spend a lot of time bitching about standardized tests. They’ve done a terrible thing to our society and our educational system. They’ve created students who think in terms of multiple choice and think no. 2 pencils are tools for performing strange religious ceremonies. They have turned teachers into prison wardens who speak only in terms of a, b, c, or d and the process of elimination. They’ve turned writing into the act of selecting the best passage with the fewest errors, rather than actually writing to find out what one thinks. Standardized tests are our keys into colleges, graduate schools, and many jobs. We all think in terms of a, b, c, and d. If you don’t then you are separate. You will never have access. You will be damned! Damned to what? A thoughtful and peaceful existence?
All of this is quite dystopian and chilling, but what can we do? We could all refuse to give them. Maybe no one shows up on testing day. No one. Or maybe teachers show up and students sit in the parking lots. Maybe someone breaks in and eliminates the tests. Guerilla test forces pop up in school districts across the country, and end corporate testing. It would be nice. But, what can we do as teachers who are chained to the assembly line?
I submit that we teach around the test. Let’s just take a year, and really teach. Teach your subject passionately throwing caution to the pacing guide. Teach at a pace where your students can really learn. On top of that, help them learn to think, and question, and reason. Present the test as a problem, for a problem-based learning activity. We, the class, have this monster of a test before us, that serves to dehumanized all of us. How can we beat it? Let that be the starting point. Standardized testing is a brutal reality of our budding society today. We have to find ways to interrupt the consequences of testing and teaching to the test while still meeting our impossible “quotas”. We’re working hard to cultivate people, not test takers. We have to help our kids transcend their scores of minimal, basic, proficient, and advanced and become real people with faces. Sure, pass the test, but, in our souls and hearts we must always say: fuck the test. I am not a score. I am a human.
0036: If you read this you’ll improve your test scores, and that’s it!
#testocracy #literacy #teaching
Telling students to read more because it will help the improve their standardized test scores is just plum stupid. It’s very clear that those scores are the central aim of public education. In the utopian world of god knows where reading is for enjoyment, or maybe to expand your knowledge, or maybe even to become more fully human. Now reading is for improving your standardized test scores. I’ll keep writing so you too can become a proficient person.
0030: For the Love of Pete, Stop the Assembly Line! #teaching
Strikes have worked in the past as a means of making the assembly line a better place to work— higher pay, lunch breaks, better hours, enough money to buy all the nice things we rich teachers like to buy. The last I heard every teacher drives a Benz and eats every meal at 5 star restaurants. But our great wealth is not why I write. And in case some high authority comes across this post— we are not rich and can barely afford the basics. I digress. The assembly line does not need to be improved. It needs to be STOPPED and DISASSEMBLED. Our system is a relic from a past time, when the future was guaranteed, and Ford prevailed. We know all this. The system is going to take years to finally die out. So what can we, who are still on the line, do?
We certainly don’t want to just stop production. We want the little cogs that we put on the machine to do their part. We want the end product to be a critical thinking, critical consumer and producer to be the final product. We want to send forth independent thinkers who will become our neighbors and colleagues. But, all this is not the end result of the assembly line. The assembly line produces blindly consuming automatons— perfectly standardized in every way. So what do we do? I propose a rebellion of sorts. Teach your prescribed curriculum as a small part of your practice. Teach it within the framework of critical education. Perhaps the budding learners can spend time analyzing the shortcomings of the curriculum. Teach about testing as a means of oppression and segregation. When I was teaching algebra we did this. We learned algebra, and we learned social theory, and the reality of the problems of standardization. These kids were poor black kids in rural Mississippi, by the way. Every student I have taught has had a vague understanding of the injustice they experience everyday simply by attending school. They are never ignorant of inequality; they might not know how to express it, but they are acutely aware. Coursework should focus on the state objectives, of course. Kids should learn algebra, grammar, reading, social studies, and so forth. They should learn the Hell out of it. And, then they should have a healthy dose of social foundations of education. All this should all be combined into one huge think-tank you call your class. Social media should be taught anytime you get the chance, and the faces of school board members, politicians, and Arne Duncan should be shared so the kids will know whose asses to kick when they fully realize their own power. We, the teachers of the oppressed kids of America, must make these kids the most powerful people in the world. We must help them by allowing them to awaken and realize their own genius. It’s tough, and there will be headaches and Xanex, but for the love of our own futures we must stop the assembly line.
0009: Why should students be motivated by high test scores?
Strangely scores are used as a carrot to keep kids working hard and competitively. I’ve seen charts in classrooms and on bulletin boards charting progress. There are even special clubs and events for students who get the highest marks on standardized tests. Students are easily sorted according to their test scores. Students know is they’re advanced, proficient, basic, minimal, or any other label states prescribe. The proverbial score carrot that is held in front of our students only reinforces that they are nothing more than a number. And while they may not be able to fully articulate why the propaganda of testing is dehumanizing (though many of them can), they certainly have a good idea of what’s happening to them. They are placed in boxes daily. For that matter, so are there teachers. The language of the education building has been overtaken by a lexicon that solely promotes the linking of individuals with their value as a score. This lexicon is pushed down through the bureaucratic ranks with no thought to the harm it is causing. And certainly, there is no time to think, “you just have to do it, because that’s how it is”. This newly formed testocracy has forced educators into the mode of disciplining and punishing students only to keep them “focused” on what is important: their scores. “Without discipline, learning cannot take place,” I’ve heard countless times. This is true to an extent, but where is the locus of discipline? Within the child? Being forced upon the child? Even worse, systematically training the child to walk mindlessly in lines. The question “how can we motivate these kids?” is constantly raised. Well, perhaps challenging children to think and create might be a start.
The goal is good test scores. The result is the mindless dehumanization of an entire generation.