Thursday, January 23, 2014

No. 2 #Resistance in the classroom: Starting Small

Micro-resistances. The after my my first few years of teaching I discovered freire, alinsky, and a few more along those lines. Revolutionary ideas flowed easily. His lovely translated words meant things. Prefaces and introductions to his writings were also chock full of words and phrases I could use. Phrases about empowerment, revolution, resistance, and maybe an ultimate change that was down the road. That if “I” could organize our teachers, communities, etc. something big could happen. I thought I was doing this work. 
I was resisting, yes, but in a different way. While I hoped for something grand - a total and permanent revolution, at least in education - I was hard after another sort of work. My students were too. I think they were more aware than I. 
We, daily, carried out micro-revolutions and micro-resistances by engaging in tiny acts of defiance. One kid might refuse to pick up her pencil when told the first time, another might ask a question completely unrelated to the topic. How ridiculous that I probably got annoyed with this from time to time. There was ample time to chase rabbits. I couldn’t see it then all the time. I see differently now. My daily resistance was wrapped up in openly deconstructing the curriculum and the structure with the learners. I didn’t know the word deconstruction then. Hell, I barely know it now, but I feel it. Basically, I made it a goal to be honest with my learners. If we thought something like the test for instance, or some of the punitive decisions made by administration were rash or unnecessary (they all were), then we’d talk about it with as a class. We’d think/talk about why these things were problematic. Why the test related to disciplinary action. Why school felt like a prison. Why none of us could leave when we wanted. 
These “why’s” were usually prompted by a student question. I suppose I was resisting also by allowing such questions to be asked. It wasn’t uncommon for such questions, questions!, to result in a trip to the office in some   other classes. I recall getting into trouble as a child over such questions. These defiant acts of questioning(?) we’re usually punished with a paddle, ISS, or at least a phone call home. Punishing questioning and criticism. Wow.
It should be pointed out too, that the hands of administration seemed to be tied too. Everyone there was doing their best to not crumble under the weights of myriad policies/rules/dung, or be pulled apart by the day to day struggles of keeping a school/prison running as smoothly as possible. There’s something wrong…
I never did anything of use that wasn’t out of some sort of defiance.  Teach to alter the curriculum/environment of my classroom.  Resist the vomit yellow cinder block walls and make a classroom an inviting place to learn and explore whether Old Father Curriculum told us to or not.  By making a classroom a place to chase rabbits and follow lines of flight into amazing territory AND still managing to cover the curriculum and have kids pass or improve on their test scores (#idontcondonetestscores) we learned, we had a good time.  We suffered together.  Experienced loss together.  Hope and joy.  These moments aren’t written in to the curriculum.  And there certainly isn’t time allotted.  These stolen moments are the moments when we approach what is truest and most wonderful about teaching: the moment when we all forget that we are student and teacher, the moment when we become human together.  The moment we remember we aren’t there to memorize and regurgitate State defined rubbish.  It’s the moment when we all experience life/humanity/existence/turmoil/resolve together.  In these moments teaching ceases to be a learned method or formula, and becomes human interaction and exchange.  Togetherness and other seeming warm fuzzies. It’s funny that authentic learning (you define it) is not valued by the curriculum which shapes nearly everything we do in our classrooms, whether we resist or not.  Not resist, choose not to repeat and reproduce what is not useful or beneficial, or refusing to be defined by a narrow definition.  
Friday, September 27, 2013

0208: Remixing #Deleuze: How does this relate to #education

The following is a reading of Deleuze’s Postscript on the Societies of Control, but functions as a remix of the thoughts included in the original document with my learning injected.  There is no delineation between Deleuze’s text/thought and mine. Please refer to the above link for any clarification. I’m trying to understand, and have been, and am starting to.  Anything you can add will help - etd

Foucault located the disciplinary societies

spaces of enclosure: family, school, barracks, prison, enclosed environment

“a disciplinary society was what we already no longer were, what we had ceased to be”…. deleuze…. so were are no longer about tax, or ruling on death, rather in a “generalized crisis in relation to all environments of enclosure”… prison, hospital, factory, school, family.  “The administrations in charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to reform schools…industries….”  Just keeping systems alive until new forces are ready… thus societies of control.  Replacing disciplinary societies.

Free floating control? replacing old disciplines operating in the time frame of a closed system….. #so systems are less and less closed and centrally controlled.  The roll of control is decentered with “free floating controls” could this be cell phones, policies, other actors within a network? “Control” … the “new monster”?

Ultrarapid forms of free-floating control… “no need here to invoke the extraordinary pharmaceutical productions, the molecular engineering, the gentic manipulations…” but they are invoked.  Why?   

Hospitals are now supplemented with neighborhood clinics, hospices, etc.  thus extending the reach of hospital (decentralized control),  so is this entanglement or interference?  “could at first express new freedom, but they could participate as well in mechanisms of control”.  #School example… homework from teachers, extending into the home lives of students, apps,  for teachers and students, testing, top down curriculum, walkthroughs, surveillance (panoptic), professional development that is limited and “generalized” to all teachers for all students, aids in massification and control, thus limiting the power of the teacher to deliver individualized help for students.  Teachers may not always know where to find outside help or individualized support, or even connection to other teachers, thus being isolated (does this identify or link teachers to the concept of dividuals?).  When teachers are isolated, overworked in a system where there is no opportunity to rest, continuous system of never ending tasks (Del. postscripts), the teacher may lose motivation to work to improve his/her practice because all improvements are passed down in the form of PD that is not customized to the schools, but functions as this algorithm of success, or external but entangled “control”.  This isolation that is natural in such societies of enclosure can prevent a teacher from helping self and class.  To overcome this, we as teachers, must transcend and work around these natural dividers.  Using the deluezean metaphor of the rhizome as a goal for teachers to understand themselves with blogging and social media as the tool or “new weapon” for achieving this… something… empowered teachers… decentralized professional development, thus teacher quality can happen?

 Just a fact of teaching… we are entangled with these surveillant “controls”.  Even social media, cell phones, email, text messages make us “available” all the time.  These are controls, yes, but can also be tools or “new weapons” (Deleuze says “There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.” New weapons, blogs

In logic section, what about analogical and numerical (but not necessarily binary) .  What does that mean

Enclosures are “molds”, but controls are a “modulation”, “a self-deforming cast that will continuously change from one moment to the other, or like a sieve whose mesh will transmute from point to point” (Del)…..

#so enclosures hold things in place.  They may even shape them permanently, but it is external.  It holds things together… The system is falling apart…rather, it is being modulated, just as people are.  I like the term “smear” like when you smear pastels.  They all become entangled where one neither ends or begins.  There are differences, but only seen from afar.  Another example might be one of soup… separate ingredients blended and boiled together into one contiguous existence.  Ingredients can no longer be distinguished outside their relationship to the soup as a whole.  The same is with people.  Take the classroom for instance… The classroom was once an environment of enclose, but is now opened to outside information and interference through mobile communications.  Books are static snapshots of information.  Teachers once, and in many cases, perceived as controllers of information in a classroom, are now decentralized.  A student can text in a classroom, can google information, etc.  even if there are policies that attempt to mediate this.  The same goes for internet..

And the same can and does go for teachers.  Teachers are often connected only at meeting or in the hall, sometimes a teachers lounge, but otherwise they function separately from one another.  They are busy and after school rarely get together.  They are isolated (find reference).  Like other systems and actors within these systems, schools and the teachers, students, and admins, are not impervious to outside influence for benefit and connections.  Teachers now have easy access to PD via social media, connections to a network of teachers, interaction with students if they choose (theirs or others), problems can be posted and solved with a group, teachers can seek out their own help, support, etc.  It is up to the consumer/interactor of such information to judge the “validity” of the research, interaction, etc. they are partaking of, but this is not a problem, and shouldn’t be worried with “buyer beware”.  The societies of control should be worried with this, perhaps, this positions the teacher as a more powerful being, as a consumer (ANT article), thus decentralizing power and making change/connection possible. Disturbing the ideological equillibrium.

Factory worked on bonuses (reinforcements), corporation metestability impose a modulation of salaries (step scale salary, salary scales, etc.)  Contests, experience, seniority (perhaps mediated through unions, which is an external factor, a tension against the agent of control, in order to move to the next level, get the next pay grade, etc.  A contest, humourous indeed.  Interesting about the “most idiotic television game shows…express the corporate situation”.  “Merit salary” increases competition, pits actors within the system against each other…. culture of mistrust.   

What about “perpetual training replacing the school, and continous control replacing the examination (Deleuze)”.  What of that… so this manifests itself to teachers in the form of CEUs, faculty meetings, and a series of corporate hoops to maneuver just to maintain, teachers have no control of this, just like corporate players don’t.  You wanna keep your job, you jump through the hoops.  You wanna move up, you jump through the hoops.  This has been common place for us in education, but a “weapon” such as blogging can at least enable us to resist the controls that are harmful to us, our students, our society, by circumventing them.  We can supplement and direct our own learning through simple dialogue.  We can engage and support collective action (be supported too).  We can learn about others experiences, give tips, share experiences.  We can direct our writing toward a cause, or advocacy,  we can organize.  We can support change, such as virtually supporting a community that is going through the opt out process (cooperative catalyst).  We can show solidarity and share tactics with striking teachers.  We can solve problems in the classroom together.  We can access teachers, administration, students, professors, policy makers.  We become more entangled as a global community through social media (find citation).  This should be obvious to users of social media. No hating.

Disciplinary societies always starting again “school to the barracks…” and so forth (Higher ed seems to hold onto this, a remnant from a past society).  within “societies of control one is never finished with anything”  Universal system of deformation?

To think about:

“The disciplinary societies have two poles: the signature tat designates the individual, and the number or administrative numeration that indicates his or her position within a mass.”  ….  “In societies of control, on the other hand, what is important is no longer either a signature or a number, but a code: the code is a password, while on the other hand the disciplinary societies are reglated by watchwords (as much from the point of view of integration as from that of resistance).  The numerical language of control is made of codes that mark access to information, or reject it.  We no longer find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair.  Individuals have become “dividuals”, and masses, samples, data, markets, or “banks.””  #think about all this… minted money vs. credit “old monetary mole is the animal of the spaces of enclosure, but the serpent is that of the societies of control.  We have passed from the mole to the serpent  #interesting language.  Serpent quite menacing and predatory, used as symbol of fear?…

Interesting thought that different machines are connected with different societies

Capitalism of higher-order production.  What it wants to sell is services and what it wants to buy is stocks.

Corruption gains a new power…  marketing has become the “soul” of the corporation.

Man in no longer man enclosed, but man in debt.

#so… control has shifted and entangled everything… power looks differently.  We have more risks.  I don’t know what I think about this yet….


Guattari’s city of access with one’s (dividual) electronic card… similar to cell phone, still happy capitalism, see Moxyland as literary example. Think also about how cell phone and constant connection influences and affects our movement and interactions, even choices through individualized marketing.  Digital double„ data double..  most interaction is digitally mediated

“It may be that older methods, borrowed from the former societies of sovereignty, will return to the fore… #because new modes of comm make us/ can make us free-er?

Corporation at all levels of schooling?

Deleuze asks if unions which had been apart of resistance to disciplinary societies can adapt to societies of control?  They may not be, but people are as a collective and through social media they are becoming one and functioning within and around barriers through the use of SM this could and should be improved for the purpose of a free society..  Given way to new forms of resistance.  Culture jamming and remixing media can threaten the power of marketing.  What is to be made of the thought of the individual functioning as a tool for marketing.  When the corporation functionally annexes the dividual?  Youtube and facebook marketing

Motivation should not be for perpetual training and internships, but to change the locus of control within the society.  It should be decenter the corporation as a means of control.  Blogging and SM, even though corporately designed and maintained can decentralize.

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?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

0204: Yes Men say “No”. An accreditor tells the Truth

#education #ccss #occupyedu

I was asked to sit on a panel of teachers to represent my school district during the accreditation process. I assume I was chosen because I am eager to speak in meetings and apparently speak well. This makes me think my administration has only enjoyed the sound of my voice and not the content of my O so bold oration.

I noticed quickly that I was in a room full of yes men and women who teach in the more affluent schools in our district. They all smiled and sat nicely. They were there to be slaughtered like good little lambs. The team of teachers surrounding me, my co-teachers, were, not unlike me worse for wear and doubting. Lips pursed, eyebrows cocked, notepads out. We were prepared for whatever we were going to he expected to swallow without question. Of course, my group did not act in complete accord. One just parroted off whatever was expected. Another would nod in agreement with the rest of the flock.

This accreditation team is from Advanced Ed, a voluntary “quality assurance” company that comes in for a hefty price and helps ensure that schools are quantitatively meeting standards. They provide services ranging from professional development to teacher evaluations to curriculum development to brainwashing desperate administration. The people on the teams I have met are high paid zealots who offer instruction in best practices from corporate research done in schools far different from the ones they are currently serving. This is no shock. I’ve been impressed with their ability to stick to their script even when challenged. They utilize a method similar to Bill O’Reilly’s when challenged. They simply repeat their original point in a different tone and then say “well we don’t have time to continue this” or “for the sake of time we have to move on”. But they’re generally nice people.

Back to the meeting and the flock.

We were asked general questions regarding the state of our facilities, safety on campus, professional development related to Common Core, whether or not the professional development was useful, and many more. Most people nodded along in agreement with the flock.

And then we were asked if we thought our kids were prepared for college and/or the “real world” when they left or high school. The flocked bleated, “Yes”. They provided examples, “I am a product of this district and I was more than ready.” Several referenced themselves as examples.

I asked the “accreditors” who were superintendents from other states if they thought the students leaving their districts were prepared. They paused and looked at one another. I continued, “is it possible with the way things are segmented, and the focus on testing and extreme standardization for anyone to leave a school completely prepared?” The other teachers in the room began speaking. One shouted out, “I teach at the community college in the summers. Our students almost always have to enter remedial reading courses.” Another offered her child as an example stating how his first year of college was devoted to college prep courses.

The accreditors said we had to move on, but first he said: “off the record, we’re all in trouble.” And was back to the agenda. It was an interesting moment to see a stone face break for a moment. It was a nice moment of breaking from the flock for the teachers around me. It’s nice to see a Yes Man say no.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

0203: Is stealing bad if your family is starving? Cheating on tests.

#education #ATL #testing

The current testing cheating scandal in Atlanta makes a strong statement, not about the integrity of those involved in cheating, but about the system that puts such pressure on teachers and administrators to produce results that they are pushed to ethical limits.

Cheating is quite the temptation in schools and districts that serve low SES populations—not all. They’re often down or behind from the start. Resources aren’t always available or as available. Teaching staff often has troubles. Students don’t always have a consistent education as kids with other resources/different SES levels might. Of course, problems with cheating aren’t limited to the poorest schools. But, if anyone will be caught it will be among these.

This will certainly be used to further demonize educators and administrators. This is a scandal that is not isolated. It happens all over. The culture testing has created is terrible. I’ve heard people tattle on others and themselves. I’ve known people to lose their license for cheating. I’ve seen teachers go before tribunals because vomit was on a test booklet. The whole thing is a farce. Testing and accountability are one thing but this is a culture of madness. It’s some creepy fascist society.

Who benefits from putting these people in prison or prosecuting them? They were trying to survive. Desperate times often force bad ethical decisions. The tests certainly don’t benefit the kids. We neglect them educationally, socially, emotionally, etc. just to keep our own heads above water.

There are myriad things wrong with our system. It would be nice if this spectacle would do something besides sully the name of educators further. Unfortunately the money and power to defame is not in our favor.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

0198: Permission to teach or a trap: When evaluators start speaking of #freedom in the #classroom

#ccss #education

It’s time to start writing again. First, the third party lords of our schools are back at work. And, I’m getting more and more spam from sites that want me to call upon my inner seventh grader.

Yesterday we had a meeting about questioning and shifting to a more constructivist style of teaching. Of course, the explanation was very vague and condensed. The presenter did a fabulous job of saying: “you [the faculty] teach in an antiquated manner. You must replace your broken teaching style with this new one, and then figure out how to also prepare your students for the test that measures the old way…and while we’re at it, we will be evaluating you with this new form.”

I am not opposed to a style of education that is more liberating. Students actively constructing their own knowledge and understanding optimizing their personal skill sets and developing new ones is marvelous. I strive for that in my classroom…when it’s possible. There is no doubt that I have some hang ups with this cavalier attempt to reform this school and district.

For starters, I’m concerned that teachers here will be evaluated with a corporate instrument that is designed to measure a teacher’s implementation of practices that very few understand. I gather the instrument will seek to quantify something that isn’t terribly quantifiable unless heavily deconstructed.

Further, teachers around me already smell the next best thing. Utterances of “this too shall pass” were audible in the meeting. There will be little to no training beyond the simple “here are some strategies we will be looking to see you use.” An entire philosophical construct will be reduced to mere strategies.

Finally, they recommended teaching less content in order to allow the students develop their own understanding. Help them learn deeper. A fantastic idea, but will the test change? Are we going to have time to help learners adjust? Will teachers have a chance to adjust?

Is this a trap or permission to really teach?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I was giving my students a stern talking to this afternoon, what my grandmother would have called a “come to Jesus meeting”. An evaluator walked in in the middle of our “meeting”. I continued as usual. The kids have given up, or have just decided they’re finished trying until after the holiday break. I understand. These things happen. Sometimes we all need a little motivation, even if it’s a little stern, a little loving, and a little not in line with the chosen objective that’s on the lesson plan on the board. I will hurry to my box in the morning to see what charming remarks my dear friend left me. We have to teach. I have to teach. Nothing happens if I keep jumping through their hoops.

Monday, November 26, 2012

0195: Drowning as an Educator or Finding the Surface

#education #teaching #SOS

Over the past few weeks I’ve struggled with my problem with top down models of education. I attempted to allow the thought “this is for the greater good” into my mind. I tried to hold it in my mind and make it fit. It only made me sick the way the body rejects foreign objects. I’ve labored over the necessity of my concern. Will contemplation of this directly benefit my students? Will it benefit me? Or should I simply give in and follow orders in order to be at peace? If I can’t fall in like with the system perhaps I should quit? Is resistance futile?

I’ve also questioned the purpose of writing and publishing these internal quarrels. Do I write to benefit others? Am I simply an exhibitionist? Am I writing so someone, anyone, will hear my cry as my ship sinks slowly? Am I looking for a rescue? Support? Perhaps I’m planting a revolutionary seed that will grow beyond my imagination? I hope all of the above are true. That is for you who finds this message in a bottle to decide.

But, back to my original aim and/or question: should I resist or acquiesce? Certainly, if you are familiar with me or my rantings and raving you know that acquiescence is not an option. Compromise is a possibility and is best, but is not always possible. I have to also wonder if my rantings are spur me, or someone, on to action or am I merely bitching. If my reflection does not lead to action it is nothing more than mental and rhetorical masturbation which is the utmost waste of time and energy.

So, has my worry recently been of use to me? I think so. It’s helped me to understand where I am and what I’m doing professionally and personally. I’ve certainly lost sight of why I teach for a stint. My focus has shifted from the students to pleasing evaluators and jumping through hoops. I’ve tried to keep the devil off my back, and in doing so I’ve forgotten the world of which I’m a part. I’ve simply lost sight of anything. I can only compare to the panic that occurs when one believes they are drowning. The only fight is for life. I’ve been in that fight as a teacher. I’ve spoken of that fight theoretically, but no matter how much we practice or reaction to drowning there is no comparison to the real thing.

I’m fighting to regain footing to I can teach what I know is best. I am a mediator between curriculum that is prescribed, which is not necessarily to be rejected, the curriculum that is needed, and the human beings that are, or should be the recipients of what will be taught. I think I’ve found the life vest. It’s time to move forward. It’s time to teach, and resist, and voice my dissent. It’s time to reconnect. Thank you for your constant support, dear reader. May my confusion ever be of some benefit to someone.

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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

0193: I’m a good teacher now?

I’m a good teacher now. I covered my walls with posters, and motivational phrases as I was told. I put colorful paper on my door so evaluators could tell I care about my students. I even put up the competitive sticker chart so my students can compete for the highest grade. I’ve even started implementing divisive tactics to turn them against one another. I planted the rumor that one student intended to get the top test score for herself. I’ve created this routine that involves students moving in a unified pattern at a unified pace into their desks. I consider this collaboration. And, it’s really quite amazing. They appear to be working together. I’ve trained them to appear that way, but beneath that is a brewing resentment. Each student is working hard to out do the other. I’ve shifted my focus from learning to achieving. Grades are now the most important thing. I’ve finally stopped deviating from my lesson plan to explore a related to the topic or our needs as human beings. I’ve scripted and timed my lesson plans. It’s brilliant. If I’m not present anyone who can read can come in and do my job. I’m still talking in meetings I’ve just started agreeing with the 3rd party evaluators. I used to question what they were telling us—for my sake, the sake of other teachers, and for students. But I was wrong. They’re right. They hold the evaluations. They are in the know. If students aren’t performing on tests then they’re not learning. It’s so clear to me. It’s important for testing and publishing companies to make money. After all, the corporation has a soul. It’s a person too. I’m a teacher and I care. So I will do as I’m told. Please join me. We can only be unified if we’re divided beneath.

And remember, it’s best to scrutinized constantly. It will help you cleanse your own soul.