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
0049: I’ll learn from you, but I won’t go gentle.
#teaching #learning #power
I have a class that is refusing to learn from me. We have days that are functional, but the majority of their energy is spent rejecting my instruction. They are fighting hard to say: “We don’t need you, and we don’t want you as our teacher.” I fight back with a steady dose of teaching and experiential learning that is challenging. I’m frustrated, but I’m in a situation that is in no way unique. I’m replacing their former beloved teacher who taught them the exact way they wanted to be taught. The we’re not terribly challenged, but they had fun. Friday’s were for movies and half of class was devoted to personal conversation. There are lots of classes like that. They’re fun classes. But, they leave craters in students’ learning and self-efficacy. They make challenges harder. But, I digress, and like my reluctant students, I’m focusing on the past.
This challenging class has an interesting and non-unified dynamic. About half the class supports me. And about three kids are die-hard supporters of the old regime. Some of the group, the swing vote goes either way, depending on the day. Additionally, the students have their own problems and drama between each other. I feel like I can’t win. We are “us” and they are “them” and I am “they” and sometimes “we”, and sometimes, on occasion, we are “we”. The challenge is to be “we” all the time.
So, is there a definitive answer to the bold statement of “I won’t learn from you”? Sure, build relationships and rapport, but how when the class is performance based? Where is there time? Is this year an inconsistent wash with this group? Is this a triage situation?
They are learning. That is a plus. But, they don’t go gentle. I don’t know if I have a question or an understanding. Their defiance is resolute. And, while frustrating, I think I respect it.