Educated to Death

An educator's attempt at keeping sanity in a system that pushes children through an assembly line in little boxes.

Category: criticism

0173: A Quick and Dirty Guide to Saying ‘No’ #education #firstyear #SOSchat #teacher

educatedtodeath.com

People face many challenges throughout their career. Saying ‘no’ is one of them. While it’s a mere two letter word, it can be one of the most difficult things to say. Many people never learn because they’re afraid (for a variety of reasons) or they never knew they could. Here’s your permission. It becomes harder to say it if you don’t learn to do it early on. It’s a skill that prevent burnout, administrative abuse, feelings of powerless, and so forth. I, of course, am not advocating that anyone shirk their responsibilities; rather, I am hopefully offering you a skill that will give you an element of control, and more important prevent you from being taken complete advantage of. As always, use discretion.

How to say ‘No’

While it should be as easy as saying the word, if you’ve ever tried it’s seldom that easy. You might finding yourself running through numerous scenarios of what might happen if you do say it. Perhaps you’ll be fired, reprimanded, or forgotten. Maybe you’ll lose favor with whoever’s asking. Maybe they won’t ask again. These are all things to take into consideration. Which brings us, I believe, to the crux of the matter: saying ‘no’ without alienating the inquirer or seeming defiant. So how do you do it? A friend offered me something similar to these steps, I’ve found them useful, so I’ll pass them along.

1. Decide if you want to do what they’re asking. Ask for time to think about it.

This is the part where you weigh your options. Is what I’m being asked something I need to do, want to do, have to do, don’t want to do, don’t have time to do, etc. My struggle is often wanting to do more than I have time to do. So when asked, if you need time to think if over, ask. Ask if you can think about it over night. If they press you for an answer, reiterate that you really need some time to think it over. More often than not, the time for consideration will be granted. Of course, there are somethings that the answer is yes before you’re asked. That’s a situation that requires your own judgment, and probably can’t be handled in this limited space.

2. Delivering your answer

You’ve made up your mind. Your answer is no.

a) Empathize.

Show that you understand their predicament, if there is a predicament. This could also equate with you understanding the weight of the situation, or the need to solve the problem. The main thing is to understand.

b) Express a desire to help them, but not right now.

This is where you’re actually saying ‘no’ without saying it. “I am really interesting in helping you with _________ , but _________.” You want to help or participate, but you’re unable at this time due to whatever. Maybe you have too much on your plate. Maybe something else.

c) Share your desire to do more in the future. Reschedule if you can.

You want to help them. You’re just unable at the moment, but you want to keep the opportunity, better, future opportunities intact. Ask if the task can be rescheduled, if it’s that type of task. Ask to be considered if another opportunity arises.

All together it might sound something like this:

“I understand where your coming from, I see this is very important. I’d really like to help you, but I really have too much on my plate to give it my all. Is there anyway we could reschedule?”

Something like that. Mold it to your situation.

It’s important to remember you’re saying no because you value your time, not because you’re being defiant. It’s your mental health and relationships at stake. You won’t always get your way, but it’s worth a shot. Use your best judgment when saying ‘no’. Every situation is unique. Be wise. Be creative. Be happy.

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0172: The Sullied Good We Do: Teachers as Cogs in the Machine #education #revolution

educatedtodeath.com

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.

0149: Questions on Equality in #Education #race #class #SOSchat #occupyedu

@educatedtodeath

I am becoming aware, brutally aware, that my experiences in public education are not common. There are people who see public education as a mildly problematic institution that generally does a good job of providing children with a basic education. There are others who find public education more than satisfactory. Children are treated in a humane manner and even allowed to thrive. Some of these children are affluent. Some are not. So I stand corrected in some areas. I’m glad that public education is serving some people a “good lunch” of equality and positive experiences. No doubt teachers work hard no matter the situation. But, there is still a stone unturned. My experience of public education as a teacher, a speaker, even a student.

First, I teach, have taught, attended, and am connected with educators who work in schools that primarily serve people of color, that is, anyone other than white. I think I have arrived at a point that requires questions, rather than attempted answers. Hopefully, those answers will arrive soon. So here goes. Are there schools, districts, and systems that ensure non-white students are treated equally to their cross county/city/neighborhood/any other division counterparts who happen to be white? Perhaps there’s a better way to phrase that question. Are children of color who are poor, illegal, ostracized from mainstream society, valued as much by any institution as other children? If so, where? I hope my experiences are very narrow. I hope the experiences of my peers who share my experiences around the country are narrow as well. But, even still, I am not satisfied. If my experiences were limited only to me, and I am totally disillusioned with a system to the point of being blinded to the good it does, then why are the children I teach less important than someone else’s children? Why are the children I have taught less valuable? Why don’t they receive the resources others receive? Why are they considered criminals the moment they are born, or the moment they enter kindergarten? And this view is not necessarily perpetuated by their teachers. I’ve taught alongside many understanding and frustrated teachers. I’ve taught with deeply committed people. I cannot call this an exception or a rule. I have found groups of teachers around this country that equally see this as a problem. But, to say that all teachers or people understand this would, in fact, be a sweeping generalization. That’s a good thing I suppose. And good for those who don’t understand this. But for those of us who do, what can we do? It’s appalling to know that people are still valued over other people. And they are. It is not possible to apply full blame to any single entity, but there certainly are directions in which we could wander. I hate that I am confused on this issue, and I’m not sure the question “why?” would even begin to answer or unravel the problem. Further, the problem neither begins or ends with public education as an institution; it is a problem, the problem of race, class, and equality, that runs throughout many of our American institutions. These problems certainly aren’t new, and I don’t know how to begin solve them except through dialogues that may lead to a new and revolutionary awareness of people who aren’t treated with equality that they should be. And let me rephrase that. Transformational dialogues must be a part of any shift in power. People who are oppressed, and there are people who are deeply oppressed this United States, but begin to function democratically, they must become a part of the change that affects them. For equality, power must shift. By which means, I dare not speculate. Certainly, this is the “real world” and students must learn to function within certain frameworks. But, what if those frameworks are not actually accessible to everyone? Or maybe just less accessible? What are we to do then? Are we to stay the course of public education and offer general courses in bullshit? Or are we to offer some alternative?

Regarding Freire in PK-12 education, if there is a third world in our backyards, what means does the third world have to access a first world? If there are parallel societies* in the US that function alongside mainstream society, but mostly separate, how is that gap to be bridged? Forcefully? Through dialogue? Mutual transformation? Who knows. I think that should suffice for now, from my vantage. I’m not sure how to go about answering these questions, just as I am unsure about answering them, but they need answering. I can’t foresee answers coming easily.

*Parallel society- those groups and subgroups who live within a society who are not represented by the lawmaking body, but subject to its imposed illegalities and punishment (Foucualt, ‘Discipline and Punish’); an underculture. What is to come of these groups of people?

0141: A Critique of #Classroom Management #education #SOSchat #occupyedu #discipline

@educatedtodeath
educatedtodeath.com

I will not attempt bore you with a classical critique of classroom management as if it were some brilliantly constructed concept, nor will I try to awaken you to any revolutionary idea— though I can only rejoice if you awaken even more than you already are. I will, however, discuss the concept and language of “classroom management” as we have come to know it. The heavy focus is a symptom of our terribly mis-focused educational system. Rather than providing learners with interesting and stimulating activities through which they cal learn, we are being forced to coercively deposit information that has no purpose beyond a test. Naturally, our unstimulated and bored, but curious students rebel and resist the forced “education”. From this rebellion is born a new focus on keeping kids in line, quiet, and automatic. With recess, break, and talking at lunch gone, the students need an outlet—the classroom. To combat this we can implement a subtly churched-up form of brainwashing called classroom management. I will focus on two points for this discussion. First, forms of classroom management goes beyond discipline by seeking to alter or suppress certain cognitions and behaviors that result from certain thoughts. And second, the term ‘classroom management’ has no standard definition and can be used to demonize a teacher with language alone.

Classroom management is an updated version of classroom discipline. It’s classroom discipline 2.0 with an expansion packet. Where discipline punished “bad” behavior, and even overt attempts to rebel, classroom management attempts to eliminate the possibility for said “bad” behavior. Theoretically rebellion is not possible with classroom management, because it squashes the thought before it can enter the child’s head. I do not intend to say an orderly classroom is not a good thing. It allows for learning to take place and things run better; but, there’s a fine line between orderly and completely automatic. Many elements of classroom management resemble classical conditioning. If we want critically thinking people, IF we want them, conditioning them to thoughtlessly respond to stimuli only counters and complicates our goal. As teachers, we must be careful to distinguish conditioning from better practices, such as constant, high quality discourse, that encourage critical thought.

Second, classroom management has no real definition— at least, not in standard terms for practitioners. When a teacher doesn’t deliver the perfect product, administration takes a look at “classroom management”. At interviews potential candidates are asked about “classroom management”. People provide answers that include keeping students on task, engaged, and focused on the task. All good things, but the how can be a different story. Classroom management can mean myriad things. One principal may look for a quiet classroom; another may expect minimal discipline referrals. Seldom is there a clear expectation. The answers teachers are taught to provide in interviews are rarely the real desired outcome or what is supported; however, they are the unmet expectations used to put teachers on improvement plans, and put dismissal procedures into action. The point is, there is no standard definition. Classroom management can have different styles, but if someone is to be disciplined according to their “poor classroom management” ability, they should know how and why they are being put on the chopping block. This is not to say that there aren’t principals who provide a wonderfully clear definition and expectation for classroom management. These principal’s support teachers to maintain a healthy classroom that fosters learning.

*It seems the more harmful versions of “classroom management” are more present in high poverty schools. However, there are ample exceptions either way. The schools that serve the lower SES populations are often in “trouble” because of testing, and are subject to more punitive top-down measures. This makes the climate perfect for harsh classroom management practices.*

Classroom management as an idea is not such a bad thing. Some of the practices aren’t too bad either. It just takes a critical eye when it comes to implementation. Our learning environment, that of test, test, test, lays the foundation for our hollow practices. “Get it done or your job is gone,” makes taking a stand difficult. It pressures us to do some things that we wouldn’t otherwise do. But, this isn’t acceptable. We have to stand against anything that interrupts real learning. We’ve all ventured down dark educational paths from time to time. We just can’t continue that way. Keep harmful classroom management practices away. Fight the Testocracy.