I admire people's desire to get to the root of NM's specious evaluation system. However, I think we’re asking the wrong questions. The questions shouldn’t come down to how the evaluation system isi affecting teachers. The questions should orbit around how all this insanity is affecting learners and their communities. While we adults are deeply wounded by this purposefully disempowering system, we can take care of themselves. Our children are considerably more vulnerable than we are and deserve to have their needs addressed before addressing our own. Here are my questions, rewritten from those composed by another person, to reflect this reality:
(...more below the fold...)
Recently, one of my students (he just turned 12) wrote this in response to a quick write at the beginning of class. He failed to turn it in "on time" but I think it was well worth the wait. This goes out to all those out there who say middle schoolers can't think. That they're just a bunch of hormone-laden children with no awareness of their world and how they fit inside of it. I share it here because, damn, IT'S GREAT!
"Only one thing can fix our schools and it is not money. The only thing that can fix our schools is us people that are trying to learn for their lives. People like the principal, assistant principal, the dean of students, the secretaries are supposed to be those allowed to fix our schools. But they can’t because politicians and rich people are too busy announcing things that put more money in their pockets. So us kids have to be the saviors. All those people have had over 30 years to fix what they have broken. Now us kids will get it done. If someone is reading this and don’t agree or understand I get you fully. But really, these people need to stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about our future. Because the administration, teachers, and kids are playing with fire. If we aren’t carful, everyone will get burned. If everyone gets burned there will be no future for anyone."
Twelve years on this earth- and he already understands the schools better than Arne Duncan. There's hope.
I sit here sick as a dog, stuck in a web of irony. As a school teacher of middle school youth, I arrive at school at 5 AM and leave at 5 PM. About once a year, this schedule takes its toll on my body and I end up sick for a day or two. This year, some student-provided cold has walloped my body and left me dizzy enough to crawl around the house. I am attempting to recuperate by resting while watching movies. As an English teacher, I pray my sickness does not result in horrific writing… please forgive me if it does. Additional ironies flow from there…ironically below the fold.
I was struck by reading one of my old journals in which I quote a book by a Brazilian teacher, Paulo Freire. Though written in 1960, it captures the events Egypt and what we're facing here in the USA. I think this excerpt from his book, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" is a powerful indicator we Kossites are on the right side of history... with the PEOPLE. See more below the People's fold...(eww)
"The four bubbles from question number 17 peer up at me, mocking me, reminding me of a ridiculous idea: that my ability to 'identify the author's intent in this passage' is somehow connected to getting out of the trailer I live in...the one with raw sewage and mom's meth stinking up the place and the one without food in the mold-infested fridge. Ridiculous indeed."
One of my 8th graders came up with this one. Thanks, DJ.
There is a movement in many states to get rid of most of these STD (ahem, standardized) tests. I am also aware that Arne Duncan and his crew say we’ll supposedly teach “less stuff” under this allegedly “new” and “streamlined” system. My administration is selling us on precisely this idea as our district is likely to be a pilot of the "new" system. To be brutally honest, I think that the very idea we will suddenly have “less stuff” to teach is patently absurd; it’s snake oil; we shouldn’t believe these used car salesmen when they say such silly things. No matter how amazing the students in our classrooms, there will always be more stuff for them (and us) to learn. Besides…
This was a lecture I gave to my learners (students) in a tragically underprivileged school in New Mexico:
It often feels as if our current circumstances are set in stone. When you go hungry at night, or when you find your father drunk each and every day when you come home from school, or when it appears the only neighbors you have are pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers- it seems as if the oppression you experience will never change. The number of institutions- those human-created groups that people control and influence without anybody really being in control- the sheer number of them that seem to rule over your life overwhelm you and lead you to believe a change in your circumstances is all but impossible. When we give up on change, we call this fatalism. Ism meaning the belief in, and fatal coming to us from the Greek concept of the fates…beings who essentially go around messing with us in order to derive pleasure from us pain.
Fellow Koss-i-topians may have noticed all the crazy stuff happening around healthcare reform. I, for one, am one who desires the single-payer option. It's simple. It's easy. It's the human thing to do. I am getting a number of my middle school students together at an upcoming event held by my Rep. to counter protest the thugg-a-dugg-duggery taking place at these Town Halls. I asked my learners to provide some ideas. This is the one that won out:
More below the fold...
My last post was received as a bit abstract (due to the fact it was intentionally abstract.) The nature of my writing comes from a tradition of allowing the reader to be co-creators of the content being read. That is to say, the abstractions require the reader to commit to meaning making- thus making their experience "tailor-made" to their needs; to where they are on the path of life. That being said...here is my less abstract coda to the last post.
(Note: This was part of a speech I had to discard due to time constraints. I couldn't let it sit in my journal, unshared.)
I begin by asking: Why do we educate? I believe that all educators ultimately express different facets of the same gem: Namely, that we are all answering a call to be of use. This is great, we want to be useful, but why stop there? Let us ask the next logical questions: "Of use for whom? Against whom? For what? Against what?"
I look at my young learners and I see disrespect, anger, distrust, fear, disgust...all of which arrive at adults’ doorstep to cause us angst. Too often, we adults fail to realize that these emotions are directed at us because our youth are passing judgment for the messed up world we so generously "provided" for them.
We lie, even about the littlest of things. We obfuscate that which we cannot hide in an effort to hold onto a world whose time is long past...one in which we alone find false comfort. We adults lash out at these judging eyes hoping to silence the plethora of voices that dare to point out our hypocrisy; our aversion to evolutionary thought; our outright fear of direct action towards the concrete realization of that end. Mostly, we lash out in fear because we know our failed tenure as keepers of this Earth will soon end...and we lack the strength and imagination to hypothesize what comes next.
Republicans have been master wordsmiths for quite some time. Those of us who believe in a human-friendly future for our children have fallen by the wayside when it comes to capturing the language and using it for our (humanizing/transformative) ends. Along these lines I spend a great deal of energy and time, both within and beyond the classroom walls, re-imagining or retooling certain words and phrases. My goal is to reinvigorate our movement to become something more through the evoloution of our language. This often puts me into advesarial positions with other people who believe women and men don't have the right or ability to transform the status quo.
Specifically, I recently have been getting into "trouble" with my fellow university students and my fellow teachers for using a certain word: educand instead of learner. I know that it seems silly, but it makes sense to many who hear my explanation. So in the interest of thinking I'm MUCH smarter than I really am, here's my proposition: That we add educand to our teacher vocabulary in order to foster some amount of transformative change within and beyond our classrooms.
Follow me thoughts below ye fold.
I know that election ponderings can get a bit...blah, blah, blah...especially right before the "primaries." Sorry. But there's a lot to be said about the damn things. In so many ways, I believe we Dem's are truly shooting at our own damn feet. Are we filled with this much self doubt? Self-loathing? Self-hatred? What the devil are we doing? 'Tis not only a flesh wound at this point. We are hemorrhaging the very democratic ideals we claim to be trumpeting!
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