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(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?"

These are fundamental questions each of us ask ourselves- in one way or another; consciously or subconsciously. These questions drill towards the Center of our Being…and the ways we answer them are the outwardly-expressed symbols of our identity. This is why identity is so important to acknowledge and utilize in our classrooms. And we must begin and end with seeking to better understand our own identity as individual human beings.

Why must we first know who we are as educators and teachers before we enter our classrooms? Because, if we do not know where we are, then it really starts to get complicated as to where we are going. Again, I am assuming all educators are answering a call to be of use (for/against whom/what?). To do this, we must first develop a more-or-less accurate orientation to ourselves and our place within our society.

We must seek to understand where we are in the ocean of life. And once we do this, once we make this metaphoric jump, we begin to open our minds to the idea that our individual selves are not separate from others. Instead we are each like waves on the ocean’s surface, each different but still water- only water- and thus part of an immense, cosmic soup; We’re all separate, and yet all contributing our own flavor to one another in intensely intimate ways.

Let’s take one more mental jump! If we are not separate from other individual Selves, we cannot know our Self nor our place within our world without seeking to orient our very being in relation to the essence of all other beings. This awareness requires we know the identities of our young learners. This is not simply necessary, but paramount if we are to succeed at answering this call to be of use.

Now, both how and what we see…depends, in large part, on what we want to see. To do this, we must ask our fellow women and men, “What are your dreams and why are you here?” It sounds a little bit more meaningful and transformative than "Open up your books to chapter seventeen," does it not?

Originally posted to brazmunkee on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 10:28 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    Read your world to better understand the word. Write the word so that you can begin to change our world.

    by brazmunkee on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 10:28:20 PM PDT

  •  Mass education (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, luckylizard, miss SPED

    If you go through the discussions prior to the establishing of mass education in the 19th century, they are all concerned with providing a suitably skilled workforce. Again, modern discussion of such things as examinations are often centered around their utility for employers and of the student's ability to find work.

    "Israel was born out of Jewish terrorism." Sir Gerald Kaufman, British MP and son of Holocaust survivor.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 10:34:09 PM PDT

  •  I'm sort of curious... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kalmoth, luckylizard

    This speech was for what, to whom?

  •  Payback (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, miss SPED

    My particular situation is different than many.  I was educated from kindergarten through college by dedicated religious women who taught for free.  That doesn't seem so important while you're a student.  Teachers of any stripe are often the enemy.  As I grew older, though, I realized just what these nuns had given to me and so many others.

    I have continued in parochial schools despite the pitiful pay and the onerous demands on time and talent.  There are lots of folks who wouldn't dream of putting in the added hours that teachers must do, yet parochial school teachers go beyond even that.  It drives me crazy sometimes, but then I remember how much people gave up so that I could get such a great education.  

    Finally, it's enlightened self-interest.  I want to know that my students will remember how much someone cared about them when they were young.  They will be in charge when I am "in the home" and I want them making good decisions.  I even tell them that.  No harm in them knowing that they should think about their past when looking toward the future.

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 11:21:52 PM PDT

    •  I am not sure that I understand exactly how (3+ / 0-)

      low pay and so on in the parochial system adds meaning to the process of education. I was a relatively well-paid public school teacher. I now have a very good pension. I am not sure that the students I taught would appreciate my efforts any more if I had been paid less and had less say in the system of which I was a part.

      I believe that this idea of sacrifice and the idea that to teach is to be relatively poor is one of the things that has kept teaching from becoming a true profession. I dream of a day when the brightest among us routinely choose our noble profession. Rewards comensurate with importance of the work and the skill it requires to do well is an major factor in moving us in that direction.

      I have two children. Both have received world class educations, expensive ones. Neither of them is at all interested in teaching as profession although both are very much interested in the learning process and will be life-long learners. I understand why teaching is not really an option for them as a career. The oldest is teaching as an adjunct at a city college in addition to his career position, but he certainly would never see that as a possible vocation. In today's world, I understand that thinking completely.

      If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

      by itisuptous on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 11:47:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was just giving context. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        miss SPED

        I teach because I owe these kids the quality education that I got.  The rest is context.  I'd love it if teachers were paid what they're worth and schools had the resources they need to be effective.  Unfortunately, kids don't vote.  Their education continues to be a political football that's inflated and passed around during election cycles, and then left to go flat in between.

        It never ceases to amaze me that there are still good teachers coming out of colleges.  It's not that people wouldn't be good at it, but that they would actually choose to do it knowing how limited the opportunities are that surprises me.  I'm grateful to the young people who are coming in to teach in my building.  They give me hope.

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 12:02:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I certainly agree with you. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          luckylizard, miss SPED

          I am into my second career as full-time staff person for the Illinois Education Association. Teaching becomes increasingly difficult and risky in many ways. I too am amazed that so many young people of talent do choose to teach. I also cannot but notice how few of them stick with it. Aside from the pay... it is becoming harder and harder to find it rewarding. Teachers are not sufficently appreciated or supported in most settings.

          The New Teacher Center recently published their findings of a national research project that documents this fact. It is entitled The Widget Effect.He is the link: The Widget Effect.

          If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

          by itisuptous on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 12:23:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I have no idea what you are saying (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ManhattanMan, swaminathan

    However, it does seem to me that one of the problems of education, particularly higher education, is that it derives from the system of educating the British aristocracy to be able to move in society as educated men. There was no attempt to provide them with skills to earn a living because, well, that wasn't their problem.

    Transforming that philosophy into modern times, we encourage the children of lower and middle class parents to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars but eschew providing them with the skills to pay off those debts.  We are "teaching people how to think about the world".  Unfortunately, these aren't the children of British lords and when they wind up in clerical position paying off vast student loans, there is likely to be a bit of a feeling of betrayal.

    •  British Lords (0+ / 0-)

      True, to many people who teach learners to "think about our world" fail to bring those thoughts to action. Paulo Freire refers to these people as "verbalists." Conversely, those who only act and do not think are "activists." (Let the responses begin!)

      What is at issue here is balancing one's praxis- one's action and theory and how the two co-relate to one another. I feel I failed last year as a teacher because  all we did was think...action was pushed to the back burner. This year I already have lined up a number of people doing social work, politicians, community leaders, and religious figures to come in to our classroom and talk about service to our community. We're going to go to soup kitchens and the like. Theory without action- teaching kids to think without providing them the skills to survive in the world- is as bad as teaching our youth only to react without thought.

      Read your world to better understand the word. Write the word so that you can begin to change our world.

      by brazmunkee on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 10:08:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I spent more than 30 years in the classroom (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kalmoth, miss SPED

    and I think that I was always somewhat reflective in both my philosophy and practice, but I seldom framed things as abstractly as you do here. I would be interested in greater elaboration of the points that you make.

    Certainly for one's teaching and participation with students in the teaching learning process clarity about the "compelling whys" makes the process meaningful. It was this kind thinking that led me into teacher union leadership, systems thinking, and educational reform. I have always possessed a strong desire to impact those factors and forces that were external to the classroom but significant in their limiting qualities upon teaching and learning.

    If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

    by itisuptous on Sat Jul 11, 2009 at 11:28:58 PM PDT

    •  abstractions (0+ / 0-)

      Abstract? Yes, with emphasis on the yes.

      A while ago, I realized that a great deal of the reading I pursue is not concrete, to say the least (Freire, Foucault, etc.) At the same time, I realized that the abstractness allows me to experience the piece from my own perspective, making it meaningful for me. In the same way, you read my ideas and they became meaningful for you; that is to say your memory and your experience were transformed in some way...enough for you to write a comment back to me.

      The fact that you were reflective in your practice made you go beyond the realm of teacher to become an educator- one who actively educes someone to become something more.

      I will attempt to concretize some of my thoughts in a later post. Thanks for the input!

      Read your world to better understand the word. Write the word so that you can begin to change our world.

      by brazmunkee on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 10:03:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  An eye sees, but does not see itself... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marina, miss SPED

    a sword cuts, but does not cut itself.

    Contemplate this.

  •  Why do we educate? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miss SPED

    as in why does one teach? Or why do we have the social institution of education? The first question is a personal one while the second is a social/economic/political one. I think accomplished career teachers have a clear understanding of each of them and the connection between the two.

    If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living. - Gail Sheehy

    by itisuptous on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 12:05:12 AM PDT

    •  Again... (0+ / 0-)

      Which question does it ask YOU? I have a very good idea what I meant, but it is up to each individual to come to their own conclusions- something I picked up from working the last 10 years with Native peoples of the Americas.

      Read your world to better understand the word. Write the word so that you can begin to change our world.

      by brazmunkee on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 10:10:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We believe there will be a future that will (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, miss SPED

    be beyond our personal ability to manipulate or control.  We try to replicate the best part of ourselves in as many others as possible so that what we are can be used to influence that time.

    We are realistic about ourselves; we are optimistic about others.

    Teachers weave straw into gold and squeeze coal into diamonds.

    by algebrateacher on Sun Jul 12, 2009 at 02:03:15 AM PDT

  •  We also educate because parents need child care. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    miss SPED

    Our 21st century economy demands that two parents work.  Somebody's got to watch those kids during those eight hours.  Somebody needs to keep the kids off the streets.

    In addition to the lofty mission of education, there is non-glamorous child-care to be done.  

    Educators bristle at the thought that they are increasingly asked to provide it...after all, that's not what they got all those Master's Degrees for. But we need to reach a compromise.

    Perhaps we hire less-expensive aides to do morning and evening activities.  Perhaps just pay teachers more money and ask them to come in an hour early and stay an hour later.

    The role that these big brick buildings play in our society has got to be updated to reflect the needs of today's families.

  •  speaking of bristling (0+ / 0-)

    The hair stands up on the back of my neck when I read comments about teachers, like we are the mediocre, the ones who couldn't make it in a real job, the ones who are just looking for a three month vacation and a steady pension.

    I have a teaching degree and a graduate degree. I teach special education by choice.  I am gifted, I married a very intelligent man, and I have two sons who are gifted. As a family unit, I am surrounded by very smart, very challenging people - and yet many of my students at school think I was a sped kid.

    Where are we as a nation, that it is ok to pay our teachers an amount which will never be enough to pay off their education? Why should teaching be a charitable contribution of one's life? Special education teachers have a very high turnover rate - the burnout is incredible - the paperwork and the workload and the disrespect is overwhelming. Every day is high drama day. Yet when budgets are tight, we cut teachers and paraprofessionals - not administrators and bureaucrats.

    I love being a teacher.  I am also a realist about what it means to be a teacher.

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