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Leadership and Activism

Looking for Voices of Reason

I’m honored to offer this guest post from Angelina Reed, a pre-service teacher about to earn her bachelor’s degree. She offers perspective and questions that push us all to pause, reflect, and offer practical pathways for proactive change. I look forward to this conversation as I believe there’s never been a more relevant post on the co-op.

With hope,
Adam

As a pre-service teacher I would like to relate to you a little of
what I have seen in the many schools I have visited.

1) Some teachers are demoralized with constant criticism from the
media and are left with no self-confidence in their own abilities as
teachers. The political climate here (TN) is hostile at the moment
which also fuels the fire. ALL of the negative aspects of our public
education system have been advertised without any regard to the
wonderful things these teachers do everyday. This has left the public
skeptical of every teacher and their ability to instruct their
children. The media, politicians, and also some teachers are letting
the politics of: unions, teacher pay, or their own political
philosophy of what should be taught, cloud their vision of a better
education for everyone. No one is thinking or acting proactively.
Many are relying on politics to fix education….that is just not going
to work. Also, many are using education as a political selling
point. I know political issues must be confronted, but I believe the
process in which we approach issues around education need to be
changed. How do we build up teachers in the midst of such hostility?

2) Students in my cohort are now wondering if they really have what it
takes to go into a profession in which they will not be respected. I
feel many teachers and students are loosing the ability to empower
themselves and their students. There is no spark, no excitement to
keep them going! How do we keep students entering the field of
teaching optimistic, excited, and creative, when teachers themselves
and the public they serve are becoming increasingly pessimistic?

3) There is no plan of action. Many suggest ideas, improvement,
change, restructure, etc. with no positive plan of action. No one is
on the same page. Everyone is divided in their opinions without having
a setting in which they can come together in the areas they agree on.
I don’t sense a feeling of cooperative education, right now I sense do
or die. As I said in my email to Adam, this feeling may be everyone’s
panicked response to change. How can we unite teachers together and
evaluate these changes in a positive, proactive way?

I am only speaking in a generality as there are many teachers who
aren’t letting themselves be affected by the above issues…I have been
fortunate enough to be in their classrooms! I am sure there are many
other things I could say, but I don’t have enough time in the day to
discuss them!

Thanks for addressing these issues and offering your expertise to a
newby like me!

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About Adam Burk

Adam aims to serve the greater good; alleviate unnecessary suffering; and create beautiful, sane human communities in concert with the living planet. Recently, he has helped to rebuild local food systems in Maine in large part through school food services, organized the TEDxDirigo conference, and is a digital organizer with the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA).

Discussion

5 thoughts on “Looking for Voices of Reason

  1. Angelina,

    As a Pre-student Teacher myself…and a number of recent grads on the cooperative…Adam, Casey, Jeff…..

    I can understand your frustration about the lack of support future teachers are getting in the public eye. I however think we do have the tools and the energy to help change it. I would love for you to check out IDEA…and talk to Scott Nine about joining as a Community Organizer for next year. At IDEA we are trying to showcase what is working and help to connect the face to face time of organizing with the national conversation and policy, not political meaning right or left, but political as in it is a right to have education that matters and worth the energy and the time to continue to help bring about a change in that direction.

    Posted by dloitz | March 10, 2011, 9:44 pm
  2. Angelina,

    I am going to approach this in parts. Its a potent piece that I’d love to put up on the blog . Paula White tagged me a long time ago as “always pushing” a play off my blog “Pushing Upward.” Anyway, to your first question:

    How do we build up teachers in the midst of such hostility?

    In my dreams:
    We need the time and space to authentically engage teachers in inquiry. Every teacher, administrator (probably parents and students too) should be given the space and opportunity to voice his/her vision of education, the why we even have schools in the first place, why they even come to work everyday. Once these values are articulated, a group process should be led by a very skilled facilitator to assist teachers and administrators to build district and building level visions for their schools. Teachers can then be led to evaluate for themselves how they are and aren’t aligned with this vision. Instead of letting outside and unvalued evaluations judge them so harshly (such as AYP).

    This should happen a lot of places at once, and the results, the evaluations that are built by schools, and the stories of the process should be collected. This should inform any next level phase of state or national evaluation reform. This way standards of education are localized but not isolated.

    This process would necessitate a second: the exploration of the how we approach the why. In other words, pedagogy and methodology, curriculum, etc.

    Education is a massive system, that touches so many for such a long time, that such an involved, grassroots and grasstops approach is called for. Otherwise we will continue letting the politicians figure it out for us, and we all know how that turns out.

    More later…

    Thanks Angelina.

    Adam

    Posted by Adam Burk | March 10, 2011, 10:55 pm
  3. Angelina,

    You know you have been around a while when your first students that you taught are older than some of the youngest teachers on the team. I will approach this how I approach new teachers that come to my school for their pre-service hours.

    We toil in the fields of soul crafting, which unfortunately is not for the faint of heart nor for a body without one. We are not some piece of machinery that stamps out the perfect product day in and day out. We must be bold and audacious; tender and loving, not afraid of making mistakes nor fearing to make connections. You are the shield that protects the child from the worst practices in education, wrapping them up in their dreams to keep them warm. Without teachers like you, our children stand naked to be abused by a system that is hellbent on classifying them into a crude assortment of quality control measures.

    No this is not for the faint of heart, this is for the heart that beats when their eyes light up, when we become included in their jokes, when we laugh so hard we cry. You will have loses along the way. Some to death, some to jail, but perhaps the most painful loss is the child that loses hope.

    While we struggle against of the outside world, do not lose faith. Tho the world may mock and ridicule us; the crafting of souls will sustain us if we let it. You are part of this tradition, I welcome you to our world. For outsiders our day is a mystery that they will never comprehend; often speaking crudely and ignorantly with their biases leading the way.

    So I give you and your peers this advice. Practice with your heads held high, teach respectfully WITH our children, refuse to practice what you know harms kids! If the place you teach refuses to let you do this, do it anyway. BE COURAGEOUS, good teaching is good teaching. Stay committed to this and you will find allies in the most unlikely places; do right by their kids and parents will give you their love and respect.

    In parting, you matter to me and we need you to extend our reach beyond the differences we have made. Someday, somewhere there is a child waiting for you to hold their hand. To gently nudge them towards their dreams. Don’t let the outside world distract you from your primary purpose: making a difference in a child’s life. Life is too short to be afraid.

    Keep the faith,

    Jamie

    Posted by Jamie Steckart | March 10, 2011, 11:48 pm
  4. Thanks Jamie for that. That was quite beautiful!

    As a Goddard student I struggle with the difference in what I am learning and often what I see in the Media and classrooms. Yet, with my work for IDEA (www.democraticeducation.org) or the Cooperative Catalyst or my sub job at the Reggio Inspired Coop Family Center in Eugene…

    I do see hope and I know that I am not alone in being passionate about promoting what works in education and schooling. I know meaningful learning is out there and those pockets are not as small as we actually think…. we just have to have better eyes. Often if we look for only the worse of something that is what we find.

    One of my duties as a IDEA community organizer has been visiting innovative schools in Oregon to include on a tour much like this one.

    I have had the honor of visiting a handful of schools that are providing teachers and students a meaningful space to learn and grow, a place where relationships of people not data are the foundation that everything is built on, a place where learning expands pass the walls and does not stop at 3pm.

    These communities of learning are filled with teachers who are passionate about their jobs and have the support to do the work, but know they can always get better and are always assessing and learning to help with the growth of their practice.

    I have visited a mixtures of schools, public, private, independent, charter, high school, middle, elementary and even infant and toddler care and all share this at their core.

    You are joining them when you decide to become a teacher! You and I add to the growing pool of new teachers that have a chance to rewrite the history of teaching. It might not change in one day or one school year, but each of us are seeds and lets show children that learning and teaching can be about passion and curiosity, about reflection and growth, that curriculum can be meaningful and have purpose and the limits of learning is not limited to a text book, a single lesson or teacher and they are just as much our teachers as we are theirs…. who knows what the profession holds for us.

    David

    Posted by dloitz | March 11, 2011, 12:02 am
  5. Angelina, the best advice I can give you is to cultivate your relationships with your students, your supporters, and those crucially important allies you’ll find who can push you and argue with you without losing humor or losing faith in your common cause to transform public education.

    If you and your students trust one another, you will learn powerfully together.

    If you surround yourself with a support structure, the worst days will end well.

    If you push back and forth with friends as equally, if differently, passionate as you are, then the ripples of your arguments will go out and touch other classrooms and lives.

    The adult political stuff will drive you nuts if you let it. Be a consistent advocate for your kids. The profession will be what the profession is – it will change only as we, collectively, make individual changes and decisions to act and speak.

    My plan of action is find new ways to teach, to resist harmful practices, to share out the successes and failures in teaching and learning that I’m fortunate enough to own, and to work with my friends to change what we can, which is more than I used to think we could change. Every once in a while the plan goes awry, and I wind up posting about evil zombie computer programs and 70s or 80s bands, but a teacher’s blog must exceed his lifetime allotment of puns else what’s a WordPress account for?

    Thank you for joining us as a pre-service pioneer on the Coöp. Please invite others to consider your work and ours.

    All the best,
    C

    Posted by Chad Sansing | March 11, 2011, 6:33 am

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