I’ve been paying close attention to the comments Kirsten, Sabrina, and others have shared about the gendering of teaching. When I read them, I think of videos like this one:
The administrator is the strongman. The teachers are silent in the presence of the administrator. The students prop up the adults’ work.
I am struck by this line in particular:
“I love to see how many students are still hands folded, silent, eyes on me. That is exemplary work.”
I feel like I get that exact same message, directly and indirectly, when I deliver rising test scores. I get other messages, too – wonderful, heartening ones that are not about standardized testing – from the people who know our kids and our school, but it seems like the only short-hand we have with which to interact with some stakeholders (dare I call them establishment-huggers?) is, “pass, fail, percent, rate”.
I’m amazed at the number of people in my system who know our scores already despite their relative absence from our daily work over the past three years. To be fair, perhaps they have been watching our school in anticipation of success. However, I still don’t know what to do with their congratulations. I don’t know that I am expected to say anything in response. I don’t know that I was expected to say anything when the scores weren’t so good.
However, there is a lot to say in response to the automization and atomization of teaching.
So today I’ll say this: my test scores are not exemplary work. If I have done anything worthy of my students and school, I have accomplished it in the loud and quiet moments of connection between teaching, learning, and people in my classroom. I have pursued it by listening. I have apprehended it by letting go. I have felt it in helping some students outrace their circumstances into futures of their own making.
Within public education, I am at a disadvantage to those with higher pass rates and more dramatic gains because do not to measure the accomplishments that I consider to be exemplary. And that is the point of the system. We are different, we should be punished for it, we should remain silent, and we should do what we’re told. We must be made to understand. There are standards held by others against which we must be judged.
No one of any gender deserves to hear that message or to be coerced to live according to it, and that is why we must change what we do in our classrooms, schools, and society. It’s an individual decision to act, and we are free to make it and to accept and share the burden of consequences that come from it. We are capable defining, defending, and demonstrating our own successes so long as we strive to be excellent because excellence of all sorts is self-evident. If only the standard-bearers would bear some of that work, as well, we’d have a radically different school system strengthened by an embraced diversity of processes, products, and people.
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