Recently I saw a series of tweets sharing this link: In Defense of Public School Teachers in a Time of Crisis – Henry Giroux. The interesting thing to me is that it was written 15 days ago–what took it so long to become a RT by so many?
The writer is all over democratic schools and classrooms–much of what we’ve been talking about here and much more eloquently than I have been. So in looking at this week’s question, “How do we act as catalysts of change within our present circumstances?” I’d love it if you’d stop reading here, go read the post, then come back and engage.
The phrases that jumped out at me included:
- Social engagement…collective responsibility…
We are the world. Our behaviors and actions do affect who we are as an individual and who we are as a society. Without supporting our students to be thinking activists, we do ourselves, our communities and our future a disservice.
- Culture of questioning necessary for students to participate in critical dialogue
Do we really want our students to question, to think, to dialogue about deep, heavy topics that challenge us all to examine who we are, what we believe and that also ask us to take a stance and espouse our own beliefs? Is that something we signed on for when we decided to become teachers?
- Question authority—
Are we ready to encourage our students to do that? What happens when they do? Can we teach them to do so respectfully and hw do they know when it is appropriate and when it is not? IS it ever not appropriate? We certainly need to find a balance between setting up our kids to question authority and following basic rules that govern the simple workings of our classrooms and schools.
- Active citizens in the Global Public Spheres—
Are our parents, administrators and peers ready for that? Our kids certainly are!
- Embrace the specificity and diversity of children’s lives;
Do we honor differences or attempt to meld them to the mainstream?
- Embrace a vision of democratic possibility:
Do we even discuss democratic possibilities with our students? If not, we simply must begin including those in our current event conversations–in our daily talks, giving students the experiences to help them develop clarity of their own thoughts about democratic actions.
- Do we give our students hope and belief that civic life matters, that they can make a difference in shaping society? Do they have a voice in our rooms, in our schools? Do we involve them in our budget battles, our goal setting, our school running in any ways that matter?
- About imagining a more just future...
THAT’S WHY I BECAME A TEACHER–to help our future leaders envision a better world.
- Do we, on a daily basis, talk with our students about “the interface of private considerations and public issues” in ways that support their thinking about those as they go about the rest of their day?
- “Teachers represent a valued resource and are one of the few groups left that can educate students in ways that enable them to resist the collective insanity that now threatens this country.”
Sound familiar, Adam? You referenced the collective insanity in one of your posts–the insanity where we are killing our resources, our world, our environment. We simply MUST educate students to be caring, responsible stewards of our world.
- “teachers should be viewed as engaged intellectuals, willing to construct the classroom conditions that provide the knowledge, skills and culture of questioning necessary for students to participate in critical dialogue with the past, question authority, struggle with ongoing relations of power and prepare themselves for what it means to be active and engaged citizens in the interrelated local, national and global public spheres.”
For me, this is probably one of the most powerful sentences in the whole post. Allowing students to give voice to questions that challenge the status quo, that build and sustain a “culture of questioning” is critical to helping them be engaged intellectuals themselves.
- A safe space where reason, understanding, dialogue and critical engagement are available to all faculty and students.
This is a description of Thomas Jefferson’s academical villages–where professors and students met in the pavilion gardens in the evening to discuss the matters of the world, the matters of the heart. . and how different are those matters? Do we talk with parents about how they can support us as we work with their child to think critically about the democratic underpinnings of their interactions with society? Do we council parents to scaffold their child being able to make informed and responsible choices about their actions? Do we give students opportunities to make choices in our classrooms and our schools?
- Socially responsible agent
Do they get any practice in their world of school to be socially responsible? to be activists? to act on their beliefs?
- Do we ask our students to “liberate humanity from the blind obedience to authority” or do we model expecting them to jump when we say jump and then ask how high?
- Public schools as laboratories of democracy
Are our public schools laboratories of anything? If so, what, and what do we believe they should be laboratories of?
I absolutely would love to work in a school where teachers considered it a laboratory of democracy. I would love to work in a school where teachers gave kids some choice in the classrooms–even if it was just of of projects, of seating, or even of group members. So, how can I act as a catalyst for change in my present circumstances?
I can model things I’d like to see in other rooms as well. . .so I let my kids sit with whomever they want, wherever they want when they come in my room. I do have rules about that–make wise choices, or I’ll have to make them for you. (In other words, dont cause a disturbance, or I’ll ask you not to sit there.) And, because part of what I want is for kids to undersand about LOTS of other kids and not become clique-ish, the rules in my room about sitting are
1. No single gender tables. We need to get to know each other.
2. No sitting at the same table more than 3 out of 5 days a week.
3. Aim to sit with someone you haven’t sat with this week by Thursday or Friday.
I’d love to feel my school is a safe space where reason, understanding, dialogue and critical engagement are available to all faculty and students. So, in my room, I don’t tolerate teasing or put downs. I don’t allow bullying. We talk openly about supporting one another. I push kids to teach other kids and NOT look to me as the expert. I ask kids the hard questions and let them ask me hard ones, too. I talk openly with them about social code-switching, and the need to understand various rules in various places. (The thing I find hardest is that kids handle hard question better than most adults.)
I work hard to work with adults in ways that impact upon their hearts. That often means I begin a conversation (where I intend to push) with a story–about me in a hard place, or a kid who’s having troubles and I work to get the other person in a sympathetic, connected mood before asking a hard question or making what I think might be a controversial suggestion.
Do I always succeed in helping people move toward more democratic practices? No. . . but I try. And for me, that counts.
So, here’s MY Cooperative Catalyst pledge: As a caring adult, I am committed to facilitating a positive and rich learning environment, where the negative and unnecessary wounds traditionally inflicted by schools, will not have a place. I will build a culture that honors, listens to, nurtures, and empowers all learners. I will not tolerate events, actions or words that cause any student to think or feel that they are stupid or worthless. I will create a haven where students feel free to explore new areas and thoughts, take risks, and stay connected to the inherent joy of learning. I will not employ methods which replace this intrinsic motivation with external gauges such as praise, gold stars, or grades. And while I sign this pledge with all good intentions, I will utilize the tools, awareness, and network of peers that I have to ensure that I stay true.
And, I’d like to add David Loitz’ words as well:
Ideals are not weapons, but we must stand up for them. We should not put down other efforts to change the world, if they don’t match ours, but instead seek to share a space for thinking and caring and ultimately a education that helps to move the human race closer and closer to truth and well being.
I pledge as a educator, a learner, an advocate of children, as a dreamer and lover of life.
I pledge that I will look to the past for ideas, but will seek to create new answers for old problems. I pledge that learning does not happen just in schools or is merely a preparation for life but is the act and art of living.
I pledge to thank all the teachers in my life from the mentors of my youth to the new buds that grow on the trees every spring. I will seek stories and wisdom from creative imaginative people young and old.
I pledge to do and be.
Thanks, David, for sharing on our pledge page. :-)
Readers–will you join our pledge or make your own to be a catalyst for change?