Forget hierarchy. Forget leading and following. Forget the prevalent notion of executive control over school systems, kids, and “learning.”
- You are not in control of your classroom; you have not lost control of your classroom. You are a part of what your classroom is.
- You are not the leader; you are not a follower. You are interdependent.
- You aren’t coerced; you can’t coerce others. You act.
- You aren’t teaching; you aren’t learning. You relate.
- You aren’t responsible; you aren’t irresponsible. You fulfill needs.
In some ways, these ideas seem reductionist and dehumanizing to me; in some ways they capture exactly what I think it means to be human and why we educate children.
What do you think? Are these statements true? Are they self-evident? Challenging? Do they fit both teachers and students?
What implications do they hold for classroom practice? For teacher activism? For acting on our kids’ behalf?
If we let go of being in charge – and accept being a part of – our classrooms, I think we can shift our behaviors towards meeting kids’ needs – especially those related to learning – better than we do now. Kids’ needs compete with what we’re asked to do in delivering content and assessing students’ readiness to pass a standardized test each year. It’s a challenge to juggle both classroom roles – caregiver and testing director. Is it the right challenge?
What if Joe’s North American House Hippo in the classroom is what we’re asked to believe about education? Is what we’re asked to do in raising “student achievement” the same thing as what kids need us to do in caring for them and their learning?
One way to be an activist in a school system with binary, polarized perspectives on the value of student achievement on standardized tests may be to refuse to take sides. I think Adam suggests as much here. Isn’t it insane, in some part or in toto, to put energy into a system that’s tearing kids’ learning apart? Wouldn’t it be saner to venture a, “I would prefer not to test,” and to articulate, instead what it is you will do for kids and their learning?
We are not alone in our classrooms or school systems. Smearing ourselves across the sky of authentic education like so many Leonid meteors doesn’t do much to lift up the folks stuck on the surface of public education. Many of us have cited the importance of initiating dialogue and building trust with our colleagues. I think we also need to start conversations with our leaders about new accountability structures that approach individualized contracts or learning plans for ourselves.
Let me make reasonable objections to giving my students standardized tests. Better yet, let me convince you we can do more important work in our school and community. Excuse me from proctoring and let me and like-minded colleagues and any or all students organize and run an open house of students’ authentic learning in a room apart from the tests on test day. Let us showcase the school, celebrate its students, and feed its stake-holders. Let me ask for your help in setting up the constraints and learning outcomes of the classroom system I share with students, the school, and the community.
Let me be a part of learning, and not above it.