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Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

Swallowing the Pill: It’s good because I was told


Originally posted at

It’s sad to see educators so committed to their prescribed “job” that the question, “Am I really doing what I should be doing?” becomes impossible to ask. Unquestioning subservience is an easy trap. It’s required to an extent. If teachers are to hold onto their jobs, they must, at least, pay lip-service to their prescribed roles as test trainers. This sort of unwavering support for the dying and toxic system must be in place throughout the entire system. Dissidents are deemed insubordinates and will quickly find themselves without jobs. There is no need to seek out the verbal rebels, those who complain about the system. Most bend their actions to meet the requirement of the state. We’re evaluated, audited, and constantly watched. We turn in self-evaluations. We tell on ourselves, and trick ourselves into believing we are doing what is best by doing what we’re told. Eventually, we find ourselves resigned to the fact that we are powerless against such a powerful system. That or we become so cynical that we should leave the classroom.

Are our only options to submit or leave? Surely not. Our rebellions must be tactical and individual. Support often can be found outside of our schools, often on blogs, and throughout social media where subversive teachers gather and speak openly about the tactics they use to actually teach in a system that has replaced teaching with training.

I’ve minced my answers and comments with my own questions I’m seeking to answer. Have you, dear reader, found it as productive as I have, or necessary as a human, to foster discussions that lead to a discussion of the education system among students? The discussion often has begun with a student asking why we must bother with a test rather than actually learning.

I aim to be honest in my practice and allow some free drifting, though I’m subject to inserting my own bias.

We teach people not curriculum.


6 thoughts on “Swallowing the Pill: It’s good because I was told

  1. I like “tactical and individual” – I am waiting for a PLC to band together and cite the students’ tactical and collective resistance to standardization.

    Dear hypothetical-PLC principal, we will find, not deliver, better results, when our kids’ needs are fulfilled by the work we do together at school.

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | October 8, 2012, 4:14 pm
    • Will you remind of the meaning of PLC. I’m almost certain I’ve asked you before.

      We most certainly must unite our resistances. I’m grateful for a forum to trade tactics.

      Always nice hearning from you Chad.

      Posted by educatedtodeath | October 9, 2012, 3:53 pm
      • Acronym? Acra-no-thanks! (Drum zinger.) “Professional learning community.” Teachers with alike jobs who design common assessments together to collect, share, and analyze data about student achievement. Often, but not always, tasked with doing so in regards to commonwealth/state standards or Common Core standards and with the expectation that the teachers design assessments that look like and/or return data that can be used in comparison with data from standardized tests.

        Coöp pals, please do fill in any missing details.

        We as a profession, I think, are too invested in kids to pretend that all the standardization is good; we are too school-successful and responsive to “good” data and its rewards to walk out of the PLC model or turn it into a forum on education and a dialogue between teachers and principals. PLCs might be most student-centered if they took on critical, pedagogical conversations with administrators instead of towing the line on summative assessment and data-driven decision making. I don’t think the idea data is bad (or good), but the data we collect and the way we respond to it with more traditional instruction and remediation puts the problem before the solution.

        All the best,

        Posted by Chad Sansing | October 10, 2012, 9:17 am
  2. You have touched on the heart of the angst most teachers are feeling right now. Just as a child reluctantly takes his medicine to get better, we have been shamed to accept that we are less and the corporate pundits are our nannies. Indeed, we are not producing widgets with exactly the same parts nor are we baking cookies with the exact same ingredients. We are in the human business in which each one is unique by nature. I liken the reform advocates as makers of a new koolaide flavor, sweeter than the ones before and promising that we will like it if we just try it. The expensive advertising on the part of private billionaires has been unparalleled in educational history. However, change is part of our business. You see, all the administration positions can only be justified if they devise new things for us to do. Otherwise, students show up, parents support them and us, we greet them, plan for their learning, prepare the classroom, clerical staff shuffles legal documents, custodial crew cleans, materials are delivered, the sun rises and sets, calendars are created and followed…AND LEARNING HAPPENS! Nowhere is there a need for bureaucratic interference, control, manipulation and power mongering in the work of educators. They have simply positioned themselves into the teaching mix. All for the sake of misguided data of how poorly our schools are doing in America. The more they try to control us, the less control they will really have. Hiding, pretending and going within is unsustainable. Can we do it long enough in waiting for that predictable pendulum to swing back towards the place of rational educational policy? I hope so. I am afraid, however, that too many quality teachers and confused, discouraged parents will let the great American school system slip away. The world is changing, progressing and evolving so rapidly, I fear students find the present classroom experience rather irrelevant. Maybe that’s the solution…the students will rise up and demand something more meaningful and become the solutionaries of tomorrow? Perhaps the answer is right in the front row of every classroom across the country. Is it time to ask them what they think? The customer is always right. Every CEO knows that. Fat chance that anyone at the top will ever take time to ask students what they think. We teachers already know what they think and day by day it is becoming more and more difficult to deliver on that as we should.

    Posted by Sandy | October 9, 2012, 2:44 pm
    • I agree, power mongers have become the new rulers of a domain that serves the interest of their profits. Rather than viewing the learners as an investment, it’s the products, programs, and services they can sell to a dying system (a system they’ve killed, so they can administer the medicine). Public education has become a subsidized slow death. It has been injected with bureaucratic confusion, and constant crisis all for the sake of a profit. A generation of solutionaries is being systematically silenced, rather subdued, in order to maintain consumptive momentum.

      Thank you for your comment, and my apologies for rambling. Best, ETD

      Posted by educatedtodeath | October 9, 2012, 3:50 pm
  3. Bucket-loads of testing needs to be done. That is an unfortunate reality in many school districts.

    While we cannot control the testing we CAN control the lessons we do in our classrooms. Standardized testing need not mean standardized instruction. In fact, students will most likely do better on standardized tests when instruction is differentiated.

    I understand that some school leaders require standardized instructional methods. If that is the case, change schools, not professions. If you have reasonable school leaders, help them to understand the difference between standards and standardization:

    Posted by Janet Abercrombie | October 13, 2012, 1:17 am

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