As is so often the case with injustice, our inaction propels this reality forward.
Fear gives teachers guns for protection, but love does the hard work of listening, advocating, speaking up, and changing. It’s love that is moving students all over the country to march, walk out, speak up, and demand action. It’s love that moves us to do the same.
A “that was an amazing lesson” or a well-meaning “you are a great teacher” could keep us from making the revisions that would actually make us great.
Restorative practices, and the conversations that surround them, are some of the more important conversations that we are having in education today and I would never suggest that we should stop this work. However, I think this work needs more context. It needs a more nuanced approach that addresses one of the most fundamental problems in education: there are groups of people in our society for whom schooling has never worked. This tragedy is disproportionately impacting students of color. We can look at almost every measure available to tell this story, but systemic bias and racism, low expectations, and bad school models are creating environments in which so many students never enter successfully.
Although some people use the original airdate of this episode (October 13) as the official Treat Yo Self Day, mine has always been the Monday after the Super Bowl. Not only do I get to enjoy staying up later to watch the game instead of my usual insanely early bedtime, February is smack-dab in the middle of the school year’s winter blahs. It’s the perfect mid-year opportunity to get refreshed, and I look forward to it every year.
I think I'm going to start making student observations a more regular part of my practice. I'll come up with a more organized form to help the students give targeted feedback and conference with some students before I throw them on the spot like I did the other day. Then, I'll invite them in when they have a free moment and see what they notice. They are, after all, the client. I should be orienting my methods and styles to their methods and styles. I should be building a classroom that caters to them far more than it caters to principals, folks in business suits, or myself.
In this country, we have allowed for the existence schools that are failing and tried to find ways to ignore the problem, while entire generations of students, largely students of color, are slipping on our ignored sidewalks. The result is much more disastrous than my sprained ankle.
Let’s go get our shovels.
I don’t know if it was the beer, or that Trump-supporting poet, but yesterday in the barber’s chair I talked a little bit more.
In the middle of a school day, one of those red-and-green-frosted cupcakes looks like how I imagine any opportunity to act the role of a guy who needs to get his shit together looks to Vince Vaughn. They’re impossible to resist. And so, I sometimes fall victim to eating them by the handful, just as Vince plays the same character 4 times in a row (Wedding Crashers, The Breakup, Couples Retreat, AND The Internship). My decisions aren’t calculated. But, I’m hungry and worn down, and they’re right in front of me...so it seems like the best answer to the problem. Even though it isn’t, and I know better.
One time, I heard Adam give an 22 minute best man speech at a wedding. Half of the audience ate it up as one of the best stand-up routines in modern history, while the other half was disgusted as Adam, champagne flute half-raised in his right hand, stood willfully between them and the cupid shuffle.
Shit was hilarious.
That’s ironic though, because in life as well as in my few trips to black churches, I am nothing more than the awkward white guy trying desperately to clap with the beat.
Teachers are endangered, and pushing toward extinction. You can still find them in their natural habitat, roaming dusty hallways and classrooms, but they are vanishing. And we should be worried.
Every day, I get to hang out with students who are on the eve of what feels like their entire future. They are awaiting college application responses, taking SATs, working after school, and feeling the pressure of thinking about what they might want to do for the rest of their lives. Their dreams vary as much as the students themselves. Many students want to be nurses or doctors, some dream of the IT world and computer science, and others talk about engineering or law.
“What about teaching?” I sometimes ask.
“Oh hell no. I could never do that.”
It’s “the best of times & the worst of times.”
Not the best of times OR the worst of times.
The challenge is that both sides of that ampersand exist in equal measure, and we ignore some important truth about teaching when we diminish either.
My co-blogger and bromantical partner Jason is a great teacher. I know because, although I’ve never set foot in his classroom, one time I saw him kick a car.
They may smell kind of bad, or talk too much, or whine more than the Napa Valley, but you actually believe somewhere inside of you that they are the best part of your job. And, on your worst of days, things are made a little better when you close your classroom door and hang out with your students. If you are honest with yourself, it is the adults that make your job unbearable at times. Not the students.
It's a horribly unjust system that requires some students to break through walls while others float over them, but if I focus on the system I find no hope at all. However, if I focus on the students who push through, like the girl with the calculator, I find hope.