Tuesday, February 25, 2014

You should sometimes protest and sometimes have meaningful discussions with administration

The last post was a bit extreme, but I'll leave it so that people can see the evolution of a thought process.

I want to address the following two points:

"Never, and I mean never, publicly protest the bullshit, "
"Avoid having professional discussion of any meaning or substance with administrators. "

The first one, protesting.  Sometimes it's important to protest.  You have to have a union, and a contract, and a union leadership that will raise issues.  You have to pick issues that you're certain you can win, that aren't petty, where winning would really benefit most teachers and students, and where you've attempted informal resolution first. 

The second point, about professional discussion with administrators.  While I think I was extreme in stating that, and I don't advise it for everyone, I want to say that in some environments, it really is a good route to take.  I guess my point is that the administration is usually the purveyors of much of the bullshit that you'll deal with.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What it means to ride the pendulum and how to do it

Riding the pendulum as a teacher requires a few things.  You need to be tenured.  And you need to be in a school where you're willing to stay for your career.  You need to enjoy teaching or be able to find something weekly about teaching that you enjoy.  Once you have these things, you can ride the pendulum.

The pendulum is the swaying tide of bullshit that seems to impact your career as a teacher.  It might be the Common Core this era, it might've been balanced literacy; it could simultaneously be Professional Learning Communities, Danielson, the Common Core and Something stupid bullshit.  The important thing about the pendulum is that it will swing in another direction and its current position actually does not matter.  That's right, it's hard to believe and really hard to accept, but the current bullshit actually does not matter in education.

Here's how to ride the pendulum:

Never, and I mean never, publicly protest the bullshit, or they'll be on to you.  The goal is to be subversive, to meet the bullshit with bullshit and teach how you really want to teach.  Nod your head at meetings if you feel you have to do anything but, the ultimate rule to ride the pendulum is don't talk at meetings.  Do not try to engage the administration on a battle of principles.

Never ever support the bullshit publicly.  Among your colleagues who you trust, express your true opinions, share the fact that you're merely riding the pendulum 'til it all blows over.

Teach how you want to teach.

Never ever let your students be the victims of the bullshit and do whatever you can to protect them from it.  When you must subject them to bullshit, keep it as minimal and as painless as possible on their part and strongly hint to them how much you really think it's bullshit, but don't lead a protest with students.  Leave them with the assurance that, as long as they're your students, they'll be OK and that you'll protect them from the bullshit.

Avoid having professional discussion of any meaning or substance with administrators.  Personal stories that are, in and of themselves a form of bullshit are not only preferred but recommended to share with administration.  They are lonely people and they crave human interaction.  They will look kindly on you for sharing your bullshit personal stories about some dumb thing you saw at the mall.  Keep it substance-less, they are not your friends.  Cute stories about the kids or grandkids, an occasional rant about an issue that you realize they stand on similar sides of (you both hate the current Mayor or Governor, President, take your pick).  Remember, administrators are NOT your friends.  If you want to ride the pendulum, never speaking is OK but is probably suspicious.  Have an occasional bullshit about nonsense here and there; do more listening than talking and know when to leave the room.  And by the way, it's sooner than you think.  Just turn around and walk out.  No matter how friendly you feel, do not share the thing you did in your classroom.  Keep your teaching off limits.

To ride the pendulum, you must accept it as a ride.  Do not try to change the system or the general trajectory of things.  The pendulum swings, first one way, then the other.  That's it.  It is bigger than all of us.  However, for a tenured teacher in a school where she enjoys teaching, it's possible to have a meaningful and prosperous career where you're actually not doing the bullshit so long as you bullshit the bullshit.

What does it mean to meet bullshit the bullshit?
Provide whatever you're required to provide.  You have to do data sheets in your school?  Then do data sheets.  Fuck it.  Do what's required, and keep on teaching.  You're supposed to use some assessment on your students that's entirely unfair and educationally unsound?  If you can't avoid it, then do it, but make it up to your students somehow.  Give them a meaningful project that's fair.  Be more lenient on other major assignments so the bullshit doesn't unfairly impact their grades.  Be the invisible hand that makes everything fair.

Is there a veteran teacher who's sensible who you can confide in?  Grapple them to your soul with hoops of steel!  Learn from them; if you don't know how to ride the pendulum on a certain thing, ask.

This is not just about protecting yourself and having a sound mind while being a teacher.  There's so much more at stake.  The sanctity of education is actually in teacher's hands. There's so much bullshit, so much complete fucking nonsense happening in education today that the teachers are the only ones who can really protect children and learning from the fucking bullshit that's happening.  You are a warrior when you ride the pendulum.  You are doing a service that is far beyond you.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merit Pay for teachers

Daniel Pink is popularizing what people who study creativity have known for decades: that intrinsic motivation works and extrinsic motivation doesn't, or works in a very limited capacity.

When Daniel Pink discusses the issue of merit pay for teachers  he says things that are important, things that need to be said and aren't said by enough people who attract attention to their voices the way he does.  However, there's one small point he makes that is so wrong and that is so worth harping on because of how wrong it is (when a small, bad, wrong idea is coupled with sensibility, it can sometimes be the only thing that survives).

Here's the point in question.  Pink says, "Raise the base pay of teachers – and make it easier to get rid of underperforming teachers."

The second and unnecessary part of this statement is my point of contention.  

Good teaching can't be quantified, it is cumulatively observed, in truth, by supervisors, colleagues and students and, in line with Pink's ideas, by the teacher himself.  The community, in its collective response to an educator, says how good an educator is.  

What bothers me about Pink's point here is that it seems to be so incongruent with the rest of his position on motivation.  Doesn't he advocate for not using classical conditioning (reward and punishment)?  Wouldn't making it easier to be gotten rid of enhance negative performance and return to the short-sighted view of motivation that he's so against? 

Also, I love Daniel Pink's ideas, the way he presents them, etc, I've known about the benefits and truth of intrinsic motivation since I was in college 15 years ago.  In fact, an understanding of intrinsic motivation is a large part of what made me want to be a teacher.  What disappoints me so much is that Daniel Pink says anything positive about Michele Rhee when he must've heard how teachers despise her tactics.  How can anyone have a true sense of autonomy when they believe they can be fired randomly at any point for any or no reason (which is what Rhee was notorious for regarding both educators and administrators).  

Anyway, I think Pink is great and he's just what the world needs but I hope he reads this and really considers how wrong he is about this point.  Getting rid of underperformers first begs the definition of what performance is and, I thought, he was advocating for a paradigm shift which involves a redefinition of what performance is--also, isn't it true that, if teachers are working under the classical motivation model, that their performance isn't accurate to begin with?

Actually, I think that Pink's motivation 2.0 is really in support of tenure, not in opposition to it.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

This is a nightmare

For parents; and the poor parents of those children.

But gun owners are still living their dream.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's messed up to think

That the people who are worried about losing their guns have more power than the people who are worried about losing their kids.  There are people who don't have their children anymore while others still have their guns.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What's wrong with us

We have a collective form of Post Traumatic Stress disorder.  As a country, we do.  Schools all over are re-evaluating their security plans and practicing drills to deal with intruders.  This is a fear response.  The drill will not protect us. People who have PTSD are responding to regular circumstances as if they were emergencies.  This sounds like us.  We did it after 9-11 with all of the beefed up security at airports, schools, college campuses, public buildings, etc.  But that kind of measure doesn't address the problem. The likelihood that this terrible tragedy, that any of these terrible tragedies will happen to you or someone close to you is a low likelihood; this is true.  I am not unequivocally and unwaveringly advocating for the complete repeal of the second amendment because I'm afraid for myself and those I love; I don't want this to keep happening to anyone.  If you can't get any kind of gun, this can't happen, it's that simple.

There are people without their kids while there are people who still have their guns.

Bloomberg Lead the way!

As an NYCDOE teacher and a citizen of NYC for the entirety of Mike's dictatorial condescension on my great city, I have to say that on at least one issue, his non-democratic I'm-right-your-wrong approach (and his heart and his mind) are in the right place.

I say this unequivocally and unambiguously without criticism of any of Mike's past mishaps as a leader.  Tabula Rasa; the slate's clear.  He's done a lot of anti-teacher things in his mayorship, now's the chance to go out with a bang in a way that blows up the pro-gun ideology's poison of our safety.

A direct message to Michael Bloomberg:  take your anti-gun platform all the way; shove it so far and so hard that we eradicate guns.  Be an abolitionist!  You said Obama should make this his number one priority; I agree, and so should you.  Put everything else down and pick this up.  Make the pro-gun people hate you.