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.

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