I read Paul Thomas’ take on Christopher Emdin’s new book, which is soon to be classic. I’m not sure how I feel about the book yet. Not all the way through it. However, as a white teacher in an urban Title I school, I was also struck, as was Mr. Thomas, by this quite:

“The way that a teacher teaches can be traced directly back to the way that the teacher has been taught. The time will always come when teachers must ask themselves if they will follow the mold or blaze a new trail. There are serious risks that come with this decision. It essentially boils down to whether one chooses to do damage to the system or to the student (p. 206).”

The first point is essentially not true for all teachers, and is certainly not true for me, unless the equal and opposite reaction counts. That is, I’ve spent my career teaching to the opposite of how I was taught. I’ve spent a career taking risks and, on many occasions, being chastised for them.

The final point in the quote, that we can either do damage to a system or to the student, is true, in my experience, but the road to and from that choice is fraught with incredible risk, particularly in school systems and schools where the level of scrutiny from district officials and administration is high.

Hopefully, Mr. Emdin provides some guidance, which I have not found yet, for teachers who are willing to damage the system, because the system will come for you. The system will retaliate in a variety of ways, using all the tools at its disposal. The system and its indoctrinated agents will wear you down until damage to the student seems like the new best option.

Let’s say that your school, a low income area of an affluent major city, enrolls some of the most, shall we say, challenging upper elementary students you/I have ever seen. Day after day after day, they fight instruction and they fight among themselves. Their education is interrupted in what starts each day as minutes, then […]

LAUSD District 2 candidate Robert D. Skeels speaking, and the following roundtable discussion at the December 6, 2012 meeting of the Association of Raza Educators Los Angeles. The topic was ‘Reclaiming Education is a Human Right during this era of Neoliberalism.’ The talk was in preparation for the anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human […]

Both, BOTH, hosts of at the chalk face are in New Orleans, right in the heart of the French Quarter, at the Curriculum and Pedagogy conference. I first want to thank a friend and colleague for setting this up and gifting us the opportunity to speak. It’s a privilege I don’t take lightly. Basically, our […]