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.