Let me just say that I agree with most of my more progressive colleagues out there in their calls for teaching with a bend towards social justice, activism, and rebellion.
Take this for example: From the Progressive on “Teaching Rebellion.”
Why waste precious class time doing a close read of a technical manual from a Pearson reader when we can read local newspapers and community blogs? Why should students learn docile obedience in class when the times call for us to civilly disobey and march in the streets? What does “College and Career Ready” matter when the bodies of students of color are being obliterated?
That’s fine exposition. But Mr. Barrett, to whom are you speaking?
Inspirational calls for justice and activism in the classroom all exist within a particular context. Very few educators in the avant garde of education activism would disagree with passionate pleas for justice. And I certainly would like to see more examples of actual teaching for justice being implemented. Concrete examples would all help us to better achieve our goals.
In Washington, DC, where similar degrees of oppression from leadership exist, I think it would be fair to say that we lack the same degree of passion when compared to activist groups in, say, Chicago. Teachers in DC definitely don’t possess the same amount of solidarity and cover that is provided to members of the Chicago Teachers’ Union (Try being a building’s union rep and you’ll see real quick).
But let me ask again: Mr. Barrett, to whom are you speaking? I work with a lot of teachers who would love to actualize Mr. Barrett’s calls to justice. I could certainly recommend this article, and a host of others, to our teachers. Yet, I think Mr. Barrett and others should direct some of their ire and calls to action to administrators, who largely control the what and how of teaching in the classroom.
By the powers invested in teacher evaluation, and through a pervasive culture of fear that envelops us all, teaching and its materials are closely monitored. You best believe that administrators will examine the bindings of those Pearson manuals for wrinkles. Minutes of usage of educational software are closely monitored. Consultants arrive to harangue us for usage of their programs. Assessment completion is monitored online. And let us not forget the legions of snitches and tattle-tales that make sure every teacher practices with “fidelity.”
Teachers might be tired of being told what they must do. Let us not harangue them like administrators do. Pressure administrators to give teachers who are ready to teach justice the flexibility and trust to do so. I’m sure we all know administrators, but it’s likely that the ones we do know and trust are not a part of this conversation. Get them to join. Ask them to loosen the reins and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be free to do as progressive allies recommend.