Monday, June 28, 2010
What A Ride!
My Teachers, My Students. This is about half of them.
What a ride!!
Sometimes I was the driver, other times the passenger, at no time was it a smooth and easy glide over freshly laid blacktop.
The kids took me for a ride, as did grad school, and the admin, and TFA, and even I.
Here are some things I learned:
The principal is right. Always. Regardless of sense, logic, justice or reality; the principal is right and I am wrong. Even when I am right, the principal is the one who is actually right, and I, I am still wrong (to have thought I was right).
Students today are not the students who were my classmates, neither is the world into which they are headed the same as it was for us– this means that what was true for me, or for the generation before, is not true for them. In fact, all things considered, we don’t want it to be true for them; the truth has perpetuated an unjust society, and to change and grow as a people, so must our truth change and grow.
People need second, and third, and forth chances. It doesn’t matter how many times they screw up, we, as teachers, must be patient and must keep offering ourselves and the world to the student. Because as long as they are in our hands we must do everything, everything, to keep them on or get them on track. And even if they continue to make mistakes for years to come – there will come a day when they will open their eyes, and see our faces and hear our voices, their teachers, and things will suddenly come together. But if we say that the fifth chance is the last straw and screw them and they are on their own, then we undermine our own future as much as our students.
Time is to be managed, otherwise it will manage you (not unlike soviet Russia).
Holding expectations across cultures, races, generations and socio-economic status is ridiculous. I don’t give a damn what TFA or anyone else says. I would never propose that we hold lower expectations for minorities or the poor or disenfranchised, but we can not, not if we want actual results, approach everyone as if they were white middle-class folks from Michigan. It doesn’t make sense – for anybody. This goes back to truth. This goes back to genes, and history, and social infrastructure. If we expect a people who have been controlled their entire lives, denied basic human rights and forcefully marginalized to behave and react the same as those who for hundreds and hundreds of years have had the path of educations and entitlement drilled into them, then we shall continue to spin our tires aimlessly in the mud, and the achievement gap will deepen, inadvertently, but it will deepen. The language of power, the behavior of power, the dress of power, the thinking of power in this country is no less narrow than it was 400 years ago – we just mask it much better – we got better PR for it. If the life path of a protestant, middle-class male is full of more ease, opportunity and choice than it is for anyone who does not fit even one of the aforementioned traits, then we are the same slave holding, religiously intolerant, oppressive and oppressed, single minded, reactionary, entitled, self righteous fucks who annihilated the Natives, who enslaved a people, who exploited the land and the human as easily as the beast. And I don’t give a damn how many hybrid cars we drive and how many black presidents we have.
The new world starts and ends in the classroom; with the teacher; with the decisions we make about how we teach our kids to see, criticize and build the world; and with the opportunities we provide them for applying what they learned.
Finally, I learned – more so I was reaffirmed – that I know so very little. As well as I can speak on the hundreds of topics about which I am somewhat informed, or recall the lessons of the books I have read, or synthesize learned knowledge with experience and intuition: it amounts to nothing at all because it seems for every bit I know, I don’t know a hundred other bits, and the more I see what must be considered, I realize how I am not capable of considering even half, especially not as fast as one must consider things when dealing with people – specifically adolescent students. But I love what I do, and damn-it I’m just going to do the best I can.