I’ve just had an aha moment, I feel really sad that I was angry with the kid who told me the stuff I was asking him to do was boring and repetitive. I think he’s right and I have been trying so hard to conform to the achievement of outcomes that live in an outdated paradigm that I have forgotten how to teach.
This was the content of my facebook status update after I viewed this video see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U. About week 10 of every term I have a meltdown, it’s usually after the meltdown should happen ie during reports, during parent teacher interviews or when everything is due to be assessed. And I realise that it’s at these times that when I have finally made it through the time when I am being judged the most severely that I am wrestling the most with my “teacher” self and my “need for approval” self.
I regularly see a kid I once taught in year seven who is now 21. We were walking along the beach and I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t think I taught her very much (she can’t spell to save herself as is evidenced regualarly on her facebook wall) and that I was making the same mistake with the current “batch” of year sevens I was teaching. She stopped me, and glared at me face to face and said “You did teach me, you taught me about relationships”
Hmmm. How does one assess that? What are the outcomes? Will there be a standardised test on how well we relate to one another? What’s the answer to “two people meet and don’t like each other but have to spend 12 months in the same space. Solve?” And can I check the answer in the back of the book and work backwards for this one?
So what did I teach that kid I was angry with today, who would not finish his work? Who refused to get on task, whose parents I called in? That if you challenge someone in authority expect them to come down on you like a tonne of bricks. Don’t expect them to admit they are wrong. And definitely don’t challenge the powerful and expect education to not be boring and repetitive. What has happened to me?
At the end of the day, my colleagues leapt to my defence and the more they told me how great I was the worse I felt. Why? Because I had noticed the grain of truth on a cellular level and it rooted itself there and grew, branching off into self doubt, blossoming in to blame and denial. Then later at home I think I noticed how much I have changed. I never let kids play anymore. There simply isn’t time for that when I have to do my 300 minutes of Maths and English and the Arts well, they aren’t that important are they? I remember the days when I would spend whole days getting kids to explore their relationships with each other and how they resolve conflict, practising through role play, belly laughing on the floor as their friends made fun of themselves, building a community and culture of understanding. But now I seem intent on becoming a real, grown up teacher who gets results. On the tests. Where it counts. And I do not love my job anymore. There is a direct correlation between how much I loved my job and my age.
So what will I do monday? Not a whole lot of different stuff, yet. Because I have learned that you can’t jump in and change everything according to each new revelation because kids get suspicious and don’t trust it. Gradually, over time I am determined to restore that “teacher” self. The one that cared about kids. Not just delivering on outcomes decided by people who want to sift and sort kids according to their race, class and gender, subtly of course, without them realising.
But they do realise and yet they have faith in us, so they comply. Complicit in their own subjugation. How very clever of us.
This may seem like a “well der” moment to you, but while I have known this intellectually for so very long I have been rationalising it away, “well learning is sometimes boring, it can’t always be fun, it’s all very well to play but hey, it’s my responsibility to fulfil my obligations to the parents”. And yet it is the parents who have asked me NOT to give their kids homework??
I have been resisting the idea that I am part of the machine. I thought that I stood outside and was different. That I could challenge the institution from within, when in fact I have actually been shaped to fit. I have resisted this for so long that emotionally, it seems to leak out. Mostly through my eyes at about week ten each term.
So on Monday, I am going to photocopy those spelling and maths sheets, hold them up and say “Here are your new spelling and maths sheets for the week” and after the groans have died down, I am going to toss them straight into the recycling bin and play, all week. That’s what I am gonna do Monday.