Teaching and Learning

Part 1

….a brief, and seriously abridged history of my own teaching and learning…

I went to my classroom last week, for the first time since March 16, and it was nice to be there. I was actually surprised to feel that way.

I don’t know how to write well about education right now; now that we have shifted into teach-from-home during a shelter-in-place order. Even before – possibly especially before – March, this year has been one of the hardest years yet in my 5 year teaching life, and while many teachers were devastated to close school, I truly felt a bit relieved. It has been a hard year. Students were rough, expectations fell short of reality from the very beginning of the year in almost every part of my teaching life – and while the second semester marked a turn toward the positive in the year, I still felt relief not having to return to a classroom full of people who seemed to abhor me.

Teaching is a difficult profession. It’s difficult not only because of the constantly changing expectations of what teachers do every day – what we plan, what should be taught, what standards must be met, and how one might meet them – these are absolutely difficult – but also because of the complete lack of respectful recognition surrounding teaching as a professional occupation. Teachers are experts in their fields – self-made and self-sacrificing experts who seek to be the best at their job so that students can be prepared for the world outside of the walls of a classroom. I reiterate here, it is hard. It is hard to wake up each day and head to a classroom where the plans you’ve made may or may not be implemented. It is hard to know whether we will be able to approach students, parents, other teachers, and administrators knowing that we will be treated respectfully as experts who know what we are teaching, why we are teaching, how we are teaching, and that the learning that happens has just as much to do with the learners as the teachers. Difficult to lean into the insecurity of questioning whether those same stakeholders will recognize our efforts as meaningful and worthwhile. Many teachers hold higher education credits and degrees beyond their Bachelors and Credentialing, because it is a profession that constantly changes to fit the culture of the world the students will grow up to be a part of. What this means is that teachers are researchers, they are constantly learning more about what it means to educate as well as the psychology behind how and why and what student’s learn.

As I became a teacher 5 years ago, I knew that the landscape of public education was rocky; that the goals and standards and scores and data were not aligned with providing space for creativity and curiosity and innovation which is touted by psychologists and child-development experts, and even educators, to be our hopes for education. How does one standardize curiosity and creativity?

Within the space of two months, it seems like maybe the world may have to start asking these questions. I hope the world starts asking these questions – and more. Currently, it seems that most of the discussion around public education has begun to settle into two groups who are not actually discussing education. Instead they are arguing about whether or not schools should open in the Fall – both groups yelling with their ears covered, so that I cannot make out the information being presented to support one choice or another. What I do understand is that the education being discussed seems not something being provided for students, but instead a tradeable entity that is ill-defined and held up by the stigma of a building and multiple occupations, and socio-economic supports – but I think that is for another post.

It was three years ago that I had the idea of creating a charter school, or private school, something different. Something that would insight a little systematic rebellion in the system of Education…

I was doing A LOT of reading about alternative and historical modes of systematic education, and within that reading, I found this “definition”(because I don’t know what else to call it) – which hits on my beliefs about education in a way that really puts the problem of public schools into relief.

Education – according to Chesterton here, is a way to pass along traditions. I think this is what we’ve lost focus on in the conversations around education. Before and during our current reality.

What traditions are we passing along, and why?

My teaching mission statement.

As we currently exist within the purgatory of a global pandemic – knowing only what is happening day to day, knowing that normal is different and may need a new definition – I propose we take some time within our conversations surrounding education to begin posing more questions rather than reacting out of a want for what we’ve always known to be normal. Let’s stop and define what it means to pass along a tradition. Let’s ask how the best way to pass along traditions might be. Let’s question the purpose of public education and it’s built in co-dependence on socio-economic support. What else could we discuss with any rational, data-driven, hopes for what our future might look like?