Tuesday, May 26, 2015

my job

eating while teaching--radical self-care!

i just finished grading final projects for my english class, a class i swooped in on for the last two months of school (we all know those are the hardest months, right?) to fill in for a teacher who was on medical leave.

a bit from a cool student project
the project was a hybrid creative and critical response to sherman alexie's the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian (curriculum guide to come), and in my small mixed-level class (many more posts on mixed-level instruction to come), the quality ranged from two pages of barely legible scrawlings that i helped a student with cognitive delays work out over several class periods to a complex mixed-genre work by a student who is a talented artist, writer, and reader.  she submitted ten pages of work, and each section was written or drawn in a different genre or medium.  both her creative work and her critical response revealed a layered and sophisticated understanding of the text, the assignment, the conventions and craft of each genre, and also a strong level of self-awareness.  as i looked at these two submissions side by side, i stood on that sickening precipice that teachers who must assign grades (more posts on liberatory education)  usually hate, unless they are horrible people.  the precipice where you just stop up short and ask yourself:

what is my job here?

well, i can't tell you that today, but i can make you a little listicle of the ill-formed notions that flashed by as i stood on the edge of the grading/judgement cliff, and most of them were about what my job is not, or what i want to resist as i move forward in this profession/vocation:

1) my job is not to enforce standards.  i am a teacher, not an enforcer.
2) my job is not to prepare students.  learning is a thing in and of itself and should not be diminished into the preparatory position. my job is to teach students to love stuff & engage with it while in the classroom, at the very moment of classroomness.
3) my job is not to train a workforce.  my job is to teach students to love their work.
4) my job is not to protect and preserve culture.  my job is to help my students exist in culture, recognize culture, and make culture.
5) my job is not to rank students, but to educate each individual according to their needs.  (all education is special ed.  future blog post on marni c. and many future teacher spotlights to come.)

i don't have enough clarity to define what my job is at the moment, and it's possible that i never will.  i do have a firm notion today on what i refuse to participate in any longer, and i hope that a more beautiful and sustainable practice will emerge from the above listed refusals.

bell hooks emphasizes wholeness on the part of the teacher in "engaged pedagogy" (way more posts on bell hooks to come!) and says that "any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow and are empowered by the process."

i plan to share a few things on this blog from the coming school year that i learn about:

*curriculum development
*mixed level instruction
*racial justice in the schools
*civil rights & education
*human rights & education
*economic justice
*gender equality in the classroom and schools
*ableism in the classroom
*special education
*radical classrooms
*amazing teachers
*pedagogical theory
*anything my readers, should i come to have them, want to discuss


  1. Yes, every day!

    3) my job is not to train a workforce. my job is to teach students to love their work.

  2. You seem like an awesome teacher!