If not now, when?
I've been stuck on the couch for almost a week now with an IT band strain, and it has been a confluence of SO.MUCH.NEWS, boredom, and worrying about my students that has led to this blog. If I had not become an English teacher, I'd have loved to teach Social Studies or be a beat reporter because I like to see how how things change over time, what we can learn from Institutional Knowledge, and what types of revisionist history we all tell ourselves to justify stagnation. I've been thinking about those three things and the impact it SHOULD have on education in the near future.
Maybe the better question to ask right now isn't how things change over time, but maybe how they stay the same. I've been going to school since I was 5 years old, uninterrupted, as either a student or teacher. That is 42 years of "being on the inside" and observing and participating in what is taking place in school. You'd be surprised--or maybe you wouldn't--how much school has stayed the same. There's comfort in that, for sure, but at what cost? Memorization? Cramming for tests? Desks in rows? Going to school by a harvesting-dictated schedule? At some point, we have to step back and take a deeper look at the traditions that are so embedded in education that we don't even consider them malleable--they are fixed, and that is a problem.
On the other hand, I think we need to look to Institutional Knowledge and trust teachers to make decisions when they are the best possible source of information. Too often, we ignore the veteran teacher who tries to disrupt an idea, having already experienced the repercussions of implementing it. If a solution has been tried, and then failed, and then corrected, why are we going down the same path? We must be willing to take a hard look at what we know works and what we know doesn't, and quit doing the latter. That sounds easy, but that's the seduction: there are not easy answers and when we are presented with them, we have to challenge that.
Yet still, here we are. This is the uncomfortable part of my blog. The revisionist history part. I'm a teacher who has gone against the grain in my own classroom since the beginning, but most notably in the last decade. I've eliminated homework because of how wildly unfair it is based on socio-economics. I've incorporated flexible seating, calming lighting, standing desks, and pretty much anything that will make my classroom more of a home setting than an institutional one. I've stopped deficit grading. I've embraced mastery learning instead of terminal testing. I refuse to grade students' responsibility. (Watch this webinar for my journey through these ideas) I invite families and the community into my classroom. This is all well and good, and I am convicted about these things, but when I look back on my career at some point, I don't want to revise the story and tell myself that I did all I could. I don't want to revise the story to make it seem like I couldn't spur more change. I don't want to revise history, I want US to make it..
Instead, I want to start planning how WE can together make history. How can the collective power of teachers reshape education as we know it? In my lifetime, things have never been more uncertain and divided, so why not now? Why can't teachers--there are 3.2 million of us--come together and rethink how "school" looks and feels? We've been doing that for almost a year now, and we are learning. We are improving. The amount of support we've given each other, lessons and ideas (free)ly shared across ShareMyLesson, WeAreTeachers, Bitmoji Craze for Educators, and the like has never happened like this before. Why not now? Why not prune away the decayed remnants of the past and make room for us to grow into something new?