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Teaching and Society

Teachers have an extremely important job. Every day, we have the opportunity to work with a group of young people to inspire and motivate them to engage with knowledge and the world they live in. It is a unique opportunity that we should never take for granted.

Often times, there are issues happening within a school that can be frustrating for teachers to deal with. We may receive a lack of support from administration, a lack of resources, or even a difficult working environment with other teachers and staff. However, for the most part, we feel that we can control what happens in the four walls of our classrooms.

I see so many teachers in schools (and on twitter!) engaging with impressive techniques and strategies to engage their students in meaningful learning. Coming up with these new ideas is extremely important to push teaching and the education system in the direction that will benefit all students and the society they live in.

However, teachers don't always have control over what happens in their classrooms. A teacher cannot control if a student is upset because they have been a victim of a racist incident. A teacher cannot control if their student is tired because they spent the night on the street without a place to sleep. A teacher cannot control if a student cannot concentrate in class because they are being bullied over their sexuality.

The inequalities and harshness that exists within society also permeates the classroom. We can do our best in our classrooms to foster an inclusive environment that celebrates difference amongst all students. But we must ask ourselves, can we do more? Can teachers have a larger voice within society to help make it a more equitable place? Since we work with the future generations, do we not have a responsibility to do what we can to make their future better?

Issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, (dis) ability, and colonialism impact our students lives. As teachers, we do not want to perpetuate the inequalities of our society within our classrooms. As large as our voice can be within the classroom, we can make it just as large outside of it. Our students learning and school experience is impacted by social and economic inequality. If we want to improve the learning conditions for our students, then we should do what we can as teachers to work towards a more equitable world. It's time we take the same determination and focus we have to improve learning within our classrooms and take it outside the classroom as well.

Comments

  1. Dan, what is our opinion on Common Core with regards to American public education? There seems to be a lot of opposing viewpoints on this. Do you know much about CC? If you do, do you see anything like this being implemented in Canada, and would you be in favor of it? It seems to be very controversial. Please disregard my questions if you are not familiar with CC. Thanks.

    Jason Cantanella

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    1. Hi Jason,

      I am familiar with Common Core but by no means an expert on it. I would direct you to a speech from Diane Ravitch, "Everything you need to know about Common Core" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/18/everything-you-need-to-know-about-common-core-ravitch/).

      As a simple rule, I would be against any corporate encroachment of the classroom as education and teaching should be a truly democratic experience. Corporate influence is guided towards more standardized testing and use of "products" in the classroom rather than democratic learning experiences.

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  2. Hi Dan,

    It's an interesting debate. Let's face reality; whatever happens south eventually makes it's way north, good or bad.

    I would suggest taking close to verbatim notes if possible as you will likely find later that the words and phrases used are being repeated from presentations your school board member has been in and the language used almost always has unappreciated meanings. In all likelihood though I will have documented the real meaning school board is unaware of.

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    1. Jason Cantanella

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    2. Dan , I've immersed myself in some heavy reading the past month. It's an operation mind-crime going on and I don't know what to think any more. Being pulled here and there, outside interests across the spectrum trying to compete for obedience. I've read the Model Teaching Standards by Steven Zemelman, Harvey Daniels, and Arthur Hyde, and all one has to do to get the gist of what these folks are trying to achieve is to take a look at this one paragraph:

      “STUDENT-CENTERED: The best starting point for schooling is young people’s real interests; all across the curriculum, investigating students’ own questions should always take precedence over studying arbitrarily and distantly
      selected “content.””

      If one wishes to create another generation of Occupy Wallstreeters with no interest in anything that happened or anything that was said or thought before the day of their birth, with no understanding of economics, history, philosophy, the American and Western political tradition, critical thinking (in the traditional sense), and scientific method, this is the way to go about it. This is pure Dewey, shaken, not stirred.

      We will now doubtless eventually be treated to “Lady Ga Ga studies” K-12 just as we have been treated to similar academic bread and circuses in our colleges and universities for several decades.

      Yes, let’s let children determine for themselves and future generations what’s important to learn and what isn’t, and what counts as serious subjects worthy of study. Let’s throw the entire 6,000 year history of the human race, and 2,500 years of Western civilization down Winston Smith’s memory hole so that we may all be “authentic.”

      I wonder if the time will come that we’ll all be able to float up to the ceiling in a drugged stupor and disintegrate in a flash of government light like in Logan’s Run? Without any history, these kids won’t really have any future, but isn’t that what they have been after all along? Just as in the French Revolution, every new school child gets to start out with his own “year zero.” Nothing behind it (that’s not “authentic” and “experiential”) and nothing really within it (we don’t want him to actually know very much or be able to think critically and reason closely for himself, as he might, at some point, start asking too many questions.

      Dan, these are heavy times. Make sure your seat belt is fastened. Have a great night, I'm back ton the book.

      Jason Cantanella

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  3. Hi Jason,

    I'm a little confused about your posts. I don't have a school board member telling me anything (I work in an alternative school).

    Do you have a social media platform where we could discuss this in further detail? (facebook, twitter, google+, etc.)

    Let me know!

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  4. Hi Dan, the school board member reference was a metaphor. I'm sure after some thoughtful deliberation, you understand what i meant.

    Right now I want to discuss pink shirt day as an anti-bullying exercise. I told my principal that I refuse to wear the pink shirt. She was irked which is good. My reasons are simple. I am anti-bullying 24/7/365 for all types of bullying. I don't need a pink shirt to remind myself or others that I am anti-bullying. Also, these shirts aren't free. These shirts have been manufactured, where? Every t-shirt means money for some corporation. Sure they may donate a bit to some cause, but still, a mass production of t shirts does not result in someone not making money off a cause that shouldn't need a symbol to signify someone is anti-bullying.

    Jason Cantanella

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