stephanie jones

Archive for the ‘teacher education’ Category

Reggio Wish #1 – Slow Schooling

In class-sensitive teaching, communities, creativity, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, inquiry, Reggio Inspired Schooling, teacher education on December 2, 2012 at 1:53 am

Slow Schooling

Five minutes pass, then ten minutes, then twenty.



Has it really been an hour?

A young girl and boy wander around the schoolyard taking turns experimenting with a camera that offers new and unusual ways of looking and seeing and living in the world.

A close-up of grass, part of a tree, a swing, and a friend provide material for curiosity and wonder and laughter and play.

The two children spend at least an hour on their own. No adult checking on them wondering about their task and whether they’re on it, no expectation that some kind of share out will hold them responsible for an adult mandated lesson they were to put into practice, no interruptions or calls to the carpet or lights flipping on and off or shushes or claps or public celebrations of other children who are doing a different task.

To be in a place of such peace where  children and adults work/play for long periods of uninterrupted times pulled me into the slowness of being, the rhythm of the present, and the quiet of curiosity. To be in a place where time is supplanted as the governor of activity by the meaningful movements of people is really stunning given that I spend so much of my time in educational spaces that are marked by the minute.

When a society (or any sub-culture of a society) becomes so compelled by narratives of efficiency and accountability, it is inevitable that measures of time will begin to rule human lives. And if measures of time begin ruling adult lives, it is inevitable that the same restrictions will soon be forced upon children – perhaps with even more force given the assumptions from most perspectives that children are to be controlled in their stage of only partial humanity.

I am struck by the ease with which children and adults populate the spaces of the Reggio schools. Bodies seemed natural and relaxed. Talk flowed without a sense of urgency. Conversation happened. Wondering, wandering, play, work, and smiles interacted fluidly as if everyone was in a time machine. A time-standing-still machine.

What long-term effect would a commitment to a slow school movement have on the quality of children’s, youth’s, and adults’ lives? If a school is not governed by time passing, but instead governed by the present and tending to our joys, curiosities, needs, and togetherness, what would happen in that school? How would we recognize it?

With the U.S. policymakers and education reformers persuaded by “time on task” and “preparation” for a hypothetical future of “career and college,” most schools become spaces where fluidity is outside the lexicon. Where present is only here to prepare for the future. Like the grassroots slow food movement that challenges all the efficiencies and speed of fast corporate food and the culture-changing impact it has had on nearly everyone, I wish for a slow school movement that parallels in commitment to the local and present.

I wish for a school movement where two children can wander around for an hour taking photographs of objects and people they find curious, and their explorations won’t be disrupted by clapping hands, flipping lightswitches, teachers calling out, or threats of losing their 10-minute recess for not being on task.


Common Core for Teacher Education – Go Control Someone Else

In corporations, discourse, professional development resources, teacher education, teacher education resources, Teaching Work on September 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm

The writing has been on the wall for a long time. Policymakers don’t want teachers to think for themselves, to engage students in critical inquiry, to challenge systems of exclusion and privilege, and they definitely don’t want teachers to “wake up” and see how much power they have as a collective force. Controlling teachers in their schools and classrooms is one way to control knowledge, information, and the despicable “outcomes” of our education system. Tying teachers to monotonous tasks, evaluating them based on stupid standardized tests (that are only in place to make publisher friends billions), and keeping them so worried about their individual jobs and livelihood that they can’t possibly have the time or energy to come around a table and share horror stories are all strategies that have been used by politicians and education “CEO”s to ram through their for-profit, pro-corporate agendas.

But the writing I’m talking about is the writing on university walls. The writing that told us we would be held accountable for third graders’ test scores if our graduates taught those third graders, the writing that told us we too would be rated on a Pass-Fall scale based on narrow and submissive standards, the writing that told us that our curriculum would soon be under attack – no more teaching “theory” (God Forbid! Don’t let teachers have access to anything that will make them think more deeply than a state mandated standard!), no more teaching “critical thinking” “multicultural education” “diversity” “social justice” – all that stuff would be perceived as getting in the way of preparing teachers to teach.

And now it’s here. Teacher Education programs are on the track to being regulated by the new Bully on the Block – and of course that bully is anti-union, anti-local control, and as far as I can tell anti-teacher and anti-teacher preparation in universities. Why would an organization about teacher preparation be anti-everything that improves education? Because if they can prove that teacher preparation is “failing” the floodgates for massive for-profit teacher education “charters” will be opened. The same thing happened, and is continuing to happen in K-12. Shift everything from “public” spheres into “private” spheres where more corporations that know nothing about education and pedagogy can slip their greedy little fingers into the cracks and pull them apart to reveal the massive opportunities for money-making.

My response? Go Control Someone Else (maybe your money-grubbing corporate friends), and Keep Your Hands Out of My Mind. You can’t control thought, you can’t control what is taught and learned, you can’t control human beings the way you are trying to. If you keep trying, the efforts will implode, people will wake up and realize that they have been duped and you’ll have a massive problem on your slimy little hands.

The State of Florida has apparently decided that Common Core will be embedded in their entire state’s teacher preparation program. I’m sure there’s push-back from professors and instructors, so I’ll be searching for those to see what’s up. But for the time being I have to mark that state off possible future job opportunities.

Reposted from Susan Ohanian’s website:

No comment. What can one say? Florida Teacher Ed people will now train teachers to be sheep.

This is just stunning. Nor surprising but stunning.

I would point out that Chancellor Hanna began his legal career as a law clerk at Bryant Miller Olive in 1982 and served as Managing Shareholder of the firm for 14 years. He is also Chairman of the Chamber of the Tallahassee Area Chamber of Commerce.

But that doesn’t explain why educators feel the need to act like lawyers.

Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug. 2 — The Florida Department of Education issued the following news release:

The Florida College System Teacher Educator Programs are the first in the nation to voluntarily commit to a system-wide implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The new standards will be embedded in the teacher preparation program curriculum throughout the college system so new teachers who enter the classroom will be ready for the more rigorous standards.

“This is an exciting time for Florida — both K-12 and postsecondary — where major reform on both sides is helping students get ready for success,” said Florida College System Chancellor Randy Hanna. “Our system is embracing the new Common Core State Standards and the teachers we are producing will be ready to teach them.”

“The Common Core standards are designed to ensure that all students — not just in Florida but across the nation — are prepared for success in postsecondary education and the workforce,” said Joe Pickens, President of St. Johns River State College and Chair of the Florida College System Council of Presidents. “We’re proud of the fact that Florida is getting out ahead in training our teachers in the standards that ensure students are receiving a high quality education that is consistent from school to school and from state to state.”

The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 45 states and 3 territories and outline the English/Language Arts and mathematics knowledge and skills for elementary and secondary instruction. The standards are benchmarked to international standards and establish clear, consistent goals for learning in order to prepare students for college and careers. In addition to training new teachers, the Florida College System is uniquely positioned to offer essential Common Core training to current teachers.

“I applaud the Florida College System for taking the bold step of infusing the Common Core State Standards into their educator preparation programs,” said Commissioner of Education Gerard Robinson. “The next generation of educators needs to be ready to teach at an even higher level to effectively prepare their students for career and postsecondary success.”

Faculty members will have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the Common Core State Standards through lesson demonstrations and implementation planning sessions at specialized training this fall dedicated to higher education faculty. The Florida College System will also make its “Common Core Training Institute” curriculum available to other states interested in following Florida’s lead.

— Florida Department of Education
Press Release
August 02, 2012

Title IX is 40 years old…when and how do we teach about that in schools?

In anti-bias teaching, democracy, Education Policy, feminist work, gender and education, NCLB, social policy, Standing up for Kids, teacher education, teacher education resources, Uncategorized on June 23, 2012 at 8:22 pm

(Image from the Sports and Entertainment Law Blog)

Have we come a long way baby? Given the fact that Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown, was banned this week from speaking on the House floor because she said “vagina” during her compelling argument against restricting women’s reproductive rights – I think we’ve fallen a long way back in time, way before the 70’s when radical policy changes were made to improve the lives of girls and women in the United States.

One of those radical policy changes occurred forty years ago when Title IX was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon, and has faced many legal challenges over the years. Most people familiar with the phrase “Title IX” would immediately connect the law to girls’ and young women’s rights to play sports in any school receiving federal funding, but sports weren’t even mentioned in the legislation. The legislation prohibits sex discrimination in “all” of an institutions programs and activities, including sports, but extending well beyond sports. In fact, even sexual harassment of students is prohibited under Title IX, and if sex “bias” includes the way we teach and what we teach, I’m surprised that we haven’t heard about anyone using Title IX as a reason to include pro-women curriculum in schools at any level.

But a pro-women approach to education seems nearly impossible given the current war against women being waged in the U.S. (Even if it’s not just against women, but the pursuit of social control writ large). The attack on women and the persistent questioning of any attention to girls and women in education was gaining steam in 2001, just as the No Child Left Behind Act was being written and enacted. For example, The Heritage Foundation (formed in 1973, just one year after Title IX…coincidence?) describes itself as:

“Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

And within its “think tank” The Heritage Foundation determined that the Women’s Educational Equity Act was a “waste of money,” an opinion argued in this article, apparently written by a woman but written against girls and women. This article, like many others hitting newspapers and journals throughout the 2000s, highlights girls’ academic achievements in test scores relative to boys’ test scores. The article, of course, doesn’t mention that most girls and women still don’t know their basic rights, don’t know about the history of women’s rights in the U.S. or across the world, can’t recall any woman who is serving in a leadership role in the U.S. government, and have no idea that even in 2012 women still only make .77 for every one dollar earned by a man in the same job. A lot of folks may not even know that the “Paycheck Fairness Act” was voted on in 2012 and defeated. This Act would have made it easier for women to determine whether they were being paid fairly as compared to their counterparts who are men, but that right has been denied.

So where is Title IX in education? I can’t say I have ever heard about or observed any classroom at any level discussing the significance of this legislation in the daily lives and education of girls and women, and I definitely haven’t heard about or observed anyone teaching about women from an anti-discrimination perspective that would reflect the goals of Title IX. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the sex discrimination of our K-12 curriculum, and there are plenty of materials out there to help us all get started, including lots of links in the text above.

Do you teach high school? Check out this syllabus for teaching women’s rights. And NCSS standards are already included.

Don’t teach high school? Well, look over the syllabus to check your own knowledge about women’s fight for basic rights and adapt the material and activities to align with the age of your students.

And be sure to include current events in your teaching. Lucky us, the news is saturated with evidence that there is indeed a war against women being waged, and we get to teach it all, including the awesome performance of the Vagina Monologues in Lansing, Michigan on the Capitol steps , and the op-ed written by Representative Lisa Brown – two big news events this week alone.

We’ve gone a long way back in time baby – but it looks like women just might be waking up and deciding that the battles won in the 1970s, including Title IX among others eroding away, don’t guarantee anything when 40 years have passed.

**Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled has a good overview of Title IX and, as you will see, anti-women rhetoric is commonplace in the comments – a testament to today’s sexist climate.

The Teaching Georgia Writing Collective – check it out!

In democracy, discourse, Education Policy, feminist work, Standing up for Kids, teacher education, teacher education resources, Teaching Work, work and workers on April 27, 2012 at 7:57 pm

About the Collective: The Teaching Georgia Writing Collective is a group of educators, parents, and concerned citizens who engage in public writing and public teaching about education in Georgia. Some goals of the collective include: 1) empowering educators to reclaim their workplace and professionalism, 2) empowering families to stand up for their children and shape the institutions their children attend each day, 3) empowering children and youth to have control over their education, and 4) enhancing the education of all Georgians.

 Members of the collective do not have to disclose their participation in any way. However, each collective member can decide when and where she or he informs others that she or he is a member. It is important that all members of the collective respect the right of others to remain anonymous in the collective writing process.

Contact the collective:



National Testing Resolution – sign your school or organization up now!

In democracy, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, teacher education, teacher education resources on April 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm
From Bridging Differences:
Posted: 24 Apr 2012 06:50 AM PDT
Dear Deborah,
The backlash against high-stakes standardized testing is growing into a genuine nationwide revolt. Nearly 400 school districts in Texas have passed a resolution opposing high-stakes testing, and the number increases every week. Nearly a third of the principals in New York state (some at risk of losing their jobs) have signed a petition against the state’s new and untried, high-stakes, test-based evaluation system.
Today, a group of organizations devoted to education, civil rights, and children issued a national resolution against high-stakes testing modeled on the Texas resolution. The National Testing Resolution urges citizens to join the rebellion against the testing that now has a choke-hold on children and their teachers. It calls on governors, legislatures, and state boards of education to re-examine their accountability systems, to reduce their reliance on standardized tests, and to increase their support for students and schools.
The National Testing Resolution calls on the Obama administration and Congress to “reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators”.
The organizations that have joined to oppose high-stakes testing include the Advancement Project; the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Fairtest; the Forum for Education and Democracy; MecklenburgACTS; the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.; the National Education Association; the New York Performance Standards Consortium; Parents Across America; Parents United for Responsible Education (Chicago); Time Out from Testing; and the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.
I hope that parents and teachers everywhere endorse this important statement of principle and bring it to their local and state leaders for consideration.
By coincidence, standardized testing was exposed to national ridicule this week because of a nonsensical question about a pineapple and a hare on the New York state English language arts test for 8th graders. Complaints about the pineapple story appeared on the New York City parents’ listserv, were reported in the New York Daily News, and then went viral overnight with postings on Facebook and Twitter. The New York City parent blog has a good summary. The Wall Street Journal published a hilarious interview with the real author of the fake testing story. On Twitter, it was referred to as #pineapplegate. The pineapple story was covered by The New York Times and The Washington Post.
But the state’s high-stakes testing examinations are no joke. The principal of a high-performing school wrote a letter to the state commissioner complaining about the quality of the questions in every grade. Teachers of the deaf said their students were asked to answer questions about sounds “such as the clickety-clack of a woman’s high heels and the rustle of wind blowing on leaves.”
There is madness in tying teachers’ careers and reputations to their students’ scores on such low-quality and incoherent examinations. Our policymakers have chosen to ignore the research warning that value-added assessment is inherently fraught with error, instability, and unreliability. Children are not wheat, their growth is not utterly predictable, and the standardized tests capture only a subset of what matters most in education.
But, Deborah, as the National Testing Resolution explains, there is a far larger question at issue here than the accuracy of the test questions. Even if the tests contained no absurd questions; even if the tests were flawless, the misuse of test scores is an affront to educators and to students. There may be diagnostic value in standardized tests, but they are now being treated as scientific instruments. What Pineapplegate demonstrates is that they are not scientific instruments. They are cultural artifacts, social constructions, created by fallible people. They should be used appropriately to provide useful information to teachers, not to punish or reward them.
At present, the standardized tests are used inappropriately. There should be no stakes attached to them. Decisions about teacher evaluation should not be tied to student scores. Decisions about bonuses should not be tied to student scores. Decisions about closing schools should not be tied to student scores. Decisions about retaining students should not be tied to student scores. All of these are weighty decisions that should be made by experienced professionals, taking into consideration a variety of factors specific to the child, the teacher, and the school.
Tests are a tool, not a goal. We should use them as needed, not let them use us. Their misuse has turned them into a weapon to narrow the curriculum, incentivize cheating, promote gaming the system, and control teachers. The more we rely on high-stakes standardized tests, the more we destroy students’ creativity, ingenuity, and willingness to think differently, and the more we demoralize teachers. The important decisions that each of us will face in our lives cannot be narrowed to one of four bubbles. We must prepare students to live in the world, not to comply on command.
The National Testing Resolution calls on all those who are concerned about the future of our society and the well-being of children to stop this mad obsession with test scores.
I hope the revolt grows until it consumes the terrible cult of measurement that has now so distorted the means and ends of education.

– Diane Ravitch

Mandatory dehumanization…AJC op-ed piece

In Education Policy, high-stakes tests, teacher education on March 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Thanks to Maureen for posting my piece today – and so far the comments are great! (of course I won’t hold my breath, the horribly mean and nasty people who want to destroy teachers and students in every way possible will surely log on soon!)

I love when teachers share publicly how they ignore their curriculum and pacing guides to do some really cool stuff with kids. Of course they know they might suffer in the end because of lower test results because they’re not rushing through the many unrelated facts that will be on the test – but they do it anyway because they want their students to have something bigger to hold onto.

Here’s the piece.



Teacher Morale is Low? How Could That Be?

In Education Policy, feminist work, high-stakes tests, Neoliberalism and Education, professional development resources, teacher education, teacher education resources on March 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Of course teacher morale is lower than it has been in two decades – no surprise there.

Maybe this recent study will provide lots of educators to jump up, yell, scream, write, speak out, organize, and figure out a way to be powerful once again!

A HUGE kudos goes out to Anabel Fender – one of my former students who wrote about her experiences during an independent study we had together last fall – now she has an editorial on the AJC blog Get Schooled (Maureen Downey) and it’s comin’ out in print too!

For your reading pleasure:

Future teachers – failures before we even start

4:37 am March 7, 2012, by Maureen Downey

Are new teachers undermined before they even step into the classroom? (AP Images)

Are new teachers undermined before they even step into the classroom? (AP Images)

Anabel Fender is a graduate student in education at the University of Georgia. This is her first essay on the Get Schooled blog.

I think it is terrific and an ideal follow-up to the survey results I posted earlier today. Read them both and you will get a sense of what teachers are experiencing right now.

By Anabel Fender

I am an idealist. A dreamer.

An…Oh-My-Goodness-Scared-To-Death-Future Teacher.

And I am made out to be a failure before I even start.

I am battered and bruised from the war against teachers and I haven’t even started teaching yet.

Scripted curricula tell me that the “higher ups” have no faith in my words. My Words! An integral part of what makes me a teacher is not trusted, so I will be given a script telling me exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. In what other profession do we not trust the words of the professional? Before I start, they make me question my words.

Merit pay initiatives imply that the teachers of America are not working as hard as they can already. In theory this initiative reflects the business world, but in the business world workers design their own goods and services. Teachers no longer have the freedom to design their goods and services – those are ready-made and required from above. It makes more sense to hold those creating the standards, curriculum guides, and scripted curriculum accountable for test scores – they are the ones making the “goods” and “services.” Before I start, they make me question my power.

In an effort to “improve” the teacher with scripted curriculum and merit pay, governors, federal government, and educational “reformers” favor alternative routes to certify teachers. Colleges of education are accused of using students as cash cows for funding research. Flyers for Teach for America hang on bulletin boards in the same universities. I am completely invested and have worked hard for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. I have made personal and financial sacrifices for a profession that will not give me great returns monetarily.

And policy makers have the audacity to think that a 22-year old business major spending six weeks of summer training to be a teacher is better equipped for teaching than I am. They help pay her loans, find a job, and offer funding for further education. But me? I graduate with education degrees when no one is hiring, teachers have no job security, and my student loans equal a teacher’s annual salary. Before I start, everyone is questioning my capabilities.

Teachers want what is best for students, but the current war against teachers is enough to wear anyone down. Teachers are constantly being told they are not good enough and then considered a threat when they speak out against injustices in schools.

Teachers’ tenure has been all but eliminated, furlough days are required, salaries are stagnant, and policies are written to fire teachers for being tardy but not to compensate them for their long evening and weekend hours. And since Georgia is a right-to-work state with no union to protect its teachers, teachers do what they must to keep their jobs. Teachers are afraid to speak out as intellectuals. Before I start I am questioning whether I am “allowed” to be an intellectual as a teacher.

I am battered and bruised but I am not going to question my words, my power, and my ability to be an intellectual. I will not let others define me, but I need teacher allies – former, current, and future teachers who will stand up with me and for me against this war on teachers. This is not about competition or jobs or our future. This is about improving our quality of life in schools so we can make schools powerful places for idealists to make their dreams a reality.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog


Love this – Confessions from a “Bad” Teacher

In Education Policy, Neoliberalism and Education, teacher education, Teaching Work on March 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Thanks to Maureen at the AJC for sharing this –

Great opinion piece from a nyc high school teacher.

Of course more ridiculous requirements from supervisors make teachers do ridiculous things that might even harm their students in the short- and long-run! Let teachers teach for crying out loud, and stop ruining our classrooms by walking through with “checklists” to make sure the teachers are “implementing” programs with “fidelity” and “fully compliance”!


We have entered an entirely new level of neoliberal management/surveillance of micro-movements of everyone and everything in schools.

And it’s killing us.

Getting Clear about Emotion – Teacher Morale, Crying, and Policy Makers

In discourse, Education Policy, families, family-school relations, feminist work, high-stakes tests, identity, Standing up for Kids, teacher education, Teaching Work on March 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm

What’s all the crying about? Education policy that requires teachers to engage in malpractice – that’s what.

The secret is out, teachers, and you are not the only one crying over the soul-crushing policies in schools.

The first murmurs I heard about teachers in crisis came from a principal several years ago. Teachers were streaming into his office seeking counseling services. Many were taking anti-depressants. Some couldn’t sleep at night, and some were so anxious and stressed they were worried their families would suffer irreparable damage.

Teachers enter the profession to do what is best for the students in front of them and for society at large. They earn degrees, immersed in rigorous study of how and why humans learn, how to individualize instruction, and how to inspire lifelong learning and engaged citizenship.

But individualization, inspiration, and engagement aren’t in current policies, and neither is teachers’ professional knowledge. Instead teachers must follow pacing guides and move on with assignments regardless of whether students are beyond or behind. Anyone can walk into a teacher’s classroom at any moment and evaluate whether the teacher is following the one-size-fits-all program with “fidelity” and “full compliance.”

The choices are soul-crushing: 1) Slow down, teach creatively and get students excited about a topic, but fall behind the pacing guide and receive a poor evaluation and possible humiliation and job loss; or 2) Move on with the pacing guide and ignore students’ pleas for help or their yearning to learn more, and evaluations might be fine, but students suffer.

Most teachers do a little of both, but their no-win situation is devastating.

And when students’ needs aren’t met because teachers are following mandates, they also cry or cry out in other ways.

I’ve witnessed sobbing children in school, crocodile tears streaking cheeks. Their bodies rejecting the relentless mistreatment they receive from impersonal curriculum, strict limitations on socializing and movement, and harsh punishments for child-like behavior. Students reject dehumanization.

When children hold it together at school they often fall apart at home. Yelling, slamming doors, wetting the bed, having bad dreams, begging parents not to send them back to school.

Some parents seek therapy for their children. More parents than ever feel pressured to medicate their children so they can make it through school days. Others make the gut-wrenching decision to pull their children from public schools to protect their dignity, sanity, and souls. Desperate parents choose routes they have never considered: homeschooling, co-op schooling, or when they can afford it, private schooling. But most parents suffer in silence, managing constant family conflict.

And I cry.

When I spend a lot of time in schools I often cry. Each day when I would leave a particular school in New York, I would find a park bench and have a good cry before heading home on the train. I cried for the children because they were so young and vibrant and constrained to desks for seven hours at a time and they were unable to talk during lunch and they were only allowed outside for ten minutes – if at all – and those ten minutes could quickly evaporate into no minutes if the line to the outside door wasn’t straight enough or quiet enough or fast enough. I cried because I witnessed their crocodile tears streaking their cheeks as they sat silently into space.

I also cried for teachers. They were often threatened by administrators  and humiliated in front of their students, they were told at the last minute that no, they wouldn’t be teaching fifth grade like they have in the past two years – they will be teaching kindergarten and they better damn well be happy they at least have a job. They were told to collect data, look at data, analyze data – and any mention of an individual child’s struggle would be interrupted with some line about “data.”

And I cried for myself and every other parent out there who would never want her or his child treated like a number, a digit on a data sheet, a potential deficit to the school’s reputation. I have hugged and consoled countless parents who were crying and suffering in silence when their children weren’t around to see them. Parents who try to support the school’s wishes and tell their children to do what teachers say, but then fall apart in private because they know their children are miserable, sad, depressed, and crying too much over school.

Some people might say that crying is an expression of emotion and that it ought to be kept private. Some might even say crying is a sign of irrationality, of over-sensitivity, of hysteria – all insults used to pathologize women (most teachers and all mothers) for at least a hundred years.

However, teachers, students, and parents are not the only emotional players in the unbearable game of school.

Policy makers are emotional. Punitive policies forcing the impossible combination of rigidity and test-based accountability are produced out of fear, anger, distrust, and arrogance. They are written in an irrational effort to control the bodies that fill schools every day.

But policy makers don’t have to endure the physical and psychological effects of their policies – those of us in schools do.

It’s time to stand in solidarity against mandated dehumanization in one-size-fits-all schooling and against over-emotional policy makers who have a reckless stranglehold on schools. Demand that humanity be returned to teachers, students, and parents who know how to make schools dynamic, inspirational places where everyone can thrive.

Body Matters in Teacher Education – a Podcast

In critical literacy, discourse, teacher education on October 24, 2011 at 6:40 pm

This is a podcast of a research talk I gave at the College of Education, The University of Georgia last week. It offers a small slice of a three-year study I’ve been conducting in teacher education and creating “culturally-relevant” spaces for teacher education students. Three findings from the study seem really relevant to teacher ed and have the potential for making contributions to the field:

1 – “Bodies” in teacher education classrooms are often already ‘good’ at the practices and implicit rules in educational spaces/academic institutions, but not often well positioned to be successful in “spaces” that reward different practices and have different implicit rules. In other words, they understand and orient themselves to the “nomos” (Pierre Bourdieu) of academic spaces, and have difficulty understanding people/students who don’t already have this institutional disposition. If we are to help future teachers better understand the most marginalized groups of students and families – those who often don’t acquire or want to acquire the academic institution disposition/practices, then we have to get those future teachers outside the physical spaces of academic institutions and into spaces (or “fields” – Bourdieu) where completely different practices are necessary, rewarded, and challenging to “new” folks in the field. Riding the city bus, doing community ethnography through participant observation in local recreation and leisure, social service agencies, natural and human resources, etc. are all ways to help expand new teachers’ perspectives of “learning” and orient them toward drawing on community resources and family practices to build meaningful curriculum. Bodies, in other words, cannot be docile in teacher education classrooms where they are “taught” to engage the community and marginalized students’ lives –  they have to experience new spaces in physical, social, psychological, embodied ways.

2 – Many young women across three years of the study (over 100 participants) expressed issues around their bodies (body image, pressures to look a certain way, pressures to eat/exercise in certain ways). While much “teacher education” is now focused on digging into the complex issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, language, etc. to make school a more relevant space for all students, few spaces deal with how all of these “issues” are related to bodies and how bodies are felt, perceived, and performed. Starting with the young women’s concerns around bodies and engaging them with a critically-focused body curriculum (critically analyzing advertisements, watching videos such as “Killing Us Softly,” reading articles about youth dieting, comparing these issues to the “obesity epidemic” hysteria, and analyzing their own bodily experiences on and off college campuses) can lead to engaged discussions and inquiries into the raced body, classed body, gendered body, sexed body, etc. In other words – if bodies are central to the perceptivity project in education (how we perceive others and in turn respond to them), then starting with teacher education bodies could be generative.

**This is the finding that is the focus of the podcast.

3. Tending to one’s own body in analytical ways and working to position oneself more powerfully in language and bodily interactions can help one assemble more confidence in acting as an advocate on behalf of oneself and others. In other words – if we want to help cultivate confident, critical, advocates/activists for future teachers who will stand up for children and families who are persistently marginalized and left behind, we need to work with them in assembling the analytic practices and confidence to do so. Starting with bodies can help us do that.

Papers coming out soon! Several in press and under review, so I’ll post when they’re ready.

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