Borderland » Blog Archive » Subsversive Educator Cookbook

Borderland » Blog Archive » Subsversive Educator Cookbook

What does a subversive educator do? This question came to mind after reading Kathy Sierra’s article the other day. I was impressed by the synchronicity of her vision for corporate change with my own thinking about school culture. In fact, as I was reading her piece, I began inserting the word ’student’ for ‘user’ in each instance and the whole thing made perfect sense.

I’ve seen AJ rave about Kathy Sierra, but wasn’t too impressed with what I read there the first time. Pop on over and see what Doug was so excited about.

Also check out Doug’s own list. Here’s the bits I liked. How about you?

Value students.
When it’s all over they’ll remember how you treated them, not what you taught them. Teaching isn’t about the curriculum, the standards, your lesson plans, grades, or the school rules. It’s about students. Any time you feel the need to exercise authority to get someone to do something, ask yourself, “Is this demand necessary?”

I was reminded of one of Gatto’s “lessons“: that school essentially teaches (and is intended to teach) obedience and docility.

Be open to “flow.”
I have plans every day. But the things that get done are frequently inspired by the demands of the time. I’ve learned to trust my intuition more than the teacher’s manual. Make it interesting. Make it fun. Keep things upbeat. Mess around with their imaginations. How can you put that in the lesson plan?

[my emphasis]

Self preservation is the prime directive.
You gotta’ be there to get the job done, so try to not get fired or burned-out….
Good manners succeed with even difficult people.
Maintain your composure when you’re dealing with people who don’t know what they are talking about.

Mind the discourse.

The way people use language tells you a lot about whose voice is privileged and whose isn’t. You can the hear ideology dripping from every official pronouncement. The power to control definitions is the power to influence behavior. Don’t buy anybody’s bullshit – including mine, or even your own.

Common sense is one of the basics.
It isn’t rocket science.

Speak up.
If you’re going to be a change-agent working to transform the culture of education, you can’t expect to do it all by yourself. At the end of the day it’s sometimes hard to find words to synthesize our experience. The act of writing for a real audience is a personal expression of power. A blog can help with this. Being outspoken in professional meetings is another way to get the attention of many people who might enjoy seeing things from another point of view. Discovering that others value your ideas is incentive to keep working for change.

Doug adds:

If anyone has more ideas on this subject, I’d like to hear them. Educational change is cultural work, and requires the efforts of many.

Well? What are you waiting for? Pop over and add your comment! Here’s mine:
Teachers teach who they are. So who are you? Where are you from (metaphorically as well as geographically)? What antecedents, personal history and experiences have made you? Knowing who and what you are is a crucial element in honest teaching, relieves stress and makes teaching more real and fun. I’ve started sharing more of who I am with students, and starting learner profiles of some of them, and hoping my questions (about who they are, where they come from and where they have come from) will stimulate them to a deeper sense of their own identity.

Gatto wrote, Teachers teach who they are. If they are incomplete people, they reproduce incompleteness in their students. … Teaching who you are leads to wholeness – in yourself as well as your student. And if we don’t strain towards wholeness, what is the point of teaching at all besides a paycheck?
Where do you start First you have to find yourself. There isn’t any other way. If you wait on that you’ll be buried even deeper in the artificial programs of others.

And speaking of Learner Profiles, here’s an interesting warning-off on them, altho it seems more of a repudiation of learning styles than profiles per se. It reminded me of this devil’s advocate position on learning styles. This page also makes me even more suspicious of what some of the motivations behind learner profiles might be (more control and supervision of learners, based on the “we know what’s best for you”, Big Brother, Brave New World utopian vision).

One thought on “Borderland » Blog Archive » Subsversive Educator Cookbook”

  1. Thanks for your very generous comments. I also like your links to the information about learning styles. I’ve been listening to teachers throw this jargon around for a couple of years now, but have seen little research to convince me that there is much merit to their claims.

    I always enjoy alternative viewpoints even when I don’t actively engage the debate. Usually I just ignore what I can’t use and figure that if it works for someone else, good for them. I suppose everyone, students included, do the same. That helps maintain a healthy intellectual ecology.

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