Before I start on my rant I do want to say that as a teacher I accept that the teacher is responsible for setting the tone of the learning environment, and thus student behaviours and actions. This rant is not detracting away from that, as I feel that I took full responsibility. This rant is about – when do we make students accountable for their own actions? When do we start to look at this broken system of education?
So this is that rant.
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I was in the classroom this week with a class that had escalated very quickly. To bring them down (back to the planet) I asked them to reflect back on what they perceived their triggers to be.
Quite a few students listened perceived injustices – which was actually an accomodation for a student with additional needs. I took this feedback onboard as I made a mental note that they needed experience and perhaps explicit teaching in understanding adjustments made for different students; effectively comparing ‘fair’ verses ‘equal’ treatments / experiences within the classroom (and life).
One student however launched into a scathing attack about how I was solely responsible for the choices and actions of the class – because i had challenged the norm, given them choices, and was not strict enough.
And that’s when the faithful processing of the feedback had to stop.
I thought, No. Fuck You! I am not the bad guy here.
I will not be made to feel irresponsible because of my belief in the well documented facts that children are whole human beings capable of making decisions (within boundaries, naturally) for themselves – or at least, practicing making decisions that affect their lives.
I will not apologise for raising the bar of expectations. For empowering my students to make choices that affect their lives, their bodies, their minds, and their learning right now.
I am not the bad guy because I believe in autonomy and self discovery.
I am not the bad guy because I won’t fit into these strict and unrealistic expectations that children are empty vessels that need to sit in one spot (don’t you dare get a tissue without asking; and don’t even think about the toilet). These empty vessels are supposed to just sit and absorb the almighty wisdom that is sprouting from my god-head… Which, I might add, looks like a mouthpiece to a near simpleton’s musings… Oh. Right. Because it is!
I am not the bad guy because I don’t think that I have a fountain of infallible wisdom to share. I personally don’t think anyone has this… at least not in this context… but that for another time.
I am not the bad guy because I believe that life and learning are a process that involve trial and error as well as calculated risks. And that we naturally learn intrinsically.
I am not the god damn bad guy because I see more potential in you than this outdated, rigid laughing-stock-of-an-institution that has children screamed at and humiliated would have you believe.
Logically and reflectively I acknowledge that the transition to empowered learner is unfortunately a slow and tedious process; particularly when up against some very old programming. But despite the comfort that a few students find in this old structure, I will loose my passion and desire to light real fires of light and love and growth. And personal responsibility. And ownership. And community-mindedness. And progress.
Because we are moving forward. Into a new world in education. No, I am not the bad guy. But I am doing it differently. And that’s the point.