Works as Designed

If you dig passionate spoken word poetry, check this out:

I particularly love:
“The winners of a rigged game should not get to write the rules”
“Since when does being a teacher mean having to swear not to help… Since when does being a teacher mean having your hands tied, while the schoolhouse burns to the ground…”

While the poet’s scenario does not exactly mirror my own experience of teaching, there are definitely overlaps. As I was saying to a friend the other day: I know I’m a ‘good teacher’ in some ways. I adore learning, and I love working with kids. So why do I feel this deep malaise in the classroom? What makes me unhappy about my profession? I’m finally putting my finger on it: in my heart I know this system that we take for granted is not fundamentally serving our culture in the best possible way. I’m a key piece in a broken machine, expected to ‘work as designed’ but semi-consciously aware of the futility of much of what I’m doing. We aren’t teaching kids, we are training them. We’re training them to be satisfied with mediocrity and boredom. We reward the compliant and complacent. We ‘teach’ kids that their sense of self-worth and societal value is intrinsically linked to their success at following the rules in the system. We make it okay for kids to feel awful coming to school because they don’t perform exactly as we expect them to. We tip the hat at diversity but ultimately expect conformity and homogeneity; we reward sameness. We punish those who rail against the institution… And then they grow up and have to re-learn how to be creative, how to find their passions, and how to fall in love with learning. And that’s just if they’re one of the lucky ones.

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  One thought on “Works as Designed

  1. bonnie
    September 29, 2013 at 1:15 am

    Wow Amy…beautiful timing. I am really having a difficult time this year in my Section 23 classroom. Difficult because the particular students that i work with have mental health issues, family dysfunction, trauma etc. and it is expected that they too buck up and get with the mainstream program. They already hate school because they have not met with success or it is the last concern on their mind. I am told that they need to have high structure and learn appropriate school behaviour. I want my students to love learning and to ask good questions and to feel good about their strengths (even if they are not in Math or English) I even hate writing report cards for my students.
    Thanks for jump starting my teacher heart.
    bonnie

  2. Darlene Tiedeman Masse
    October 30, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Wonderful Story.
    Was it Pelee that inspired this?
    Felt like it was.

    Inspiring.

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