Friday, July 20, 2007

Can't Make Me Shut Up

In my attempt to learn more about blogging and its culture (and there most definitely is a blogger culture), I’ve stumbled across a number of wonderful blogs by teachers. You’ll see I’ve started to add them to my blogroll at the lower-right. Today in my adventures through blogsville, I ran across an article posted yesterday by Joel on So You Want to Teach titled ”Shut-up And Teach,” which sparked a bit of a controversy:

"I get so tired of hearing teachers complaining about No Child Left Behind. I get so tired of hearing teachers complain about administration. I get so tired of hearing teachers complain about parents.

Shut up and teach!
It’s a simple concept, but some teachers seem to derive greater joy from feeling victimized than they do from feeling victorious. After all, it’s much simpler to complain than it is to create solutions.”

There is impotence in the complaint. Although it feels good to have a complaint validated by another, alone the complaint is impotent. It alone does not evoke change. Action must be taken it order for the complaint to give life to change. I agree in part with what Joel is attempting to say, but I think it could be taken a bit further. I hope that no educator would abide by the philosophy of play by the rules and don’t make waves. Otherwise, we can hope for nothing more than the same. Change does not happen in moments of silence and stillness. To quote the old aphorism, "silence equals consent.”

Joel’s article serves in part as a call to action. His sentiment is similar to the values that I try to instill in my high school students. Don’t just complain about a wrong, figure out what you can do to fix it, and do it. I want my students to problem solve. As educators we empower our students. We don’t want our students walking out of classrooms feeling disenfranchised, demoralized, and impotent. If they are the hope of our future, we must show them how change happens, so they can successfully claim the future as theirs.

And while I do know and very much feel the squeezing tentacles of NCLB in my own classroom, if it is something that directly interferes with how I can best do my job, I will not just shut up and teach; I will stand up and take action. I choose the world of Paulo Freire when he writes, “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
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