making sense of mathlissa

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 13 2013

Teachers as Activists

Sometimes you come across a piece of writing (thanks Claire!) that perfectly encapsulates your feelings on something —  in a much better way than you ever, ever could. And when you come across something like that, you feel like you just have to share it. So here’s David Chura’s piece from Huffington Post that got me thinking today. I definitely recommend reading the entire piece, but this part specifically stuck with me:

Good teachers don’t complain, they just act, doing what needs doing to help their students learn. It may be a home visit, a talk with a school counselor, an offer to tutor after school, a walk around the playground at lunchtime, or a spare change collection in the teachers’ room for eyeglasses.

That’s grit. And at first glance I found myself nodding along. I love the idea of “grit,” so much so that it will have to become another post. But in thinking more about the subject, I think we need to be able to offer teachers more solutions than to just dig deeper. So, policy-people: I guess that one’s on you. The author further laments the limited definition of a teacher, according these policy-makers:

Unfortunately today’s education reformers not teachers are the ones who are defining — and limiting — what it means to be a teacher, and there’s not much about activism in their definition. According to these pundits, a teacher’s job comes down to one thing: Get kids to pass the mandated tests. It is a shortsighted definition that is harmful not only to students but also to the teaching profession itself. But any teacher will tell you that we are much more than test-preparers. To be a teacher is to be an activist in ways that are familiar and unfamiliar, that are comfortable and uncomfortable, and that are mundane and at times, as we have seen throughout our history, heroic.

Aside from wanting to insert about five million commas into his writing (thanks Mrs. Hall), this part really resonated with me. Until policy-makers and educators can work together instead of against each other, I don’t know what will change. Or how. I think a big step would be recognizing, as David Chura said: “being an activist is an essential part of being a teacher.” At least, as I would add: being an activist is an essential part of being a good teacher.

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    melissa's take on math and mastery and making sense of it all

    Greater Philadelphia
    High School

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