I absolutely loved this book, and if I had a million years of time available right now in my life, I’d write a sixteen thousand word review of this book. But instead, I will boil his book down to two practical questions and challenges for a teacher:
1) How do we, as teachers, shift the standards of the wider community to encourage excellence… particularly in subjects that they may not value?
2) How is Berger’s approach applicable to a school with a more multi-ethnic and diverse socio-economic status than the school he wrote his book from?
The school I work at is an awesome community. Kids come first, and adults at the school welcome and value the individual connections made with the students, their parents, and other community members.
However, while we do a great job with kids who are either super-struggling or amazingly outgoing, I can’t help feeling that those kids who are quiet and by nature don’t stick their neck out end up excluded at times.
I think especially of one group of quiet girls in one of my classes. They quietly do every assignment I give them while other members of the class either build up or, more frequently, destroy the community around them.
I spent the year trying to make connections with the two or three loud “destroyer” type in the class while they continually destroyed the class. Meanwhile, it became impossible for me to ignore the fact that I was ignoring these quieter (more cooperative) girls to try to bring the other kids up to their level of cooperation.
What of those kids? Why was I spending all my time trying to “save” the kids that every other teacher in the school was working on when there was a whole group of students I was ignoring… students who weren’t asking for attention because they were so quiet, and yet who I was ignoring anyways.
These students don’t hear their name once per day, or even get spoken to regularly. They don’t ever have a question asked of them. And yet, they are the most interested and engaged in my class. It seemed at odds to me.
Entering this course, I was so unbearably sick of reading things like this. Here we are, pouring our entire selves into this profession — and many days all it seemed like was everyone trying to undercut us by devaluing our profession.
Especially during the strike, which basically cut off any joy or love I had for teaching for a long time.
Case and point, this article from last year’s Province story about my school play.
CLICK HERE FOR A LINK…
Of particular note is the comments section under the article, basically accusing us all of being lazy. Extremely disheartening. How do we create a sense of community when teachers and students are judged by grades/measurable outcomes, not by factors like connectedness and student happiness? How do we create a sense of community when teachers are asked to work for free and devalued until they are jaded?
I’m struck by the idea that we experience more challenges today than students did in the past. Why do challenges today require any more collaboration than problems of the past?
It seems to me that in the past, there were quite a lot of problems overcome by collaboration. Apartheid in South Africa, the civil rights movement in the United States, indigenous rights in colonized countries around the world, and women’s rights as well. All of these movements required immense collaboration, and, in many ways, the problems of these people of the past were far less trivial than the problems we face today.
In fact, in Canada we are a pretty privileged people in that we get to even choose whether to collaborate or not. In poor countries, collaboration is not a choice — it is a necessity. Is it a choice whether to raise a village of children together or starve? Is it a choice whether to help each other build basic housing or freeze to death? “Primitive” societies, indeed humans in general, collaborated to survive out of necessity, not out of choice.
I’m always struck by this idea that we face more challenges today than we did in the past. Indeed, the challenges of the past make the idea of facing a 9-year-old child with learning disabilities seem trivial by comparison. We are indeed fortunate to consider these to be obstacles.