Sunday, November 24, 2013

You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned

Hello Education Universe-

The title of this post of course, is another one of the enigmatic quotes from Yoda.  This one however is something I'm trying to accomplish with students who have made up their minds on certain aspects of life long before I began my work with them.

I am not omnipotent.  I don't think I'm better than people.  But I do get upset that my students come to school with some misconceptions about the world.  Given, my culture is different than that of many of my students.  The town I grew up in does not resemble the one in which I teach.  The schools I learned in do not resemble the school that I work in.  But people are still people, and this country exists under the premise that we are all the same.

I know that there cannot be some list of beliefs, some canon of culture, some philosophy of principles that should be conveyed to students by teachers.  Again, this country is built on believing what we want to believe.  We have a right to our opinion.  We have a right to voice that opinion.  But that doesn't always mean that society at large will uphold it as valid.

I broke up a fight recently at a school dance.  I've done it several times in my five years as a teacher.  I have preached to my students that violence is not the answer.  But in middle school, I face an uphill battle in convincing students that raising a hand is synonymous with failing to see other options.  Violence isn't the answer to solving a problem with another human being.  If they make that choice, retribution is no more noble a motive than the aggression that caused it.

But yet I am told over and over how striking someone is the only option to someone who strikes you.  That is false.  My students have a compulsion to save face in the school and the community, and are unable to back down.  I have spent time explaining to students that long before the violence erupts, there are ways to avoid it.  Talking to friends, trying to open a dialogue between parties, speaking to adults, and alerting family members are solid strategies.

This does not mean I don't believe in self-defense.  Self-defense is necessary to remove oneself from harm's way.  We all have a right to live, and I have explained to students that protecting ourselves from imminent danger is most certainly permissible.

However you cannot look to defend yourself.  Self-defense is reactionary.  It is not premeditated as some of my students fail to see.  You cannot actively look to defend yourself.  You cannot instigate a fight, let the other side swing first, and then retaliate in self-defense.

Ultimately, this line of thinking ends with students turned adults in squad cars.  That worries me.  I want students to realize that they must find ways to deal with their aggression and frustration civilly.  That does mean walking away sometimes.  It does mean knowing when to stop.  It does mean knowing when to let someone else show their ignorance because you know how to show restraint.

Maybe my Jedi blood just runs too think.  "Knowledge and defense, never attack."  That's what the Force was to be used for.  I think the Force in our world may be common sense.  We need to act thoughtfully, considerate of ourselves, and of those around us.

"Mind you what you have learned, save you it can."  And if we unlearn what we have already learned, it allows us to learn something more useful.  Then we can use it to save ourselves.

Thanks Yoda.

-Mr. J.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Just Got Chills

I'm not sure how to start this one, so I'm just going to.

I just read a blog post tweeted to me by Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate.  I love the book, and I've already talked about that.  There's something there for everyone.  But for @tansmom, it apparently meant a lot more.

I feel as if I am jumping on a bandwagon or just being redundant, but I shared a lot her sentiment.  I have sat here most of my summer learning from so many people, collecting ideas and rejuvenating myself in an effort to be the best that I can this year.  I can't stand being like other teachers.  I mean I want to be talented and respected like other teachers, but I want to be different too.  I want to do things my way, not out of arrogance, or ignorance, but out of passion and creativity.

I'm 27.  I'm closer in age to my students in most cases than my colleagues.  Separating my professional, academic, and personal lives is getting harder in today's society.  I believe that barriers between them should exist, but be much less strict than other people do.  I think engagement is necessary, creativity is vital, and rapport is required.  And because of those things, I take a lot of risks too.  And sometimes they blow up in my face.

I know exactly what @tansmom is talking about when mentions being tired.  I too fought a battle with my health this year.  In April I was diagnosed with MS.  It shook me to my core, scared me to death, and created a moment in my life where I knew a new self would live going forward, and an old self had been left behind.  I did the same thing and somewhat punted the last month of school away.  Just sitting at my desk and trying to act like I was ok was all I could do.

It was at about that time that I found PLN's and Twitter, blogging, and the playful banter of digitally connected educators.  They were people who thought like me.  They were coming up with great ideas and sharing them.  I shared mine too.

But my way, my ideas, aren't always totally accepted.  I joke with my students a lot.  I don't sweat small stuff, and I surely don't make them sit silent day in and day out.  Forgetting something isn't a big deal until someone does it constantly.  We've reenacted, argued, gotten loud, used technology, and created culture and camaraderie.  That's ruffled feathers, but guess what?  I'm not going anywhere.

And to those veteran teachers who are trying to raise a pirate flag, you are our most valuable sailors on this voyage.  You have the passion and creativity that has been tempered with wisdom and experience.  You know how to guide us younger pirates that may shoot first and ask questions later.

So don't give up the fight.  Fly your flag.  Go down with your ship, but not sinking because it's worn and neglected.  Go down in a blaze of glory.  Never strike your colors, and stay true to yourself.  When it's all said and done and you see that former student in several years, what do you want them to remember?

And who knows?  Maybe the waves we will cause will spark more learning, more ideas, and more people to join the crew.

You're not alone.

Mr. J.