It seems that every conversation I’ve been involved with online lately boils down to a common theme of power. First, it was a British blog that described a school-wide behavior plan to achieve “impeccable behavior.” Another time it was a twitter exchange with a middle school principal who kept asking why his teachers abandoned his reforms so quickly and seemed confused when I asked whether his teachers had been involved with the decisions or suggested that his research-based directives might not work in his school, with his teachers and students? Then there was a passionate exchange about a video (which has since been deleted from Vimeo) which showed a young teacher from one of the Uncommon Schools demonstrating classroom management techniques that looked a lot like a puppeteer controlling a team of marionettes, which led to blog posts by those for and against.
Why do I bother? I’m 48 years old. Too old to still fight the power. I should have accepted that the world works by each tier holding power over the one below. We, teachers, hold power over our students. School administrators hold power over teachers. Politicians hold power over school administration. Billionaires hold power over politicians. That is how it is, and how it shall be for time everlasting.
Haven’t I matured enough by now to quit trying to empower students to take responsibility for their own education? It is, after all, the pursuit of short term increases on standardized tests that define student achievement, not the growth of young people into capable and curious intellectuals.
My job is to carefully orchestrate my classroom so that I exert power and control over all aspects of my students’ behavior and make my classroom run like a practiced championship game or performance. Then my administrative observers will see this performance and reward me with outstanding marks on my teacher observations. I can close the door of my classroom, knowing that I am officially approved by the powers above. This is the end I should pursue. I should not expect administrators to reply to my emails, listen to my ideas, or ask my opinion about changes that directly affect my program. This is not my place in the world. I am a teacher. Just a teacher.
It’s time I grow up, away from that punk rocker who wanted to change the world. I should be happy to have a job that earns slightly above the standard of a living wage. I should be happy to have powerful administrators who make the difficult decisions. I should be happy to have the ultra-rich paying for their vision of reform in my school and community. My students should be happy that the world has taught them their place at a young age. Perhaps they won’t waste their years trying to fight the power.