Forgive me for intruding here, but I find this dialogue particularly interesting. It’s one like others, perhaps—but that I’ve been missing? Are there true educators for “social justice” who do not believe teachers are doing enough—that the ed reform movement is good in that it’s an effort to hold teachers accountable for the first time..and that perhaps teachers have fallen short of their charge to educate the most disadvantaged in society? Maybe I have misunderstood. Back and forth, back and forth between teacher agency and student agency. Who is missing?
I will say this. There is nothing wrong with teachers being concerned about their paychecks and their jobs, why—how else would we survive? Teachers in my humble opinion have been expected to act as if the teaching profession were equivalent to charity and an act of self sacrifice (in the poorest of schools, anyway) and have never been compensated or recognized as the masterminds behind our future generations, like scientists who have been given the delicate task of shaping the minds and hearts of human beings!! Accordingly teachers have never been revered in society as the professionals they are, in some generations by parents and local communities yes, but as a profession? Of course, I have met many teachers who do not respect poor children and/or children of color and there are some that need a lot to learn about effective pedagogy (with any children), but perhaps I’ve been lucky (or blind?) to have found that the majority of teachers work extremely hard to fill in the gaps of a society that systemically perpetuates poverty and inequality.
Think about doctors. Who can say that every doctor is worthy of their salary? No, they are human beings with inherent weaknesses and failings and there will always be some that are stellar and memorable, others who will be average and the third group too will exist, those who are incompetent fools!
Student agency is imperative, yes. But I would argue that the average student in disenfranchised schools living egregious living conditions are many steps away from activating “agency” in a way that can impact and stimulate change, let alone confront the mammoth edreform machine/monster. Why, adults who have risen from oppressive conditions themselves, or newcomers to the “middle class” who often have great sympathies for the children taking the brunt of corporate reform abuse—hardly have the money, stamina, connections and social currency to withstand the pressure upon them and are forced to keep (a little) quiet and move things ahead so they can survive, literally survive. Those who are proactive must be extremely careful if they want to stay in the game at all and even then, they are quickly identified and banished. The statement “until students are mobilized by teachers (yes teachers) without their losing their jobs or messing up their careers”(Andres Castro) hits a critical reality.
The sense of “vomiting” is with me daily, the reality that what we’re witnessing in and around schools is repugnant and humiliating (it must be, must be!! the same for any conscientious educator...) yet, I can’t help ask the question—what is is that we want teachers to do exactly?