Rebel: Noun. Verb. Adjective. Sweet.
I should probably spend more time being positive. Surely, that is what Tom Whitby thinks. I would say that I am more serious than negative. My goal in this post, aside from contributing to the REBEL post-o-rama-thon, is to be helpful. Comments are always welcome. If you like it, maybe I will write a part two/three/four.
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” Albert Camus
I only have a few thoughts about the educational revolution and it is all about the world between the walls. From bell to bell. Ding. Ding.
If you want to cause a rebellion, treat everyone the same. If you want to lead a REBELlion, treat everyone as the exception to rules that do not matter. The single most important thing that a teacher can do is to teach children with a discrete awareness and appreciation of their individual differences. Change and reform will not succeed as a top-down process. Change happens on the ground, as I like to say in my classes; where the teaching takes place.
My ideas are simple. None of them are revolutionary–with apologies. These are simple pieces of advice from my experience as a classroom teacher and a teacher educator. They are focused on needs of our students and ourselves. I believe
1. Stop being cutting edge (I totally stole this from Peter Sellars). We have already done cutting edge. We are cut. We are bleeding. It hurts. Please stop. We need change that heals and we know how to do that.
2. Think. Have you considered the short/mid/long-term results from change that you are proposing? I mean, look at the schools that produced REBELS like us? VERY unlike anything that we are proposing. We have to consider the outcomes of our “progressive” ideas.
3. Share in the name of selfishness. Giving away your knowledge, techniques, and ideas makes you better. Really.
4. If you focus on results, you will all treat all of your students the same. That is not fair, that is stupid. You had better be ready to look to yourself for the cause of problems. There are ways to teach and assess that recognize individuals.
5. The answers are already in the room (I totally stole this from Sir Thomas Beecham). The collective knowledge in a given room is probably all that you need to get your points across. Bruner called it scaffolding. Do that.
6. You are not the first person who thought that.
7. If you are thinking about being famous for something, please stop teaching and follow your dream. Nothing worse than a bitter failure in a room full of kids because he/she is using the backup plan.
8. Be consistent with things that matter. Is it worth it? Yes. Do not give me the Emerson quote about consistency being the hobgoblin of the small mind. The qualifying adjective in that quote is “A foolish consistency…” I am not suggesting that you maintain foolish consistency but that you maintain consistency in the things that matter.
9. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Treat students as you would like others to treat your own children. I remember the last time I said something that I would consider “unacceptable” to a student. I did not yell or say something foul or rude. But I did say something to a student that I regretted. As soon as it left my mouth, I remember thinking–what if I walked in when someone said that exact thing to my child? I could have cried right there. We have to be honest with ourselves and allow that type of thinking to occur.
10. Consider needs before anything else and then advocate appropriately. Someone once asked me how I would change schooling. The answer was nothing revolutionary. I said that I would find a way to make sure that the kids got a good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast, and clothes that made them feel secure. Beyond that, I would help to make sure that teachers were able to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
11. Find people who can help, reaffirm, critique, and develop YOU. They do not need to be all different people or all the same person, but be clear about what you need in a given conversation. Do not make assumptions about others and do not expect them to read your mind. If you need reassurance, begin your conversation by letting that person know.
12. Being the best at something is a decision. Pick one thing. Then pick another. Maybe your decision is based on a need. Or interest. Or innovation. Either way, it will be worth it.
13. You have a lot to say. You have a lot to give. You have a lot to offer. You are not like me and you can help me with something even if I do not know what it is yet. Me too.