We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation.
– Ivan Illich
In class today, we learned of Erving Goffman’s description of the structures surrounding the social relationships of mental patients and other inmates.
Goffman describes the structures as follows:
- Basic split between a large managed group, called inmates, and a small supervisory staff.
- Each grouping tends to conceive of the other in terms of narrow, hostile stereotypes: staff seeing inmates as bitter, secretive, untrustworthy and inmates seeing staff as condescending and mean.
- Social mobility between the two strata is restricted and the social distance is formally prescribed.
- Inmates are excluded from knowledge of the decisions taken regarding their fate.
- The institutional plant identified by both staff and inmates as somehow belonging to staff. Reference to the institution implies the views and concerns of the staff.
In the context of class, these qualities were presented as representative of Ivan Illich’s position of deinstitutionalizing schools because teachers have too much power in relation to children.
Replace “staff” with “teachers and administration” and “inmates” with “students” and you see where this was going.
My question was this, what if we replace “staff” with “policymakers and education officials” and “inmates” with “teachers?”
Professor Lawrence-Lightfoot said my point was well taken but challenged it with the idea that teachers have ample opportunity to use what Joseph McDonald refers to as their “teacher voice.” McDonald writes that teachers too rarely engage in voicing the intimate, complex and nuanced understanding of the practice of teaching.
McDonald posits it is this voice teachers must better mine.
José has an excellent post over at GOOD calling for #OccupyTheClassroom, and he’s not wrong. “Teachers live in a space where they worry about every move they make,” he writes, “fearful that some administrator might come out of the bushes with a rubric that decides they’re not proficient.”
This fear is a piece of it for some.
For others, it is a conditioning of supporting and listening. To teach is to help students, in the words of George Dennison, “discover themselves in more richly human terms.”
Unfortunately, teachers suffer institutionalized silence – an unofficial and unhealthy gag rule on the areas of our expertise.
Historically, and too easily in modern society, teacher become so focused on this act and honing their listening to draw out the better version of their students that they lose the voice that shows the better versions of themselves.
What José calls for and what McDonald advocates is the use of teacher voice to reframe how others see the profession of teaching.
Karl, one of the voices I read and listen to most closely wrote this:
…this thing we call school doesn’t happen without us.
What if we just said, “Enough.”
What if we just said, “Your reform is bad for our students. We need to transform.”
What if we just said, “Not in my classroom. Not to my students. Not to my own children.”
What if we did #occupytheclassroom?
What if I #occupiedmyclassroom?
What if you #occupiedyourclassroom?
Sadly, these ideas are revolutionary. One needs only look at the forfeiture of curriculum, scheduling, assessment, and learning to see how much the inmates have given up to the staff.
McDonald charges teachers are being irresponsible individually and collectively for not combining our voices of expertise with our voices of advocacy to speak against those who would demean and misappropriate the teaching profession and the learning of children.
What if we #occupytheclassroom?