Tag Archives: Ayers

Buy-Nothing Day

23 Nov

As a person, and now as a teacher, I am constantly trying to “define” myself. Who am I, really? What is important to me?

Today, “Black Friday,” is a big part of who I am. Because, instead of waiting in line at 4 am (or even overnight) in order to get the “best deal” on things I really “need,” I celebrate Buy Nothing Day. The main concept is to pay attention to what is really important. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I think the more you concentrate on what you don’t have, the more you lose sight of what you do have. What I have is amazing friends and family. A roof over my head. Enough to eat, clothes to keep me warm and dry, and a great university program in which I am learning to become the best teacher I can be.

Last year, I worked retail on Black Friday. I got up at 5:45, and worked for 8 hours, selling things to people who had waited in line for hours. I didn’t even have it that bad. Some stores open even earlier, and this year many large stores were open on Thanksgiving night, so people could “get their deals” even earlier. Let’s keep in mind that retail employees usually arrive at work 1-3 hours before a store opens. Which means, if you really need to buy your discounted TV at 8pm on Thanksgiving night, the employee who sold it to you probably missed dinner with his or her family.

Ok, but what does this have to do with education? A lot. As a teacher, I hope to give my students a sense of pride in what they have, what they can do, and who they are. A big-screen TV doesn’t define you, a good deal on the hottest video game doesn’t define you – your actions define you. A grade doesn’t define you, the work you put in to earn that grade does.

I am also well aware that it is likely I will be teaching the children of parents who are expected to give up their Thanksgiving to ensure a good retail turnout. As a teacher, it will be partially in my hands to remind these students that they are important in this world. As William Ayers says in the final chapter of To Teach:

The fundamental message of the teacher is this: You must change your life. Whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, the teacher invites you to a second chance, another round, perhaps a different conclusion. The teacher posits possibility, openness, and alternative; the teacher points to what could be, but is not yet. The teacher beckons you to change your path. (p 161)

Whoever my students are, I want to be a teacher who helps them to know that they can change their life. And that they can change the world, simply by changing their own path.

I am thankful today for all the people who do have work. The people who gave up their holiday (or the day after) to sell or cook or serve things. The people who don’t have a choice, but who work hard to make sure their families are taken care of.

I am also thankful for the people who choose not to participate in the craziness of the day. It’s a small act, choosing to sit out of this retail madness, but I think it can help define who we are as a culture – are we people who care about others, or do we only care about ourselves? Can money really buy happiness?

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – His Holiness The 14th Dali Lama

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Thanks-Vember 10 – Teachers who make a difference

10 Nov

In my entire schooling history, I have been lucky to have some really amazing teachers. Yes I had a few that were not great, unfortunately, but the ones that stand out had great positive impact on my life – and pushed me towards the idea of becoming a teacher myself.

In middle school, my Language Arts and Social Studies teachers taught with such enthusiasm and joy, it infected us students. We became joyful learners. We were given freedom and control of our own learning. I sometimes see my old classmates, and we still discuss the work we did in middle school. People wrote skits, performed songs. A stage was set up on a regular basis in our classroom. On more than one occasion, entire bands (drum kit, guitar amps, microphones, monitors, speakers, etc…) were set up on that stage, and songs were played about The Ramayana, The Odyssey, and The Declaration of Independence. We were treated with respect and understanding – something that can be difficult to do with 6th-8th graders.

I also began performing in middle school. I learned to play the bass guitar and the french horn, and joined the drama club. I discovered that even though I was a shy, quiet, nerdy girl in the classroom, I didn’t have to be that onstage. In 8th grade, supported by my teachers and classmates, I won our school’s annual Lip Sync. It was a big deal in Middle School, and even though a long time has passed, people still recognize me from that moment. It was my taste of fame, and I immediately wanted more. I never would have done it if my teachers hadn’t provided me with the opportunity to discover what it felt like to perform.

In high school, as many people do, I struggled to fit in. I didn’t go to the high school that my middle school fed into. Instead, encouraged by one of my friends, I enrolled in the school that my neighborhood was supposed to feed into. I wasn’t sure who I was, in this group of new people. With the help of my English teacher I discovered I was a writer and a reader, even more than I had realized. With the help of the band director I discovered I was part of a family of crazy band members – and an actual musician. When I joined the drama class, I directed shows. I organized fundraisers. I became a performer, once again. I was asked to be a Teachers Assistant my senior year, and ended up teaching most of the beginning drama class. Except for the day two football players picked me up and held me in the air for the whole class, it went well. I loved it. I loved drama and I loved teaching, and I had the realization that these two things could go hand in hand.

All these teachers have one thing in common – they gave me a voice, and listened to me. They handed me the reins to my own education and let me drive – with a little guidance. In To Teach, Bill Ayers says: “Teachers must be experts and generalists, psychologists and cops, rabbis and priests, judges and gurus, and, paradoxically, students of our students.” (p 17) I know what I learned from my teachers – I wonder what they learned from me.

On testing

24 May

I liked the story Bill Ayers told (in To Teach, 2010) about his son taking a standardized test:

Once, when Malik was telling me about his week of standardized testing, I asked “Did you learn anything from it?” He looked at me with mild disgust. “Bill,” he said patronizingly, “it was a test.” (p 125)

However, Ayers definitely believes we can learn things from standardized tests. Like the bias of those who wrote them. I found this cartoon on Pinterest and was struck by how aptly it applies to Ayers’ disgust for standardized tests.

Image

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