Perhaps I’ve Been Inhaling Too Many Industrial Fumes…

Alternative title for this post: My Personal Crisis of Identity and Resulting Virtual Mind Dump

I think this one is going to be a doozy, folks. (And right after I was named in the top 100 ed-blogs…let’s hope they don’t take it back.)

This whole mental crisis began after I read the following piece which makes the argument that teachers are becoming little more than factory workers. Granted, this is not the most original metaphor, nor is the idea of efficiency models of education. Historically, we have been reduced to cogs before, but I can totally see where this guy is going in light of current crap coming down the old political pike.

I mean, check this out. He writes, “The notion that teachers should be highly skilled in developing relationships is commonplace at the elementary level, but discussions of education reform, both locally and nationally, continue to ignore the central role academic relationships play at all levels of education.”

Shall we all just high five now? Because talk about being right on the money. I guess considering the role of relationships in education would (*gasp*) involve talking to and taking seriously the thoughts and experiences of ACTUAL TEACHERS.

I KNOW! I said it out loud! You will be happy to know that no, lighting has not struck me yet. YET.

Okay, if you clicked over to the actual article I’m referring to, you’ll notice that then the author says this, “The latest education reforms suggested by the U.S. Secretary of Education and leaders in the Pittsburgh Public Schools are more enlightened than those of the past…” which kind of made my skin crawl, but let’s just stick to the whole idea of teachers undergoing a crisis of identity and lack of voice, shall we?

Thank you.

Moving along, I will now bring you into my doctoral life where I am desperately trying to finish my dissertation on teachers’ constructions of their professional identities and how the context in which they work either positively or negatively impacts those constructions. Basically, I’m in interested in how TEACHERS define THEMSELVES and THEIR ROLES and how THEY THINK their school context impacts all of that good stuff.

Again with the whole considering the voices of actual teachers thing. Maybe I’m out of control. Or maybe I’ve hit the nail right on the head. The nail which The Powers That Be are missing time and time again. (They must have very sore thumbs.)

Do I think my dissertation is going to change the world? Uh, no. I mean, if I’m honest with myself I know that no one is ever going to actually read this thing, nor would I EVER subject anyone to that kind of torture HOWEVER…

it has led me to do a great deal of reading around the idea of teacher identity.
(And by “great deal” I mean overwhelming amount. We’re talking crap loads of reading here, people.)

And do you know what I’ve learned??? That teachers tend to consider the influence of the larger political climate surrounding education, the dynamics of their own school site and combine all that with their own relationships with colleagues and students as well as their personal biographies when forming their sense of identity as a teacher.


Really, what I’m saying is…WE consider a whole lot of people and factors when thinking about ourselves and our work. Yeah, we consider ALL THOSE THINGS while running around like crazy people trying to educate our friends to the best of our ability. Talk about MULTI-TASKING!!

Yet somehow, those Powers That Be (a.k.a. D-bags In Suits) refuse to consider us.

And when reforms fail? Who gets blamed? Teachers. And who feels guilty? TEACHERS. Who ducks the finger? The Powers That Be. Seriously, I’m not sure how they sleep at night.

Perhaps if one of them, JUST ONE TO START, was capable of multi-tasking or looking at both the big picture and the realities of the classroom, you know, like a teacher? Maybe then we would be in a much better place.

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  • I would imagine that if they WERE able to act like teachers, then they would actually be teaching and not holding the position of a Power That Be.

    Those who can't do NOR teach becomes a bureaucratic bump-on-a-log, I guess.

    April 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm
  • I would be interested in reading your dissertation as your topic seems to be the very reason I am currently trying to leave my school for a new one. I see my role as a teacher as a constant revolving door of both learning and teaching. I want to keep getting better and growing within my profession. Some of the fellow educational professionals at my school demonstrate that they think PD and meetings (yes staff meetings) are a waste of time. So then no one gets better at their job and no one knows what is going on. I just I hope the next place is better.

    April 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm
  • 1. I would totally read your dissertation.

    2. TPTB don't look at teachers and students as humans or classrooms as, well, classrooms. Students are widgets, teachers are (overpaid)assembly-line robots, and classrooms are factories. Clearly, if the factories are not producing a uniform, high quality product, the (overpaid) robots are to blame.

    3. TPTB wouldn't last 5 minutes in a classroom.

    April 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm
  • Forgive in advance my pessimism. Perhaps someone with more energy will object to what is going on…stir up the masses and change the world. I'm don't think I can anymore (at least not today).

    I read the following passage this morning.

    "What kind of professional wants to spend every working hour doing what research says is best for children and best practices only to be second guessed and overridden, asked to do things that aren't developmentally appropriate? (Can anyone say play in Kindergarten anymore?)"

    Present company excepted, we (the American public) are going to get what we pay for. When teaching becomes (continues to become) simply reading the script and instruction on how to fill in bubbles, then we're going to get teachers who are adept at reading scripts and showing kids how to fill in bubbles.

    Right now, in Florida, the attack on Public Education has reached a new level. Teachers will be judged by their students' scores on a test – experience doesn't count for anything. The politicians are pushing it through…and when it fails to close the achievement gap between rich and poor, which it surely will, teachers will, again, be the ones to blame.

    It doesn't matter what research into best practices says…

    I've had a lot of mixed feelings about retiring this year…up and down. Sometimes I'm happy to be going…sometimes it breaks my heart. Today is one of those days when I'll be happy to kiss the whole pile of crap good-bye.

    *goes to the kitchen to get some chocolate…the perfect pain reliever*

    April 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm
  • All are great comments…but, as a non-educator but an educated parent, my question is how has this happened? Why are public school teachers so low on the totem pole? Why is there voice not being heard? Why does public education/government schools willingly follow the money and move from one fad to another wasting tax-payer money and not educating our children?

    I want public education to work. We need it to work. Sadly, it is not…in some schools it is. In many it is not..

    Why isn't it? What happened?

    Public school mom for 14 years who couldn't take it anymore and finally put the younger son in private school (he left the supposed #30 school in the COUNTRY) and is now thriving! 🙁 He should have been able to thrive in a government school.

    April 10, 2010 at 1:36 am
  • I would love to read your dissertation.

    When I became an education major, it was a tough transition. I'd always done really well in school and although I knew that teaching was challenging, it didn't feel "intellectual" enough. It didn't help that I had family members saying I should have stayed in Biology because I "probably could've cured cancer or something." Even one of my teachers from middle school told me I was "too smart" to become an elementary teacher.

    I still make the point that while education was an easy MAJOR (for me, anyway), it's an extremely tough CAREER. But there's still a part of me that at times feels a little disappointed in myself, and I attribute that in part to some elementary-teachers-aren't-super-smart stereotype I must have developed (probably pre-college, but some of the girls I met in college in my major didn't help it). I think the level of difficulty of my college classes contributed, too, though.

    Anyway- I like teaching, but I do feel like my "teaching identity" is complicated, so I'd love to read what you find.

    April 10, 2010 at 1:36 am
  • I would LOVE to read your dissertation! I am a public school teacher in East London, UK who has taken time out to be with her baby. But my life as a teacher defines me. I do miss the classroom and the drama and my students – my amazing students. I am so scared about going back to work because the job consumes my heart and soul and I wonder how that will impact how I am able to raise my daughter.
    I don't want to give up my role as rockstar teacher, but how will I do all at the same time when teaching requires us to give so much of ourselves. You can't just leave your job at the door at 6:00, can you? And you need the time to stay current and relevant in the field. I don't want to coast.
    LOVE your blog and your new book.

    April 11, 2010 at 1:15 pm
  • Have you read the amazing article called "The Heart of a Teacher: Identity and Integrity in Teaching" by Parker J. Palmer? It starts with "we teach who we are"–an amazing article that can take back the humanity that is teaching–intellectual, emotional, and spiritual.

    April 11, 2010 at 1:15 pm
  • "And when reforms fail? Who gets blamed? Teachers. And who feels guilty? TEACHERS. Who ducks the finger? The Powers That Be."

    You know what's funny about that? In the rest of the world of politics and business it's the opposite. A failing corporation replaces it's management, not it's workers. When something goes wrong in government, it's never the office clerks who get subject to a recall election.

    April 11, 2010 at 1:15 pm
  • I think teachers are the biggest variable in teaching other than the kids, and you can't blame kids for not learning.

    I think for a lot of people, the problem is so simple. "A teacher's job is to teach, so if students don't learn, it must be the teacher's fault."

    So companies have developed curriculum and governments have developed solutions that are believed to be fool-proof, but unfortunately they are one-size-fits-all and don't take into account the individual communities, schools, teachers, and students.

    There are bad teachers, but I work in a "failing" school and I still see amazing colleagues. In general, most teachers really care and do some great things.

    I think teachers can lead to solutions that make things better because they know the students' needs and they know what holds them back. I wish more politicians and even school boards would come to teachers for input when a school needs improvement.

    April 11, 2010 at 1:15 pm
  • Beth, Lea, luckeyfrog, Shireen – REALLY? All 500 pages? I wouldn't DARE subject you to that, but would love to discuss all this stuff some more. Sans page upon page of dense text.

    Stu – as always, genius. Your comments bring this blog to a whole new level. Thank you. And I hope the chocolate worked.

    din819go – Thanks for stopping by for a visit! How did teachers get to be so low on the totem pole is a big old question. BIG! I don't think anyone wants to hear our voices, wants to hear the realities of the classroom. They want us to be heroes but think we are too stupid to listen to. While I don't want to get into a discussion about unions, the unions do speak for us but leave many of us feeling unrepresented. Real teachers are not involved in any real ways that I know of, in decisions that impact our daily work. We're told how to do our jobs and then told we failed when the silver bullet program of the moment failed. I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but I KNOW the image of the teacher in general society and especially in the eyes of the Powers That Be needs to CHANGE.

    eshyde- totally going to check out that article. THANKS YOU!

    April 11, 2010 at 4:36 pm
  • This is a great post. I feel like the way that teachers are defined politically, in society, and even at a personal level is one of our biggest obstacles. In a situation where we are being asked to fulfill so many roles for our students, I feel the need to smack my palm to my forehead and yell "DUH, RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT!" Thanks for this one!

    April 11, 2010 at 5:42 pm
  • I am going to be doing a series of posts with GUESTBLOGGERS and would love for you to participate. It is going to start the week of April 26. You can write about ANYTHING! Please let me know if you would be willing to participate as soon as possible.

    What I need….
    • your post sent to me by April 23rd
    • a picture you would like me to use

    Thanks so much

    April 12, 2010 at 1:49 am
  • Chocolate worked.

    Once I retire (in two months) I'd like to read your dissertation, too. I'll call Barnes & Noble and reserve a copy 🙂

    April 12, 2010 at 1:49 am
  • I'm a new-career teacher, and I really have to say that with this lack of support in my career, I'm looking at the revolving door regularly – especially as an AMERICAN educator.

    Thanks for your post… but being the pessimist I am, I ask how much can be done? Even Obama – who I voted for thinking he would support me – seems to have abandoned teachers.*

    I'll be moving to Taiwan in August after two years of teaching in the states to get a new perspective on teaching in general. Maybe this will change how I see the profession… I just know that I need to get out of my current school.


    *I shouldn't have supported him anyway, with all of his discussion on merit pay. Then again, who ISN'T talking about this stuff?

    April 14, 2010 at 12:55 pm

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