Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Teaching as a Subversive Activity

How does change happen?

We can be bullied into change. (peer pressure)
We can be persuaded into change. (political agendas)
We can surprised or shocked into change. (scared straight)
Or we can grow into change.

Seeds are planted. Some ground is more fertile than others and easily accept the seeds of change; others, less hospitable, choke out change. Still others, fall on dried, cracked earth, too hard to support life. Change needs the right conditions if it is to grow into a life.

What goes on under the surface is not easily seen, yet vital to the process of change. When I taught Earth Science, my classes studied soil and groundwater and we learned that what lies beneath determines the quality of life on the surface.

As a teacher I see part of my role as someone who plants seeds - in hopes that someone else will come along and water these young seedlings and later someone else will bring in the harvest. But what I do and how I do this is not always evident on the surface. It's not a part of my lesson plans. It's not written in the textbooks we use or the homework that I assign. It is not "overt."

It is instead subversive. It is a gentle rebellion against the status quo that focuses solely on teaching to a state test; a quiet undermining of prescriptive teaching that eliminates the need to think; a deliberate challenge to the belief that all students can be taught the same way.

This may make some people nervous. After all, to be subversive, by definition, is to undermine. Parents, understandably, may fear that their values or worldviews are being undermined by teachers. In fact, there is little trust between certain groups because they believe one is intentionally undermining the authority of the other. Private versus public school; homeschool versus traditional schools; Christian versus secular.

Yet, each are subversive.

I do not march for the changes (although I would if any such marches existed these days).
I don't strike for these changes (teachers aren't allowed to strike).
I don't go on cable news shows as an education pundit (but I would) and talk over everyone else (the louder the better).
I don't lobby for these changes in legislative venues (although I'd be willing to testify before Congress any day).

I subvert the status quo through relationship - one student, one day at a time.
If nothing else, remember this one thing -


It's the only way to grow.