The Enemy and the Hive

Between my (fabulous) recent experience at NCTE and a recent edchat discussion (Tuesday evenings each week on Twitter – you should try it), I have been thinking about the future or education and about enemy mentality in education. From a variety of sources, I have been observing (in part as an outsider since I currently work in private education) that many teachers feel they are in the front lines alone and unsupported. That in reality, they could be much more effective teachers if it were not for administrative issues or educational legislation. First, I would like to say that it’s a fair complaint. These issues are absolutely obstacles in hindrances in many circumstances.

 BUT I think we need to accept that our only enemy is ignorance. THIS is the battle in which we find ourselves on the front lines.

We MUST move past the other problems. If the government or our local administrators are themselves IGNORANT then we, as teachers, must educate them. Rather than dwelling on things we do not like (ie standardized testing and the accountability/standards movements – these things are here to stay, folks), we need to be proactive in working to solve these problems or at the very least, temper their repercussions.

Another problem we are facing is that we are NOT a collective mentality and cannot agree on much. On Tuesday, I questioned what the edchat dream team school would look like (hey, there are even principals on there – it could happen). Many responded that it would be one giant philosophical debate regarding effective pedagogy and that essentially, nothing would ever get done. I would like to think that this group is brighter than that (and will happily provide my resume should this dream team ever find funding!).

The reality is that we need to be thinking about what it is that we want for the future of public education in rational, feasible terms. Work WITHIN the current system to evoke change (guerrilla warfare as a sage friend recently described).

How can we make some concessions from the teacher front and come up with a plan that might work for all involved? THEN we DO it. At NCTE we had an ECN meetup where I think it was Lee Ann (@Spillarke?) who suggested the tremendous power of the HIVE online. If we, through our substantial social networks decide to write a multitude of intelligent and similar requests to legislators, couldn’t we evoke real change? By swarming and acting together on various issues as they arise, couldn’t we make things happen and put all this pedagogical banter into practice?

 I am still to new to know what to do, but I would love to be part of this process in helping to shape the future. So my question to you is simply: How can I help?


*Originally posted as a page rather than blog post. Will be moving the comments over soon… Oops 🙂


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by hrmason on November 30, 2009 at 4:16 am

    I too see the “enemy” mentality. I try to avoid it, but I still use the excuse that I’m so busy from all my school work to have time to write a letter. As if it is my bosses job to give me time to critisize him. You make a valid point…not just valid but thought provoking. Perhaps sometime over the next few weeks we should all start writing letters and keep writing them. Hmmm….


  2. I think you’re right about there being a problem with divisions in education. There shouldn’t be an admin team and a teacher team or a legislative team and an executive team. My experiences so far have shown me that there are problems on both sides.

    Proportionally, I feel like there are just as many teachers unwilling to make any change in practice as there are administrators. Usually, the teachers who complain the most are the ones doing the least. They think they are the wheels squeaking for much-deserved grease, but usually all they are squeaking for is attention. Squeaking is a distraction. Teachers and administrators who seek solutions don’t squeak, they converse, dialogue, and act.


  3. Posted by simplyrobert on December 2, 2009 at 4:14 am

    Hey, I’ve been thinking about your questions about the mockups on Twitter, and I thought I could reply here better than I could in 140 characters!

    1. I said I don’t have the coding knowledge to create something like that mockup from scratch, but finding a good CMS like squarespace or Drupal might alleviate that problem.

    2. Who would contribute? Anyone we could get to. We just need teachers who care and who are able to communicate their ideas clearly in writing.

    3. How would it function in the ed community? If we could get parents and educators to join in the discussions and become passionate about advocacy because of it. I envision a page (the link called “take action” in the mockup) where visitors could fill out form letters to send to reps and senators, find resources to help them advocate at a local level, etc.

    I don’t know if any of that made sense. I can’t do something like this on my own, though…especially since our family will be growing in the very near future. That, however, is probably what slows us down as a community of advocates. We have too much on our individual plates. If we could create something where many contribute, that pressure is reduced.

    I need some more time to think and plan out more of what the site may embody, and that may have to wait until winter break. Until then, feel free to share the concept and mockups with others. I’m going to DM you my email address in Twitter if you would like a more direct channel for feedback.


  4. Posted by Suzanne Rogers on December 6, 2009 at 2:50 am

    I try very hard to not complain unless I ‘m willing to be part of the solution. If real change is to be made in education, it is up to us/me. If I care enough to complain, I must be willing to help find a solution that is workable for all sides of the problem. Great thoughtful blog.


  5. Posted by mrsfollis2 on December 10, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Here are the comments from where I initially put this post – as a page by accident!

    5 Responses to this post.
    Posted by Suzanne rogers on November 29, 2009 at 7:58 pm edit

    Nice rallying cry. Perhaps this is part of the problem. Lots of cries to be heard, little effective action taking place.
    How can you help? Perhaps you can help in drafting a letter that many can send. Perhaps you could be the protected figurehead because you are in private education.


    Posted by mrsfollis2 on November 29, 2009 at 9:31 pm edit

    I wouldn’t know what to write. I’m still too new for all that. Just trying to think of what we can do with the power of our PLNs… Thanks for responding!!!

    .. Posted by Gary on November 29, 2009 at 9:24 pm edit

    I’m all for educating and working for change from the inside, but some of us have experienced years of administrators who absolutely refuse to listen, who dominate the professional development activities in our schools with irrelevant, poorly designed initiatives that change every year, and then they wonder why the teachers yawn or rebel.

    As you know, I was at the NCTE convention too, an incredible, jaw-dropping professional development experience swarming with brilliant, dedicated professionals like you. I just used the convention’s searchable program to enter the key words from our school’s professional development initiatives. Guess how many results it generated? Zero. (I was on the program giving two presentations at the convention. Was my school excited? My school paid for a sub but provided no other funding. I know I’m not alone in that, and I’m not really complaining, but they also just paid $20,000 for a consultant to advise our professional development for this year. This gives some idea of their priorities.)

    I get no traction when I point out the fallacies of our district’s professional development activities. I’m tired of them, and they’re tired of me. So my approach is to be sure that the disheartened teachers–especially the younger ones–know about other outside professional development support that is available to them. I want to know more about these Twitter educhats, for example!

    My motto on this stuff comes from Elvis Costello: “I used to be disgusted; now I try to be amused.” Unfortunately, I still spend a certain amount of time and energy being disgusted.

    Ideas like the ones you express here give me hope and inspiration, but it’s always tempered by the circumstances that I deal with every day–circumstances that are disconnected from reality and results.

    Candace, I seriously wish that you worked at my school!


    Posted by mrsfollis2 on November 29, 2009 at 9:31 pm edit

    I completely understand what you mean, Gary! I think that there is a need to encourage the “student centered” model to which I subscribe UP to a student AND teacher centered school model where admins do not unilaterally make decisions. BUT that is a whole different book that no one seems to feel secure enough in their careers to write.

    But really, what if we had these teachers on our networks from all over the country writing to school boards in outrage at the suffering our teachers are enduring? If we could somehow (discreetly??) do this whenever one of our schools is being handled poorly? We have an opportunity to collectively take responsibility for our nation’s schools and students and I can tell from the level of passion that we all feel that ownership.

    Thanks for responding and I would love to teach with you!

    .. Posted by Karen LaBonte on November 30, 2009 at 2:49 pm edit

    Piggy-backing on Gary’s Elvis Costello quote, I find it helps me to lighten up by remembering a magnet I saw on a friend’s refrigerator: “I feel much better since I’ve given up hope.”

    I don’t know if I have hope as much as a gritty determination that kids deserve to learn for the joy of it, and by that I don’t mean fun and games, as well as learn how to learn, set challenging goals– oh, I could go on forever.

    I am inspired by Margaret Mead, who said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” But I have rarely seen a direct, head-on dialog (or anything else) with administrators or teaching colleagues result in anything but tension.

    Call it creative compliance, guerilla warfare, or any other name. We need to start in our classrooms, little by little bring colleagues on board.

    We need to do it now.



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