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Friday, June 28, 2013

Anarchist Dictator

"If I were the impossible anarchist dictator, every freight train would be required to have a passenger car, with no attendants, so anyone could hop on anywhere and ride for free at their own risk."     - Ran Prieur

I have been a teacher for ten years now, something I never thought to be. I hated school. Truly hated it. I had the second lowest GPA in my junior class. I think that was the year I couldn't even make myself go in and register for classes during the summer because the sound of the bell grated on my sensibilities.

My ideal world did not include desks, and more importantly, being told what to learn and how to learn it. I believed then, and still do, that kids want to learn. They are interested in their world; they explore and discover naturally. Now, for ten months out of the year I arrange desks and I arrange learning. I tell kids what they need to learn AND how they need to learn it.


I used to rebel-
before these days of cognitive dissonance. I thought
I knew

but now the me that reminds
students to take their seats - repeatedly -
is in discord with the rest of me. I am this impossible thing -
this anarchist dictator. I rise up
to embody 

what I am not. Rebelling
with one hand and squelching uprisings
with the other. It is easy
to see how Castro got that way.

(Thank you to my brilliant and dear friend Aimee Day for the quote and the inspiration.)

The Angels: Patty Damon- 7th grade Science, DeAnn Broom- Texas History,
and Me - Readin' and Writin'

On the other hand, I know some things about kids that I didn't back when I was a kid. I know that they need structure to learn in groups. I know that they need warriors to fight for them. They need adults who are willing to battle with them and for them. That willingness to fight for their education is how they know I care.

I also know that kids who have to deal with the effects of poverty need to have higher expectations set, not lower. If you start out in life behind the curve you have to run faster and longer to get where you want to go. Educators who make excuses for kids are doing them a disservice.

It is a impossible to sustain the level of outrage and fight needed on your own, especially given the pressures of modern education: testing, funding, bureaucracy, cruelty, group-think, inequity, disinterest... 

Dear Student,

I want to borrow a quart of outrage
to use when I cannot find it in myself to
stick up for you yet again, when they say
you don't have the support, or the will, they say -

I need a soupcon of courage to tell you
that you are worth the struggle and that
if you don't pull your head out of your ass
and start acting older than your age, you will never
read above a third grade level.

I need to borrow will - because I have lost mine
in paperwork and sad eyes and your anger - and it might as well be yours -
because mine was never enough for the both of us.

Can you loan me a spine, I need it so I can smile at you
as you walk through my door and I will try to convince you that whatever it is
you are running from will always nip at your heels
until you turn and face it.