Creating Useful Rubrics
Busy teaching, 6am to 6pm, dinner after bus from the village, only home in the evenings anymore, only have time for posting between 4-5am, most of november will be dedicated to novel as well, miss daily interactions, conversations, ynwa
Teaching is wonderful, tho. I truly missed it.
At this school and for the first time, I’m using the skills I’ve worked incredibly hard to develop since a child. Though not without problems, the school is geared towards funding me, my colleagues, and the students in a direct way to work on specific reading and writing skills so they can compete. The attention to curriculum and method and development and planning and funding and nutrition and work ethic is ever-present and comforting for a teacher like me who thrives on collaboration and thinking about theory and practice.
On the other hand, it’s difficult to stomach le gai savoir must be about competition. My students, most of them, are children of subsistence farmers. A shop-owner’s kid or a laborer’s child are here and there, too. It’s as if, though I teach in a student-centered classroom, I’m insisting one authority remain as the sine qua non useful education and progress would cease to exist: that our project is to be organized by the capitalist market for success in the market. Is this the proper method to transform a village and to model transformation for society? You know what I think: that it’s most decidedly not. However, what we do in the classroom is not useless. I’m going to have to teach here for a while, teach with others, work with others, observe, build a useful literature and writing classroom with my students, all of this to figure out exactly what we’re doing here and what it means. The school is too new for anybody to know.
However, reading and writing about literature and creating value—I don’t know about it.
The absurdity of standardized tests is explicit here like nowhere else. Everything is about the number 24. This is the score my students are aiming to beat on the ACT—to get to university elsewhere in order to return with some hope of transforming their village. It’s a magnificently difficult hook to hang our task from. I wonder about that number and what it means; I wonder how this oppression is distinctly different for my students than it was for me in the mid-80s, than it is now for younger American students. It’s different, to be sure, but how and at what cost. (Pun intended—> The cost of higher education is palpable here where my student’s entire families live on several dollars a day on a good day.)
The daily work we’re doing in class is pleasurable and useful. The big picture is an apparently insurmountable burden. I can sense a pain I don’t understand in my classroom, a struggle I don’t know, and, unlike a few of my colleagues, I’m doing all I can not to insist I understand it and not to idolize it or covet it, not to valorize it. (Not kidding, I have white colleagues who grew up poor who believe they have something in common with our students.) All this hope and promise ideology in capitalism is bad medicine and, quite frankly, grounded in and further cultivates a long tradition of racist individualism that disguises itself as colorblind communal-labor: the classroom, the class, struggling together, to promote a minority of students into an elite class of highly-educated individuals who, most often, never return home.
It’s irresponsible not to desire discourse about this glaring problem while working hard to be the best teacher I can be.