I really heard this today in a teacher staff room, said by a teacher. Refreshing it its forthrightness as it was, free of insincere eduspeak, I was still startled.
Another teacher had just finished describing a disciplinary action toward (against?) a student who had exhibited disrespectful body language to him, and the related conversation with the parent. The parent had defended the kid, of all people, and the teacher was furious, frustrated about the generational patterns, I suppose, that could not be broken. Disrespect for authority. He was full of righteous indignation, of the kind that made me wonder, afterward, if he really was convinced that eye-rolling was such a terrible thing. The kind of indignation that’s meant, by its very force, to cause unanimous agreement.
I had just read, on a sign above the doorway leading to the teacher’s lounge, a sign saying “Dissent is patriotic.” I ate my curry quietly, listening and observing the teacher lounge culture and keeping my thoughts as a good (job hunting) sub should. Then the “F—…” outburst. The fellow came to himself, and looked at me with a wry smile and a “Welcome to our staff room.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but I saw that as my opening.
“Well, at least you’re all talking, though I have to admit, I rolled my eyes last week at a Memorial Day event. And I mentioned the dissent sign I’d just seen, and said that I guessed that was dissent. Then I softened it, by suggesting the kid could be helped to express it in a better way.
I wonder who posted the sign. Some subversive, bless them.
Instead of trying to shove unruly students back into a cage, or cutting them out of the educational process, find the key, dude–the rolling eyes, the sneers, the resistance–it’s your opening. Get it out there–help him or her express it, let them know you value, smart people value, resistance. It’s not about you. Teach them the difference between dumb resistance based on selfish motives (I don’t want to exert myself; I never trust white teachers; freedom = never submitting, etc.) and resistance based on a refusal to violate one’s conscience, one’s highest principles.
In social studies we discussed unions–what are they for, and how do they determine what’s worth fighting for, and how to fight. If you show yourself to be the most reasonable, the most mature, and having the highest principles, your power for change is strong. Applies to students too, and, of course, teachers.