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Short Points on Good Teaching

Posted: 2011-03-21

Now, more than ever, we need to ask these questions--not just who? and what? but why? Few of the people yammering about the assaults on teachers talk about why this is happening. When you figure out the why. you'll know which side you're on.

And yes, teaching is the profession of optimists.

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Until one is committed,
there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
always ineffectiveness.
Concerning acts of initiative (and creation)
there is one elementary truth
the ignorance of which kills countless ideas
and splendid plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself
then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to one
that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision,
raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings
and material assistance
which no man could have dreamt
would come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Begin it now.

by Rich Gibson

Know the social conditions and why they exist. Capitalism and imperialism (exploitation and war profiteering) are largely the same everywhere but they impact specific areas differently: Detroit, San Diego, Provo, D.C., Flint, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Shanghai, Lakeland, Fresno, Burlington.

What is the role of the government in your particular place--and school? Whose interests are being served, on the whole and in particular?

What are the social relations that people in your community have created in their struggle with (or against?) nature in order to produce, re-produce, know what's true, and be freer?

What is the nature of segregation where you are (it's everywhere). What will you do to transform it?

Know the students, in school and out-- individually and the collective you seek to fashion. What's the impact of birth--class, race, sex/gender, and how much freedom is the student accustomed to having? What might expand that freedom, create a thirst for more, without turning to license? What best might arm the student intellectually to battle those who have an interest in retarding him/her and freedom as well.

Know yourself. Teaching is inherently optimistic. Where did you find that in yourself and how can you pass it along, without being uncritical? Criticism is not cynicism. It is a search for the root of things; the well-spring of hope. Criticize everything.

Know the paradigm you use and be able to explain it, coherently. Why are things as they are? It is morally, ethically, pedagogically and practically wrong to turn to magic: then a miracle occurred. Since things change (evolution, earthquakes, societies, etc.), be able to describe how it is that happens. Happily accept criticism of your world view and its implications. We have all made big mistakes. Let love play a decisive role in the classroom and out, but not the only role.

Have a "Why" to learn that is not "Because this is good for you and I am telling you so." Those who have a real "why" to learn can bear almost any "how." People have taught and learned well in caves.

Education, leading out, is a fight as long as there are those whose lives are rooted in exploitation and deception. Be prepared to organize those who have contrary interests to that basis of all societies in order to defend yourself, your students, and to expand actual freedom in school and out.

Today, the education agenda is a war agenda: a class war and empire's war agenda. Sides are being taken--those who have versus the dispossessed; the few and the many. Which side are you on?

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