Five Ways You Can #OccupyTheClassroom [It’s About Time]

Jose Vilson Education, Jose


For World’ Teachers’ Day, all the big edu-wigs broke out in song about saluting great teachers, trying to stretch their arms out their offices far enough to find a teacher they’d consider effective and Kumbaya them to death.  The billows of hollow praise doesn’t whittle away the troubling issues with education.On that day, teachers all across this nation were given the day off, the week off, and the entire year off without pay, and possibly forever, for lack of investment into the neediest areas. Mayors and governors shook whole public institutions into test-prep mechanisms and called it 21st century learning with 19th century thinking with paper and computer apparatuses expert pedagogues wouldn’t recommend. Schools continue to suffer and close their doors under the premise that they cannot singlehandedly defeat abject poverty with the limited resources given.

On that day, teachers saved up a check’s worth of their disproportionate salaries for supplies their schools can’t provide them. With little or no recompense.

Before teacher-bashers filled the coffers of national education committees, people stood boldly in the classroom and decided upon pedagogy for all. With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards, some reformers have found a way to inject themselves into the pedagogical side of teaching. They’ve made a lasting impact on policy via No Child Left Behind / Race To The Top and these pieces have cemented a corporatist view upon all educators’ jobs. All the while, by recent research, nine out of 10 teachers across the nation have been rated satisfactory. Akin to the #OccupyWallStreet movement, this movement makes us the 90%, doesn’t it?

Now it’s time to take things back.

This year, I’ve focused less on policy and more on pedagogy, as have many of my fellow educators, as a proactive measure, not reactive. Pedagogues to speak up about their classroom and the board room. We can’t leave it up to others to voice our opinions for us. So, here are five ways to #occupytheclassroom:

1. Share your work.

This scares even some of our best teachers. Rather than sharing what’s happening in their classrooms with their colleagues, they rather work behind closed doors. While there are times for that, sharing best practices as experts frequently creates better relationships among colleagues. No matter how you share, please do. Come to think of it …

2. Start a Twitter … or something …

Right now, some of the best professional development is coming out of spaces like Tumblr and Twitter, where people are picking up tips and best practices from teachers all across the world. While some have jumped off the ledge called ed-tech, others genuinely give people timely and expert advice in whichever topic you’re covering. Give it a try.

3. Get a website, preferably a blog.

Despite the plethora of essays I’ve written, and the [hyperbolic] billions of shares and comments I’ve received over the four years I’ve had this blog, some of my most popular work comes from actual artifacts that I’ve left for teachers here. Lesson plans, bridges to practices, and other resources make for rich discussion and critique that’s often not possible in person.

4. Create your own professional learning network.

Believe it or not, a few friends sitting down over dinner discussing how to teach the next unit is, in essence, a professional learning network. Some have taken it to a more intricate level, using the Internet to connect people by subjects and regions to discuss what’s happening in the classroom. Right now, there are collectives of people forming associations based on their subject and creating teacher-led PD sessions. These sorts of meetups based on common interest inevitably creates a community of collegiality that pushed others to do better.

5. Empower yourself.

Lastly, make better critical decisions. There is something to be said for a teacher who constantly seeks to improve themselves, so the natural progression from being an expert is to speak like one. We owe it to ourselves to speak up about our experiences in the context of pedagogy. One of the main reasons absurd words like differentiation and inquiry have made it into the educational zeitgeist is because we as educators allowed non-experts to control the language of what we do … and make millions off our perceived weaknesses.

We ought to rebel. Our best rebellion must come in the form of assuring our students do as well as possible. Outside politics have deteriorated, not elevated, the classroom experience for far too long. Before we can truly have a revolution of any nature, we must first shore up the parts of our job we can immediately control. It starts with the 30 / 60 / 90 / 150 students we have under our care.

With a movement like this, they’ll be occupied with how to stop us.

Mr. Vilson, who encourages you to share ways that we can take back the classroom …