My semester 2 classes began today. I had my student teaching seminar first. This was the one that ended up being so crazy last semester, with the whole "societal structures of oppression" theme every week. Our instructor this semester is a little more practical. He was, frankly, shocked that our seminar had not talked (at all) about 1) state teacher exams, 2) classroom management, 3) resumes, 4) job applications, 5) the certification process, or even 6) graduation requirements. Really the whole point of this seminar is to help us get all that extra crap out of the way. His comment was, "Well, what did you do last semester?" No one really knew how to respond. It was a sad moment for all of us.
I also had "Alternative Methods," which is being taught by a very nice lady who (ironically) seems a little more open to "traditional" teaching methods than my regular "methods" teacher. And one guy in my class had this really interesting idea of social science "labs," in which kids could apply the skills of document analysis/map reading/statistical analysis/visual image interpretation etc to come up with some conclusions about history. Not that there's really enough time for that in a regular classroom...
I would like to share with y'all something that is on the syllabi for all my classes. It is called the "Description of School of Education Conceptual Framework." I would just like to say that the phrase "conceptual framework" makes me want to curl up in the fetal position, with a teddy bear and a binky, for several months. Ok. The conceptual framework includes "three shared philosophical stances," another phrase for the ages (Note: you may want to throw salt over your left shoulder at this point. These phrases have dark power.). The first 2 are the "inquiry stance" and the "curricular stance," which inform the reader that graduates of this school "challenge...complacency" and "strive to meet the needs of diverse learners." Personally, I hate diverse learners. I think everybody does. So this thing about "striving" for them is pretty unique to this school. But I'm confused about something...is it "challenging complacency" when you "perpetuate complacency"? Something to ponder.
Anyway, the third philosophical stance (throwing salt now) is my favorite. Here it is, in its entirety:
"Social justice stance: Our graduates choose to collaborate across differences in and beyond their school communities to demonstrate a commitment to social justice and to serving the world while imagining its perspectives." (saltsaltsaltsalt)
Yes, I have no bananas, if by bananas you mean any idea about what that means in any way. First off, who are we collaborating with? People in our schools, or with other graduates? Second, would someone please please please tell me what "social justice" really means? Because I had to write 2 papers on it last semester, and I have a "social justice action project" that I have to do this semester, and I have no idea what's going on. To me, providing quality education in urban communities is, in itself, social justice. Thus, if you learn to teach well and then do it and are effective, there is no need to get all flowery about social justice because you already have achieved it! The sad fact is that professors in and graduates of this school who teach in/work with/work for crappy urban public schools with no qualms about the lack of quality are actually working against social justice! Even while they write papers and conduct projects extolling its virtues! Aaaaaaaaaaaah!
Let's also talk about "serving the world while imagining its perspectives." So, basically, wait, I should....envision an Indian guy sitting at his desk at a call center in Madras and try to figure out what he's thinking? And then serve him? Or what?
The conceptual framework ends with this statement:
"These stances are the three dimensions of the educational space that we continuously create. [You know you're in trouble when someone uses the word "space" and it is not followed by the phrase "the final frontier."] By using critical inquiry as a tool in approaching the complexity of students and their learning, of ourselves and our teaching, our subject matter, and the contexts in which these operate, we and our students and graduates build effective curricula which benefit students' learning and ultimately serve the larger purpose of moral growth in the individual and society."
I like that the curricula only "benefit students' learning." It's like "our curricula are lukewarmly positive and pretty much fine." So apparently this school is not about education but about "moral growth." I might as well have joined the priesthood. Maybe they could tell me what it takes to be a good teacher! Hmm...maybe not. Priesthood+children=recent controversies. But then again, teachers+children often=no learning. Recent controversies+no learning=kids lose. Every time.
Semester 2, folks. And so it begins.