Navigating No-Man’s Land

As you may (or may not) know, I’m plugging away at my doc studies for my PhD in Curriculum & Instruction (Teacher Education). I’ve been absent from social media and my blog for many reasons: time commitments, working for classes, work, etc. I kept trying to start blogs, ready to share the books I’m reading, talk about the philosophies I’ve learned, decompress from all the spinning stuff in my head, but every time my fingers hit the keys, I feel torn between all this theory and philosophy stuff and the practical posts I’ve always written.

This blog has always been practical.  It has been to disseminate policy, share strategies, talk about instruction, push my personal viewpoints, help teachers/administrators/people/leaders stay informed.  Practicality is at its core.  

In fact, practicality is at our core as a profession.  Teachers want to know how this thing can affect their classrooms.  They want to know applicability, actuality, real-world.  Administrators are the same; they want to know how this thing can affect their buildings from their positions of perspective.  Education functions in a “right now” environment, and we exist in a “right now” mentality.  

From my administrative perspective, my biggest worries are PARCC, linkage, value-added reports, test scores, ACT/SAT scores, PLAN scores, common assessments, SGMs, SLOs, technology in the buildings, meeting standards, OTES…  These are practical, at-the-moment concerns.  When I’m at work, my conversations with colleagues are focused on these issues–these temporal mandates that are “practical” solutions to temporal problems (right here, in society, right now).  To keep abreast of these issues, my reading is limited to newspapers, legislation, emails, and “legislative updates.”  My time is relegated to focusing on these at-hand issues; I’m constantly stuck in the “here and now” of practicality.  I believe we are a profession, an entire institution, relegated to this kind of thinking.  We are stuck because the pressures on us make us stuck.

This is the practitioner side of education.

On the other side is this whole other realm housed in the lofty spaces of academia, where the lexicon booms to include verbiage that no normal “practitioner” uses; where theoretical foundations based in post- and post-post-modernism speak to “conceptualization” of a “phenomena”; where “truth” is no longer binary (right and wrong, true and false, black and white, here or there), but becomes an abstract and lives in the spaces in between binaries; where sentences such as this one make no sense, but also make sense, simultaneously.  It is in this realm that foundational theorists such a John Dewey and Maxine Greene have envisioned better realities for education through democracy (which means far more than we commonly think), and today’s anti-standardization thinkers (like Apple and Kincheloe) base their beliefs out of foundational work (Paulo Freire) to criticize educational policies for their oppressiveness.  It is this realm that thinks beyond the existence of the day, the practicality of the moment, the mandate of the month, and envisions a system so different from that which we current offer that it’s unthinkable to many.

In this theoretical side of education, it become easier to see what’s wrong with education today.  It’s easier to see how teachers have become increasingly oppressed over time when one looks at how the federal government has slowly taken control away from the classroom teacher over the course of 50-60 years.  It’s easier to see how standardization has taken hold when one knows the beginnings of today’s “traditional” school system began not with teachers, but with individuals far removed from classrooms.  It’s easier to be critical of educational policy once you’ve spent time studying the history of curriculum in the first place.

But this study of theory is far removed from the actual operations of the day.  The information that could change education exists in a world inaccessible to teachers who could actually make those changes because they are swimming in the moment.

I haven’t blogged because I’m straddling these two divides right now.  On one hand, I want to talk theory and change and curriculum history, and I want to talk about research that supports methods of educational change….but this isn’t the practical, classroom-needs-based blogging I have always done.  My role has become to navigate the world between theory and practice; to know the wrongs and yet support teachers as they enact them; to think beyond while acting within.

This is new and strange territory.

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