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From Silence to Dissent: Fostering Critical Voice in an Era of Compliance
Unformatted Document Text:  Kate: Yeah, but I agree with Maya. You want the job, right? You’re not going to say, “See ya later,” because, I mean, good luck finding another job. There aren’t that many out there so you do have to swim with the tide. Alex: Should you risk losing your job by raising questions? Don’t you have a larger responsibility to your family? I mean what do we really know about teaching anyway? We’re new. I agree with Maya too. We have to go along at first. After a while, maybe then you can say something. But, definitely not at first. Professor Smith: Is there a point at which you stop saying to yourself, I’m just going to hold my tongue, and I’m not going to say a thing? Okay, Jane mentioned round-robin reading. The stakes seem relatively low here. But, what about practices that you view as actually harmful? Is there a point at which you will respond to a principal’s directive with “No, I won’t do that”? Ronald: I would. I would absolutely refuse if I thought morally or educationally something I was asked to do was wrong. Kate: You need to be respectful though. Whether you agree or not, you are the rookie. So you can disagree I guess, but be tactful. Something like, “I know the test scores are down, and I realize that you want more seat time to help my students prepare for the tests, but I’m thinking about doing it a little differently. I’ve looked into the research… ” Something like that, where you go into the discussion with the principal with a knowledge base, with some preparation. Then, maybe he will give a little bit too. Sally: Isn’t there a happy medium here where you can do something of yours and also what the curriculum might dictate? Just so that it’s not completely one way or the other. You get to do some of what you want, what you know is right, what will work with kids, and you do some of what they want too. Ronald: So, it’s ok to do the harmful stuff, as long as you do the good stuff too? Sally: Yeah, well, I mean… to some extent, maybe. No, I guess I wouldn’t do the bad stuff. That doesn’t make sense. I’m thinking there is stuff that needs to be taught that addresses the standards, but I guess actually, no, I won’t do it if it’s wrong. We liken this evolving conversation to “spinning plates.” As students formulate their positions and develop their own insights they are forced to consider the ideas of others through this dialectical exchange, thereby positioning another “plate” to be spun, another thought that must be considered. It is this emerging complexity that allows insights to move towards solutions. Notice how the following excerpt concerning teaching to the test evolves with increasing clarity. Jane: As a student teacher, I’m going to be in a predicament next semester. I’m going into a fourth grade class and I’ve already been told that we will be making a final push to prepare students for statewide assessments in the spring. Here, in our program, we’re all told that we’re not supposed to teach to the test, but I mean, my cooperating teacher couldn’t have made it any clearer to me.

Authors: Marlowe, Bruce. and Canestrari, Alan.
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Kate: Yeah, but I agree with Maya. You want the job, right? You’re not going to say,
“See ya later,” because, I mean, good luck finding another job. There aren’t that many
out there so you do have to swim with the tide.
Alex: Should you risk losing your job by raising questions? Don’t you have a larger
responsibility to your family? I mean what do we really know about teaching anyway?
We’re new. I agree with Maya too. We have to go along at first. After a while, maybe
then you can say something. But, definitely not at first.
Professor Smith: Is there a point at which you stop saying to yourself, I’m just going to
hold my tongue, and I’m not going to say a thing? Okay, Jane mentioned round-robin
reading. The stakes seem relatively low here. But, what about practices that you view as
actually harmful? Is there a point at which you will respond to a principal’s directive
with “No, I won’t do that”?
Ronald: I would. I would absolutely refuse if I thought morally or educationally
something I was asked to do was wrong.
Kate: You need to be respectful though. Whether you agree or not, you are the rookie. So
you can disagree I guess, but be tactful. Something like, “I know the test scores are
down, and I realize that you want more seat time to help my students prepare for the
tests, but I’m thinking about doing it a little differently. I’ve looked into the research… ”
Something like that, where you go into the discussion with the principal with a knowledge
base, with some preparation. Then, maybe he will give a little bit too.
Sally: Isn’t there a happy medium here where you can do something of yours and also
what the curriculum might dictate? Just so that it’s not completely one way or the other.
You get to do some of what you want, what you know is right, what will work with kids,
and you do some of what they want too.
Ronald: So, it’s ok to do the harmful stuff, as long as you do the good stuff too?
Sally: Yeah, well, I mean… to some extent, maybe. No, I guess I wouldn’t do the bad
stuff. That doesn’t make sense. I’m thinking there is stuff that needs to be taught that
addresses the standards, but I guess actually, no, I won’t do it if it’s wrong.
We liken this evolving conversation to “spinning plates.” As students formulate their
positions and develop their own insights they are forced to consider the ideas of others
through this dialectical exchange, thereby positioning another “plate” to be spun, another
thought that must be considered. It is this emerging complexity that allows insights to
move towards solutions. Notice how the following excerpt concerning teaching to the test
evolves with increasing clarity.
Jane: As a student teacher, I’m going to be in a predicament next semester. I’m going
into a fourth grade class and I’ve already been told that we will be making a final push
to prepare students for statewide assessments in the spring. Here, in our program, we’re
all told that we’re not supposed to teach to the test, but I mean, my cooperating teacher
couldn’t have made it any clearer to me.


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