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From Silence to Dissent: Fostering Critical Voice in an Era of Compliance
Unformatted Document Text:  in a demonstration and so you invite them in to the room. Ronald: Or you teach together. Let’s try something here and approach this unit all from the same standpoint teaching across content areas.Ryan: Teaming through integration is powerful. Going through the specialists…using integrated units and starting off that way. Building consensus, doing things even across grade levels by showing what really works. Carissa: I think change requires one person first, and then you talk with someone else, and you have a partner and then it grows. Soon, collectively, you can make a push. At some point when districts will realize that it’s come to the point where you have pockets of teachers yelling so loudly that you can’t cover your ears up any more and even legislators, people dictating policy, administrators … they’re going to have to start listening to what we know about good teaching. As we probed further about how the “yes, but…” conversation should be initiated, students expanded the focus of the discussion to larger questions about who should participate in such discussions and where they should occur. It was during this part of the conversation that many students realized for the first time that those above them face pressures too. We probed further, “Don’t educational leaders have the most and best opportunities to engage in critical discourse?” Together, we came to some important conclusions. Like teachers, educational leaders, as well, can cave into internal and external pressures. These collapses are often exacerbated by hierarchical school cultures that have evolved into sorts of feudalistic protectorates where each layer of authority protects the layer below it; superintendents protect principals, principals protect teachers, in return for loyalty, compliance, and silence. But, many argue that the protectionism must be of a different sort. Kohn (2004) suggests, for example, that educational leaders have an obligation to use their knowledge, authority, and sensibility not to promote silence but to challenge silly or harmful mandates or practices whether they spring from above or below. He argues that each level in the system should, when faced with unreasonable directives, resist by protecting the levels beneath them. For example, superintendents should reframe their obligations so that they understand that an important part of their job is to protect principals. Similarly, principals should protect teachers and teachers must protect children from mandates from above that do not facilitate student learning and engagement. This is how the student conversation about these issues evolved.Ashley: We need to broaden the conversation to include the principals, the superintendents, the policy makers at a very early stage. These people should be here in the room with us right now while we’re still teacher education students. I want to know how they would defend some of their policies. Catherine: Those people who ultimately have the power to hire and fire you must be part of the conversation. They need to hear different perspectives too. And, maybe more importantly they need to look at the research regarding best practice and then explain how the policies they are pursuing square with what we’re reading. I mean virtually none of the policies school districts are so rigidly pursuing seems consistent with what we’re reading about.

Authors: Marlowe, Bruce. and Canestrari, Alan.
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in a demonstration and so you invite them in to the room.
Ronald: Or you teach together. Let’s try something here and approach this
unit all from the same standpoint teaching across content areas.
Ryan: Teaming through integration is powerful. Going through the
specialists…using integrated units and starting off that way. Building consensus,
doing things even across grade levels by showing what really works.
Carissa: I think change requires one person first, and then you talk with someone else,
and you have a partner and then it grows. Soon, collectively, you can make a push. At
some point when districts will realize that it’s come to the point where you have pockets
of teachers yelling so loudly that you can’t cover your ears up any more and even
legislators, people dictating policy, administrators … they’re going to have to start
listening to what we know about good teaching.
As we probed further about how the “yes, but…” conversation should be initiated,
students expanded the focus of the discussion to larger questions about who should
participate in such discussions and where they should occur. It was during this part of the
conversation that many students realized for the first time that those above them face
pressures too. We probed further, “Don’t educational leaders have the most and best
opportunities to engage in critical discourse?” Together, we came to some important
conclusions. Like teachers, educational leaders, as well, can cave into internal and
external pressures. These collapses are often exacerbated by hierarchical school cultures
that have evolved into sorts of feudalistic protectorates where each layer of authority
protects the layer below it; superintendents protect principals, principals protect teachers,
in return for loyalty, compliance, and silence. But, many argue that the protectionism
must be of a different sort. Kohn (2004) suggests, for example, that educational leaders
have an obligation to use their knowledge, authority, and sensibility not to promote
silence but to challenge silly or harmful mandates or practices whether they spring from
above or below. He argues that each level in the system should, when faced with
unreasonable directives, resist by protecting the levels beneath them. For example,
superintendents should reframe their obligations so that they understand that an important
part of their job is to protect principals. Similarly, principals should protect teachers and
teachers must protect children from mandates from above that do not facilitate student
learning and engagement.
This is how the student conversation about these issues evolved.
Ashley: We need to broaden the conversation to include the principals, the
superintendents, the policy makers at a very early stage. These people should be here in
the room with us right now while we’re still teacher education students. I want to know
how they would defend some of their policies.
Catherine: Those people who ultimately have the power to hire and fire you must be
part of the conversation. They need to hear different perspectives too. And, maybe more
importantly they need to look at the research regarding best practice and then explain
how the policies they are pursuing square with what we’re reading. I mean virtually
none of the policies school districts are so rigidly pursuing seems consistent with what
we’re reading about.


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