The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Extremely interesting post over at Remote Access about the lasting power of the narratives we weave:
"When I was working on my master's degree, I had a professor that made me crazy. She was into the type of qualitative research that is known as Narrative Inquiry. I called it story time. This very well respected, brilliant lady almost made me pull the little hair I had left, out. People in her classes that understood her and what she stood for laughed and cried together, knew each other for years, and seemed to be working together to get their degrees done.

I felt like an outsider.

But now I listen to stories. Now I wonder about the stories we tell about our classrooms, our schools, and our lives. The stories we tell, tell us a lot about what we believe. Our lives are filled with these stories about what we believe education should be. All of the stories we have internalized about what schools are "like" inform our practices deeply. Our students and their parents have these same stories. They are often framed as expectations, but they are stories. "Schools teach kids how to read, write, and do math" is a powerful story. "Kids sit in rows, are quiet, the teacher tells them what to learn and how to do it" is a story which shapes our classrooms.

We need to write new stories about education and about what we want it to be."
I'm minutes away from the smarting indignity of having just told off a girl who was barricading herself in a food technology practical space (= kitchen, people, kitchen). Her teacher was completing the last week of forty years of substitute teaching in the same school before his retirement next week. Leanne alternately ignored or screamed at him, and complied quietly with me. Meanwhile, in my classroom, a similarly aged boy did the opposite of everything I asked him to do. (question: "why are you eating, Lawrence?" reply: "I'm not, I just finished it. So there.")
My final words to Leanne: why do you think there's a problem with getting teachers to work in London schools, if that's how you treat people?

Remote Access' post makes me wonder just whose is the more powerful, most influential story here: Leanne and Lawrence's story that teachers are the enemy? My story: that teachers get burnt out and leave? My colleagues' story that society is changing, and with it, all attitudes to authority?
Or the sub's story, given after the lesson, as he came in to apologise, and to thank me for stepping in, that he has 'lost his touch'?
It doesn't actually matter which story is true. Which story influenced the day the most?