Friday, April 4, 2014

Breaking Silence

This is an example of some thinking about Wordsworth's "The World Is Too Much
With Us," posted by a 3rd grade teacher. I covered table tops with paper so
  community knowledge might be built, shared.

I. Dissent

During this last week, at a professional learning session I was engaged in with administrators and teachers, a guest joined the group looking through the materials I would be using and stayed for about 20 minutes.

The guest said almost nothing.

The group and I were exploring the connections between figurative language and meaning. Specifically we were examining how assonance, consonance, alliteration, metaphor, and connotative/denotative language complemented, complicated and perhaps even sharpened our understanding of Wordsworth's "The World is Too Much With Us." It was a dynamic session--the type I had hoped for as I made my way to the school that morning. Our thinking could not be contained.

Later, I would learn that the guest who is employed in a position of power was concerned that I would be referencing an article in which I had written:

Screen capture from article,
"Opening Spaces of Possibility: The Teacher as Bricoleur,"
published by JAAL in 2009.

The concern as I would later be told (not by the guest, but by another who had been present) is that I would ever reference something critical of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in front of educators. Such a problem further called into question whether hiring my services for next year would be a good idea.

Because I authored the article, I rarely (if ever) use it with clients.  It's an intimate look at a teacher, Murray Krantzman, and his students and the beautiful work they compose as they compose themselves. It reveals (perhaps) more about me than I might want to share.  But with this group, I was willing as we have worked together for a few years and I am thinking of them like family.  We rarely seem to mention love & schooling these days, but really love is at the center of the work we do as teachers, yes?

I wanted to contextualize the poetry study we were doing which originated in Krantzman's classroom and as the article focused on him and his students, it seemed like a good idea. But here's the rub: the article predates the CCSS, so even if I wanted to be critical--it would have been the wrong article to bring.  The CCSS did not exist.

II.  Breaking Silence

All of this has me thinking, wondering about issues of power and rights and fear and democracies and teaching and learning. And children. It was just a moment, I tell myself--as if saying this could allow me a reason to say nothing here about this matter.  There's a considerable contract that feels a bit threatened.  But the very words once uttered (and only in my head) do nothing to soothe me.   As Seamus Heaney alludes to (here),"there's distance" in my head for this is a silence I could choke on.

Education leaders must engender thinking, not act to control teachers' and students' thoughts. To control thought is to do harm.

Doesn't a democracy require the possibility of dissent?  Are not public schools our committed method for teaching democracy?  Was it not Jefferson who said dissent was the highest form of patriotism?  It seems ironic that the very next day I would find myself back at the same school site, except this time I am learning alongside a group of history teachers and we are studying, very closely reading, Dr. King's speech - Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.  Dr. King says,  "A time comes when silence is betrayal."

On that night at Riverside Church in April of 1967 my father sat in the audience. A year later to the day, I would see my father cry for the first time when Dr. King was assassinated.

My silence, even on this slight matter, would shame my father.


  1. Thomas More comes to mind. Yes, you are of that quality. Sadly, you are not dealing with a royalty. "Ah, the eternal war between those who crawl and those who soar." Thinking of you.