We Are Kindling Schist because in U.S. education, "it was always burning." Read. Comment. Submit.


Debbie: What’s burning you up? What’s kindling your schist? Who’s responsible, and what can we do about it? On some days my helplessness turns to fury, some days to tears. Other days I can look on from a far, far distance and see that this is just the way the world sometimes turns. And then there are the days I can laugh with a friend until we’re both snorting and farting and weeping with glee at how absolutely ridiculous it all is.

Karen: I am here, on this blog to shout that I am sick of the threats, innuendos and name calling! Silently saluting statues and mandated education dictates with my presence and seeming acquiescence has taken a toll that has overtaxed my already burdened ethics. If I step off, who am and and where will I be? E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g has a price. My soul is the barter; I am the toll.

We Wear The Mask
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Debbie and Karen: We are turning the tables around to show you who we really are as educators. In this forum we as co-editors are giving you the opportunity to do the same. We will wear the mask no longer! We will bring forth issues and truths as we find them and understand how to relate these issues to an overall awareness of our education system, an entity that should encompass learning in its full sense. Carving beyond the the crust of education, we will expose the fatal allegiance to test scores and its doomed marriage to adequate yearly progress. We will lay bare the tragic farce of teacher evaluations and their folly when measured against classroom management skills.

Debbie: Occasionally it is necessary to set fire to absurd and poisonous assumptions. The Dunbar is so apt for many beleaguered public lives! Our schools–i.e. our children, our communities– suffer when we are intimidated into silence or complacence. However, we as editors here at Kindling Schist do encourage pseudonyms, so that none of us have to fret about professional retaliation for our honesty. Teachers who speak out are too often targeted by their administrators and community members when the teachers call them to task for poor decisions, often decisions to pile onto whatever current bandwagons are making their rounds, trying to make what’s really going on in their schools look shiny and full of promise. Phrases like “best practice” and “data driven” and “accountability,” carelessly bandied, become sad substitutes for good old fashioned common sense, love for children, and respect for colleagues. Folks with passion and intelligence are discouraged from entering the profession or from staying in it by those who feel threatened by their critical insights. Meanwhile, people desperate for simplistic solutions to complicated problems, those who generally have little understanding of what does and doesn’t go on in the classroom every day, make teachers the scapegoats for schools’ and societies’ ills.

Okay, Karen, add something else here.

Karen: Agreed, something else is needed. I thought that right away after I inserted the Dunbar poem. As I said I am churning something around in my head about this whole idea of teaching behind a partition of sorts each day. As I stated, my original thoughts were much more visceral…violent even. As I have reflected on it more, the thoughts would be best expressed in an essay. I am afraid however that if I start speaking about how I feel as if I could just explode, people would think that I’m being overly dramatic. Not everyone can see into the pleading eyes of a young student, and each time part of me shrivels as I am barred from allowing that child to experience what is truly best practice for her or him in that situation. Why must I administer an at-grade-level Communication Arts test to a child who reads at a pre- kindergarten skill level? Perhaps it is not the child’s skill level I am assessing but my ability to continually defile my B.S. and put up with B.S. I work behind a partition that separates me from myself. Wow, I am doing more than wearing the mask. I am the mask.

Debbie: What you say pains me, Karen, but in the saying you bring an unspoken sorrow into the light…Addressing a related source of anguish, I recently spoke with a high school science teacher who told me he’s worked for five principals in the course of his career “and one of them was good.” This is not a vain or hypercritical person; he also happens to be well-respected by students, colleagues, parents, and administrators, so I don’t feel any personal agenda clouded his judgment. Does his experience reflect the true percentage of “good” principals? What makes someone good in a leadership role at a school, and why are other sorts of people attracted to such positions? Is there a way to make relations better between administrators and staff?

Karen and Debbie: Our friends Akbar and Cassandra will be discussing the issue of principal leadership in their own blog—look for it in the near future. They will talk about relations between administrators and staff and how personal dynamics do so much to determine the culture of a school, regardless of student demographics. We invite our readers’ comments on this matter as well as suggestions for future guest bloggers and topics.

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