The teacher training blues: life goes on as I reproduce my labor

21 Apr

tired teacherAlthough I’ve been teaching for over five years, I’m finally finishing up my certification and masters in teaching so that I can stay in the field over the long haul.

Right now, I’m taking night classes and finishing up portfolio assessments and internship activities on top of teaching full time. Needless to say, I haven’t been sleeping much.

This capitalist society hides how our labor power is reproduced; it covers up all the things we need to do in order to be able to work in the first place. It hides all of the cooking, cleaning, caring, and rest that we need in order to make sure we can come into work the next day and perform. The sexist assumption is often that someone else will do this for you at home, and that she will not be paid for it. We need to challenge this.

The only part of the reproduction of our labor that is made visible is education itself – the fact that we need to get job training in order to qualify for many fields of work. But this is becoming increasingly stressful, expensive, and impractical to do – in order to afford rising college tuition, many people find themselves in the same situation I’m in now, working and going to school and not sleeping, barely reproducing our current labor power in the hope of reproducing it over the long haul. We stay on our grind and are ground down in the hope of that ever elusive “career”. Or, we just rack up student debt until we default on our loans. This is the education racket – you have to pay in order to be able to work. It is learning for work, not life; exactly what this blog was set up to challenge.

All that being said, I am also learning a lot of useful techniques and instructional methods in this teacher training program, and am getting solid support from mentor teachers who really know what they’re doing. In activist scenes we talk a lot  about how to make sure everyone’s voices are heard in a discussion, how to make sure that texts we are discussing are accessible, etc. These folks are  providing me with practical approaches for how to do this better. I will write more on that as soon as I get a chance. In the meantime, I’d like to link to a blog by my friend and fellow teacher who writes eloquently on what he learned in his teacher training program, and how we can apply it in struggles for radical social change. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

In any case, I won’t have a lot of time to update this blog until I graduate in June. There is a lot going on right now, from the Chicago resistance against school closures to the marches in Mexico against school privatization. Locally, the organization Washington Incarceration Stops Here continues to organize against the new juvenile detention center which will warehouse many of my students. The group Who You Callin’ Illegal is organizing against deportations, pointing out that the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill is not enough since it still allows the state to criminalize and deport youth of color for alleged gang affiliations.  These are all issues we need to struggle around in our schools and communities.  It breaks my heart when I see students’ education interrupted by weeks in juvie or when I hear  students tell me they are afraid to come to school because they don’t want ICE to come knocking on the classroom door looking for them.

At the same time, the Feds are investigating the Seattle Public Schools because of their record of suspending Black, Latino, and Native students at a much higher rate than white students; community groups are organizing to argue against suspensions and are testifying about their negative affects on youth in Seattle and across the country.  And from India to Egypt to a high school in Ohio, folks are challenging rape and rape culture.  As I wrote here, we need to confront this in our classrooms as well.

In general, life in the schools is becoming more and more stressful, bizarre, hopeful, and ripe for creative struggle.

After graduation, I’m planning on contributing to this blog regularly with analysis of current events related to education, anecdotes from life on the job, report backs from local struggles, and creative learning activities/ “lesson plans”.  Until then, I won’t be able to publish much, but I am still thinking, observing, and struggling every day.


2 Responses to “The teacher training blues: life goes on as I reproduce my labor”

  1. Jeremy Louzao April 23, 2013 at 3:00 am #

    This resonates so strongly with what I’ve been thinking about lately. With the current abundance of anti-teacher thinking out there these days, I would say that capitalism doesn’t just hide all the ways that we need to reproduce our labor power, it actively misdirects us to individualize and even blame ourselves for needing to do that refreshing and recharging work in the first place. It creates a situation where a story like yours isn’t acknowledged as unhealthy and distressing, but instead it’s an exemplary case of a truly dedicated teacher. Because being dedicated means running on fumes, apparently. It is true: you are dedicated for working each day and studying at night, and you should be acknowledged and appreciated for it. But, at the same time, the system should be ashamed.

    Grind. Your word choice is so perfect. While on the one hand we learn all of these fantastic techniques for supporting students and opening creative and dynamic learning experiences for them, the expectation for teachers is that we will grind ourselves down to make all of it happen. Just keep working, with one eye on the next three day weekend, or–and I actually think this–even just the next day when you can wake up at 5:30am instead of 4am. Teaching is like a 9-month austerity program against our own bodies and souls.

    Thanks for sharing this piece, and sharing where you’re at in your process right now. Also, of course, thanks for the shout out to my writing.

    • mamos206 April 23, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

      Yes! Exactly! This is such a great analysis: “Teaching is like a 9-month austerity program against our own bodies and souls.”

      It’s great to hear that this resonated with you. I find it’s so hard to even express my exhaustion or frustration in writing because I’m immediately concerned that it will be misused in one of two ways. Either I’ll be celebrated as a dedicated teacher – in all the oppressive ways you describe. Or I’ll be dismissed as a whiny privileged professional who doesn’t have it as bad as the rest of the working class. Again, there is a grain of truth in both, but both are abused by the anti-teacher corporate right wing.

      Part of the hard work we are doing is a good thing – not because it is part of a capitalist work ethic, but because it is a form of resistance; the system wants my students to fail, so teaching well is a form of sabotage against the school to prison pipeline. But it is immediately co-opted by the system as some Freedom Writers bullshit. On the other hand, my student’s parents are facing a daily grind that is worse than ours. But that doesn’t make what you and I have to deal with ok – we have every reason to be angry and rebellious, because of our own alienation and stress, and in solidarity with our students and their parents.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: