Thursday, December 4, 2008

response to Jay Parini, The Art of Teaching

This is a book that I remember being interested in when I would see in on the shelf at the OSU bookstore when I worked there and hadn't yet made up my mind to pursue teaching high school. It's funny, but I was a little scared of it. I was taking something of a "hiatus" from college teaching and I was afraid that if I looked inside this book I was discover that I had been teaching all WRONG or something. Or that there were magical things that had to be done as a teacher that I had failed to do. Even now, I approach this book with a little bit of anxiety, since the word "art," to me implies skill and beauty and aptitude, which I have to confess I don't always feel that I have in the classroom!

Interestingly, right off the bat, Parini discusses a bit of this performance anxiety that I have felt as a teacher and that I felt even in approaching this book. He writes about how wonderful it is that in the profession of teaching there is always a new beginning, every September. It is somewhat ironic he notes, that the end of the plant life cycle is the beginning of our our academic one. He discusses the excitement but also the trepidation that comes with being both a student and a teacher at this time of the year. For a child, it means new clothes, new supplies and new teachers. It is a chance to reinvent yourself. I remember personally how each fall of grade school, I would look back at my last year's self and think, "oh, what a geek I was in grade 7. I won't be that un-cool THIS year in gr. 8." And the cycle would repeat year after year. (I have long since become resigned to my permanently semi-geeky status and if anything, have embraced it! ha ha.

For teachers, Parini acknowledges that "the first days and weeks of school are not without their small terrors and discomforts. Indeed, as I was writing this, I got an e-mail from a colleague saying that she hadn't taught in a while, and she was actually frightened of her students. I know the feeling: that dread, as one approaches class for the first time in September. It can be difficult to begin again, to invevnt everything from the ground up, to learn the names of the students, their foibles, their likes and dislikes. There is so much to absorb in a short time. It can make you dizzy with apprehension." (5)

I feel this often, because I am a part-time college teacher. As I write this blog entry, I am checking my enrollment every day, hoping that my women studies course, "Women in Music" will get enough students to run. (It's looking like it will). I want to teach again badly. I miss it. It has been a year since I have taught a college course, and I feel drawn to the whole environment of the campus, the relationships with students, the thinking that I do as a professor, and the material itself. The figures and themes that I teach are old friends that I want to revisit. But in line with Parini, I too have a small sense of dread. For teaching can get rusty, and the best way to build confidence is to have pretty consistent practice. I need to get back into the classroom for this reason. A year is too long to put the teaching on hold.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

family education

It's the day before thanksgiving and many families will gather together for a huge meal and to acknowledge the gratefulness that they feel for having one another in their lives. (For me, Thanksgiving come in Oct, when Canadians celebrate it. But we do eat our share of turkey at friends' in Nov). It seems a good time to think a little bit about what our families teach us and also the extent to which our families may have laid the ground work for our interest in learning and for becoming educators.

I find it remarkable that in families, the positive example of life-long learning has very little to do with the actually achieved levels of official education. For example, my paternal grandmother did not attend any high school, since she was needed on the farm and to care for her invalid mother. Her "school" learning was therefore minimal. She did not necessarily know a lot about traditional subjects like science or math. But she was a clever, involved, enthusiastic person who had a vast knowledge that she loved to share with her family. Regarding anything about farming, gardening, pie-making, local history, regional politics, the church and its history, and so forth, and she was a walking encyclopedia.

This grandmother's style was not so much about book learning. But my maternal grandfather, who also left school very young, at age 15, to become an electrical apprentice, was always reading. He was a highly self-schooled man, who made it his business to learn about history, government, geography, and was very well-traveled (all 50 states and all 10 provinces) with his motor home as his means. He really knew a lot about the US and Canada and was always eager to talk about his knowledge.

I go back to these two grandparents, because I have them to thank for the children they brought up, who in turn brought me up. My dad and mom modeled learning for me.
They both were the first in their families to attend college and did so at the best university in Canada. My dad has gotten 3 masters degrees and is now continuing with a doctorate as he approaches his 60th year. My house was one where reading the afternoon away was normal and encouraged. My dad is the king on non-fiction and my mom the queen of mysteries. (They have their different interests!) But I know that my book-a-day reading habit in the summers of my early teen years did not happen by accident. Now I wouldn't say that reading alone makes you an avid learner, but it certainly helps. For me, I know that my love of reading led me to other great loves: my husband who shares the passion (an English prof), my education through the PhD level, and to my choice now to become a high school English teacher.

I am proud to say that my boys are following suit. The only time they played gently and nicely with one another yesterday was when we made a point of finding all the "Thomas the Tank Engine" books in the house (there were 11), piled them on the living room rug and proceeded to go through and read most of them. James at 3 years old and 9 months "pretends" to read the books to his brother, and Liam, age 19 months, asks excitedly "Name? Name? Name?" at every character and object he sees.

We've observed that for both me and my husband, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree with our career choices. He teaches college English as did mom, and I have pursued music, as did my mother. bell hooks includes an autobiographical essay in Teaching Community, called "Progressive Learning, A Family Value." I will quote her here: "Irrespective of class or educational level, families that support children and adults who are seeking to educate themselves provide a positive foundation." The family is the first community that a child has, and if this community is not supportive of a child's learning, that may have problems their whole lives through in their educational journey.

I don't want to push my children (that is a topic for another day), so for now I will just try to show my enthusiasm for their learning, engage them whenever I can, model reading like crazy, and enjoy their growing minds. I think that this is one of the family traditions that I am most thankful for this thanksgiving season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

teaching/family balance

I just had a conversation with my sister, who teaches grade 2 French immersion (that's NO English all day long) in Maple, Ont, north of Toronto. We were talking a bit about the burn out she sees on the part of her colleagues with families. She has no children and as it is, she finds that she is exhausted at the end of the long days. She often is at school from 7 am (to beat the terrible Toronto traffic) until 8 pm (again to avoid traffic, but also to work on preperation, which she is not given much time to do during the teaching day). She wonders how teachers go from school to daycare or babysitters to get their children and then have a decent family life in the evening. Unfortunately, it is not just the teaching profession that impinges on family life in this way, by severely taxing the energies and just simply the hours available to parent. Professional life in general seems anti-thetical to good home life. What's frustrating is that I feel that it doesn't HAVE to be that way. Couldn't we re-conceive what we value most and re-shape the way we do business accordingly? They sure do it differently in France, with more holidays and parental leave, etc.

I wonder too how it will work out if and when I am lucky enough to find a full-time teaching job. Substituting might be a good beginning for me, since my kids will only be 3 and 5 when I get my licence. I would love to hear from teachers with families about how they make it all work. Do the demands placed on teachers in my area (the Willamette Valley) make teaching a profession that holds reasonable expectations for maintaining a good family life too?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Barbara Kingsolver, in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Kingsolver writes about the rise of school gardens. I actually copied out several paragraphs verbatim from her book, only to lose it. But here is the curriculum in a nutshell:
kindergarten: flowers for learning colors and planting popcorn
gr. 2: garden for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies to learn about pollination
gr. 3: pizza garden to teach plant kingdom
gr. 4: herb garden laid out like those of Colonial Virginia

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Response to bell hooks, Teaching Community, ch. 2. "Time Out"

As someone who has only just begun to think in earnest about teaching high school and who would love to begin TOMORROW, it is hard to imagine a time when I will be feeling worn out by it. But, I have experienced low points in my college teaching career too, and know that unfortunately, some burn out teaching high school might be inevitable. Given this, I suppose it is what one DOES with those feelings of burn out that matter the most. Most of us will not have the ability to take time off, or have what they have as tenured profs, a sabbatical. But we will have every summer, and I can imagine that those summer times will be need to be sacred, no-stressors, in order to regroup and rejuvenate and ready oneself for the year ahead.

bell hooks writes about burn out. She was so burnt out that she took a 2-year unpaid leave of absence from her tenured professorship, and then at the end of it, resigned. This is how she knew she was burnt out:

"The classroom is one of the most dynamic work settings precisely because we are given such a short amount of time to do so much. To perform with excellence and grace teachers must be totally present in the moment, totally concentrated and focused. When we are not fully present, when our minds are elsewhere, our teaching is diminished. I knew it was time for me to take a break from the classroom when my mind was always someplace else. And in the last stages of burnout, I knew I needed to be someplace else because I just simply did not want to get up, get dressed, and go to work. I dreaded the classroom. the most negative consequence of this type of burnout is manifest when teachers begin to abhor and hate students. This happens."

Now, this is a woman teacher scholar writing who has taught for twenty years, and whose very specialty is teaching itself. What worries me is that if bell hooks can suffer such burn out, then we all certainly can. None of us are (or will be) such amazing teachers that we are exempt. Why? Because like parenthood, teaching is one of the toughest jobs on earth. It's a vocation for many. bell hooks quotes a writer whom I intent to look into further, named Parker Palmer, and his book The Courage to Teach. Palmer writes:

"As good teachers weave the fabric that joins them with students and subjects, the heart is the loom on which the threads are tried, the tension is held, the shuttle flies, and the fabric is stretched tight. small wonder, then, that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart--and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be. The courage to teach is the courage to keep one's heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students and subject can be woven into the fabric of community that learning, and living require."

As I spend more time in the MAT classroom, more time reading about pedagogy, thinking about hands-on aspects like classroom management and more abstract aspects like equality in the classroom, and I imagine myself as a high school teacher come fall of '10, I am constantly reminded that teaching is emotionally and intellectually consuming work. And that is what makes it meaningful to me. Teaching really matters. But it will not be an easy road, or a restful one!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Response to bell hooks, Teaching to Trangress intro, ch. 1 "Engaged Pedagogy"

bell hooks talks about how being in the classroom as a student and viewing teachers unlike the one she would like to become was formative for her. It's unfortuante that many of us have examples of teachers we felt were poor, unfair, cruel, or otherwise informing our ideals of what it means to be a teacher. Usually, however, there are many positive memories of teachers from our pasts that counter the negative ones; there must be, because otherwise, why would we ever dream of entering the teaching profession ourselves?

Like Gatto and Smith, hooks believes that the classroom should be a community, and that vice versa, the community can also be a classroom. But perhaps a key difference with Gatto and Smith is the idea of explicit activism and subversion as integral to the classroom. hooks speaks at some length about feminist classrooms being the ones that first demonstrated for her a pedagogy where critican thinking was truly expected and celebrated, and a place where "pedagogical practices were interrogated". On a personal note, as a soon-to-be instructor in the Women's Studies Program at OSU, I have seen that they take their pedagogy very seriously, offering both a beginning of the year all-day workship on teaching for all of us involved in the dept. from grad students to tenured professors, as well as a weekly lunch hour informal session that serves as a forum for Women's Studies teachers to air their challanges and successes. (I hope to be able to join in next term when I am teaching).

hooks brings up the idea of teaching as a performance. I have always thought of it somewhat this way myself. As a teacher you stand up and "profess" in a manner that should be engaging. You may not always feel as dynamic, intelligent, friendly or enthusiastic as you are supposed to be up there at the front of the classroom. But there is a magical performative aspect where once you begin, on a good day, things fall into place and you can get a teaching "buzz"! The time grows its own energy, and there is a crackle in the air. But, there are also those days when it simply does not come together, whether because of fatigue on your part, that of the students, poor class morale, difficult material, or numerous other issues. hooks writes:

"Teaching is a performative act. and it is that aspect of our work that offers the space for change, invention, spontaneous shifts, that can serve as a catalyst drawing out the unique elements in each classroom. To embrace the performative aspect of teaching we are compelled to engage "audiences," to consider issues of reciprocity. Teachers are not performers in the tranditional sense of the word in that our work is not meant to be a spectacle. Yet it is meant to serve as a catalyst that calls everyone to become more and more engaged, to become active participants in learning." (11)

hooks also discusses the idea that a teacher must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes his or her own well-being in order to achieve a progressive, holistic, engaged pedagogy. I am still sorting out exactly what she means by this term and hope that it will become clearer with more reading. For now, I understand self-actualization as resisting a separation between mind and body, of resisting the notion of compartmentalization of intellect. Further, the holistic model of learning can only take place when a teacher is also open to growth, and this necessitates a certain vulnerability. We cannot expect our students to take risks if we as teachers are unwilling. She writes "most professors must pratice being bulnerable in the classroom, being wholly present in mind, body and spirit."

I am not positive that I have been vulnerable in the classroom along hooks' lines. Perhaps in admitting when I don't know something, or make a mistake, or not allowing myself to become defensive if challenged, are ways that I have. But vulnerability involves trust, and it goes both ways for teachers and student alike that if vulnerability is shown, the next step has to involve compassion and respect. That vulnerability, say, when a student admits that they didn't do the reading, needs to
be recognized and compassionatley dealt with, because if a teacher then humiliates a student, that student will only foster a resentment. But if such an admission can be kindly but firmly dealt with, say, with the teacher expressing disappointment and encouragement to do better next time round, the student may appreciate the kindness and feel a sincere desire to improve.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Response to Smith, Ch. 7, "Fabricating a Theory of Learning"

A few thoughts, less lengthy than below...

A lovely idea: "Anything that makes sense to us is integrated into our continually growing knowledge of ourselves and of the world, and it is never lost. It becomes part of us" (54). I see this idea as along the lines of respecting one's elders for their experiential life knowledge, for not wasting time on regrets, as related to learning from your mistakes, and as learning being a life-long journey.

Smith also discusses briefly the corporatization of education, with "experts", politicians, and publishers involved, not just the expected participants of students and teachers. I have seen this first-hand at universities, where students seem to have a customer type of approach to their educations, and think of me as someone who is there to give them a service or help them attain a product. Scary stuff, because it leads to a mentality of "I paid my tuition and have attended classes, so where is my A?" I have also felt this corporatization with parenthood, where parenting magazines are really more about product placement and fear mongering ("buy *this* stroller", or "these are the shoes your child needs to learn to walk properly") than about support and information for new parents. And again, the "experts" and politicians are involved. It is certainly not just about the children and parents.

And finally, a common sense tidbit that I've seen at home: Smith writes that "People who have a great interest in a topic or activity, and who have had a greater experience of it, are bound to learn more" (about that topic, I assume). My 3-year- and-9 month old cannot read in general. But he can read every single one of Thomas the Tank Engine's friends names, to the tune of about 40 words. That means he has word recognition of names like "Caroline, "Bulgy", "Percy" and "Henry." That is what interests him (obsesses, him) and therefore that is the locus of his early reading skills. And the learning branches out from there; he will tell 10-min. long stories about these characters, do artwork involving these characters, and has grown a vocabulary that includes such phrases as "you have caused confusion and delay."

Confusion and delay... a catch phrase that could apply to many aspects of education?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Response to Smith, Part III, Ch. 6 "Undermining Traditional Wisdom"

Smith begins this part of his book with a discussion of how the offical theory of learning was something that was consciously invented. By contrast, the traditional theory of learning is something organic and natural, that many of us would call common sense or conventional wisdom. He states: "Learning can be effortless, continual, permanent--and also pleasant--though it won't take place in the absense of comprehension, interest or confidence" (p. 43). This is probably something we have all experienced: learning something without explicitly trying, but just by picking it up because we were interested. I know, for example, that personally, the breadth of my vocabulary was acquired simply by reading pretty extensively, and reading glorious words used by the likes of Austen or Eliot or Atwood. Sure, I studied vocab for the GRE back in '96, but there are just a couple words from that endeavor that I learned for good ("loquatious" or "ascetic") rather than from good ol' books.

One concern I have with this section of Smith's work is the idealization of a time when children were laborers with no choice in intellectual activity or profession. He writes "if you wanted the child to become a farmer, or a farm laborer, you put the child on the land as soon as possible. If you wanted your child to fish for a living, you sent them to sea. If you wanted them to have religious vocations you sent them to a convent or monastery...." (44). This is not a learning of freedom, but a learning of innate boundaries and confines. You became a butcher because your father was a butcher and his father was before him. Does Smith actually think that those were better times? Don't we now believe that children should have the freedom of childhood play and a lack of responsibility and protection under the law from laboring to earn wages? While I save every month for my very young sons' possible futures as college students, they will have the freedom to forgo college (hopefully they won't call me on it, because of course I would prefer them to go on with a post-secondary education) where they may study what they please. And they certainly are not expected to become teacher/professors like their mom and dad. (Though I've noticed that professions do tend to run in families, as my sister-in-law has become a 3rd generation lawyer).

An issue that I experienced firsthand relates to the "Prussion Connection" section, where Smith expounds against the separation of children by age into grades, contrary to the one-room schoolhouse approach. It is true that separating by age can be unnatural. At the beginning of gr. 2, I was 6 years old, having not had my birthday yet, since it's Nov. 30. Because my school board's cut-off ages were based on the calendar year, January birthdays were the oldest in classrooms and December the youngest. So I was always almost the youngest in my classroom. Well, at the beginning of gr. 2 it became obvious to my teacher and principal that I already knew all the curriculum for the year. What to do with me? The principal suggested moving me up to gr. 3. My mother was unsure; I was already on the young side. Would this have negative effects on my social abilities? But she didn't want me to be bored, a bigger risk in her opinion. So, up I went to gr. 3 at the age of 6, where most of the other kids were 8. My smart teacher paired me up at a desk with the tiniest girl in the class, also very high functioning, and we became fast friends. In fact, I am still good friends with this girl, after all these years. (But, there were issues in high school when I was 12...)

Long story short, my parents made the right decision in moving me up a grade. And it just goes to show that putting a child in a group with children all the same age does not necessarily make for a good fit. How should we make our classes? By ability? But wouldn't that be a problem for streaming children into "gifted" or "average" or "learning difficulties" paths with the attached stigmas and/or privileges? I know that Montessori schools have children 3-5 together at the beginning, but then do they move to traditionally organized grades by age (e.g. Gr. 1is 6 year olds, gr. 2 is 7 year olds, etc)?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Response to Frank Smith, The Book of Learning and Forgetting Part I and II

I am going to reproduce Smith's chart here, so we can all remember the paradigm as he sees it:

The classic view says that learning is:
independent of rewards and punishment
based on self-image
never forgotten
inhibited by testing
a social activity

The official view of learning is:
hard work
dependent on rewards and punishment
based on effort
easily forgotten
assured by testing
an intellectual activity

Again, as I felt with Gatto, there are some fundemental themes that I agree with here. The idea that you often learn while you are not really thinking about learning is one of them. This is a more traditional approach. Who has learned something from a grandparent, say, where just making pies a few times with your grandmother "taught" you how to do it? Would it have been a better way to learn by sitting down and reading through several cookbooks' sections on "How to Make Pies?" No. Especially at the age of 7. The experiential, the tactile, the emotional, the atmospheric, the edible, all roll into the best way to learn, in this example. Grandma's apron, her rolling pin, her dated kitchen that was a bit shabby but super clean, the berries from her own garden, the radio on all the while, the noise of uncles coming and going, and the end result eaten for dessert all become the lesson. (All that being the case, I still don't know how to make pies very well, and probably will need to do some more classic research if I ever want to make a proper pastry).

Another example from my childhood, where I prove Smith's point about offical learning. I moved in the May of my gr. 7 year. So I was brand new, and arrived on a day where the class had a history test. The teacher gave me her notes and I think a notebook from a decent student, I "studied" on my own, took the test a week later and got the highest grade in the class on it (I think I actually got perfect). Now clearly, this is a case of excellent memorization. I had no context for what I was studying. I remember even realizing at the time that I had sort of fooled my new teachers. I hadn't really learned the history. I had memorized and scored. I knew even then that it wasn't real learning. I was proud of myself for showing my sharpness, but even at that time I felt a sense of regret at not having truly learned the material. At the end of the year, we had a "graduation ceremony" because gr. 8 was at a new school in the fall. I was held up as a big success because of this test grade and it was a sign of my future success. Were they wrong to celebrate my achievement by focusing on my test score? It might have been more authentic to congratulate me on acclimating to my new school and social group.

The above examples would show me as on board with Smith's dichotomy of classic vs. official learning. And yet. And yet.

What about the contexts where memorization is really important? I am no scientist or doctor, but aren't there a ton of facts in those fields that simply just must be memorized and absorbed and just plain KNOWN? Of course these then need to be put into practical use, especially for the doctor. Smith addresses this on p. 37 and suggests that rather than empty memorization, we put such facts to music and mneumoics. As a musician, I find this interesting and true some of the time but not always appropriate. Do we really want our doctor singing through the list of symptoms for our illness? Do we really want our church leader to sing her way through the books of the bible to remember the order?

Here's a mneumonic I've never forgotten: "Kim plus Chris or Freddy goes steady." That involved my friend Kim and her crush Chris, in gr. 8 and applied to "Kingdom, Phylom, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species." I swear that is all I remember from gr. 8 science. Correct me if I am misremembering, but I think I've got it right.

What about the idea of "clubs" and that those you surround yourself with are those you will learn from, for better or for worse? Again, I agree to a certain extent. It's commone sense that your behavior and knowledge are rubbed off from those you are with and will rub off in turn. But I think it's important to recognize that one's learning capacities are not bound by the "clubs", that the capacity for learning is infinite and as open as an individual's desire to learn. I get uncomfortable with the thought that parents will only want to surround their children by other like-minded parents' like-minded children. For what happens to diversity in that context? I actually want my children to know children who are NOT like-minded. Children with different interests, learning styles, behaviors, and so forth. (As long as my children don't come home cursing and behaving like hooligans) :)

What are your thoughts...?

And what about "intellectual engagement" just for its own sake? I get a certain high from "hitting the books" so to speak and getting thoroughly ready for an exam. I don't believe I forget everything, not if it feels like what I am studying matters.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Response to John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down

After the first four chapters, I decided to exercise my own student rights, and stop reading Gatto. I had absorbed his points, and I realized that I was feeling a sense of despair. If schools are "jail," then why do I want to become a "jailer?" I cannot accept that view; rather, I hold a deep-seated belief that schools are NOT jail, and that rather than a wanna-be jailer, I am a key holder. I believe that as a teacher I will hold a set of metaphorical keys to help students unlock their minds. The processes of awakening, of understanding, of enlightenment, of growth, of burgeoning interest, are all processes that I hope to nurture in my classroom, all of which involve opening, not locking. These are also processes that I hope will happen to me as well as I go about my role as teacher.

But what had me feeling dispair in Gatto? The 7 Lessons: confusion, class position, indifference, emotional dependency, intellectual dependency, provisional self-esteem and that one can't hide. It is not that there are not grains of unfortunate truth in what he says; yes we teach students that they must stay where they "belong" in a group of students that they didn't choose to be with, that they must learn on a fairly superficial level and to turn it off like a switch when it is "time," that a report cards often pose as official declarations deeming worth, that surveillance is pervasive in school. But there is a cynicism informing all that Gatto says, a purposeful negative stance, that he voices in each observation. I feel that as a beginning high school teacher, I need to hold on to a postivie outlook, an idealistic belief, if you will, that will allow me to foster the good, even in the "bad" of what we do.

For example, within the "jail cell" of the classroom, where a student is surrounded by peers that he or she had no say in being with, is there not still a positive outlook on that situation? That by being with those that one would not normally choose to associate with, one must learn to accept those person's differences and somehow learn to work literally alongside them? That the lack of choice, unfortunately, prepares students for a college dorm, for an office workplace, for a social club where all types of people are present and need to co-mingle?

Despite my unease with accepting the 7 Lessons as truth, Gatto asserts some general fundamental points that I agree with: that children need to spend time with their families, that they need to be integrated in society across its citizens old and young, that they need privacy, that they need to be left to learn on their own time and in their own way (i.e. over-programming kids with curricula both inside and outside the classroom is not a good idea), that learning can happen in the most surprising of places from the most surprising of teachers, that our goal as educators is to model and nourish critical thinking, and that we inevitably bump against the system from within, as we try to do the workings of a school district and board while also trying to teach in a way that frees our students.

A paragraph that I want to hold on to and roll around in my mind on my journey to becoming a high school teacher:

"Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important: how to live and how to die." (67-68)

In saying goodbye to Gatto, I am led by my prof to Frank Smith, whom I'll respond to next. But the feeling of despair has been good for me, in that I am now wondering about the role of the subversive in teaching, and have begun to read bell hooks, "Teaching as Transgression." What I am searching for I think, is someone who somehow still believes in the profound good of schools and teaching, even as the need for subversion and trangression is blatantly clear. Because, so far, that is where I believe my own stance lies.