Teaching as an Act of Resistence

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Farruquitown.

We’ve been fortunate in our Playworks module to be working with SFU professor Charles Bingham, who has joined us twice weekly to guide our student teachers in developing a theoretical approach to education that will help them in this formative stage of their careers.

Charles – who goes by Bing and blogs here – is an educational philosopher, a mountain biker and trail runner, a sailor and critical pedagogue whose work surrounds multicultural education, recognition, and philosophical approaches to learning and schooling. Anyone having kept pace with this blog in the last few years will recognize that I have been beyond excited and grateful to spend time in Bing’s company, and to have him work with our cohort around ideas of philosophical inquiry into education and schooling.

A lot of Bing’s discussion with our group has revolved around the idea of schools as sites of societal reproduction. Schools do not, despite their best intentions and reputation for leftwing social engineering, do much to disrupt economic, racial, or other social inequalities. In fact, much of schooling serves as a kind of “microwave” wherein latent ideas of normalcy, the status quo, and the way things “ought” to be is baked into students and teachers alike. These implicit messages about schooling are pervasive and incredibly powerful.

In teacher-education, the reproduction of practices and pedagogies into new teachers is referred to as induction. So powerful are the subtle mechanisms of reproduction in schools, it can be incredibly difficult for new teachers to retain their initial values and beliefs about educational practices alongside the methods employed in their first schools.

This is a timely topic for our student teachers, as they have just entered schools for the first time this past week. We have spent nearly a month establishing the radical and idealistic expectations and intentions for education as it might or ought be, and in the next few weeks the student teachers’ work will revolve around encountering schools as they are, and as they are becoming.

“Someone is going to tell you in the next little while,” I mentioned to our student teachers during one of Bing’s visits. “Oh, a student teacher. Stick with me, I can show you the way it really is.”

“Absolutely,” Bing laughed. “They will.”

Induction is these cases is not always implicit; most teachers can probably remember an older teacher taking them aside with the intention of disavowing young teachers of particular idealisms or commitments to changing things in education.

Here it is worthwhile to consider the aims of the Professional Development Program at Simon Fraser, which are not, ultimately, to certify and produce accredited teachers (although this is a part of this mandate), but to improve the state of our schools. Through an ongoing cycle of reflection, action, and dialogue between practitioners, theorists, new teachers, and master professionals, PDP intends to engage a critical process that creates reciprocal learning between student teachers and existing school communities.

“Reproduction is a microwave machine: this stuff gets baked in,” Bing says in one of his talks around the tidal forces that turn our schools against their egalitarian, activist ends. “Resist that. Please resist that.”

Because this is the work: to nurture avenues toward a possible otherwise, a more inclusive, diverse, and divergent society. This runs directly counter to the fact that schools largely recreate the societies within which they exist. It is a challenge, of course, which is only incrementally subverted with critical reflection and action toward the changes we believe education ought be incubating.

“Please, resist that.”

Teaching is an act of resistance. An act of resisting the gravity of reproduction, and induction. Of creating this possible otherwise in a world which is pulling us toward conformity.

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