Some of my favorite recent posts around the web that fit with this #MLK day...
- Ilana Horn, First Do No Harm. (See also her guest post from Elizabeth Self.)
- Grace Chen, Teacher moves for Cultural Competence
- Paul Thomas, Two Bad Options Justify Neither
- Bonus: Rochelle Gutierrez's Iris Carl Equity Address from NCTM14
The Principles of Nonviolence, gathered at the King Center
- PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
- PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
- PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
- PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
- PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
- PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
So how is teaching related to these principles?
Active resistance to evil. Nonviolence is in no way nonaction. Instead, it is active pursuit of justice. Teaching is often inherently nonviolent because it is a career built on constructing relationships. Not that teaching automatically moves in this direction, because we can bring confrontational relationship strategies to the job. Most teachers are capable of careers that earn more or are essentially easier. Even teachers that leave the field I think have sometimes just finished what they had to give. Some vocations are for a season and some are for a lifetime. (When we lose the lifetime teachers because of school injustices, though, this is a serious loss. Personally and societally.)
Redemption may be strange language for education, but when we think about caring for all our students, it is going to include those wronged by the system or suffering from circumstance. When we work to create a safe learning space, it is naturally redemptive work. When we get to really know our students, it is constructive.
Defeat injustice, not people. This can be difficult, as students act out routines and responses to which which they have been subjected. But the classroom culture building to which I respond does an excellent job of separating the student from behavior.
How does suffering relate? One of the things I try to share with my preservice teachers is to be ready for this, what I often call the heartbreak of teaching. By caring for our students, we are volunteering to share their burdens. There are going to be students that have difficult, messy and painful lives, and we are signing up to walk part of the way with them. We are opposing the dehumanizing forces in our society that want to use them up or pass them over or sell their share for a profit.
Doesn't "spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative" describe a lot of the teachers you admire?
I also believe that teaching is inherently hopeful. We are siding with the universe on the side of justice, or our higher power, or whatever gives you faith.
So on this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I've taken some time to pray for teachers, pray for their students and pray for my students. I'm going to look for opportunities to stay in the struggle, and support those resisting injustice. And know that it isn't just for this day.