The call for proposals for the 2017 NCTE conference has been issued. The title for next year’s conference, Teaching Our Students Today, Tomorrow, Forever: Recapturing Our Voices, Our Agency, Our Mission, highlights NCTE’s commitment to speaking truth to power and championing the teacher as a change maker. I’m interested in how we can use theory to reclaim our voices and engage in our work with renewed focus.
To that end, I’d like to put together a proposal for a session on using theory as a source of vitality and inspiration. Here are some rough ideas. They all fall under the draft session title of
The Heart of Praxis: Using Critical Theory to Inspire and Guide Your Teaching
1. Drawing inspiration from America’s neoliberal turn of the 1970s and 1980s, teacher prep programs are training teachers to be data managers and technicians. Politics, history, and theory are of little value when all that matters is increasing test scores among gap groups. How can we draw on critical pedagogy to recenter teacher training on issues of critical literacy and social transformation?
2. The dominance of test scores and punitive systems of accountability create an atmosphere of distrust between teachers. Building a supportive network of teacher collaboration has become increasingly difficult. For many teachers, collaboration has become yet another mandate required by central offices, a standardized ritual focused on quantitative learning outcomes and Dufour/Solution Tree agenda templates. What does radical teacher collaboration look like? How can we use theory to replace false collaboration with meaningful exchange?
3. The rise of alternative assessment practices like standards based grading and proficiency scales harken back to the administrative progressives of the early twentieth century. Critical theory can help us understand how our language of learning sacrifices the democratic potential of education and figure out how to chart a course to a more relevant and uplifting form of learning.
4. All too often teachers experience cultural competency as a set of boxes to check off on their district-wide professional development regimens. Cultural competency can become what Leigh Patel describes as “parking lots for emotionality and white fragility.” By ignoring education’s historical role in creating and sustaining class stratification and material inequality, much cultural competency training fails to prepare teachers to ignite change within the classroom and the teacher’s lounge. How can critical race theory help us recenter our classrooms and school communities?
Again, these are just ideas. Please reply to this blog post or contact me on Twitter/email if you’re interested in putting together a proposal on these or any other theory related topics.