As teachers we need to be “wide awake and ready for action” in a challenging political climate where forces outside our control routinely question our professionalism and aim to circumscribe our freedom to teach and our students’ freedom to learn. To survive and thrive in such a climate, we should, become awake to the realities of the “brave new world” around us, be prepared, and be heard.
“Morning is when I am awake and when there is a dawn in me.”
Henry David Thoreau
Like Thoreau, dwelling in a state of wakefulness depends on the “dawn” within. Events in our world often give rise to this internal dawn, a heightened awareness of our situation that helps prepare use for challenges.
Can we count on the freedom to teach as we, knowledgeable professionals, know best? Can we use practices we deem appropriate to support learning? Can we select the kinds of books and materials we value to support learning and to help our students become literate human beings and lifelong learners?
As teachers, we need to abide by our school curriculum, state agencies and code, federal laws, recommendations of accrediting bodies, and local community officials on boards of education. It remains uncertain whether academic freedom and autonomy exist at the precollege level; and, in fact, it has never been guaranteed at the college level either, especially in teacher education programs that are, like public schools, governed by state code, federal guidelines, and accrediting bodies. Tenure offers some protections for both precollege teachers and college professors, but it is not a guarantee of safety (Nelson & Stanley, 2001).
So, how do we stay awake and remain alert to our “brave new world” without getting overwhelmed? Stay Tuned for Wide Awake and Ready for Action: Part 2!
Written by Pat Schall, NJCTE Board Member
Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE
New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English