We Need Evolutionary Teachers: A Growing Consciousness

The impact of the presidential campaign and transition of power have resulted in large-scale social movements mobilizing women, teachers and school leaders to consider our work for equity. Over the last two decades, we have narrowed our focus on closing ‘achievement gaps’ and collecting data at the expense of examining the very foundation of how we do teaching and schooling in America. Now is the time for us to be responsive to the cry out for change. Now is a good time to look at the character of our schools and our role as teachers and change agents. How can we ensure our schools are sanctuaries for peace, equity and democracy?

One of the important tasks ahead of us is building systems, structures and practices that truly reflect the values of equity and democracy. As an in-service teacher educator and instructional designer, I wonder how we can best support teachers and school leaders to stand firm in their commitment to truth, shared responsibility and care for the well-being of all human beings? No one can argue that we are facing the greatest challenges of our time such a global warming, rising income inequality, war and terrorism and the privatization of our public spaces.

I am also deeply concerned with how we can help our teachers shift their attention away from spectacle and rhetoric that debilitates us through divisiveness and pay greater attention to our collective wisdom about what it means to work for equity. In my forthcoming book, Teacher Agency for Equity: A Framework for Conscientious Engagement (Routledge Press, 2017), I argue that we need to stop action for actions sake and take the time to examine and develop a new agency for equity in light of our failure to realize these goals. In addition to critically analyzing our context, we need to consider our inner thoughts, our use of language, the complexity of our professional relationships and how we often channel energy in ways that leave us exhausted without any real change.

Our school system and communities often divided by race, class and ideologies perpetuate bias and politically driven decision-making. These divisions are a manifestation of something deeper, a consciousness that is based on rivalry, fear and compartmentalization. Schools and whole communities that are divided by race and class in areas where there is sufficient diversity should not be acceptable in the 21st century. The way we distribute resources should not be acceptable either. More importantly, the election of a President that based his campaign on divisive rhetoric targeting very specific groups must be seen as a red flag in the education community that we are fundamentally lacking in holistic, critical thinking.

There are very important matters we must address if we are to consider schools the foundation of a healthy democracy and a place where all children flourish. Without prioritizing the time and space to dialogue about these matters in groups that cut across race, class and ideology—we can not ensure that we are in fact working together to build a culture of tolerance, inclusivity and critical mindfulness.

In my experience as an educator over the last fifteen years, I have learned that grappling with tough questions that pertain to education are not easy for teachers and school leaders. I am referring to questions that reveal our personal values, feelings about race and racism, the notion of equity and poverty. These types of questions surface fears, our shame and attachment to identity. Many teachers and school leaders wonder if they are positioned in society to do anything about these big issues when their roles are clearly defined by compliance and market driven expectations. However, teachers and school leaders know that they are at the epicenter of all social and cultural movements. They know these big questions are at the heart of the work we do every day. So, how are we to manage this angry sea of conflicting ideologies and stay focused on what matters for equity?

First, we must turn our attention to the hard work in front of us. In doing so, we will realize that we are hungry to step up to the challenge. As demonstrated at the Women’s March, we are ready to give voice to our concerns, our fears, our shameful thoughts, our suffering and confusion about these perennial issues that continue to plague our society such as race and poverty and—what do we really mean when we say student achievement in a society with widening inequality and a break down in access to opportunities? We also know that part of this work is confronting our own economic insecurities and confusion about our role as teachers. What do we owe the communities in which we teach, that are often not our own? In this process of mindful inquiry, we all will need a guarantee that engaging in these important conversations can lead not only to healing, but to a shared vision and concrete action steps to move us forward.

In working on my book, my goal was to offer educators a framework that can help teachers and school leaders examine and develop authenticity and agency for equity. In all my years of service to the field, I know teachers and school leaders want to make a difference that matters and often that means looking beyond the four walls of our classrooms. The Conscientious Engagement framework that is based on six principles (Spirit Consciousness, Authentic Presence, Entanglement, Freedom, Meliorism and Emergence) helps teachers and school leaders heighten their awareness of the nature of our thoughts and how we use language, the complexity of our professional relationships and the need for belonging and, lastly— how we channel our energy in ways that either impede or strengthen our work for equity. Engaging in critical mindful inquiry with ourselves and with others will build awareness that we are all connected—that each and every one of us belongs to a larger human spirit consciousness that gives us rise and access to our inner wisdom and strength to work for the common good. Knowing that we belong to something greater than ourselves can unify us in ways we’ve not known before.

What does it mean to be an evolutionary teacher at this critical time in our history? For me, an evolutionary teacher makes a commitment to stay conscientiously engaged in the school and in the community. This requires critical mindfulness and deliberation over the real foundational issues in education. An evolutionary teacher understands that we are interconnected and we all have creative intelligence. An evolutionary teacher practices authentic presence. An evolutionary teacher rises above all that is divisive and values all life equally. Seeking out and living truth, being authentic, and honoring all life equally as demonstrated in every day practice is the next step in our human evolution and teachers are central to this process.

Our time is now. We are in the position to make a difference that matters, a difference that extends beyond the four walls of a classroom. Ultimately, we know that this is our work, this is our true nature as teachers— to model, to grow, to teach, to have courage, to advocate, to ensure that schools remain sanctuaries for peace and equity.

 

 

The Language of Agency for Equity

“Industrious and conscientiousness are often at odds with one another because industriousness wants to pluck the fruit from the tree while it is sour, whereas conscientiousness lets it hang too long until it falls and smashes itself to pieces.”

~Frederick Neitzsche, Human, All Too Human, A Book for Free Spirits

This week we celebrated Martin Luther King Day, the inauguration and the Women’s March. On all occasions, the power of language and words came front and center and I am reminded again and again of how much our use of language can either obfuscate an audience or inspire people to speak truth even in the face of power.

President Trump, for example, tweeted John Lewis is a man of no action and only talk, talk, talk. But just a few days later, these were the words that characterized his first talk to the Nation:

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In a recent article in the National by Joseph Dana, he describes the power of language and words to manipulate:

Mr Trump, a thin-skinned political novice who has lied so consistently in his political career that he has rendered his words meaningless, is such a person. Through his rejection of facts and aggression towards the mainstream press, Mr Trump is inculcating the American people with the idea that belief systems outweigh rational thoughts and discourse.

How are we supposed to trust our leaders and hold fast to moral clarity if we are constantly being manipulated by words and language? Further how can we combat irrational thought when we are told in some cases that words are meaningless and that there is this thing called “alternative facts,” while in other cases, words hold us accountable such as in our legal documents, however old and outdated they might be?

I did find solace for a moment watching Amy Goodman who played one of Dr. King’s old speeches. It was from 1964. I was amazed to find that Dr. King spoke about how we can twist words to mask our intentions or act for our convenience:

“I would like to mention one or two ideas that circulate in our society—and they probably circulate in your society and all over the world—that keep us from developing the kind of action programs necessary to get rid of discrimination and segregation. One is what I refer to as the myth of time. There are those individuals who argue that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice in the United States, in South Africa or anywhere else; you’ve got to wait on time. And I know they’ve said to us so often in the States and to our allies in the white community, “Just be nice and be patient and continue to pray, and in 100 or 200 years the problem will work itself out.” We have heard and we have lived with the myth of time. The only answer that I can give to that myth is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I must honestly say to you that I’m convinced that the forces of ill will have often used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And we may have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around saying, “Wait on time.”

And somewhere along the way it is necessary to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God. And without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so we must help time, and we must realize that the time is always ripe to do right. This is so vital, and this is so necessary.”

What does this word mean, Time?  What do you or I attach to this notion of Time and even, the word Patience? An examination of our words is so critical to our collective consciousness and understanding of what we stand for, especially if we want to take this notion of Time and translate it to real Action. At the Women’s March with my daughter, we were surrounded by words on placards and we were simultaneously immersed in the flow of an enormous movement. Both words and actions matter.

Teachers use and teach words every day. We use words to learn, to inspire, to share, to communicate.  We also want our Actions to be aligned to the words that we say. In my forthcoming book, Teacher Agency for Equity: A Framework for Conscientious Engagement (Routledge, 2017), I talk about this notion of language and words as being a reflection of our inner thoughts or streams of consciousness as educators. I argue that we have to be aware of how we communicate with each other and how through our language we can often confuse or misdirect our agency for equity. In my book, I ask teachers to consider the type of language that is required of a teacher who is committed to fighting for equity, who sees herself as a change agent and to consider her audience when she speaks. What type of words should teachers use when talking to their colleagues about ruly students and what types of words should she use when speaking to students directly?  Do our words and language change when addressing a parent, or when we are in offices with school leaders during an evaluation? Or even—what language characterizes who we are in our personal and private space on the weekends with our friends and families, our churches, temple or the mosque–and how does this impact who we are in the school building on Monday?

In my career, I have come in contact with many teachers, school leaders and education consultants who acknowledge the strange intersection of separate worlds in schools and in our communities but may not be aware of how our every day language and words may communicate mixed messages about what it means to advocate for equity in education and are we expressing the same value for all perspectives, and all human beings?

There is a great challenge that we face in education and it has to do with Martin Luther King’s notion of Time. I want us to be clear that there is a time when its good to sit still in Mindful Inquiry and Reflection but there is also a time when we must take Decisive Action and radically change a Practice or Policy. I want us to be clear about how easy it is for us to channel our energy in ways that stifle agency and progress for equity. I want us to be clear about when is the right time to say, “Now!” And dig in our heals until we see an immediate shift in priorities. I want us to practice saying “No,” and saying, “This is not okay.”

In my writing and instructional design, I am preoccupied with how we can be the architect of bridges across worlds with our words, language and interactive activities that when done well and with care, have the power and potential to pull us together for a common good in education. I often worry that we still project to others a subtle expectation that for some people in society, they should be patient and wait, even though we are in the midst of this fast wave towards a very ominous future, a future that is quickly defining our social, cultural and political landscape.

I do believe it is important to examine how we got here and I believe in our collective Spirit to move us in the right direction. But, still—I worry. I worry that we sometimes get confused about the power of words and language on our thinking and we forget how much power we have as teachers to make a difference in the streams of consciousness of the children we teach. I don’t want teachers and school leaders to stay transfixed and silent, but I also want them to choose their words and language very carefully.

Words and language matter. Pay attention to what you say, how you say it and to whom you are speaking. Words and language are a real reflection of your inner world, your beliefs and your emotional landscape. Check in with yourself and see to it that you manifest through words and language what you truly envision for our future.

 

 

Authentic Presence and Freedom

I want us to practice authenticity and freedom together. I want us to experience love and acceptance and I want us to channel our energy in ways that can transform our consciousness and the world around us. All human beings are made up of mind, body and spirit and when these three aspects of our being come together to work in unison, we experience authenticity and freedom. Through the practice of Authentic Presence and Freedom, we can transform our consciousness and make a movement in the world together.  We can make space for something new.

Authenticity is both a state of being and the act of sharing.  It is the totality of self projected into the world to reveal the natural beauty of our uniqueness. If it were left up to our mind and body, we would never choose to project our authentic self into the world because we often perceive the world as being unsafe and our body retracts accordingly. Through awareness of our integral Spirit Consciousness, we experience faith and trust that we have been perfectly designed to fulfill a unique life purpose. Through Spirit Consciousness, we can reveal our authentic selves in every day practice and we trust that in doing so, we will not only be okay, but we fall into a state of love and acceptance for our humanity. This is the foundation for a future consciousness that will lead us to transform our world into a place where our structures and social norms reflect a value for all life.

When we choose to practice authenticity and freedom together, we begin the process of letting go, of allowing the full reveal of the totality of our self.  We do this through the guidance of Spirit Consciousness, which teaches us that we are all connected and we all belong to this benevolent life force.

Authentic Presence is where honest relationships are formed. The initial experience of self-love and self-acceptance coupled with the willingness to engage in honest relationship with another is the ultimate expression of Freedom in society.  The more we engage in Authentic Presence, the more we are opening the door for self-actualization, inspiration and imagination. All of this leads to Agency, which is paramount to having an impact in the world that matters. Especially now when there is widespread discontent we must concern ourselves with this notion of Agency. Agency is the belief we can make a difference, it is the impetus behind how we move and influence matters in the world that can redefine the future and shape the evolution of humanity. When what we do is rooted in Authentic Presence and Freedom, then the future of our world will be a reflection of this positive energy.

There is joy and there is great struggle in the every day practice of Authentic Presence and Freedom. We live in a society that is a function of an old social order and consciousness. Our current social structures and norms of behavior are a manifestation of survival level consciousness based on fear, scarcity and rivalry. We are now emerging into a new consciousness that is characterized by love, abundance, collectivism and a deep regard for preserving our earth and humanity.

When you take the time to tune into this consciousness through deep reflection, meditation and openness to listening to the voices of others; you will find there a deep yearning in yourself to move into a new space.  This along with forces in society is driving us to take very seriously the practice of Authentic Presence and Freedom.  It is only when we choose to engage in the practice that we can break down the old order and work together to build a new society with new social norms that are reflective of our emerging Spirit Consciousness.

The struggle and the heightening of our awareness of what is happening is very real. For example, when we attempt to practice authenticity and freedom we experience the outpouring of conflicting and uncontrollable emotions or erratic behaviors. This is a function of the great release. Most of us have accumulated years and years of suppressing our authentic selves and acting within a limited, individualistic world-view. The great release is the great letting go of ego and false notions of self that shake our inner core deeply. We have to be prepared for this as Authentic Presence and Freedom will force us to confront our intimate thoughts and question our use of language to communicate that may or may not be in alignment with our authentic self and purpose. We will reconsider the nature of our relationships and analyze how we have often misdirected or diffused our energy. The great release moves us into a complete state of vulnerability and feeling that we are at a loss of control.  This all happens as your authentic self jettisons out into the world in erratic spurts, with no idea how this is going to impact others or situations in the universe. You may ask, how long does it take for the world around you to catch up with your growth and heightened sensibilities?

In this practice, you will feel attracted to specific people who are on a similar pathway who are put in place through your own manifestation of the world you wish to create. These occurrences may pull you out of your traditional social circle or comfort zone. Your willingness to engage authentically and with full freedom with new people attracted to you at the Spirit level, is an essential element to this practice.

Yes. I want us to practice authenticity and freedom together. I want us to experience love and acceptance and I want us to channel our energy in ways that can transform our consciousness and the world around us. There is great joy and promise in the practice and you need to know it requires an enormous amount of energy. Most of us have been socialized to believe we can experience authenticity and freedom through mindfulness, prayer and meditation or personally rewarding and individualistic pursuits. While this may move you into new discoveries, you will find that if you want to change the world for the better, we must move into communion with others.  We must share our thoughts, our language, our relationship and our energy with others who share a life purpose because all large social movements are a result of the ability of individuals to come together, to amass the amount of energy needed to transform the world through very deliberate and specific real-world practices.

In other words, the practice of authenticity and freedom means nothing if it does not impact the outside world in some way that really matters. The potential of human beings in the social-political and cultural space becomes realized when two or more people practice Authentic Presence and Freedom and learn through it to love and accept the full totality of who we are. Love and acceptance is the source of all creation, all innovation, all evolution.  These are the drivers behind our evolutionary consciousness and the practice of authenticity and freedom is indeed central to this process.

 

 

This Being Human

Ode to Rumi


I’m beginning to miss my painting.
The broad strokes transforming the canvas.
Blending color,
Waiting patiently,
Relentlessness overriding freedom.
Curving straight lines and scraping below.
I’m beginning to miss my painting.
Yearning to be there in that other half.
Dirty loose jeans and stained fingernails.
Free and absolutely at peace with
Where I focus my energy.
Is that what it means to be human, this missing?
                         
The more I sharpen my focus
I encounter a new set of curious emotions.
I’m welcoming a new guest every day.
Blending color,
Waiting patiently,
                        Relentlessness overriding freedom.

Curving straight lines and scraping below.
Is it just now that I’ve missed that vast canvas—
Or has it been an eternity?
Must be like that old woman’s stare
Halfway in, halfway out.

Halfway human.
Today snow sits high on the windowsill
Blocking my full view.
Without opening the door or knowing anything at all
I am comforted.
I’m anticipating the first stroke, that delicious sigh.
That pacing around, fancy stillness of mind.
Let it go and hold on tight.
Isn’t that what being human feels like?

Blended colors,
Wait patiently,
                        Relentless overriding freedom.

Curved straight lines and scrapes below.
All the while unknowns keep me safe.
Keeps this and that at bay.
In the end, it’s all one big experiment.
Hold off long enough to know.
Feel the thick messiness of it.

The shadow dance of it.

The unexplainable beauty of it.

All coming outside of me.
Isn’t that what being human is?

Blending colors,
Waiting patiently,
                        The relentlessness overriding freedom?

Curved straight lines and scrapes below.

Memories that Matter

(Stream of Consciousness)
In response to a recent discrepancy over the actual age of my mother, I find myself thinking deeply about which memories matter. This is not easy— this mental sorting and slicing, judging and reordering, prioritizing and deleting. In the process, I realize memories trigger emotions and depending on the moment some may not be welcomed. I tell myself memories are snapshots of the past framed by present consciousness (which will either dull, sharpen or distort the image) but inevitably they will still elicit emotions that may or may not be friendly.

If I go a step further past my own personal experiences like my childhood or moments that define my parenthood, I start thinking about history and what we choose to pass on from generation to generation. Sayings like “Never forget” come to mind and what does that mean for our children when we bring the past to bear on the decisions we make in the present? When might it be better if we start afresh?

As I grow older I am very much aware of Time and how Time takes back parts our memory whether we like it or not.  Some, like my grandmother, will grapple with the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s, which speeds up the process dramatically. If in the end we only have partial control of which memories we keep, then it makes perfect sense to consider which memories are really worth fighting for.


Life is short. Our interpretation of the past is as powerful as our dreams of the future.  Distorted or not they can paralyze you by keeping you locked in a vicious cycle of reflection, regret and analysis. What did that mean? What do I do with that memory? How much changes and how much stays the same? Of course all of this thinking is really about how we forgive ourselves and others for our imperfections. Never will a memory live up to the truth about who we are because like I said, a memory is a snapshot that is framed by consciousness. Looking at it will never take into account the entirety of the experience nor honor the infinite beauty of a whole life. One moment in a person’s life is one stroke on a canvas and by looking at only one stroke one can never define the essence of a painting.
If we don’t know where we come from, how do we know where we’re going? Another perfectly suitable question. More than a question it’s an interrogation. I don’t know the answer to this, only that I am living this moment in life when memory seems overwhelmingly significant and insignificant at the same time. Is this just an illusion the notion of Time and memory? Is it elastic?

I have spent the last few months (or has it been years?) deciding whether or not to put my paintings back on the walls and line my bookshelves with books that are living in boxes waiting for that elusive next chapter to begin. Every photograph that documents my life is put away and the bareness of it all is invigorating.  Don’t get me wrong. I am sad. I am sad when my son leans down now to hug me. I flash back to his chubby cheeks and five year old musings. He grew up while I was waiting. I am sad to watch my little girl grow up, up, and away while my new sofa just arrived and what is the point if she is not sitting in it?  My throat gets tight when I think about those that I love passing on or moving away even though each change, each transition is also such a relief because I get tired of repeating things and there is just not enough space for new life if everything around me and inside me is cluttered and full.

I am so intertwined, immersed, part of, one with the whole– like a drop of water, am I water still?

This sifting and sorting and cleaning out space for new memories — isn’t that what we need to do as a people? We are dragging so much from behind there is no room to innovate, to create anew.

I am not saying we should forget 9/11, slavery or the Holocaust.  I (we) will ever forget those chapters in life when I (we) live in the dark— but I (we) can’t stay there.  I (we) can’t stay paralyzed by an iteration whether it’s amazing and brilliant or filled with shame and ugly. I (we) need to let go of the savage image of the Inquisition in order to open the mind and heart to the possibility of the new Pope. 


I don’t want to fight with Time. I just want peace of mind. I want joy and beauty and loving. I want to be a creator of a new future with less of that and more of those things that make me feel light and happy.

Which memories bring me (us) closer to the infinite beauty and potential of our being? Which memories are burdensome, keep us in a permanent, fixed-mindset of judgment that prevent us from healing and moving on? Which memories suffocate our creativity?

Which memories really matter, right now?




Mindfulness for Poor People

Rule of Nature: Growth


1. Take a beautiful plant in a small pot. Water it. Put it in the sun. It will survive but it will not grow.
2. Take the same plant and put in larger pot. Water it. Put it in the sun. It will survive and grow. Watch the leaves reach for the sun!
3. We adapt to space.  Space is not imaginary, it is real– like boundaries, private property, borders and scope of work. In smallness, we adapt by being small. 
4. Once one identifies itself as a gallon, it does not suffice a pint sized life. For survival we have the capacity to contract for limited time before we die.
5. We can shrink and expand as needed, although shrinking is painful and may cause the loss of spirit. This will have long term effects on a person’s health and well being. This is the situation of the oppressed and perpetual limitation can have intergenerational effects on memory. 
6. The soul remembers space. It is like the expansion of the brain or a muscle. 
7. I am talking about sustainability and self realization. I am talking about tapping into the ultimate infinite potential of the self. In bigness, we can grow and adapt by being big. In smallness we are stunted. Look at it. It is in nature. Therein lies the rose in concrete analogy. But that of course is superhero theory. We don’t want to base our theories on superheroes. We want ordinary folk to grow, don’t we? Look at space and you will see potential growth.
8. New age philosophy suggests we create new spaces in our mind and that thought will manifest itself in reality. That is to say, those who live small is because they don’t think, don’t imagine, don’t believe, don’t have faith. This is a lie or a truth reserved for those who are in free space. 
9. Conclusion. There are real limitations inherent in one’s environment. You can’t nurture a seed, a plant or a human being without considering the limitation or potentiality of the space –see the soil, the context, the living environment. See it. Feel it. Accept it. Don’t pretend it does not exist.

Common Core Dissonance 101 & the Age of Cyborgs

Tightly squeezed into a round table during a week-long Common Core institute, I float in and out of semi-conscious paralysis reminiscent of the last time I was called to jury duty. After what feels like hours (which could very well have been mere minutes), my body shifts out from under the blanket of limbo-ness and lands into a wild wave like spasm of irritability, which quickly escalates into anxiety then disgust. The descent is fast and my internal organs shake as if I’m going down on an old rickety roller coaster. I look around to find cool eyes and eager faces and wonder if I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

It’s a drone of a lesson that transports me into a first-world-third-world classroom where students (probably high school) are desperately trying to cope with the onslaught of eight-hours a day in front of a supercilious, factory style TA (teacher professional in training) in an oppressive school designed to fix (sorry, I mean save) poor students.

Common Core Dissonance 101. According to the online Oxford dictionary, dissonance arises in the event of a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.

Education ≠ education.

After all, CCSS is supposed to be about critical thinking, embracing multiple pathways for problem solving, collaboration and other neatly defined career ready/21st century skills. Yet somehow these elements are strangely missing from the institute.

I escape the room with my smart phone in hand desperately texting with my now clumsy fingers due to the aftermath of toxic brain shocks. I see a big round clock in the corner that tells me how much time I have. I’m on the job, I think. While my mind races over a number of plausible excuses that could get me out of the next module I think about all the young people who cut class and hide themselves in bathroom stalls. I consider slipping out the back door but aware of my current identity, I choose the bathroom. I wash my already clean hands hard and take stock of my feelings. As I do, feelings slip outside of me all over the floor like rogue Slinkys and I get down on my hands and knees desperately trying to shove them back into the neat color coded box I kept them in labeled F.N.P (Future Novel Project) I think I do a good job but I get the feeling later I must have left hope and joy on the floor. I leave the bathroom thinking hard. I lean inconspicuously against a wall and breathe deeply.  In my breath, I watch my life’s work float out of my head like a balloon. It hits up against the glass ceiling and bounces as if there is a wind somewhere keeping it high. That’s when I ask myself, What am I becoming?

No one will argue reading multiple sources will help a child draw out deeper meaning on a topic or that rigorous, collaborative tasks are better than closed answers and multiple choice. It’s not the common core, I fear, it’s the how we are doing education in this country. It’s the internal mechanism, the co-option of terms like social justice and equity, the taking over of buildings and rechanneling funding. It’s the business of selling a product that will sell well because it is a monopoly, it’s complexity separating teachers from the real world of students, it’s demonizing unions, the normalization of segregated thinking always thinking black and white, reducing children to data bytes and ruminating over and over again, what we should do with kids in poverty as if kids in poverty are drowning and we have some magical special sauce that can save them. It’s the business of orchestrating and commoditizing human beings.

But none of that matters.

I slip back into the class, my footsteps pillow soft. The drone flies under my radar like a radioactive field and attacks every cell in my frontal cortex. Our robopresenter creates complexity and mystery around topics that should be simple, practical and open for shared inquiry. She is a robomagician. I’m struggling now to live in the narrowing parenthesis of my mind, that safe space between yes and no that I told myself could protect me from being at-risk, or worse yet, implicated. A tiny echo reminds me that poor people are exempt because we are concerned with survival and that’s different. Maslow is so far away and I can hardly remember the research behind it, or maybe there was no research and it was all a figment of my imagination, that thing called self-realization.

I fight for my imagination by focusing on the robopresenter who literally transforms into a doll made of metal. Her blank stare, the repetition of her words, the inability to respond emotionally to her audience all makes sense now. There is some fun in this for a while. Then I whisper to a colleague and we share a second of freedom, but it doesn’t last long. Robopresenter is driven entirely by inputs and streams of data and she zooms in on us. I pity her and admire her at the same time, her ability to memorize. How boring it must be to be her. I disconnect by dehumanizing her further and this separation allows me to extrapolate meaning from what otherwise might have been a void. I want to live and she is death so I hate her.

Robopresenter says, we need to dig a little deeper. Her hand curls up in a half ball as if she is digging into soil that is magically floating in the middle of the conference room.  We’ve been digging deeper all day but I find nothing. The emptiness of digging when you know there is nothing to find is so much worse than hopeful digging or not digging at all. Every word, activity, tool, is an illusion. New education talk snuffs out truth, like Styrofoam snuffs out sound so that you can’t even recognize it anymore.

Why are we building more and more layers that separate teacher from the child? I see this monstrous wall that prevents any true meeting of human beings. Why do we create so many barriers and obstacles for teachers to love students? What might happen if teachers saw their students as children, like their own, with nothing between them but deep love and commitment to their well being?

It’s been a few hours, days now. I look down at my hand and instead of veins, I find tiny wires curling up through my forearm that reach my shoulders that begin to push back like a soldier. The new wired nerves in my neck stretch my mouth into a smile and I watch my arm raise. Oh, dear. Am I? Am I a cyborg? Robopresenter calls on me. She is pleased with my active participation and we make eye contact for the first time and there is a twinkle, a knowing. I thought she was dead but in this dimension she responds differently. I’ve entered her world. When did I step out of that safe space called, yes and no?

I admit, the rumble in my guts has subsided. I feel better now. My teacher compliments me. Other students in the room nod and I am feeling the warmth of belonging. My sore ass and fragmented brain begin to re-wire themselves so quickly that now my buttocks is equipped for several more hours of sitting.  My brain is elastic and stiff, greater toxic retention and stored with passivity complex.

I am an educator of the new age, getting paid to unlearn everything I’ve ever learned about learning. I am learning to think differently everyday. My life’s mission is to save children, teach them that struggle and hard work is productive.  We have to work doubly hard if we want a ticket into the American dream. I am a teacherhero who with the Common Core under my belt, can undo hunger and shoot PTSD in the face until it’s annihilated.

I am a warrior.

I feel better now.