One of the the brightest, most enthusiastic and creative preservice teachers I've had the pleasure of teaching, Elizabeth (psuedonym) is in her internship year in a mid-Michigan school district. I hardly recognized her voice on the phone when she called in tears. Just one week into her unit on Zora Neale Hurston, a parent sent her a note lambasting her for the unit's content and focus on African American Language. This parent thought that only the classics and standard English should be taught. Elizabeth had developed this unit throughout her senior year in Michigan State University's top-ranked teacher education program. As well prepared as she was, little in her teacher education preparation readied her for this person's horribly racist remarks about the content of the class and her abilities as a teacher.
It's hard for me to decide which I loathe more-- the parent's explicit racism or implicit sexism.
For Elizabeth, this was just a taste of what will likely be a steady stream of oppressive, demeaning, and exhausting encounters with parents she'll have as a teacher. Her story isn't that unusual. Read through some of the 3,400 or so comments in response to futurist's Ron Clark's CNN editorial, "What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents." It's not clear why parents have so little respect for teachers or when this phenomenon starting taking root, though Richard Worzel has a few ideas.
If the entire profession had more males, though, my hunch is that teachers would be much more respected and well compensated, and recognized for work they do.* Between 1961-2006, the profession has remained consistently 70% female, but the number of those holding a MA degree has increase from only 23% in 1961 to 60.4% in 2006 (NCES). Despite the increased educational attainment of teachers profession, their income increased by only 2.7% between 2000 and 2011 (NCES). Compare this to the anemic 5.7% growth of the average US worker and the absolutely obscene 527% growth in CEO pay from 1978-2011 (ThinkProgress).
The disrespect for the profession and disregard for the teachers flies in the face of what we know about the demanding nature of the job. "Teaching done well is complex intellectual work," Mike Rose reminds us. "Teaching begins with knowledge: of subject matter, of instructional materials and technologies, of cognitive and social development. But it’s not just that teachers know things. Teaching is using knowledge to foster the growth of others." I'm not sure how much growth Elizabeth would have been able to foster in the parent whose racism and disrespect were everywhere present in that note.
I do know she was trying to educate all of her students equally well. And for that she should be well paid, respected, and recognized. The everyday struggle for equity in classrooms unfolded here on two fronts -- in the curriculum AND in how teachers are recognized as professionals. Both link back to an ongoing struggle with patriarchy that place white males at the top of the chain of being.
Not quite finished with her internship year, Elizabeth asked me to write her a letter of recommendation for graduate school. But it turns out she didn't need it after all. She's accepted a teaching position teaching in Saudi Arabia where, she was assured by the search committee, the teachers feel respected, have autonomy to make sound decisions based on their professional training, and have opportunities to refine their craft. Why does she have to go so far for respect?
* A recent UNESCO sponsored study "Women and the Teaching Profession: Exploring the Feminisation Debate," reviewed by Kate Greany for Gender & Development 20.2 (2012): 379-380, seems to suggest this as well.
Scholars struggle to get published. Mary Juzwik and I know firsthand how hard it is to get into the pages of RTE (5.89% acceptance rate). The editors who worked with us taught us about writing and publishing, engaging in conversations, and persevering through multiple revisions. We thank them. And we hope to continue the pedagogical legacy of their editorships.
Our second issue of RTE focuses on hopeful, vibrant, change-making pedagogies happening in school and university settings. It features articles from Haeny Yoon and Anna Wetzl, two amazing new scholars, whose award-winning research asks the tough questions about and demonstrates how teachers can make change in their classrooms. We learn much from their articles and all in this issue. The issue reminds us too of the pedagogical work we do as editors.
Mary hit on a brilliant idea to create Ten Tips for New Authors as part of our introduction to this issue. We included the best advice we've learned along the way as once new writers and now as editors. We hope they're helpful!
Check out our submission guidelines: http://www.ncte.org/journals/rte/write
Still have questions? Drop us a line at the RTE Journal office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cherokee word ᏍᎦᏚᎩ /sgadugi/ means roughly "State" (pictured here in the fourth word of the sign marking the entrance to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK). This word has its root in the Cherokee word ᎦᏚᎩ /gadugi/ means roughly, people coming together and working. This tribal ethic of community effort toward a shared greater good has a long history in the Cherokee tribe. It describes work teams formed at Baptist churches to support widows, orphans, or organize socials. Notice the addition that Ꮝ /s/ at the beginning of the word? That one morpheme, Ꮝ /s/, makes the activity of Cherokee people working together into something larger, a governmental structure.
In this one word, with the addition of one syllable Ꮝ /s/, a set of activities is described, that become valued over time as cultural norms, that then become institutionalized into government structures. In like fashion, the morpheme /ment/ is added to the activity of /govern/ to form the noun we think of as state. But in the English word /government/, working together is, well, less and less part of the action, if it ever was to begin with.
This snippet of linguistic analysis of a Cherokee word serves two purposes. More than just an amusing commentary on the sorry state of US National politics, it points to the close, mutually sustaining, relationships between language and thought <<—>> culture and change.
Take a look at the elegantly designed research Lera Boroditsky at Stanford University has been doing. She's beginning to put to rest circular debates about which which influences which, language or thought. More than this, her research suggests how language and thought fundamentally shape the ways people see the world and themselves in it.
What is meaningful to us linguistically structures our lives meaningfully.
As English continues to be valued as the global lingua franca, the potential loss of more meaningful ways of structuring our lives, cultures, and thought becomes apparent. Yes, Walter, the decolonial imperative is here, urging all peoples to speak, read, and write in languages more than English. When learning one Cherokee morpheme can change how citizens understand rights, duties and obligations to work together to govern ourselves, think of what can be changed by learning more.
"You must be in culture shock, right?" Miss Hass's teaching intern meant well. My steely look somehow convinced her to go on: "I mean coming to this place must be so different." She knew I had just arrived from upstate New York the month before to sit in the first class of my senior year at San Bernadino High School. Picture Ally Sheedy in the Breakfast Club anticipating Winowa Rider in Beetlejuice— that was me. Grim. Disengaged. Pissed at the world.
When our rust-belt poverty resulted in a second eviction notice in 4 years, Mom read this as an invitation to southern California's sun-belt opportunity. So we packed what we could into a UHAUL (sleeping accommodations on the roof), and we drove the 2673 miles from Corning, New York to 29 Palms, California. My brother, a Marine stationed there, put us up until we could get on our feet. Mom found us a home in San Bernardino a few months later, and I began my senior year of high school, the only white looking, punk girl in my English class. These superfacial differences aside, I was checked out of school, felt under-challenged, and dropped out for a month or so before eventually going back to finish.
I began to resolve my culture shock after two years of working at the Jack in the Box on Baseline and Waterman. I enrolled full time in California State University, San Bernadino and worked my way through, mostly in fast food and retail for 25-30 hours a week. Enrolling in classes (in the days before computer enrollment) involved standing in long lines on the day your name came into the established queue. They let students into the gymnasium fifty at a time. Tables were arranged in a circle by department around the gym's outside foul line. We raced from table to table, asked for a class, and secured a 3x5 enrollment card for the class. As an open enrollment university, CSUSB had too many students fighting for limited space in classes. One quarter of not getting the classes needed meant more tuition, more time to degree, more work and increased our frenzy.
When I did get into classes, my writing was awful: fragmented thinking led to equally fragmented writing. Ideas dolloped on the page like layers of a bean dip. With similes about that bad. But I loved reading, and words helped me make sense of my experience. So I began paying attention to the writers who were turning phrases in ways that made sense to me. I went through more writing styles than Madonna identities. Eventually, during my junior and senior years when classes got smaller, a few encouraging professors listened to what I was trying to say and I began to improve.
That last year of high school and first years of college were so daunting. Campuses bigger than my hometown. So many languages and me only able to speak English, a little book Spanish. All the time feeling the outsider. But the people in it with me were so kind, and most were in the same boat, or fresh off one. We'd come to Southern California looking for stability: food on the table, a safe home, decent clothes on our back, and we were willing to work hard for that chance to do better— even with our episodes of alienation and disengagement.
Over the years, that idea of culture shock has begun to make more sense to me as a teacher and learner. It has influenced my faculty development workshops and teaching philosophy.
More importantly, culture shock as a theory, can help us make sense of the struggles that come with loss and migration. It can help us put words to the foreignness of coming to a new country, region, or college. It can help us tell the stories behind the steely looks. Professor Cheryl Caesar developed a site that does just this. Students writing for this site voice their struggles when coming to a place like Michigan State University, help each other find resources, and share their stories. Click on the image below or visit: caitlah.cal.msu.edu/divein.
My husband, Felix Gonzalez-Goenaga, and I sit each morning with our first cup of coffee and talk. This morning's topic was typical: why are people who question and challenge unchecked capitalism considered terrorists? We'd been debating the (f)utility of the "death by a thousand paper cuts" tactic. Apparently, Thomas and Lisa Eilertson have filed more than $250 billion in liens against the sheriffs, county clerks, and judge who played a role in evicting them from their foreclosed property. Mr. Eilertson told a New York Times reporter that "his actions were an effort to fight back against corrupt banks that had handed of the couple's mortgage time after time and whose top executives never faced consequences for their actions." To call the Eilertson's tactic, as the F.B.I has, a form of "paper terrorism" is to deny a legitimate, if ill-aimed, act of civil disobedience.
While I'm not endorsing their tactic (they were shooting the messengers), I do appreciate their struggle against the banks. Why didn't the Eilertsons file their liens against the bank executives and mortgage companies? I think there might be something to this tactic if it were aimed at those truly responsible for this situation.
The tools we use to identify and fight injustice are tied to the discourses of institutions meant to serve and protect. Felix understands first-hand what it means to take on an institution in and on its terms. He describes here how he successfully sued in a federal court for his right to citizenship due to him under the Cuban Adjustment Act. To file this suit, he named the Attorney General of the United States along with several other high-ranking immigration services representatives. It may seem as though he was aiming his arrows at the sun: how many people do you know sue the Attorney General? But he won his case. He identified the right players and used the language of the courts to secure his right to citizenship.
To the Mr and Mrs. Eilertsons of the world, then, identify the real culprits here for your financial ruin and eviction: the banks and mortgage counselors who wouldn't refinance your home with all the free money the Fed has been lending them. You wouldn't be terrorists in my book.
November 11, 2013 the nation recognized your service in our wars as it does every year. This day and your service has new layers of meaning for me-- it's one day closer to the one-year anniversary of my nephew, Sgt. Steven D. Hallenbeck's, death by his own hand. He returned from tours in the Persian Gulf having been through a number of blasts that left him with more than a few concussions and PTSD. A depression developed that hung over him for the few years after he was honorably discharged. His sleep deprivation never healed. He tried school and graduated to find no employment. He tried finding a love. Had a few hobbies. Photography. Video games. What he needed was purpose, consistent help from the VA (every time he got a good doc, s/he would rotate out), and a place to tell his story.
NPR reports that the US federal government estimates that 22 discharged service members take their own lives everyday. 22. A day.
I can only begin to understand the hell my nephew experienced. I happened to have a concussion at the same time he did (mine from domestic violence, different story, another time). We compared notes. Startle at little things? Check. Can't sleep. Check. Emotions running amock in 2.5 seconds. Check. Hard time focusing? Check. Dizzy? Check. It became a joke between us. Who could make the other sicker quicker? He'd wear a heavily patterned Hawaiian shirt to activate my vertigo. Well played. I'd sneak up behind him and nearly get myself hit. Good times. And he told me stories. Stories so heavy, so horrible I can only imagine how anyone could maintain a sense of innocence or faith in humanity to have witnessed them.
The flashbacks were the worst we agreed. A glass of drinking water could trigger one of his. His eyes would widen with the horror he'd seen coming into a village. Everyone, every animal, dead. The skin and bones survivor who walked up to them? Steve thought he'd want food. He just gestured at their camel packs. Gasping with dry sobs. Someone handed him a bottle of water. He took a sip. More sobbing, gesturing at all of the bodies, and finally pointing to the well. The villiage's water supply had been poisoned. "I can't just see a glass of water and go on my way as though it's nothing." And it's stories like these that need to be told, I tried to convince him. "But who am I? So many others were through so much worse."
Please, please tell us your stories. Every one of your stories counts. Tell your families especially. We need to understand. Please share with us online, in audio files, on youtube. Make videos, like the one Logan Stark did "For the 25." Write editorials and for magazines like Col. Zoltan Krompecher. Post a comment below and share. I promise I'm listening. And if you're in the Ingham country, MI area, please let Adva Ringle (former Israeli solider) and I know how we can help you share your stories. Only you can help each other, your families, and the rest of us really understand what you've experienced as veterans.
A complicated man, my father William Jerry Cushman lived a life disciplined in his quest to find a closeness to God. As long as my siblings and I could remember, our father asked us to say nightly prayers in front of a statue of the child of Prague. The Prague prayer we recited included this excerpt from Mathew 7.7. "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." He taught us through his everyday actions later in his life to pursue our best selves, to carry the light of God in our hearts and show this light in each gesture. He taught us, by deed, to seek to comfort others, to teach, to doctor, to help others pursue their goals, to make gifts, to work hard--- to seek ways in which we could help make this world and those around us better.
Dad infused his spirituality with a "waste not, want not" attitude. He enjoyed fully and gave thanks daily for the wonders of God's grace: from the amazing view at the top of a hill, birds he could name by the dozen, a savory cookie made by a dear friend or daughter, a good cigar with his sons, ribs with a friend. He understood these to be blessings, each and every one.
My father's devotion to the teachings of the Catholic church were everywhere present in his daily actions. Perhaps this devotion was both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. It certainly was his greatest struggle. Catholic doctrine seems to have played some role in his troubled relationship with women. With daily reflection, prayer, and thoughtfulness, he tried to do unto to others, to find peace, to let go of the things he could not control, to accept those things beyond his control, to forgive, and to figure out how to love women. The more I reflect on his life and the meaning it has for me, the more I begin to make sense of his struggle.
Just before his stroke, my father, perhaps knowing his time on this earth was short, asked me what it was he taught us kids. I reassured him he had taught us much. But taking Mathew 7.7 together with my dad's waste-not-want-not attitude, I begin to see the path my father took as he asked and received, sought and found, knocked and entered:
One way ᏍᏏᏉᏯ /Sequoyah/ went about convincing Cherokees to adopt the syllabary was to write letters to friends who had removed to the Arkansas territory in the mid 1820's. When his friends replied to him using the syllabary, all doubts about its usefulness were laid to rest. Cherokees, without mass education and print, became fluent in reading and writing using the 86-character syllabary within three years. Sequoyah's invention provided an immediate and lasting decolonial alternative to the imperialist imperative of alphabetic writing — the more Cherokee writing traveled across distances, the more value it accrued, and the more it secured a lasting legacy of Cherokee story, history, and language.
Traveling, translanguaging, migrating, organically growing and restoring— these longstanding and ongoing movements of language and literacy and the circulations of value that accrue (or do not accrue) from these movements reveal the global forces still shaping languages and literacies in people’s lives and communities. The outstanding articles in this, the inaugural issue of Mary Juzwik's and my editorship of Research in the Teaching of English, collectively testify to readers’ and writers’ ongoing struggles to achieve, make meaning, rewrite histories, and realize hope in everyday acts of linguistic perseverance.
Click here to read more from the introduction to this issue.
Click here to receive a complimentary copy of Vicki Purcell Gates's article.
Many thanks to the tremendous authors, reviewers, the RTE team, and the NCTE team for all you've done to make this first issue possible.
Presented to the Cherokee tribal council in 1821, Sequoyah's invention of this 86 character writing system is what Walter Mignolo might call epistemic de-linking. When it was invented in longhand, none of the characters resembled alphabetic characters (click on the image to check out the longhand characters on the left side of each cell).
Sequoyah seems to have understood the power of writing in the alphabet. He had seen letters, books, the bible, and had signed a treaty all before finalizing his creation. Interviews with him and second-hand accounts from relatives revealed that he had tried out a number of symbolic systems before he settled on the syllabary as we know it.
From the jump, Sequoyah ruptured the colonial work of literacy, that is, reading and writing with the letter to show you're learned and civilized. He developed a completely unique writing system that works in and on Cherokee language and logics. “One strategy of de-linking is to de-naturalize concepts and conceptual fields that totalize A reality” (Mignolo Delinking 459). Because it was intentionally made without reference to the alphabet, along the instrumental logics of Cherokee designs and language, the invention of the Cherokee syllabary denaturalized the concept of literacy— it's no longer just about the letter.
Despite the tremendous pressure at the time to adopt western writing and/or alphabetic orthographies for writing native languages, Sequoyah single-highhandedly ruptured the conceptual fields of civilization, humanity, and knowledge associated with what it means to be literate, "lettered," as in knowledgeble and learned. Ironically, when the tribe was said to have learned the new script in 3 years, they were widely praised as newly 'litearte,' (thus civilized), even though they were writing in characters and reading and writing Sequoyan.
His invention was the initial rupture that changed the terms of the conversation about what it meant, indeed what it means, to be literate. It's only fitting that the first entry for this blog be about such an important American Indian activist and change agent in American history.
Models of change, change agents, teaching, learning, expressive tools, and everyday struggles for dignity, resources, respect, and cultural perseverance.