Schools are a complicated place. We often theorize about the public, public policy, public transportation, public news alert, but most of our time is spent away from the public, in some structured and defined space that we determine the parameters of. When there is an intersection of people, with varying investments, interests, levels of development and power, the public encompasses the masses. Public schools are one of the last remaining vestiges of such a public.
Schools hold the hopes and dreams of many, theoretically. Yet when described by those forced to strive towards such hopes and dreams, they would describe it as a place of torment, stress, subjugation, the overlords weighing them down with monotony, compliance holds, and boredom. The adults in this public can be seen in as much of a contradiction as dreams sought out through the task of tedium.
In one corner of the ring, teachers can be powerless to the macro system via state budgets, exams, textbooks, administration, regimentation or lack of. In the other corner, teachers are limbs of the system of oppression, reproducing social inequalities at the behest of hegemony. In the next, teachers are martyrs devoting their whole selves to the students, sacrificing their own time, money, and sanity for the success of other people’s children. And finally, in the last corner, teachers are whining louses, nursing at the teet of the state, trying to work the least, all the while sucking it dry.
Teachers have multiple bosses to report to and appease. They have the actual bureaucracy: administrators in the building, the HR downtown that runs the paperwork, the superintendent whose broom can sweep in near monthly change. They have the daily customers/products/participants/partners – the students – who the teacher’s first obligation is to serve. Students then of course come with family. Family that has their own histories with education and more dreams wrapped up in that young person than all the others combined. The public at large always casts evaluations on teachers, providing them with ways to improve – like longer school days, eradication of unions, ipads in every classroom or wait no cell phones in the classroom. And to whom does the teacher feed of this hungry medusa?