Saturday, June 12, 2010
Newkirk Chapters 2 & 8
The abundant research on medical decision making illluminates the responses of doctors and nurses who (like teachers) find themselves in complex environments that require far more than the application of research. In other words, each situation is, to a considerable degree, a unique experience that can't be anticipated by a preset procedure. Professionals often work in environments where "problems are interconnected, environments are turbulent, and the future is indeterminate" (Schon 1983,16). Classroom teachers will recognize this description. Classrooms are complex environments-"messes"- in which teachers must deal with uncertainty, instability, uniqueness, and completing values. It is little wonder that teachers are skeptical of guidelines and prescriptions that fail to account for this complexity.
Teachers' resistance to research and that which is termed theory by academicians comes not from a belief that this work is inaccurate-only that it is too general to be useful in the situations they find themselves. It exists at a level of abstraction that they fail to find useful as they deal with the complex "messes" of classroom life. To do their work requires a particularized, situated, child-specific, class-specific, day-specific, school-specific form of knowledge-often intuitive and unarticulated- that is rarely considered to be theory at all. In the hierarchical models of professional knowledge, this localized knowledge never has the status accorded to research or abstract theorizing. The teachers' place at the bottom of the hierarchy is secure- they deliver instruction. (pages 27-29)
Newkirk continues (in chapter eight) to consider a counter-narrative to the "heroic, exemplary self-sacrificing" teacher narrative portrayed in the media outlets such as in the movie Stand and Deliver. From a psychoanalytic perspective, these narratives present a very narcissistic image of teaching, an inflated self-presentation, even self-admiration-that leave teachers vulnerable to psychological pain when they receive criticism or experience difficulty (or feel emotions) incompatible with this self-image. And to the extent that, as a culture, we treat these depictions of selfless teaching as an ideal, those (like me) who fall short also feel inadequate, and I will argue, lose some pleasure that might come from a more realistic vision of teaching, with its small victories and small advances. (pages 159-160)
The term resonate will be used throughout the Summer Institute as a term that refers to "what strikes a chord with you". What do you agree with and what do you push back against? What resonates with you regarding Newkirks' statements on the practical applications of research/theory in the classroom and/or the "heroic, exemplary self-sacrificing" teacher narrative?