Curriculum as Narrative and Learning Community: Part 2

Brief Description of Poem

            I chose to look further into the Gregory Michie’s article “Teaching in the Undertow: Resisting the Pull of Schooling-As-Usual.”  The topic of my poem is about focusing on our teaching dreams even though there is pressure to conform to the mainstream practices.  I choose to create a sestina poem because of the intricate structure.  A sestina poem has 39 lines, with 6 main stanzas and an envoi.  A sestina highlights 6 main words, which are placed at the end of each line.  The ending words are dispersed in an ABCDEF, FAEBDC, CFDABE, ECBFAD, DEACFB, BDFECA, ECA pattern, throughout each stanza respectively.  My focus words are: “dreams,” “means,” “common streams,” “teams,” “oppressive regimes,” and “mainstream.”  The repetition of words makes the theme very prominent.  Each stanza represents a theme found in Michie’s article: stanza one introduces the topic, stanza two highlights our teaching dreams, stanza three outlines the importance of finding an ally, stanza four mentions the importance of starting small, stanza five talks about questioning our practices and balancing order and control, stanza six discusses holding on to hope and the envoi concludes the dream theme.  Specific quotes from the article are used in the poem to reinforce Michie’s main advice.  My main purpose for the poem was to focus on the complexities of teaching, while ensuring the reader that we can accomplish our dreams by following specific steps and focusing on our goals.

Keep Your Eye on Your Dreams

  • The undertow of teaching can tear you from your dreams.
  • There is so much to do when you realize what teaching really means.
  • Focus on your goals, lest you catch yourself in the common stream.
  • Make “dedicated, caring” and “visionary teacher” (45) teams,
  • that question schools that “[serve] as…  oppressive” (48)  regimes.
  • Hold on to hope and break away from the mainstream.
  • As educators we must do more than follow the mainstream.
  • “Active spaces,” (44) creative thoughts and inclusion are part of the dream;
  • create chances for students to “think critically” (44) and consider oppressive regimes.
  • As a new teacher, you may not have the means,
  • so “seek out allies” (45) and form community teams.
  • The undertow of teaching can be the stealthiest of streams.
  • Making connections allows you to diverge from the common streams.
  • You can even accept advice from “traditional” (45) teachers who follow the mainstream.
  • This allows for supportive, “[multi]-dimensional” (45) teams.
  • Yes, cynicism is “widely contagious” (45) but so is following your dreams.
  • Don’t use common excuses as your only means,
  • for being a “dead end… teacher” (46) who simply follows oppressive regimes.
  • “You can’t do everything you’d planned” (46) to combat oppressive regimes,
  • but starting small allows some divergence and variety in the streams.
  • Realize that you can control the environment, using it as a means
  • to value (47) all students’ thoughts and ideas and diverge from the mainstream.
  • Sometimes starting with the small things is an easy way to accomplish your dreams.
  • Decisions and representations (47) of all students create an inclusive classroom team.
  • “Question the value and effectiveness of what you are” (50) teaching as a team.
  • Don’t forget the content, the “larger context,” (49) that can support oppressive regimes.
  • The bias in textbooks and the null curriculum can destroy your inclusionary dreams.
  • There is a “premium of order and control” (48) on the common stream,
  • but “[obsessing] over order and control” (49) makes us stick to the mainstream.
  • Put “your own spin on things” (47) and question what you mean.
  • Hold on to hope and “appreciate the good moments” (50) for what they mean.
  • You may face “personal limitations” but “[work] toward something better” (50) as a team.
  • Explicitly teach children about the privilege of the mainstream (49).
  • Self-examination is the first step towards combating oppressive regimes.
  • There is no set formula for the non-status quo, so if you pick this stream
  • it will not be an easy go; but it’s quite a small exchange for accomplishing your dreams.
  • Consider what being a teacher means; it’s about combatting oppressive regimes.
  • You might stumble in the wrong streams but “forgive yourself” (50) and consult your team.
  • The undertow will push you towards the mainstream, but keep your eye on your dreams.
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4 thoughts on “Curriculum as Narrative and Learning Community: Part 2

  1. THis must be hard to do. I imagine that the form though forces you to engage with the content of the piece in a meaningful way. Your explanation of the piece is important as well – it allowed me to get more out of the poem, knowing what you intended to convey. You have reinforced some crucially important (and practical) messages from this piece.

    • Yes, it was hard to do. It made me want to pull my hair out during the process. But I was happy with the end result (even with a few less hairs in my head) and feel like I understand the messages a bit better than I did before I wrote the poem.

  2. The tension between ‘order and control’ and going against the mainstream is interesting. Is it always thus? Like good classroom management always connected to the regime? I know i am being a little simplistic, but I would stress that ‘good teaching’ is a wide category and can be lived out in so many ways. Some of my favourite colleagues we also much more carefully ordered and structured in their approach and that did not have to mean that they were participating only in the mainstream.

    • I think order and control are fine. In fact, I am a very orderly person. As an inclusive educator, I think order and control are often needed to help students with varying abilities succeed. I just don’t think order and control should be the measure of success. The success of our day should not be measured by how quiet our students were. The goal is for students to learn and grow. Order and control are not only in the mainstream but I feel like the pressure to maintain order/control and to obsess over it are part of the mainstream: the belief that a good teacher has a quiet classroom. I think of the old-school teacher/drill-sergeant image. As a new teacher, this will be something that I battle and I think this will be one of the undertows of teaching that will impact me most since I am a very orderly person.

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