The invisibility of teachers

Re-blogging this from Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet:

P.L. Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina wrote CLASSROOM TEACHING EXPERIENCE AND WHOSE VOICE MATTERS , which Ms. Strauss re-posted on her site below.

Much of his article resonates strongly with me.  A couple of the choicer excerpts follow.

Current reform that is top-down and driven by the same historical and bureaucratic methods that have brought us to where we now stand is destined to repeat the same patterns we have already experienced for over 100 years.

Too few understand the truth in the statement above.

The current reform agenda fails to seek from teachers themselves either what the primary challenges are facing education or what credible solutions would best address those hurdles. As a result, teachers as invisible workers rebel as Ellison’s narrator does, by hibernating and embracing their autonomy and agency in ways that do not serve them, their students, or education well.

If you do not engage those who must carry out change, they will never buy into the changes.  This is such common sense it amazes me.  Those who ignore it imperil the very change they seek.  Perhaps this is the best outcome.  However, it is a grossly ineffective use of time, talent, and treasure.

There are several others I would love to include here.  However, read on and you will soon come across them yourself.


The invisibility of teachers

(AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

(AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

It’s one of the great ironies of modern school reform that the very people who you would think should have some input into policy decisions — teachers —  don’t. They are, for that purpose, invisible (though they someone wind up front and center when it comes time for reformers to find people to blame for troubled schools). P.L. Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina, writes in this post about the plight of teachers. Thomas edited the book “Becoming and Being a Teacher,” and wrote the book “Ignoring Poverty in the U.S.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Education.” This was published on his blog, the becoming radical.

By P.L. Thomas

“I am an invisible man,” announces the unnamed narrator of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, adding:

I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me….When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, of figments of their imaginations—indeed, everything and anything except me….That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of the eyes of those with whom I come in contact….you often doubt if you really exist….It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you exist in the real world, that you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it’s seldom successful.

After the reader follows the narrator along his journey from naivete and idealism to the battered realism of coming face-to-face with his invisibility, we discover that his invisibility leads to hibernation:

I’m an invisible man and it placed me in a hole—or showed me the hole I was in….So I took to the cellar; I hibernated. I got away from it all. But that wasn’t enough. I couldn’t be still even in hibernation.

Invisibility and hibernation represent well the education profession because educators are more and more rendered invisible and as a result have hibernated, literally in their rooms (shut the door and teach) and figuratively in their muted voices (teachers are to be objective, neutral, apolitical). <read more>


About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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1 Response to The invisibility of teachers

  1. Pingback: The invisibility of teachers | Reflections of a...

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