Sunday, May 12, 2013

Was #JeffBliss disrespectful for using his #StuVoice to demand a beyond-the-packet education?

By now, you've probably seen the video of high school student Jeff Bliss demanding an end to what he calls "packet teaching." Instead he puts out a call to action for teachers to work to touch the hearts of kids to open their minds. The interaction was ignited when his teacher told him to stop his bitching about the test and kicked him out of class. A student flipped open the cell phone, caught his reaction on tape, and published it. It hit a chord with many and went viral, being viewed by millions around the globe.

As Jeff shared his frustration, his teacher saw no value in his wisdom and told him that he was wasting her time. When he responds, she apathetically silences him, tells him again to leave and informs him he is not welcome back.
 

What surprised me more than this teacher's dismissal of a young man so passionate about the education of himself and others, was that there were so many people who thought Jeff Bliss was the one being disrespectful.

Wait! What????

As I recently expressed during a weekly Student Voice chat on Twitter, here's my thinking about how we should view students.
And this resonates with students.
When a teacher tells a young man frustrated about being robbed of his education that he should stop bitching and stop wasting her time, how on earth can we be focused on the student being the one that is showing disrespect?

Our school system is here to support children in learning. Most of us are aware that very few students learn well with "packet teaching," yet it remains.

Criticism of Jeff Bliss in social media and the mainstream press indicate he could have gone about this a different way.

They say he should have addressed her privately.
  • This makes NO sense. It was the teacher who called him out and kicked him out publicly in front of the class.
They say he should have gone to the principal or school board.
  • I'm sure he will, but at the time, he was responding to the woman who told him to stop bitching and kicked him out of class for voicing his frustration.
They say he should know the politics of education and know this is the fault of those beyond the teacher.
  • It is not the job of students to know the politics of education. It is their right to learn and to observe their freedom of speech when this right is being withheld. 
They say he robbed his classmates of an education by disrupting the class.
  • No. No. No. Students speaking to their teachers about how they learn best is not robbing anyone of an education. It is an opportunity for everyone to put down the packet, talk, think, and discuss how they can best learn. Students can fill in bubbles anytime, anywhere. A class is a place for interaction and discussion.
They say he shouldn't have addressed the teacher because she was just doing what she was told.
  • We should not silence students who are telling their teachers they can't learn they way they teach. Students should be able to speak with their teachers and teachers should listen. When they do they will find there is something valuable they can learn.
I commend Jeff Bliss for standing up for himself and all the other students who deserve a beyond-the-packet education.

Our children are not our future. They are the voices we need TODAY. Our job is to listen and support them. When they say they can't learn the way we are teaching (or not teaching in this case) we must hear them and do what we can to ensure they receive the education they deserve. When we do that we will have citizens who are not just good at sitting down and filling in packets but standing up and filling our world with those who are empowered with embrace their right to change the world.

You can like Jeff Bliss's Facebook Page here and follow him on Twitter here.

Oh, wait. Before you go, check out this great remix of Jeff Bliss's inspirational words.

12 comments:

  1. His sentiments were perfect; maybe he could have refrained from using the word "frigging/fricking" but as far as I can see that's it. And of course the teacher maybe should not use the word "bitching."

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  2. I think Jeff's words were practically perfect. They spill over into disrespect when he offers to come back and tell the teacher more--but obviously, the teacher had already disrespected him, and her dismissive non-engagement, in my opinion, deserved disrespect.

    I have been a student in a public school, a teacher in a public school, a parent of children dealing with public school, and a homeschooling mom; from all my experiences, I cannot understand why people are defending a teacher who doesn't engage with students but merely passes out packets of worksheets. If the teacher had been at that moment administering the standardized test, she would've been "just following orders," but she was apparently prepping the kids for the test. And are administrators really telling teachers these days: "Hey, you have to prepare students for the tests. Please, assemble some packets of materials, and pass them out. Don't try to explain the materials or motivate the kids to do well; don't even engage with students if they ask questions or complain." No, of course administrators are not doing any such thing. Administrators, as well as students and parents, want vibrant, energetic teachers who truly care about students; they want teachers to really engage with the kids and the material.

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    Replies
    1. As a teacher, I can tell you there are MANY districts who are doing exactly that. In fact, they assemble the packets, purchase the script, and hand it to their teachers. They then say you will do this page, on this day, up to number 8. And if you don't? You will not have a job. I'm blessed that I teach in an amazing district which is nothing like that but I have many, many friends who teach in "packet districts". And the worst part? Many times the packets are test prep for math or ELA and teachers in other content areas are given the prep packets and forced to give up science or history time while students complete the "prep". It's an atrocity, but rarely do teachers have control over it in districts like that. (I don't know if that's the case here, but a little digging points towards it being district-mandated).

      That's the problem. All eyes are on the teacher, but it seems that the test prep packets were a district mandate.

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  3. I totally support Mr. Bliss's sentiments! I'm using his video in a webinar for new teachers on the topic of How to Obtain and Use Student Feedback. Had the teacher established a learning environment that allowed criticism, even of the teacher, she would have had a much easier time.

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  4. Lisa,

    I love how you put this! I, like you, totally agree with what Jeff had to say about "packet" education. As a current graduate student I have some of the same frustrations with the college education system. The American education system has no care for the students! Yes there are those educators who do care, but my experience is that those are few and far in between. I can't believe people are asking him to deal with it differently! Go to the school board? Will that change anything? I don't think it would of, but a viral video that exposes flaws in the education system can help drive more change than any other method.

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  5. I think and I hope Jeff Bliss reaction is a signal to other students and parents that they should voice out their frustration regarding the problems we can see in the education system.His global audience proves that things should and will change in education.

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  6. Lisa,

    Thanks for this great post. I think this is a situation that makes many teachers uncomfortable. But his words reverberate with me. In response to friends talking to me about the video, I also crafted a quick post. http://www.bethedistraction.org/2013/05/thank-you-jeff-bliss-truth-goes-viral.html.

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  7. I think we need to be careful to realize that we saw an ugly incident in the context of a year's worth of classes. We don't know how he has acted on a day to day basis, we don't really know how she has taught. We didn't even hear her say he was "bitching", so maybe he made put that in his own words. And I am a little sensitive about students recording secretly what happens in the classroom. It allows things, like this, to be taken out of context.

    That being said, if what he said was true about her "packet" teaching, then yes, he has a right to be frustrated. But an eye for an eye makes the world go blind.

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  8. Ms. Nielsen,

    ----------------------
    “When a teacher tells a young man frustrated about being robbed of his education that he should stop bitching and stop wasting her time, how on earth can we be focused on the student being the one that is showing disrespect?”
    ----------------------

    1) We can be focused on two things at once. I hope your mode of operation in the classroom wasn’t along the lines of, “Only one person can be at fault at a time, so one of you two is guilty and the other is innocent!”

    2) We have no idea how the teacher has treated Mr. Bliss to that point or how Mr. Bliss treated the teacher to that point. She remained very calm (and arrogantly dismissive), at one point even saying, “I respect your…” before being shouted down (again) by Mr. Bliss, who was on stage and in full performance-preaching mode.

    For all you or I know, this impassioned “frickin’” lecturing was Mr. Bliss’s go-to all year. Or maybe he’s been a polite and well-spoken man all year and this was his one blow-up point after constant bullying from a mean teacher.

    We have almost no context at all, and we will never hear anything but Mr. Bliss’s side of the story because, of course, teachers are muzzled. And due to attitudes like yours, teachers are expected to accept being objects of open scorn and derision not only in the public sphere but even in their own classrooms.

    Another problem is the idea that being given packets is being “robbed of an education”. This is based on the idea that “packet-learning” is unworkable and that it doesn’t mean the students’ learning styles.

    Learning styles are a myth.

    The concern isn’t that her teaching of the content is insufficient, but that she is not adequately motivating sophomores in high school about world history. A class that features an 18-year-old sophomore does not house many students who walk in brimming with learning verve and curiosity.

    The teacher’s crime isn’t that she is robbing the students of an education; the existence of the packet is evidence that. What she is “robbing” them of is an inspirational figure who will reverse the previous 10 years of their collective raising and education.

    Her crime is not being a superhero and instead being a human being who, like Jeff Bliss, revolts against perpetual indignity.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for a thoughtful response. Here are my thoughts.

      ==1) We can be focused on two things at once. I hope your mode of operation in the classroom wasn’t along the lines of, “Only one person can be at fault at a time, so one of you two is guilty and the other is innocent!”==

      No. I wasn’t focused on who was at fault. I was focused on a student who was trying to express himself being silenced.

      ==2) We have no idea how the teacher has treated Mr. Bliss to that point or how Mr. Bliss treated the teacher to that point. She remained very calm (and arrogantly dismissive), at one point even saying, “I respect your…” before being shouted down (again) by Mr. Bliss, who was on stage and in full performance-preaching mode.==

      The reaction is to how a young man is being treated in the moment. He was being silenced when trying to share his frustrations and desire to be taught the way he and others learn.

      ==For all you or I know, this impassioned “frickin’” lecturing was Mr. Bliss’s go-to all year. Or maybe he’s been a polite and well-spoken man all year and this was his one blow-up point after constant bullying from a mean teacher. We have almost no context at all, and we will never hear anything but Mr. Bliss’s side of the story because, of course, teachers are muzzled. ==

      Teachers can be muzzled. Teachers can speak out. There are numerous educator blogs that can and do share educator voice. In fact The Innovative Educator happens to be one that does this regularly.

      ==And due to attitudes like yours, teachers are expected to accept being objects of open scorn and derision not only in the public sphere but even in their own classrooms.==

      Attitudes like mine? You have cited nothing that I have written that indicates I believe teachers should be objects of scorn. I believe student, just like teachers, and parents deserve to be heard.

      ==The concern isn’t that her teaching of the content is insufficient, but that she is not adequately motivating sophomores in high school about world history. A class that features an 18-year-old sophomore does not house many students who walk in brimming with learning verve and curiosity.==

      Fortunately, many educators think differently and know that an 18-year-old sophomore can indeed be brimming with learning verve and curiosity. It’s possible this is not draw out sitting at desks being handed packets and that is exactly what Bliss was reponding to.

      ==The teacher’s crime isn’t that she is robbing the students of an education; the existence of the packet is evidence that. What she is “robbing” them of is an inspirational figure who will reverse the previous 10 years of their collective raising and education.==

      We don’t need teachers or classrooms to get packets of information in the 21st century. A student is indeed being robbed of an education if the classroom provides nothing more than can be pulled from the internet.

      ==Her crime is not being a superhero and instead being a human being who, like Jeff Bliss, revolts against perpetual indignity.==

      The heart of this post is not the teacher. It is about all of us taking the time to hear students and honor their voice.

      Delete
  9. I finally had some time to put my thinking down. Much longer response here:

    Is It the Teacher or the System? http://wp.me/p7pAV-11K

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  10. Thanks Lisa - why do I feel conflicted? Reform? YES!! Jeff's style? NO!! I know he was speaking up for an injustice that seemed to be unheard in that classroom. But as the son of 2 retired school teachers, I know my parents do not empathize with the student whatsoever. But they do not defend poor teaching either (they were both innovative teachers whom I think you would enjoy!) So, yes, I'm a bit conflicted. As you suggested I do (via Twitter @schoolmktg), I wrote about this, too: http://yourschoolmarketing.com/2013/holiday/was-jeff-bliss-right-to-rant/

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