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Started by ddeubel in Websites / links / access to new resources / communities.. Last reply by Nadeem Nawaz Jul 16, 2019. 102 Replies

We are now in our 3rd edition of "Site of the Day"! Hundreds of the best sites for teaching/learning. See #1 and…Continue

Tags: collection, list, web 2.0, resources, websites

ABCs - Alphabet Resources or Ideas?

Started by NEWS NOW in Teaching and Methodology. Last reply by Amelia Meirizka Jun 20, 2019. 73 Replies

I guess the alphabet is our bread and butter.Got any good ideas for teaching it or using it…Continue

Tags: children, abc, kids, phonics, reading

Learning Designs

Started by Elise in Teaching and Methodology Mar 27, 2019. 0 Replies

I was wondering what you all thought of learning designs pertaining to English language teaching? What are the ways in which you design your lessons to achieve better learning in your students?Continue

A NEW way to teach PHRASAL VERBS so that your students understand and remember them

Started by Andromeda Jones in Teaching and Methodology Dec 31, 2018. 0 Replies

Phrasal verbs are a verb + preposition, adverb or particle. Teaching…Continue

Tags: prepositions, teach, verbs, phrasal


Being a "subversive" teacher.

Postman and Weingartner in Teaching as a subversive activity talk of subversion being even a tiny act, even as tiny an act as thinking about who you are as a teacher. Subversion begins there, in that kernel of self truth.

They asked teachers,

Why do you teach?

I can control people.
I can tyrannize people.
I have captive audiences.
I have my summers off.
I love seventeenth-century non-dramatic Elizabethan literature.
I don't know.
The pay is good, considering the amount of work I actually do.

Obviously, none of these answers is very promising for the future of our children. But each in its way is a small act of positive subversion because it represents a teacher's honest attempt to know himself. The teacher who recognizes that he is interested, say, in exercising tyrannical control over others is taking a first step toward subverting that interest. But the question - 'Why am I a teacher, anyway?' also produces answers that are encouraging: for example, that one can participate in the making of intelligence and, thereby, in the development of a decent society. As soon as a teacher recognizes that this is, in fact, the rearm he became a teacher, then the subversion of our existing educational system strikes him as a necessity. As we have been vying to say: we agree.

I think teachers, especially those in any leadership capacity, have to start thinking about "subversion" differently. It is the small steps that count in reforming education, not the grand pronouncements and sweeping reforms. It is our own acts before and among our students and colleagues that matter.

How do you subvert the system, in your own little way? How do you keep "sane" and keep "counting" despite a system that stamps approval and keeps the emphasis on product and not process?

Let me list the ways I do....

1) I always ask probing, challenging questions when I can. Each and every opportunity, even forsaking the "lesson" and the "book". Who cares about Unit 2, exercise 3 - "The Family". It can wait. Let's ask why there aren't any colored people in the book or let me relate how I was adopted and how complicated my own family roots are....

2) Every student gets an A. I follow the Benjamin Zander (see video below) school of assessment. If admin asks me to tweek, I will, but ever so slightly and softly.

3) Standards? My standard is the twinkle in student's eyes and that they "know that they are knowing". It isn't how high but HOW, plain and simple.

4) I talk to colleagues and share information and resources. I make my teaching transparent and my classroom door is always open. I even run out and drag in people from time to time....

5) Paperwork gets done, no more and no less. I refuse to package it or throw a ribbon around it. Let nothing be cosmetic and let my desk be a mess. Paperwork comes last, my time in the classroom comes first.

6) Student choice. I always give choice. If the curriculum says talk about shopping and students are talking about P.Diddy - I don't give a diddy. They are practicing their English.

7) Taking detours.....see most of the above comments. The learning happens on the off beaten tracks and as we get lost and rediscover our own path through the woods to grandmother's house.

8) I don't get concerned if students are off task (so long as they aren't bothering others). Of course, I try to motivate them and urge them on and get them engaged. But if that fails, I don't give a damn if they just chill out. It is their life - they are responsible for it. That's a big lesson I try to season my lessons with constantly.

What about you? Any ways you subvert the system, big or small. Any ways you break out of the matrix?

If you liked this post - you may enjoy "Are you a Subversive Teacher" (get pdfs of Postman and Illych's seminal books/readings)

Downloads: 46

Comment by Ellen Pham on June 21, 2010 at 6:57am
I just saw this post, David... June 17th (Adele's b-day) must have been my missing day : )

I got a big smile on my face on #8- me too! But for me it's always been, who am I to demand 100% compliance on anything? I mean really... have I ever complied 100% to anything or anybody? Do I know what's best for everyone in the room 100% of the time? I don't even know that for myself!

I understand those that enjoy, even relish being under the teacher's wing. With children, there's probably a good reason for it- they need that feeling of being covered. But the kid who isn't listening or on task is a twinkle in the corner of my eye. Even when frustrated, I appreciate it. It keeps me on my toes... it keeps me reflective, is it something I am doing/not doing? Does this child need a different kind of instruction? What would that look like, what would that be?... and it reminds me that I am not, despite the expectations of administrators, the center of the universe in the classroom! (I am a center of the universe, I just have to share that spot with 29 others :D)

I would probably become unbearable if it wasn't for these persistent reminders that some children so generously give me.. hey, I just thought of something. If/when I do get back into a regular 4/5 classroom, I can say to that child, Look, you are giving me gray hairs! Another plus to being on the other side of fifty : )

But, and this is a big one. Some administrators cannot tolerate an unwillingness to use tyranny to get that 100% compliance. It doesn't work to make yourself as unassuming as possible, it doesn't work to have the love and respect of the parents in the class, it doesn't work to have a peaceful and happy classroom that is performing as well as any other class (while being happy). From my difficult experience, it doesn't matter how hard you try to get along with that administrator, because they can't tolerate your very presence. It drives them nuts.

If you have a tough skin, maybe you can wait them out. But if you are vulnerable when you teach, best to move on no matter how attached you are to other aspects of the job.

Comment by ddeubel on June 21, 2010 at 7:56am

You say it much better than me! Bang on and that is my thinking also - but yeah, I wish admin/parents/even other students were more understanding about how we should be "human" and nurture intrinsic desire.

That's why I'm a big advocate of Summerhill or Sudbury schools . Kids learn because they love learning -- they've found that given the choice of sitting around playing computer games (the mind numbing, shooting kind) or doing experiments or learning about how to make a radio - kids choose the later for the most part. But there are times when they do want to "chill" and that's human.

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