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Unsettling Education

Searching for Ethical Footing in a Time of Reform

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Edited By Brian Charest and Kate Sjostrom

Unsettling Education: Searching for Ethical Footing in a Time of Reform offers a counter-narrative to the prevailing orthodoxies of schooling and school reform that conflate education and learning with that which can be measured on state-mandated examinations. Despite the push to "settle" the purposes of teaching and schooling in ways that see education as the teaching of a discrete set of skills that align with standardized exams, there are teachers and students who continue to resist standardization and whose stories suggest there are many ways to organize schools, design curriculum, and understand the purposes of education. Unsettling Education shares stories of how teachers have resisted state and local mandates to teach to the test in dehumanizing ways, how such teachers have sought to de-commodify educational spaces, how they have enacted their ethical commitments to students and communities, and how they have theorized such practices, sometimes even reconsidering their roles as teachers and the very purposes of schooling. Volume contributors offer concrete ways in which teachers might challenge the structures of schooling to reveal the full humanity and potential of students through different forms of resistance pedagogy, institutional critiques, and critical self-reflection. Featuring a wide range of voices and contexts, the collections’ chapters blend story and theory, resulting in a volume both accessible and thought-provoking to varied audiences—from undergraduate students of education and concerned citizens to veteran educators, teacher educators, administrators, and policymakers.

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5. Pedagogies of Resistance: Reflecting on the Successes and Challenges of Humanizing Classrooms in a Time of Standardization and Accountability (Matthew Homrich-Knieling / Alex Corbitt)

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5. Pedagogies of Resistance: Reflecting on the Successes and Challenges of Humanizing Classrooms in a Time of Standardization and Accountability

MATTHEW HOMRICH-KNIELING AND ALEX CORBITT

Framing Our Teaching Contexts

Our experiences teaching in urban districts have taught us that school systems in the U.S., particularly in urban contexts, often mirror, reinforce, and maintain the systemic oppression that exists outside classroom walls. We’ve witnessed school discipline systems that reflect and funnel our students into the criminal justice system; we’ve experienced the disempowering impacts of education policy that pushes schools to prioritize standardization and test preparation over creativity and inquiry; we’ve taught in cities where an illusion of choice has left neighborhoods without schools and in competition for resources. As teachers committed to justice and equity, we have attempted to resist the historically oppressive institution of schooling and imagine new possibilities for our classrooms. Teaching for justice can be isolating, but we have found strength and direction by collaborating with each other, listening to our communities, and reflecting on the work of many esteemed educators, particularly educators of color. In this chapter, we will share our struggles and successes, and our new understandings, all with the intent of contributing to ongoing conversations about educational justice.

Matt teaches middle school English Language Arts in southwest Detroit, a neighborhood in the city that is mostly comprised of Latinx immigrants. Southwest Detroit is a close-knit, vibrant, and hardworking neighborhood, characteristics...

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