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Running head: COMPREHENSIVE IDENTITIES: WHAT IS TEACHING?

Comprehensive Identities: What is Teaching?


Lora A. Salloum
EDUC 440 Fall 2014
Assignment 4 Field Experience Paper

COMPREHENSIVE IDENTITIES: WHAT IS TEACHING?

Comprehensive Identities: What is Teaching?


Teachers are often branded with a litany of base characteristics that form the public
perception of the education sector. In experiencing firsthand two slices of K-12 academia, I have
scrutinized the origin of these descriptions, and their prescriptive powers in the classroom. Two
distinct parts of the education sector include the perception of what is a teacher, and what is
their responsibility to students; both of these questions will be answered from my experiences in
a public secondary school, and a Catholic primary school. I argue that inquiring into the selfprofessed qualities of teaching can inform the public as to what comprises actual classroom
standards. Additionally, my developing assessment of teachers allows me to draw specific
conclusions as to the nature of the human in Education, and how the current mechanized
language of Education defines classrooms that are far removed from the reality of teaching and
learning.
From Civil Servants
The Secondary Agenda
My immediate impression of secondary education is that it emulates the corporate world. In
particular, the school I examined had department divisions, weekly meetings, progress reports,
and functioned similarly to a business. From an organizational level, the school functioned as a
top-down establishment, receiving information from higher levels and dispersing them
accordingly. The only exception to this administrative function is when I caught the principal
picking up litter during lunch hour. I asked him what his intention behind this action was, and he
claimed, I want students to know that my title does not exempt me from picking up garbage
(personal communication, October 24, 2014). He attempted role-model behavior, but I believe
teachers within the school that did not follow suit contrasted his efforts. He admitted that some

COMPREHENSIVE IDENTITIES: WHAT IS TEACHING?

of his teachers could learn from his actions, and I personally witnessed several instances of
teachers getting students to complete menial tasks, as though, in business-like fashion, they
were the interns in a hierarchical system.
Additionally, as part of my two-week dive into school culture, I spent a majority of my time
interviewing teachers on their practices and reactions to occurrences both inside and outside of
the classroom. Perhaps the most revealing moment in my time at the secondary school was when
I overheard a student bragging during gym class about stealing candy from a local establishment.
I brought this information to the teacher of the class, and asked him what his specific role was as
a teacher. His answer is the following:
As much as I am their friend, I also consider my role a policing role as well. If I have even
a hint of that behavior, I consider it my responsibility to address it immediately. We are in a
privileged position at [this school] to have these establishments nearby, and therefore want to
ensure that we keep these relationships with those establishments a positive one. Although
losing a candy-bar doesnt affect their bottom line too much, I worry more about the
escalating actions that the student might take later in life. (Anonymous Teacher, personal
communication, October 20, 2014)
Some assumptions behind teaching are revealed clearly in this teachers response to an action
that occurred outside of his classroom, outside of school grounds, and beyond his job
description. I consulted the Alberta School Act, this specific schools Student Agenda, and other
administrative aids as to the legal responsibility of teachers to students outside of school
grounds, and I found these pieces of literature lacking. In the Alberta School Act (2014), the most
relevant information is that students have a liability for damage to property [] if property of a
board is destroyed, damaged, lost etc. on school grounds (p. 23). Similarly, in the Student

COMPREHENSIVE IDENTITIES: WHAT IS TEACHING?

Agenda (2014), under Behavioral Expectations, conduct that will result in suspension include:
[] theft (p. 6); however, there is no indicator that this punishment is inclusive of student
behavior that occurs off school property.
Nonetheless, how is it that these pieces of literature translate to a classroom that has teachers
claiming such strong responsibility for student behavior and needs? This dissonance reveals
Aokis (1993) Lived Curriculum (p. 258), which is a theory on the interpretation of curricula
that teachers and students experience in actual classrooms. Somehow, teaching in the secondary
level translated into corporate hierarchy, into being a friend and policing force, but also into
an encyclopedia of knowledge for any aspect of life; these key descriptors reveal a hidden
culture of teachers as comprehensive units of all social functions. In schools, teachers comprise
of every function of a civil servant, a service industry, the economics sector and more. Teachers
are doctors who diagnose students and create action plans for managing them. Teachers are
therapists who respond to student concerns both within and outside academia. Teachers are
police officers that prevent and detect crimes, and try to maintain a public order. These functions
do not necessarily exist within a code of conduct, but they are somehow present, and encouraged,
in schools.
To Civil-Natured
The Primary Journal
To an almost more concentrated degree, I witnessed the same comprehensive image of
teachers in primary school. In an online discussion, a fellow student mentioned how teaching is
often done in loco parentis, meaning, in place of the parent. Such a viewpoint on teaching
adds to the long list of job titles a teacher already juggles. Teaching as parenting was most
prevalent in my experience of primary school, from day one when the principal stated, we aim

COMPREHENSIVE IDENTITIES: WHAT IS TEACHING?

for our students to be safe, warm, fed, and happy (personal communication, October 27, 2014).
She meant this literally, and I saw several ways they enforced these aims: the school keeps all
doors locked; they keep extra coats, mittens, and scarves for under-dressed children; they raise
money and bring in funding for breakfast and lunch programs; and the school often attempts to
entertain students with school-wide literacy assemblies, dances, and game days. In a similar
fashion to secondary education, I witnessed moments when teachers went beyond school policies
to ensure every part of the students life was fulfilled. In one instance, I witnessed as a young
girls hair became progressively greasier over the week, and two days in a row she wore the
same clothing. Her clothing also indicated lower socioeconomic classes, and contained obvious
markers of being hand-me-downs, since they were ill fitting and were worn out in certain areas.
She exhibited an inability to remain calm and still in class, and upon further discussion with her
teacher, I found out that she had high level ADHD and was being improperly medicated by
divorced parents with different agendas. Her teacher has been an advocate for success in this
students life both within and outside the classroom. She is the main form of communication
between both parents, and has made this students case known to social workers.
Such examples emulate the main difference between the care and attention offered to students
by teachers in secondary and primary education. In secondary education, teachers are forms of
government, bosses, and libraries of knowledge to students. In primary education, teachers are
caregivers, and ensure childhoods are as fulfilled as possible. Perhaps the most persuasive
evidence of the function of teachers as parents in primary school is this particular schools
kindness award initiative. Every time a student commits an act of kindness, a marble is placed
in a jar at the front office, and announced to the whole school, and the school will award free
time to students when the jar becomes filled. This initiative falls under the High-Performing

COMPREHENSIVE IDENTITIES: WHAT IS TEACHING?


School conduct explained in Nielsen (2014) as a school which creates an incentive or reward
for the peer group to help control other students (pg. 6). The school used this initiative to
control students, but also to encourage a community of better children (administrative
assistant, personal communication, October 28, 2014). Altogether they foster a healthy
environment for students to feel safe.
Conclusion
Each function discussed here for both the secondary school and the primary school is outside
the realm of the classroom; and therefore, not a part of the curriculum. From civil servants, to
civil-natured, teachers do much more than deliver knowledge to students; instead, they give
students everything they might be lacking, even if it has nothing to do with Chemistry 30. If
these features are extraneous to teaching, then why are they so apparent in schools? I imagine
them to be a part of the human of education, which is a feature unscripted, ungoverned, and
unguided by any Alberta Education teaching manual. They are the real components of school
culture itself, and how that culture is defined within school settings in-apropos to actual
academia. Teachers form relationships based upon other modicums of society, proper parenting,
and friendship, and the expression of these relationships forms each schools culture. The
human of education plays such a large part of the real relationship between students and
teachers, that it demonstrates how comprehensive the role of teacher is. There is no limit to
teaching, and unlike other identities, it does not end at a certain time or place.

COMPREHENSIVE IDENTITIES: WHAT IS TEACHING?


References
Alberta, Province of. (2014). School act: Revised statutes of Alberta 2000 chapter S-3.
Edmonton, AB: Alberta Queens Printer.
Association, The Alberta Teachers. (2004). Code of professional conduct. ATA. Annual
Representative Assembly.
Aoki, T. (1993). Legitimating lived curriculum: Towards a curricular landscape of
multiplicity. Journal of curriculum and supervision. 8.3, 255-68.
Nielsen, K. (2014). An introduction to teaching, learning, and school culture for
beginning teachers. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt.
Unknown. (2014). Student agenda 2014-2015. Calgary, Alberta. Calgary Board of Education.