two big ideas came together for me today in a beautiful way:
idea 1: from the psychoanalytic standpoint, group theory suggests that students take on different roles: monopolizers, hiders, harmonizers, bullies, etc. this is natural, even useful. problems in the group arise not when kids take on roles, but when kids are always playing the same roles! if the same person is always doing all the talking, maybe at first a bunch of folks are content to sit back and let them do the heavy lifting. but eventually the group is going to get pissed because they aren't getting their say. so it's important to keep roles in the classroom (or whatever group you're leading) fluid, and how to do that is what i've been studying and thinking about lately. just trying to watch it happen is pretty cool.
idea 2: ben blum-smith made a comparison for me today between racism and the idea that some people are better at math than others. he was pointing to both as culturally insidious ideas of inequity that have maintained their strength despite obvious uselessness and inaccuracy because the structural privilege they provide benefits too many people. i couldn't quite grab onto this parallel until he explained that the benefits of the idea of mathematical talent (let's call it) aren't just to the elite mathematical class, but to anyone who has ever felt like they were smarter than someone else. ever.
that hit me harder than anything all week. and i've had a big week. is it actually true that some people are smarter than others? certainly the power of "i'm smarter than..." rang loud and clear for me. there's a lot of meat in here for me to consider, but the thing i wanted to share was this:
what makes sense to me is that kids need to experience themselves in different ways in order to learn, in order to learn how to learn, in order to get good at living. and so it's not ok for the same kid to always be the one that's good at it. who gets it. who explains it. who aces it. it's not ok for the same kid to always feel like they're just not good at it. the good at it and the not so good at it are ok, maybe, as long as those labels don't get stuck in the same place.
this idea feels like the most radical one i've ever had. that we none of us "deserve" to feel like we're smarter all the time. or that we're less smart all the time. i don't believe it, but even if someone had research to show that it was, i'd still advocate for the structural intervention of pretending that it's not.
practical applications for tomorrow:
- see kids as changing beings. really observe, listen, watch, each day with conscious but open eyes (as opposed to permanently labeling them in my own mind as high fliers and low.)
- give them lots of different kinds of things to do, and to highlight the success and struggle of everyone in those contexts, so that it's clear that there will probably always be folks in those roles, that the roles in and of themselves don't necessarily mean anything, because those roles are changing all the time.