The Changing Role of the Secondary Educator

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The Changing Role of the Secondary Educator

Teaching high school in the late twentieth century is a complex matter. As a secondary English teacher, my classroom is much more than discussions of novels, plays, poems, and the memorization of numerous grammar rules. The high school has become a site of contention: it's where students make decisions that create their futures. The educational system/community expects secondary teachers to find a happy medium between the order and disorder found in both the elementary/middle schools and the worlds of college and beyond. This essay discusses how knowledge and power are created, communicated, and eventually assessed in secondary classrooms. High school teachers often rely on a highly structured environment for fear that any attempt at providing students with pedagogical freedom will result in classroom chaos or anarchy. I ague that it is necessary for teachers to break from this structural binary of discipline. When they engage in radical pedagogies they create spaces for dialogic learning and the possibility for change.

This essay is a result of many important influential forces on my professional life: teaching high school in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the writings of John Dewey, and the radical and critical pedagogies expressed by Paulo Freire, Henry A. Giroux and others. I will first provide a bit of personal background--my learning experience in high school, and the shortcomings I have seen in it. I will then use John Dewey's essay, "The Education Situation: As Concerns Secondary Education" to provide a historical framework to my study. Next, I will examine how classroom management (discipline) affects students' learning. Finally, using recent work in critical and radical...

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