A Round-Table Discussion on Teaching, Learning, and Power

A community conversation on the power dynamics in education.

May 3, 2012

Download Story
Participants were invited to view a series of images and add one word that came to mind.

A group of 31 teachers, students, principals, and others in education from a wide range of schools around Chicago gathered in WBEZ's Community Room for an in-depth discussion about teaching, learning, and power.

We have entered a strange and in some respects welcome cultural moment: people across Chicago and the nation are talking, writing, and even yelling about teachers and teaching. From the length of the school-day to the relative merits of teaching corps vs. traditional teachers to how best to measure student achievement teaching and learning are in the news.

But for a range of reasons and from a number of perspectives, much of this talk about teaching can seem incomplete. Too often, our talk about teaching addresses outcomes without giving enough consideration to the conditions that lead toward them. Too often, our talk about teaching and learning seems to leave actual teaching and learning out of the mix. Too often discussions of power focus solely on political power, policy-making, and the opinions of “experts", with less focus on the complexity of power dynamics or the structures that educators navigate in classrooms and communities.  

In a series of three “Teaching, Learning, and Power” discussions held at Chicago Public Media's Community Bureaus throughout March 2012, the Center for Civic Reflection (formerly known as the Project on Civic Reflection), through their special program called the Teachers’ Inquiry Project, partnered with WBEZ to create opportunities for teachers to explore the conditions that make learning possible. This recorded conversation was a culminating event to the discussion series, which aimed to explore this large concept of power in an educational context:  How do we understand power?  How does power arise in teaching and learning environments?  What do we have control over — and what do we not have control over — in our educational work? 

"I often feel like I have to sell the value of education to students, and the value of my work to the rest of the world. Often its about going to college so that you can get a job so that you can participate in this consumerism, and its not necessarily about the value of learning or knowledge, or the beauty of art and poetry, or understanding our past or making the connections between things."  - Linda Becker, Social Justice High School

These conversations are just a beginning of what we hope will be ongoing conversations, among teachers, students, and other decision-makers, in and beyond Chicago.

Facilitated by Kelli Covey and Adam Davis of the Center for Civic Reflection, the conversation focused on a poem, Tony Hoagland's "America" from What Narcissism Means to Me (click here to read).

To hear the complete conversation click the audio link at the top of the page.

Participants included:
Donald Abram,  Chicago Military Academy
Ira Abrams, Chicago Military Academy
Tim Barnes
Linda Becker, Social Justice High School
Becca Bernstein, Center for Civic Reflection
Asiaha Butler, Englewood CAC
Kelli Covey, Center for Civic Reflection
Brian Damacio, Social Justice High School
Adam Davis, Center for Civic Reflection
Latesha Dickerson, Englewood CAC
Shanti Elliott, Francis Parker School & Teachers’ Inquiry Project
Stephen Greenhalge, UCAN
Gin Hooks, Teach Plus Chicago
Frances Judd, Mrs. Judd’s Games
Carlos Pittella Leite, GCE Chicago
Asucena Lopez, Social Justice High School
Leandre Niyokwizera, GCE Chicago
Teresa Onstott, Social Justice High School
Kaine Osburn, Niles West High School
Katie Osgood, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital
Tim Reed, Independent Scholar
Angela Rudolph, Education Reform NOW
Art Sheridan, Mother McAuley High School
Monica Sims, Chicago Public High Schools & Teach Plus
Bill Singerman, Ancona School
Sarah Slavin, Teach Plus
Rachel Douglas Swanson, Teach Plus & CPS
John Taylor
Priscilla Vaz, GCE
Bonnie Wishne, The Ancona School
Yangyang Zong, Center for Civic Reflection

 

Files to Download