Chelsi's Educational Musings

Teacher as Peacekeeper

Posted on: November 11, 2011

Our Tuesday night EC&I 831 class featured an interesting discussion about the changing role of the educator.  Through his presentation, Stephen Downes had our class engage in thought and interaction regarding how the role of the future educator will be more than an “instructor”.  Instead, students will be instructed by what will be more aptly described as a “course team”.  There will be several roles to be filled – learning, collector, salesperson, designer, coach, mentor, sharer, and about twenty others that Stephen outlined.  (If you would like a list, please comment and I will share my notes with you.)  Stephen concluded that the role that we call “teacher” is being blown up and fragmented into roles.  In the future, there may not be the job of simply “teacher,” as Stephen feels that society at large will become more of a teacher, and what is now known as “teacher” will be too large of a job for one person to fulfill.  Thus, he feels that teachers should find one role in which to specialize, because no one can fulfill every role.  In the future, he feels that teaching will be a collaborative process by people in these roles working together to educate, both in the real world and online.

Now, I had initially planned to blog about my thoughts about this future of education (which, in my opinion, is somewhat unsettling to me.  However, that is only because, as I blogged before, I would find this loss of control and this delegation of duties somewhat uncomfortable.  However, SHARING [the common theme in this class!] the duties of a teacher with several others would definitely lighten the load that teachers today face.)  However, I witnessed something transpiring on my Facebook account that seemed apropos to this week’s discussion.

For those of you living outside of Saskatchewan, on Monday night was our provincial election.  The New Democratic Party (NDP) was the clear choice among teachers, as under our current governing party, The Saskatchewan Party, teachers were locked in a bitter battle over their expired contract and the government’s inability to offer the raise that teachers were hoping for.  Needless to say, when election day rolled around, few teachers were supporting the Sask Party.  When the results were in, the Sask Party ended up winning, and I expressed my disappointment through my Facebook status, having already voiced my opinions several times previously as an NDP supporter.  A number of my friends commented in support of my status, while one clearly expressed her happiness over the Sask Party’s victory.  What ended up ensuing was a pretty bitter exchange of words between her and one of my NDP supporting friends, and neither friend knows each other.  I had no idea that this had transpired throughout the day until I checked my Facebook account last night.  Both friends ended up apologizing to me for creating drama on my Facebook Wall, even before I had seen the altercation, and one deleted her comments.  This caused me to think about how incredibly dramatic a teenager’s Facebook page must be.  I have thought often about this, as I know that simply using the ICQ messaging system when I was in high school created unnecessary drama all the time, and it had nowhere NEAR the capabilities that Facebook possesses.  My two friends, both well-educated professionals, were reduced to bickering with each other throughout the day on my Facebook page.  What must it be like to be a teenager using social media?  I harkened back to Danah Boyd’s presentation Teenagers who are Living and Learning with Social Media and how she explained that social media has not created new drama – it is simply an outlet for it to exist.  Teenagers have ALWAYS gossiped and bullied, so we cannot blame Facebook for teenage bullying problems today.  However, Facebook is a very powerful tool through which cyberbullying can exist due to what Danah referred to as invisibility.  Out of curiosity, I asked a teenager to tell me about the way in which she uses Facebook.  This grade twelve student, Danae, is a former student of mine with whom I have kept in close contact since she graduated from my elementary school, as I worked with her for years when running the extracurricular events of which she was apart.  She uses her Facebook page as any teenager does – connecting with friends, posting photos, and expressing her opinions.  However, I find that she also uses it in a very efficient, mature way.  She is the president of the student council at her school and often uses her statuses to remind students about upcoming spirit days, sporting events, and school news.  I asked her if she sees very much drama or bullying on Facebook, and this is how she replied:  (Keep in mind that she is one of the most level-headed teenagers that you could ever meet!)

“Personally, I think Facebook contributes to drama tons. Of course the way I use it, it doesn’t. But I have seen sooo many nasty friendship-fallouts, and nasty break ups so public on Facebook. Because it is so easy to access now, (on phones) stuff gets around so quickly. I have seen videos of fights, ‘blackmail’ pictures of embarrassing drunken moments, and so many other sickening things posted. Of course as soon as they are, people start commenting and drama is instantly created. If Facebook didn’t exist I definitely think drama wouldn’t get so intensified. I think the ‘like’ feature on comments instigates a lot of trouble because whenever I see silly (or sometimes very serious) arguments, people will ‘keep tabs’ on that status and watch all of the commments popping up, ‘”liking’ them to show who’s side they are on and stuff. As soon as someone seems to have an argument with someone, they often go straight to Facebook to make a status aimed at that person. During class, it’s ridiculous listening to people talk about their ex-boyfriend’s/ ex-bestfriend’s/ someone they ‘hate’s’ status. I often hear ‘Omg, did you see so and so’s status last night?’  The fact that it is so accessible, frequently updated and easy to see what people are up to make it an easy outlet for people who love drama. Photos, videos, wallposts, etc. can be posted within seconds of stuff happening, for everyone to see. It’s pretty ridiculous, I think many teenagers mistreat the purpose of Facebook. I have deleted people because I am so annoyed with their constant bickering showing up in my newsfeed. Even though I don’t partake in it, it still shows up all around me. I don’t think I know one person in my grade who doesn’t have it! It’s awful the things people will do/say over Facebook, the computer screen gives them a sense of protection or power I guess.  So yeah, basically I think that if Facebook didn’t exist, yes drama would happen but I don’t think things would get as intensified as they do now, thanks to Facebook! 

I asked Danae if I had permission to use her words for this blog, and she was excited to be featured!  🙂  I decided not to paraphrase, but to use her words, as it felt more authentic.  I bolded the statements that really hit home.  Much of what Danae is witnessing is exactly what Danah Boyd discussed in her presentation.  The drama created really IS intensified by Facebook and the ability to make harsh statements behind the protective computer screen enables this, but this drama would still exist because these people would find other ways to create the drama.  We were probably all witness to note passing and gossiping as teenagers – it is now intensified through other means.

Two of the most powerful statements that I bolded were that although Danae does not partake in this drama, it is all around her, and it is happening IN CLASS.  I have strayed quite far from my original topic of the role of the teacher, but I’m hoping to bring it all back home now, so bear with me!  I feel that a role of the teacher that we did not discuss in class is that of a peacekeeper.  At first, I thought of it as a policeman, keeping order, reinforcing the law, and disciplining when necessary.  However, that seems much too harsh.  I feel that peacekeepers educate while maintaining law and order.  Teachers have always needed to keep peace and settle disagreements, whether they are between primary students having difficulty sharing, dealing with prepubescent drama in middle years, or settling arguments due to gossip and slander in high school.  Teachers today, however, must be peacekeepers on the online front, dealing with the ever-increasing instances of cyberbullying.  I have dealt with cyberbullying a few times during my career, the most serious case being during my internship where I was able to witness how much cooperating teacher had the resource officer discuss the serious implications of cyberbullying with our class.  There are many good resources online to help teach about cyberbullying, but I prefer reading personal testimonials.  David Truss commented on one of my recent blog posts and shared a project that he had completed with his class where they created Wikis.  Interested in his teaching methodology, I read through his blog and came across his account of a cyberbullying incident that transpired in his class while his students were completing their project.  His honesty and learning how he dealt with the incident were very enlightening, and I would highly recommend reading about it.

The role of the teacher is changing – this we know.  I feel that before it fragments into separate roles, as Stephen predicts, we as teachers will continue to take on more and more of these roles.  Being a peacekeeper in my classroom and modelling my need for all students to feel safe and accepted will remain one of my most important roles as an educator.  Are there any roles that you feel we did not mention in class but that you feel are a part of your teaching?

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8 Responses to "Teacher as Peacekeeper"

Great post Chelsi. This is definitely a role that we play as educators. As I was reading your post I kept thinking about my classroom and the role of peacekeeper seemed quite evident to me. With my little five year olds, I noticed that we were constantly talking about why we keep our hands to ourselves, what it feels like to be ignored or hurt, how we make and keep friends, etc. In general, sometimes I think one of the most important roles of a kindergarten teacher is to “keep the peace”.

I completely agree. I think the peacekeeper role is one of the most important in ANY grade, actually. If the students have an issue on their minds or feel like they aren’t being listened to when voicing their “playground troubles,” it’s nearly impossible to teach because they will only be focusing on the other issue. As well, they have to feel safe in the classroom in order to learn.
Thanks for the mention in your blog. I enjoyed your post!

I agree with your post Chelsi. It is in class. Just this week my grade 8s were completely full of drama because of some girl at another school. My students said, she doesn’t even go to our school yet she is the cause of all our drama. I struggle with knowing how to address issues like this that do not occur at school and not with my own students yet affect everything they do! I don’t know if Peacekeeper is my role but your post has definitely got me thinking about what it actually is!

Ah, I really feel for you! That would be such a tough situation to be in because you are not able to address the issue in class, yet it IS there in class if the students are all thinking about it! Good luck! Let me know what ends up coming of it.

[…] when we are working in a large group setting. I also agree with Chelsi that the role of the peacekeeper is important also in a classroom. As she describes this role in her blog, it is one that educates […]

Great post! A role I sometimes feel I play in my classroom that involves peacekeeper is the role of parent- teaching manners, responsability, turn taking…. many of our students come to us equipped with these skills from home but many others are still learning and developing them and we spend a big portion of each day working on them!!

Thanks Melissa! That is very frustrating, and I agree – teachers are fulfilling so many responsibilities of parents these days. At one of the schools I taught at, I had to have “Manners” as its own subject because the students were lacking so much in this area. It helped so much, as I’m sure is the case in your classroom, but I had to shake my head at the fact that I had to TEACH the skills that, as you said, should come from home.

Great post. I agree that the role of the teacher is everchanging and I find it quite intimidating trying to keep up with all the roles. Safety whether on the playground, in the lockerroom or on the web is definitely a challenge we all face. Good luck to all of us who keep on teaching for the love of their students.

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