Politics, Pedagogy, and Professional Development (PPPD): A Three-Part Series

A long visit back to my home state has given me ample time to fool about on Twitter and engage heavily with other educators, especially those who understand and work to end structural inequality and entrenched systems of power that cause so much harm. This tweet in particular, among a couple different threads about professional development (PD) for teachers and PD providers, deeply resonated with me since students and education frequently suffer collateral damage from ideological warfare.

It astounds me today that anyone can think education is not political, but I also understand because I used to be there. These discussions inspired what will be a three-part series looking at education and politics in my life along with the lessons I have learned to be posted over the next couple weeks (the last two weeks in July, 2019).

Part I is my personal context. I’ll talk about how I grew up, my formal education, my informal education, and the experiences that shaped my understanding of what politics even is. I want to start with looking back at my upbringing, etc., and considering the politics involved. My political awakening happened in many fits and starts, definitely some relapses, and the inevitable gut-punches of realizing just how wrong I had been for so long.

Part II is my professional context. The beginning will overlap the end of Part I in years, but with a different focus. I’ll talk about how I started working with kids, how my teaching changed and why, my continued political journey over time, the pushback and trouble I got into by changing my teaching, and how this has affected me and my students. As many do, I started teaching physics the way I was taught in school (fun fact: my first physics class was taught by a nun, Sister Doctor Feldott). It worked great for me, right? So seems like a good place to start. If only I had known.

Part III is my “politics in education” context.  I will delve into how politics, pedagogy, and professional development intersect. I’ll talk about PD I’ve been to and PD I’ve given. About experiences I’ve had with administration where I screwed things up by not understanding and working with intra-school politics (which I still need additional PD for), where I managed to figure out how to get something done despite the administration, and how I worked to get the PD I wanted and implement it despite the prevailing norms of the school culture. Politics is hard, but education is political at every level, and that must be given due consideration for sustainable changes to happen at any level.