The student revolt: online lecture for CPP 2 Week 4

For the past eight years I’d been preparing myself to work in a non-interventionist school, and I’d just landed what I thought was the perfect job. But almost as soon as I walked into the classroom, I had an uneasy feeling.

This online lecture is the story of what happened after I walked into that classroom, and of the ideas that helped me to make sense of, and to survive, the revolt.

The student revolt: Part One

In this first part, you’ll see references to a unit you’re not doing (PPLE) and hear about a lecture you haven’t heard yet (‘The Sticky Tape Poem’). Ignore these. I made these videos last year.

A.S. Neill

As you’re listening to the story of the student revolt, notice the way my assumptions were being challenged. I had assumed that all my preparation for those eight years was going to mean that this job would be easy. I’d worked with a world-famous non-interventionist (R.F.Mackenzie) and I’d read widely some of the current non-interventionist literature, particularly that of R.F.Mackenzie’s good friend A.S. Neill. But my expectations were disappointed; my assumptions turned out to be inadequate.



Some thinking/writing prompts

  1. I make a distinction between ‘freedom to’ and ‘freedom from’, and suggest that being clear about this distinction makes a difference in our teaching. What do you think about this? Can you imagine a situation in your own classroom where this might become a crucial distinction to be making, for yourself and/or for your students? Have you had any experiences yourself where this has been an important distinction?
  2. I finish Part 1 by describing how things slowly changed, and imply that it was because I stuck to my guns and didn’t compromise. Did my explanation sound convincing? In Part Two I suggest that maybe there was more involved. What other explanations for the turnaround can you see, even before viewing Part Two?


The Student Revolt: Part Two

So, I’d assumed that this school would be the perfect place for me, and then ran into unexpected difficulties. In Part Two I explore other ideas that have helped me to make sense of what happened then, ideas that have continued to be useful to me as a secondary teacher.

In particular, I talk about three ideas:

  1. a natural resistance to the unfamiliar
  2. the flight-fight instinct
  3. the mother-teacher’s need to survive


Some reading/thinking/writing prompts

  1. In Part 2 I suggest that there are three further ideas that help teachers understand some of the dynamics of classroom management: a natural resistance to change, the flight-fight instinct, and the mother-teacher’s need to survive.  Do any of these ideas illuminate experiences that you have had? Have you seen any of these processes evident in our own unit, during our first month?
  2. What articles are you finding in e-Reserve that are helping you to understand more about classroom dynamics and how to work with these? [For those of you with access to the Ning, here’s an excellent example by Claire of how you might like to write about one of these articles.]
  3. Towards the end of Part 2, the image of a shoot sprouting from a burnt tree appears on the screen. [This was taken after the Victorian bushfires a few years ago.] Did the image seem appropriate to the subject matter? Did it speak to you?
  4. Donald Winnicott

    Here are some of Donald Winnicott’s own words, when describing how crucial it is for the baby (student) that the mother (teacher) to be able to survive attacks:

The subject says to the object: ‘I destroyed you’, and the object is there to receive the communication. From now on the subject says: ‘Hello object!’ ‘I destroyed you.’ ‘I love you.’ ‘You have value for me because of your survival of my destruction of you.’ ‘While I am loving you I am all the time destroying you in (unconscious) fantasy.’… The subject can now use the object that has survived. It is important to note that it is not only that the subject destroys the object because the object is placed outside the area of omnipotent control. It is equally significant to state this the other way round and to say that it is the destruction of the object that places the object outside the area of the subject’s omnipotent control. In these ways the object develops its own autonomy and life, and (if it survives) contributes-in to the subject according to its own properties. [Winnicott (1971). Playing and reality. London, Tavistock. p91]

I’ll be saying some more about this strange but very useful idea in a subsequent lecture. What thoughts, memories or responses do Winnicott’s words evoke in you?


4 thoughts on “The student revolt: online lecture for CPP 2 Week 4

  1. Pingback: those that test us | ilovenewbies

  2. Thanks Steve. That was a really helpful lecture.

    I remember having pre-service teachers in high school and being anxious about them. I can’t really pinpoint the reason for the anxiety, but as you suggest the teacher is unfamiliar. And as I am a green (likes structure and organisation) person I may have been worried that the pre-service teacher might be missing information and that they don’t know you as a person and your particular learning style. I can see why students would be anxious to have a pre-service teacher and I can remember even when the pre-service teacher was running the class, I would go to the regular teacher for help (i.e. not trusting and undermining the pre-service teacher).

    Donald Winnicott’s infant-mother theory is bizarre yes, but helpful in thinking about entering a classroom and teaching for the first time. It is a really helpful way to see the situation; as a Herculean trial to overcome and survive and be stronger for it. I guess pre-service teaching as well as the first year teaching is going be difficult, but by working through it and developing relationships with the students, I will get to the other side. Not to say that from second year on is going to be easy, but to know within oneself I have already accomplished a difficult task, is a great boost to confidence.

  3. Pingback: Will i be allowed to teach the way i want to? « Cools Teaches

  4. Pingback: Opening James’ Virtual Schoolbag « ilovenewbies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s