Passionate Contracts- Kelly Reading

“English is not a construct, not a given or an essence; and the construct of English is not monolithic.” ~Ursula Kelly 

Hello All!  I read Ursula Kelly’s reading on the begining secondary english teacher educational programs.  This reading tied into a number of other readings (Apple, Gee) and discussions we had in the last class about issues such as identity, discourse and power, and political and economical issues in our schools.  The difference in this reading is that it focuses more on these issues and how they effect future teachers of secondary english (ourselves). 

Kelly discusses the inner conflict most begining teachers of secondary english feel as they attempt to find themselves and their purpose as teachers in the classroom.  Kelly discusses how many begining teachers each have different notions of what knowledge of english is most important and how this should be taught.  How invested and to what degree these teachers are invested in this knowlege shapes how the future teacher invisions him/herself as a future facilitator.  This disucussion can be closely related to Gee and Apple’s ideas on discourse and education and how these discourses relationships to power can be reiterated through the subject of English.  Kelly describes the discourses of knowledge as “deeply political” and “extremely competitive” and therefore it is important for the begining teacher to examine and challange these discourses functions in the classroom.  This can prove to be difficult, however, as most teachers when placed in a school to student teach are assigned mentors who have time rather than interest in guiding them.  Also, many begining teachers are worried about “rocking the boat” and often feel compelled to, as Kelly puts it, “ride the normative wave” of what the supervising mentor assigns as important knowledge.  Kelly calls this coping strategy “splitting-off.”  This manuever helps the future teacher feel they belong among their collegues and peers but is problematic because it forces them to put aside their own convictions and teaches them to step down and reside to the given discourse. 

Kelly states that the only way to prevent future teachers from falling into this trap of “splitting-off” is to examine, alongside their mentors, our old relationships with knowledge and form a “new premise for pedagogy.”  Kelly asks us to think about what beliefs about knowlege, we as future teachers, hold sacred and think about these beliefs in terms of whether or not they are our own or we are just an embodiement of discourse. Finally,  are these beliefs worthy of reproduction?




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3 responses to “Passionate Contracts- Kelly Reading

  1. sunyprof

    Hi Suzanne, you reiterate very important points that Kelly makes but I’m left wondering what you find most interesting in Kelly? What questions does it raise for you in particular? And why? KES

  2. Contemplating Kelly

    Although I have yet to be in a classroom and experience the transition from student to teacher, I often think about my upcoming career. I have concluded that it is easy for me to say what I will do in the classroom, or to “talk the talk”, I only hope that I can “walk the walk”, and actually follow through on my personal and professional philosophies when I begin teaching. As all of the facilitators have pointed out in their posts, Kelly raises some important issues in this article regarding pedagogy, which is often in conflict with other school related issues, specifically the relationships that teachers have among colleagues and the “normative” discourses within the school. I feel like I am already experiencing anxiety over these conflicts. Is anyone else? While I get excited about my future classroom and imagine all the awesome and progressive things I want to do with my students, I still am left considering many of the questions that Kelly raises. I guess I believe that you can rock the boat, while still being a unique and fantastic teacher. I hope that my upcoming field placements will be an aid in showing me how to navigate all the different duties I am going to have to fulfill. I want to remain true to my beliefs, be cordial with my colleagues and enlighten my students but also satisfy my administrators. Does anyone else feel the pressure to prioritize these issues??

  3. suzanne

    In response to KES, I feel very strongly about Kelly’s article. As a begining teacher, now observing and anticipating student teaching, this issue of “splitting-off” is a major anxiety of mine. I always wonder what type of school and educational community I will end up working in. If it will be one that encourages teachers to incorporate their own ideas of what type of knowledge is important, or one that encourages teachers to stick to the “normative wave” or teaching to the tests. Knowing how head strong I am, I do worry about rocking the boat. I guess I am one who has a romanticized version of what type of teacher I will be. I want to teach English because I do have a passion for the subject and want to share and encourage this passion in my future students. I believe that books can truely change people lives (romantic I know!). Will these books be excepted forms of texts in my future school? Who knows? In our small group challange on the topic “Of Mice and Men” had some excellent ideas on how to relate the book to urban school kids. For instance, the discrimination Lenny faced being disabled may be relatable to minority students who face discrimination. If I am faced with a situation where I’m required to follow a set curriculum (which most likely, I will be) I think this is an example of how to still incorporate issues that are important to me and not “rock the boat” to hard.


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