Read the story below and see how it applies to you.


There is a type of crab that cannot be caught—it is agile and clever enough to get out of any trap. And yet, these crabs are caught by the thousands every day, thanks to particularly human trait they possess.

The trap is a wire cage with a hole at the top. Bait is placed in the cage, and the cage is lowered into the water. One crab comes along, enters the cage, and begins munching on the bait. A second crab joins him. A third. Crab Thanksgiving. Yumm. Eventually, however, the bait is gone.

The crabs could easily climb up the side of the cage and through the hole, but they do not. They stay in the cage. More crabs come in and join them—long after the bait is gone. 

Should one of the crabs realize there is no further reason to stay in the trap and attempt to leave, the other crabs will gang up on him and stop him. They will repeatedly pull him off the side of the cage. If he is persistent, the others will tear off his claws to keep him from climbing. If he still persists, they will kill him.

The crabs—by a force of the majority—stay together in the cage. The cage is hauled up, and it’s dinnertime on the pier.

Teachers stick together. Given our long history as blue-collar union laborers in factory-model schools, we unite around one another. We develop strong social bonds and loyalties and find strength in our unions. We seldom commit to acting independently even when we think we should. We function, too, in deference to our superiors whether we respect them or not, inside a deeply hierarchical structure. We can hardly imagine administrators as colleagues, let alone see them as necessary supporters of what we do. They are our bosses.

Is your school like this? Do you live in such a cage?

For more on this crucial issue see Chapter 12 “Abandon the Crabs in the Cage” in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: