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Saturday, January 10, 2015

January 2015: Hard Choices

This week I was confronted by a hard choice.

Faced with a dilemma that could be demeaning to students and others, I spoke up.

I spoke up with a strong voice.

I felt an urgency to speak up right away to make change. It is an issue that I am very sensitive about for multiple reasons.

It was an issue I've spoken up about many times before in quieter, more subtle ways with little acknowledgement or change as the situation persisted, and the concerns I expressed in the past were not shared with others.

After speaking up, change happened, but feelings were hurt and people were upset. My words and passion were heard in many ways, some good and some not so good.

In hindsight, how could I have done this better?

I did the right thing speaking up, but when I initially spoke up about a year ago and there was little change, I should have made an appointment with leaders to discuss the issue with greater detail and depth. I should not have let it go and continue.

Yet, I was a bit fearful to speak up since in the past I have met with great and harsh pushback for speaking up.

But when the issue reappeared with strength, I knew I had to speak up again and that was a challenging call.

In the future, I'll use the following strategy:
  1. If I witness acts that are potentially hurtful to our students, I'll speak to the individuals involved in a quiet, thoughtful way. The people I work with care about students, and are always ready to make change when it involves serving children better. Also, I hope that colleagues will do the same with me. None of us are perfect or have all perception or experience, we need each other to do the job well with sensitivity and care. 
  2. If there is disagreement, I'll suggest that we bring in other educators who can debate the issue with us in thoughtful, student-centered ways. I'll foster the use of "principled negotiation" in this regard.
  3. Then, after thoughtful discussion, I'll go with the decision unless I think it's still not sensitive to students, and if that's the case, I'll research more and take it to others who can help me understand or move forward with right action.
As the steps of principled negotiation suggest, "go hard on the issues, and soft on people" and be sensitive to relationships. 

Teaching well invites debate as the education and world landscape changes--what is best for students and our learning environments demand our best thinking, collaboration, discussion, and efforts. Establishing inclusive, sensitive process for decision making is critical to meeting the needs of diverse teaching/learning communities. 

The ability to speak up with sensitivity and care is a skill that takes time, support, and good process to develop. It's a skill I aim to grow in the days to come.