Friday, December 16, 2016
Teaching and Oppression
At times in the teaching world, I feel oppressed.
As initiatives, dictates, and decisions circle around and affect what I can do, the oppression continues.
It's a kind of oppression that makes me invisible, voiceless, and without substantial power over the work I do related to the experience, research, and reading I've done individually and with others to forward my craft.
I've thought a lot about this oppression and why it occurs.
Lack of information share and transparency, backdoor deals, hearsay/conjecture, inequity with regard to the use of time, and little true collaborative focus or effort by many contribute to this.
I've tried countless different ways to overcome and move beyond oppression, yet what feels like oppression continues to exist. Why?
Mostly I believe this oppression continues because the structures that lead educators like me rarely include our voice and choice in authentic, meaningful, and impactful ways. Mostly decisions are made for me without my input, and the opportunities for voice are structured in ways that dilute the voice and choice possible.
There are others in my midst that probably feel this oppression much more. There are people who have less voice and choice than me. It's a hierarchical system. Yet, I notice that at Middle School and High School the structures give way to greater teacher voice and choice. I believe this difference has its roots in the history of elementary education and the fact that it's been traditionally a female profession.
What I desire is an authentic landscape of distributive leadership with greater voice and choice for all. I believe this would empower educators while mitigating the oppression that exists. I support democratic models for schools and education institutions.
I've thought a lot about this. I've worked towards it in many ways with some success, but not enough success to eliminate the oppression.
What's a teacher to do?
For now, I'll give into the structures that exist. I'll work within my role to the best of my ability. I will observe, think, and contribute as I can. I will speak up when I believe a child is not receiving the care and attention he/she deserves, and I will support my colleagues too if they are treated unfairly or need my help. Essentially I'll follow the wise words of Robert Kennedy I placed at the top of the page.
As for the big ideas, I've expressed those ideas many times to little gain. I've tried to analyze and improve this lack of success, but for now I'll put that effort on hold too while I carefully observe the environment around me. What exactly is happening? Where is there strength and where does challenge, inequity, and weakness continue? Whose voices are honored and why? What mission is honored and supported?
Oppression hinders the potential possible for humanity. When we come together as a people to honor each others' voices, experiences, efforts, dreams, and vision, we are all stronger.
I will listen carefully. I will respond with the best of who I am. I will follow the directives set, and speak up when the directives do not serve children well. I will continue to hone my craft so that I teach children well. Onward.
Update 6/2018: Note there has been positive change in my work environment which has lessened the oppression. I still think there's more that we can do to flatten the hierarchy and give greater voice to all stakeholders, but there's been improvement and for this I am grateful.