Sunday, May 21, 2017

In Some Educational Arenas, Silence is Golden

Once again I was rated lower than others because I speak out and sometimes create tension due to my advocacy. There are many who feel that it's a teacher's place to stay quiet and do the work directed without opinion or comment.

When I first started teaching many years ago this was not an issue. Teachers, at that time, freely discussed ideas and led their work with children. However, in the past twenty years, that freedom has diminished quite a bit which has prompted me to write more emails and speak up more.

As a teacher researcher and learner, I am continually noticing ways that we can improve schools to serve all students well, yet in the climate I work in there is little opportunity to share ideas if you are at the teacher level--the teacher level is mainly directed by a supervisory group that includes multiple administrators. When I share ideas with most of those administrators, I receive little to no feedback. Sometimes I am met with sarcastic remarks and put-downs too.

Many advise me to stay silent. I can't do that as I would not be doing my job which is to advocate for children and look for ways to reach greater success with each student and their learning. Others have helped me to learn to advocate. This has been helpful, yet in my current climate, teacher advocacy is only embraced for some, but not others. I have ideas about why this might be true, but I have no data to prove my ideas.

So, to get a top-notch rating, I would have to become silent and not share my ideas for betterment. Some may say that's not true and that I just have to learn to be quiet and calm when I am challenged, ignored, silenced, or put-down--that's difficult for any person to do.

I always test my actions against an "end-of-life" scale, and in this case that scale would ask, Would I prefer to be known for a better rating or would I prefer to be known as an advocate for children at the end of my life? Of course, I would rather go to my grave having been one who advocates for children--that's more important to me.

As a teacher-researcher and one who is committed to doing the best possible job and moving towards betterment, I will continue to speak up if I believe there are ideas that will help us to serve children better. I will also speak up if I see contradiction, troubles, or issues that demand attention. I will always work to speak up with respect and care, and share my feelings respectfully even when challenged greatly.

It's hurtful to me to receive low marks for having the courage to speak up and debate tough issues especially since I typically have to do this on my own since the climate sends a clear message that speaking up, asking questions, and sharing ideas is not welcome in many areas of the arena where I work.

Fortunately there are people and places where ideas are embraced and betterment is the goal--I will continue to ally myself to those individuals and places, and as much as possible steer clear of those who find new ideas, speaking up, and debate to be more trouble than it's worth. Onward.

Update April 2018: While some still do not welcome my advocacy, there's been quite a bit of change in the work place, change that invites voice and choice with greater respect. This is a good trend, and one that I hope continues.