Monday, November 20, 2017

Voice and Teaching Well

Educators met with the school committee to voice their thoughts and ideas related to an upcoming decision about school start times. School start times considerations is a topic that's being considered in many school systems in response to research that demonstrates that teens need more sleep. The decisions related to this topic are more complicated than one would think since school schedules are intricate weaves that synthesize academic, social, emotional, and physical needs for optimal programming. Other realities that affect these decisions include traffic patterns, work start times, daylight, and daycare costs/availability. Few decisions related to schools are simple since schools reach out to support all students, and those students represent significant diversity with regard to age, culture, family style, needs, challenges, and strengths.

What's important in all of this is that people stand up to express their thoughts and ideas--decisions are best made when those decisions are inclusive representing the voices of all stakeholders. Though timely, it's best to create the kind of process that listens to everyone's voices including the voices of educators, students, and family members.

As educators we can't be afraid to respectfully stand up and speak out for what we believe is right and good. Similarly we have to be ready to listen to the voices of others too--to see it from their point of view. None of us know it all or have all the answers, and our good work profits from our collaboration with others.

Years ago when an important issue was discussed in our school system, teachers mostly stayed quiet. Many citizens spoke up, yet their point of view was not considered with depth. I went along with the decision made only to realize later that many of the points that citizens were making were not listened too, but were rightly made. The decision made resulted in a lot of problems, problems I didn't expect, but problems that many citizens had predicted. In hindsight, it would have been better if all sides of the story were considered before a decision was made. That would have resulted in less pain and problems.

I often want to make decisions quickly, but the older I get, the more I recognize that it's usually better to take your time with important decisions. If wait time isn't going to create harm, then it's better to take the time to use good process to make optimal decisions. Rushing usually does result in less good, more costly decisions, while taking our time has the potential to result in win-win decisions.

Of course, as my father taught me, we can't complain about decisions if we stay silent. Instead we have to push ourselves to be involved in important decision making. We have to make the time with our colleagues to review the information, listen with an open mind, and share our point of view. Whether we are educators, family members, or students, our good work depends on using our voices to speak out and stand up for what matters.

As educators our experience, expertise, and point of view matters with regard to decisions that impact our students. The experience, expertise, and point of view of students, family members, community members, and administrators matter too. It is in coming together with all points of view and good process that lead to optimal decisions. We can't forget that.