I've written this statement more than once in the past few months: I'm trying to get caught up on my reading of Educational Leadership and other ASCD publications. I read zilch while I was pregnant with Ruby. All I seem to remember doing was sleeping for that forty weeks!
So, I ran across Commentary/Speaking Up Talking Back: A teacher muses on receiving the New Hampshire Badass Teacher Award.
Of course, it caught my eye. I've also received this BAT Action Award twice (see below). I wanted to share the thoughts of the New Hampshire teacher as well as share a few of my own.
Here are the best parts of what the New Hampshire teacher had to say:
When we speak up, we disrupt a seeming consensus...
To speak up violates a desire, which I think we all have, to be cooperative human beings, to perform in an agreed-on way.Then, this teacher just knocks it out of the ballpark by ending with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt (cited):
Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight, just a step at a time, meeting each thing as it comes, seeing it's not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.
WOW! Just wow!
Unlike this teacher, I didn't really "speak up" for my BAT awards. I just got recognized by some arts education organizations for my work in arts education. BATs advocate for arts education. So, they felt this was BAT activity! I still feel super honored to have been recognized by BATs. The BATs leadership are some of the smartest, most focused people I have ever met. I have met them and had many conversations with them. So, I will add here that they truly, and I mean truly, do care about ALL children.
Just because I don't feel I spoke out for my BAT awards doesn't mean I haven't spoken out for my students. A few years ago, I was working on a national report and was asked to change my recommendations to say that I thought students should be tested more and that teachers should be evaluated solely on those test scores. The organization that I was writing with asked me to do this.
It was the turning point in my career. I'll never forget it. I got an email about it on Thanksgiving morning while I was at my parent's home. I'd just had my first child. I felt like the email was sent with that timing to catch me off guard. If my guard was down like that, it would be easier to get me to agree to the changes.
I couldn't say yes to such a thing. The suggestion that was made violated everything that I stand for as a teacher. It violated my principles for whole child education and for whole school systems. It violated my principles for supporting the teachers who teach children and for my principles surrounding public education.
I began learning everything I could about testing systems and discovered what is known as the movement to privatize public education. I started reading everything I could find about school systems and public education policy. I started traveling to conferences and to political meetings. I started writing, speaking in public, and got involved in many grassroots efforts to support public education and students. I went back to school and got a specialist degree in Educational Leadership, which helped me think about/research/better understand school systems and how the system impacts individuals.
So, when I say that it was the turning point in my career, I mean it. I just realized that I could no longer shut the door to my classroom and teach my subject matter. To be an effective educator, I had to be a leader. To be a leader, I had to be informed.
I try my best to stand up for human beings as I do my job. I think it is part of my job. I agree with the New Hampshire teacher that it is easier to keep your mouth shut. The hardest part for me has been waiting to see if someone gets mad and yells at me. However, I've grown a lot through these experiences. I can handle things that I wouldn't have been able to handle five years ago. So, I also agree with Roosevelt. Not doing what I think is right because I am afraid is harder than just doing what I think is right. I have to be able to sleep at night. I have discovered that I do have strength. I will continue to do what I believe is right for students.
Amen and the end.
What are your thoughts? How have you stood up for students? If you have something to share, I'd love to help you tell your story on this blog! It is an arts education blog, but also a space for all educators. My vision is to help share the whole picture, not just the arts part. The whole picture is about all of education, which very much includes the arts.
I'd love to hear from you!
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