My colleague shared a story with me – shout out Miss K, I love you – about a student of ours who battles and processes severe emotional trauma every day while in our care. He was going to lunch and he did not want to take off his Pikachu beanie. Miss K, to spare him – and herself – a moment of confrontation, redirection, and frustration, decided that the hat, was not a battle worth choosing.
Her consequence for that: lunchroom staff making comments about her classroom management style.
This is a small example of a situation that likely every teacher has encountered at some point. It is a tiny example of the – seemly minor – battles we do not choose to fight every day that impact our student’s experience in the education system and their relationship to learning overall.
If I were Miss K, I would have made the same decision – to leave him and his hat alone for the sake of conserving everyone’s energy and emotional wellbeing. In the bigger picture, fighting with him over taking off his hat is a ridiculous use of time and just makes everyone upset. It does not matter. It is not a battle worth fighting.
There are for sure battles worth fighting. Battles that deserve all the energy and emotion behind them. Battles that ultimately have a real impact on the lives of students like Miss K’s – and Miss K herself!
The battle I choose to fight today is the battle for teachers to be heard as decision makers within their own profession. Throughout all the conversations being had about re-opening schools, my question has remained the same: are we asking teachers?
And I am repeatedly met with some version of “that might be an option” or “that might be a good point” as a response.
I wish I could say I am surprised. I’m not.
But I do have that same sort of sick feeling you get in your stomach when you do get surprised by shocking things. Nausea.
This past year, I almost lost my position as a teacher because the way I was speaking out – and what I was speaking out against – was taken as disruptive. I, like a lot of teachers, am afraid to speak up and advocate for ourselves out of fear of losing our jobs.
I held that fear with me today going into a meeting meant to discuss curriculum implementation with online learning. I told myself I was not going to contribute to the conversation much, and I was going to keep my questions to absolutely-need-to-know basis. I was going to be quiet for fear that if I did ask the real questions on my, and every teacher’s, mind I would be risking my job.
That did not happen. I could not stay quiet. I reminded myself that if I am quiet when it matters the most, all the troublemaking really ain’t worth it.
This IS a battle worth choosing.
We have got to be bigger and bolder than the fear. I was affirmed in this today watching Alexis Shepard of The Afro Educator share about a conversation she had with her momma. Her mom reminded her that she – like I – chose to carry this torch… so we must pick it up and carry it.
This mountain can be moved.
Teachers are worth fighting for and it’s a battle worth choosing every time.