This year, I have the honor of joining a wildly talented bunch of educators as New York Educator Voice fellow. Driven by our collective desire to uncover and share promising practices that help all learners achieve high standards, New York Educator Voice fellows are also committed to sharing the stories of teachers who are pursuing similar paths.
It’s our hope that doing so will elevate public perception of teachers, helping the most talented members of our field gain recognition, while capturing the attention of those who influence local, state, and national policies.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for teachers to become vocal in public conversations about teaching and learning. You don’t need a to join a fellowship to make a difference, though. There are many ways to speak up, lead, and serve your profession.
1 – Start courageous conversations in your school and in your community.
Teachers have deep expertise and yet, when it comes to influencing public perception, many feel unheard. It takes courage to ask uncomfortable questions that reveal our position and make the depth of our knowledge and experience transparent.
When people disagree with us to begin with, challenging them can ignite an even wilder fire. I don’t know many teachers who enjoy inciting debate. If popular perception is based more on fear than fact it’s important to speak up, though.
2 – Blog.
My favorite blogs are teacher blogs, particularly those that make the learning that is happening within classrooms visible. Share more than your lessons: share samples of student work, and most importantly, your own reflections. Help the educators who read you gain new insights, and help those who aren’t in our field understand how complex and rewarding the work of a teacher can be.
3 – Elevate social media exchanges about education and educators.
When you start courageous conversations, model civility and inspire others to do the same. It’s important to make passionate claims and challenge those who disagree with us. But it’s unacceptable to degrade those who have different perspectives, to mock them, and to make assumptions about their intentions, feelings, and behavior. I notice this more and more in the networks I belong to, particularly when hot button issues are being discussed. It doesn’t serve anyone well.
4 – Friend those who disagree with you.
That’s right. Follow those whose perspectives are different from your own, particularly if they know how to elevate critical conversations and engage in discourse without taking personal shots at others. You can learn much from them, and I’ll bet they might want to talk with you too.
5 – Strive to be an active listener.
This is absolutely possible online. In fact, it’s an essential part of meaningful exchanges. Even on Twitter.
6 – Curb your confirmation bias.
You’ve heard it before, and probably, far more often over the last few years: don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Someone I respect very much recently reminded me that Kool-Aid comes in a whole bunch of different flavors, and we all have our own preferences. Are you self-aware enough to recognize your own tendencies toward confirmation bias?
7 – Bring data.
Not numbers. Data. Evidence. Facts. And check your sources too. How likely is it that confirmation bias influenced their findings?
8 – Reach out to policy makers and share your experiences.
Write letters, attend events where you will be able to have the ear of those who matter most, and if you are able, invite leaders into your classroom. Initiatives like Bring Your Senator to School Day, sponsored by New York Educator Voice, help build connections that influence real change. Don’t shy away from opportunities to make this kind of difference.
This month, I’m launching a new initiative with a group of local upstate New York educators through my fellowship with New York Educator Voice. Together, we will strive to make learning visible in English Language Arts classrooms. We plan to document learning and meaningful assessment of our students’ strengths and needs, without stopping to test.
We’re all drowning in quantitative data, but it’s not providing the insight we need in order to intervene well. We know that the answers to our questions lie within the learners we support, and we’re eager to make them our teachers.
I plan to amplify our learning here and on my own blog over the next year. If this interests you, please stop by and join the conversation.
A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.
A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer’s Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.