I am in several Facebook groups for teachers. It seems like every day there are the same issues from all over the country and beyond. Sadly, it is the same types of things. I hear how tired and stressed out teachers are every day. So it got me thinking, what are genuine reasons for encouraging teachers to speak their truth? When is it time to say we are too negative? What does all this mean for our kids?
So first off, it is NEVER okay to say we are too cynical. Only if we have walked in the shoes of a teacher. (Or owned the shoes ourselves.) And yes, some things seem petty when there are more significant issues out there. People are entitled to their feelings, and that includes their frustrations. Most importantly, it is demoralizing to tell someone what they feel isn't what they feel. Guess what? The things teachers are tired of are happening. We have a scarcity mentality because THERE IS A SCARCITY!
Does that mean that we have the right to complain all the time? Yes and no. We have a right to our feelings. We don't have a right to push our beliefs onto others. Sometimes the saying, You Make Your Weather makes sense. And I know for me, I need to be reminded of this now and then. But I also know it can be counterproductive. Just because you tell me to make my own weather, doesn't mean I can turn my thunderstorm into a sunny spring day. Sometimes it rains. And sometimes it's okay not to be able to see through the fog. We need to know that what is out there is better.
3 Genuine Reasons Why Teachers Should Speak Their Truth
First of all, every teacher has a voice, and often in education, you feel like you don't. Teachers are told what to teach when to teach it, and how it should look if accomplished. Often factors such as a kid's mom is dying, or the dad left home are not taken into consideration. That's hard. It's hard for the children, and it's hard for the teacher.
Teachers need to feel heard. And they need to speak up. Too often teachers are forced to fall in line. Even when they know what we are doing is wrong. How detrimental to teacher's self-esteem is that? If you have ever been forced to do something that you know is totally wrong and hurtful to others, you know it wounds you on a fundamental level. Factors we can't see are happening in education. I will say, that sometimes teachers don't see the bigger picture. (At least I learned that there were things on a more significant level that I didn't see nor understand. I didn't have all the information.)
Either way, teachers speaking up and sharing their stories allows educators to take ownership of their thoughts and feelings. It allows teachers to release what is burning inside of them. The truth.
Another genuine reason for speaking our truth is bringing awareness to the world. Sometimes parents have no idea that their children are experiencing one of the most challenging times in education. I mean kindergarten is the new first grade, and first grade is the new second grade, and on and on. What happened to kindergarten?! We have yet to see the effects of all this testing. Actually, I think we see it. In the senseless acts of violence and the rates in which depression and anxiety are skyrocketing. The funny part is, we have begun the buzz around social and emotional health. Yet, we continue to do what is causing some of the issues. We test to death; we take play out of school, we reduce physical exercise and outside time, and we project data on the walls for all to see disguised as goal setting and motivation. I mean come on! If you were trying to lose weight, how motivated would you be to have your weight displayed on the wall at work? Of course, you would have a secret number, color, or code. But you know darn well people would figure it out. Think about how that affects children.
There is a substantial opt-out of testing movement. This movement didn't just happen. It happened because we have taken testing and accountability to a level of insanity. Finally, parents got mad. This is happening because some teachers chose to tell the truth.
Finally, this brings me to the most potent reason teachers should start talking. If we don't know what the problems are, we can't fix them.
Our system needs an overhaul. Not a reform, but a transformation. There are some extraordinarily authentic things going on in our classrooms that feel like magic. We keep those. We replicate them. We inspire them. But we don't force or demand them. We value our children, and we appreciate ourselves. We speak kinder to one another. And we look for what is right and stop looking for how teachers are wrong. We build on what educators are doing well, and we help them learn from what they can improve.
Teachers are tired. Tired of all the mundane red tape. They aren't tired of children. They aren't tired of teaching. Most people who make it past five years (less than 50%) are trying to make a difference. There is no other reason to stay than that.
Too often we have allowed the children to be used against us. The very people we have dedicated our lives to protect. Of course, we want what is best for kids. But you know the saying, You have to put on your own oxygen mask BEFORE you help your child. What happens when we forgot to put our masks on first? We die.
For me, teaching is still one of the most critical jobs in the world. I also think that we can do a heck of a lot better than we have been doing. The only way to make it better is to speak up. Yes, I know it is scary. Yes, I know I quit. But I also know that the transformation can only happen from the ground up. So get ready to hear teachers roar!
I'm launching a new podcast called One Tired Teacher. It will be a show that shares the trials AND treasures of being a teacher or educator and tells it like it is.
Yes, I got tired of the politics and the brokenness of a system that seems to have lost their way. But what I didn't get tired of was actually educating children. Inspiring, motivating children and fellow teachers is what fueled my passion for being a part of the solution. So let’s wake up this system and start talking!