Professional Learning

The Power of Speaking Out as a Teacher

January 19, 2017 Updated January 16, 2017

I have always been someone who paid attention to the news and wrote to my congressmen. I have done volunteer work here and there. As a teacher, I have always been someone who communicated with students, parents, administrators, coworkers, keeping everyone informed and all the waters smooth. It wasn’t until I watched this video a year ago, that I realized how much I was not saying.

For better or worse, the national elections are over for now. We can keep writing our letters, but there is little we can now do on the national stage. What we can do is put our efforts toward making our local world a microcosm of what we want the country to be. Within our classrooms, we promote civil discourse, equality and justice. We encourage questions, stop bullying and watch over the most vulnerable. Let us do the same when we open the classroom door.

If you’ve been teaching awhile, you have a professional calm even when stressed. Calm is what we need as we become activists for our students and community.

Speak to the coworker who shows bias toward a student. Speak up when administration makes decisions that will adversely impact staff or students. Speak out when the school board proposes policies that target our most vulnerable.

Get involved in your community. Campaign for local candidates, going door-to-door if needed. Donate and volunteer for local homeless, health or poverty organizations or start your own. Each week my friend carries a bag of hats, gloves, and socks for homeless people to the church where they line up for a hot lunch. Another has been an active leader in fundraising for local and national charities. Another friend cooks for rescue workers through a church organization. All three are educators. There is a role for you, if you open your door.

Well-meaning friends often have misconceptions about people from cultures other than their own, whether by birthplace, heritage, sexual orientation, or socio-economic class. Speak up with first-hand knowledge or reliable sources, use specific examples to help them connect, but do not let the moment pass allowing them to think you agree.

Consider your own biases. Seek out people who have the first-hand experience you do not and get the accurate information. Take a quiz here to see where your own bias lies. Consider whether privileges come with your own gender, heritage, or sexual orientation. See here for more.

Our classrooms are a haven for many students. We cannot change every life outside of school, but we can do our part to make the larger life outside our classrooms one with opportunities to help us all. Speak up, show up, and above all, don’t remain silent.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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