Standing Up and Speaking Out

An interesting thing happened at school this week. The agenda/items for our staff meeting were sent out, as always, ahead of the meeting. As sometimes happens, there was an item on the agenda with which I did not agree, so I began my newly-adopted practice of cleverly thinking out arguments that would show my dissent, but in such a logical manner that it wouldn’t seem like blunt disapproval. This usually wouldn’t be the practice that I would adopt, but as a new teacher I have been making a concerted issue to keep my head down whenever possible, as I’m still trying to learn the “rules” of the culture — and, on some level, hoping to keep my job for next year.

I’ve taken the opportunity to speak up once about something that left a completely sour taste in my mouth, and it didn’t go that well for me — I felt pretty ostracized in my “radical” view by most of the staff. But, this week, something changed. A teacher responded to the email containing the agenda item and stated her dissent. Suddenly, I was in a position to be able to second her ideas, which I eagerly did. And, since then, wouldn’t you know it, at least three people at my small school have thanked me for saying what I did and told me how much they agreed with the sentiment.

Initially, this made me feel fantastic — it turns out that resisting this idea wouldn’t actually be as big of an uphill battle as I had thought. At least for this particular issue. But then, it got me thinking: On how many issues have people have opinions they were afraid to share? Is there a whole group teachers at my school who are just going along to get along? I know from readings in my Teacher Leadership course that there are many teachers who, for a wide variety of reasons, do feel that going along is the safest strategy, but I guess I hadn’t imagined that could also be true in such a small school. What does it say that in such a small staff, there seems to be anxiety about voicing an opinion of disagreement?

So, it leaves me in an interesting position. On the one hand, I feel invigorated by finding support where I was nervous I wouldn’t find it. But, on the other hand, I’m left thinking this was a relatively mundane issue and that sticking to my strategy of keeping my head down except for when something egregiously violates one of my “non-negotiables” — issues where I absolutely must say something, regardless of the cost — might still be the best course of action for a new teacher. But, then, if I let something pass without voicing my opinion, I fear that I myself fall into the category of “going along to get along.” And playing it safe is not something that is going to help propel my students’ learning forward. All in all, this episode has, once again, left me feeling amazed at how deeply politics insert themselves into every level of education.

On a less serious note, I am participating in another giveaway to try to get some exposure for my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Here’s some information about that — there are some great products that you could win! You can check it out here: http://growingin1st.blogspot.com/2014/01/200-tpt-followers-giveaway-enter-to-win.html

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