Sunday, July 10, 2016

It’s Not That Easy

I started my day reading a post from Pernille Ripp entitled If Not Now where she explains that change will only come if we all speak up. She says she is not sure how she got to be someone others sometimes listen to but she advises that even if we may not think of our voices as are nothing special a and we have no business speaking up, if we see injustice and believe in our own self worth, we must speak.

As someone who has spent the majority of my career speaking up, I want to shed light on why Pernille and others who speak up are sometimes listened to and why it’s not that easy.

Why it’s not that easy

When you speak up, you put yourself out there and you are vulnerable to attack. This is not easy to endure. For example, I have helped many parents opt their children out of standardized testing when the testing was harming their children. These parents and I were berated by other parents who believed parents had no right to speak up for their children’s education. You can see examples of those posts here and here. In each case, despite the fact that their children could suffer health risks if taking the tests other parents lashed out at these parents and me for standing up for their children.
You also open yourself up to become the target of bullying. I’ve written about it here Bullies. Let’s do more than ignore and Pernille has written about it here When teachers bully teachers.

Another risk is something called exclusion: being shunned or avoided by your peers or colleagues. When I have spoken in support of opting out of tests, fought for children to be empowered to use their own technology for learning, or stood up for educator voice, I experienced exclusion. My colleagues were afraid of “guilt by association.” The concern was legitimate. My decision to speak out put my job on the line many times; those who know me know that I can be relentless in the pursuit of doing what is best for children despite the consequences. While my colleagues may agree with me in their hearts, they preferred to hide their opinions instead of taking the very real risk of losing their jobs.    

Why we listen to those who speak up

Pernille said she is not sure how she got to be someone others sometimes listened to. It is because speaking up is done by those who are fearless. Those who speak up are often opening themselves up for attack and worse. If we really want others to speak up, then we must be there to protect and support one another. We must open the doors to our platforms and help provide a supportive place for others to share ideas.  We must not engage in the ad hominem attacks of one another, but rather focus on ideas and issues keeping our goal in mind and working to lift each other up. Until we do that, the silent will continue to be the majority.  

How can we help others be heard?

Pernille asks her readers "When was the last time you spoke up for change?" I think bloggers like Pernille and myself can play a role in helping others answer this question in the affirmative by asking ourselves a question. When was the last time those of us with a voice and a platform have helped others speak up for change? When we start doing that, we all become stronger together.