By Jose Vilson @ The Jose Vilson
It took awhile for me to really begin reading Jose Vilson with more care. I was familiar with the name and new colleagues from New York that recommended him, but it took some time for him to regularly pop up on my radar. All I can say is that the more I read by him the more I like. In this post from last month, Vilson makes a case for why teachers need speak up and value their own expertise.
When we start deferring our expertise to “well, so-and-so said …” before we acknowledge our own intellect, our own experiences, and perhaps our own ideas, we’ve lost a few battles. Where people are often scrambling to find experts in the form of textbooks, podcasts, television, social media, and wherever everyone else says hurryupgorealfastoverthere, we lose the ability to say, “Yes, I’m an expert, too.”
This bit really resonates with me at the moment, as new, broken-before-they’ve-been rolled-out teacher evaluations and other edreformy agendas continue to infiltrate our schools. Many, in an effort to be good team players, might complain in closed quarters, but publicly seem supportive, saying things like, “I know we have to do this and it is going to be better,” this being whatever the latest demand being made is. Some maybe even believe it. There are so many competing agendas and mandates from on high that a lot of teachers I know are beginning to feel helpless and doubt themselves.
Yet it is that effort to be a good team player that teachers demonstrate a kind of humility that may not be in our self-interest as professionals.
Humility is an important trait, and one that keeps us grounded in the work we do. Yet, “humility” is often a way for elites to push down others to make sure they keep their spot. It’s also a way for others who see you working hard to keep you from shining as you should. It’s also a way for people who argue about education can take a “principled stance.” Thus, when people put together (K-12) education panels, they put in business folks, education professors, journalists, tech gurus who recently created education software, and sometimes a principal.
As a caring profession, teachers often seek to avoid conflict, rather than engaging with it. This can be a fantastic asset within the walls of a classroom, but outside a classroom there can be good reasons for resisting the impulse to avoid conflict, especially when principles are in play.
In fact, resistance of any kind can be extraordinarily informative. Paying attention to that impulse to resist, no matter the reason, can help clarify positions and thinking. Not paying attention to the urge to resist all but guarantees a kind of subjugated humility, not the kind necessary for provoking change for the good or slowing change for the worse.
Teachers have a lot of expertise that is seemingly too readily dismissed in our current climate. We have an obligation to speak up and resist when the latest assembly of experts shows up on the scene to tell us how to do our job.
We as teachers should start looking at ourselves as the gurus, not because we have inflated egos, but because it’s truly our turn. Teachers need to advertise themselves as knowledgeable about their craft, readily available to speak to all parts of what they do and how it connects to the world happening around them. We would do well to speak up and out, and not just give way because someone “said so” with no basis for doing so.
VIlson gets it and shares it. I wish more teachers would read posts like this. It is time for teachers to be brave and heard. More than individual jobs depending on it our profession depends on it. If we do not use our voices to tell our stories someone else will tell them for us.