I hear this sometimes. I’ve said this before. And from what I’ve gathered, the sentiment is not all that uncommon.
Amidst all the district initiatives, required testing, and things we have to do, educators know when practices are becoming detrimental to our students. We instinctively know when things start to harm instead of help, and we do what we can to combat what we can. From my understanding, that’s where this phrase comes from. I see it as misguided.
I do not think we should continue practices that are harmful to students because we were told to. Not at all. I take issue with it because I strongly believe we need to do what’s best for kids, and then loudly proclaim that to everyone who will listen.
I understand that this will make us unpopular. I understand that it will ruffle feathers. I also understand that it can put our livelihoods in a precarious position. And if that is so, I understand the lack of willingness to do it and the hesitation to be loud about it.
While I can recognize the difficulty of the situation, I ask you to consider the position we are putting education in by not challenging the system. By presenting complacency when being asked to engage in harmful practice.
A question was posed in a Twitter chat recently that asked us to consider “what hill we would die on” when it comes to challenging education. My response was that when a practice is harmful to students, detrimental to their learning, or unjust in anyway, I will die on that hill every single time.
We do not make change by closing our doors to do what’s best for our kids in the secrecy of our classrooms. We cannot combat harmful practices with our silence. Our influence is only as great as our voice, and when we fail to use it, we fail to make progress towards a better system.
“Progress starts at the explosion.”
Cornelius Minor, a fellow educator and published author on literacy, said that in a presentation I recently attended, and I haven’t been able to shake it since. The notion that we can make change quietly is false. The idea that we can improve the overall health of our educational system behind the closed door of our classroom is not so.
We must share the injustices, the harm, that is perpetuated in our school systems. We must absolutely do what’s best for our students, but we cannot hide it. It is vital that we openly, loudly, and actively demonstrate that we are doing what’s best for kids. Especially when we are expected to do something different, something that perpetuates inequity or invokes harm to our students.
Educators are professionals. We spend years cultivating our knowledge and skills. We have experience, sometimes decades of it, working with children and learning how to challenge them and teach them and help them grow.
And we must use this professional status, which we have earned and which gives us unique knowledge, to build a better educational system. That absolutely starts in our classrooms or in our roles as educators. But to truly make a change that steers our system away from harmful practices, we cannot stop there. We must proudly share what we know, what we have experienced, what we have seen in our classrooms. It is crucial that we challenge harm when we see it, in the best way that we can. We must use our voices.
We cannot hide behind our doors.