Slice of Life 11: Teacher Voice and Risk Taking
By Janice Ewing
Once again, the comments I received on my previous Slice of Life post have deepened my thinking. (I appreciate more and more how crucial the commenting component is to the SoL process.) Yesterday, I continued writing about the theme of teacher voice. One commenter noted that this is particularly challenging for teachers who are not in official leadership roles. Of course, that brings up a whole other set of issues about teacher leadership (the role versus the title), but her point is well taken. Many teachers might ask themselves, “Will others wonder why I’m speaking up?” “I’m not really an expert,” “There are so many others with more experience,” and similar thoughts. My thinking is that everyone should be speaking up when they have something to say, regardless of title or years under our belts. We’re all experts on our own experience.
Another commenter suggested that making supportive, collegial conversations a normal part of the school routine would help all teachers to allow their voices to be heard. I agree, and think that this practice would go a long way towards encouraging teachers to be more reflective and more vocal about their practice. Of course, this is easier said than done, with today’s crowded schedules and the sometimes impermeable walls that separate grade levels and departments. I believe it’s worth the effort it would take.
Still another commenter proposed a template along the lines of “I’m interested in or concerned about_________ so I’m studying the work of____________.” I think this idea is exciting because it helps all teachers to identify as teacher-researchers and lifelong learners. What a great example to set for our students!
One other commenter pointed out that social media can serve as a great vehicle for some teachers. Those of us participating in the Slice of Life challenge clearly agree. Whether the entry point is a collegial conversation within one’s school, a plan for action research, participation in a professional organization, or membership in a supportive online community, opportunities for empowerment abound. It’s worth taking the risk.
* This “Slice of Life” post is part of a larger blog series, hosted by the blog site, Two Writing Teachers: A Meeting Place for a World of Reflective Writers.
Janice Ewing is an adjunct for Cabrini College and a co-director for the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. Janice co-facilitates PAWLP’s “Continuity Days” and this blog. She is an avid reader and writer, and especially enjoys writing poems.