Last year I wrote and airing of grievances post in the tradition of Festivus and the hilarious holiday of Seinfeld. It was a fun spin on addressing the issues that cause me some degree of anxiety, angst and flat out anger. This year I plan to step it up a level and add in some Festivus Feats of Strength that I have seen as I try to balance my scales. SO without further delay here are the 2019 Festivus Feats of Strength and Grievances.
Grievance #1- Sugar over Substance
Those who regularly read my blog know that I am a dedicated Twitter learner. I love the opportunity to learn from so many educators from around the world. When I first started my Twitter learning journey I was all about the motivational messages being shared. The “How-to” guides to being an engaging teaching, the fun activities being shared, the amazing kind words being shared. I was most certainly living in a nice little bubble and I loved it. Last year around March or April I started following different educators as I felt I was missing something. Not only in my pedagogy but also simply in my community. This new groups of follows lead me to reading about the experiences of Indigenous, Black, People of Color educators and authors in the #31daysIBPOC project which can be found here. As I read about the lives and experiences of these amazing authors I felt that their message needed to be shared. So I started tweeting it out and tagging all of these “amazing” educators that held such a following in the hopes that they would also share out these voices. They did not. The sweet messages of kindness and relationship building continued. The needed conversations around equity and race were only taking place in smaller circles. It was almost as if these big names in the Kindness and Engagement movement were purposefully not sharing the messages that #31days organized by Tricia Ebarvia and Dr.Kim Parker where so bravely sharing. I have grown tired with the platitudes movement when children are continuing to be treated unfairly due to race, poverty, access to learning materials or a plentitude of other reasons. Like Uncle Ben said in Spiderman with great power, comes great responsibility but this has not been true for some of the most powerful in EduTwitter and so grievance #1 is to those who choose their comfort over the humanity of others.
Feat of Strength #1-The organizers and contributors to #31daysIBPOC
I have thanked them before but really the work of Tricia Ebarvia (@triciaebarvia) and Dr.Kim Parker (@TchKimPossible) in organizing and contributing to their amazing essay project pushed me to look further at race as a factor in my classroom and the lack of diversity my students are faced with as a problem if I am hoping, and I am, to have students ready to be citizens of the world who respect others and want to work towards better. These women and so many other IBPOC educators continue to do the hard work, sadly often without pay or proper recognition, to help other (predominantly white) educators improve their practice. I am grateful to them and will continue to share their message and work and of course CITE THEM.
Grievance #2- Teachers holding on to things because they “like them”
Ok, so I have things I like. We all do and I am not advocating just throwing everything out here. This grievance is directly related to the teachers that value their things, their books, their worksheets and their activities more than they value the humanity of their students. 2020 is coming up, if you were to consult the past people thought we would have flying cars and being living on the moon. The fact is though we are still teaching The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and arguing that since the author used it we should be allowed to say the N word (I just had to take a moment to absorb the absurdity of that last sentence). The idea that teachers are clutching so closely to To Kill a Mockingbird that they won’t even consider a text that isn’t turning 60 this year. I am not saying To Kill a Mockingbird is terrible, I remember reading it as a kid, I liked it. I am saying that the attitude that nothing can replace the things we love to use, that despite concerns raised around messages, language and othering that it might subject our students to we are going to just hold on a keep using them BECAUSE.
Feat of Strength #2 – Authors of Diverse Texts and the Teachers Who Provide them.
I am so grateful that this year I stretched beyond my typical reading life of Fantasy (I still love them) and ventured into realistic fiction and other books that are written by IBPOC authors and stories that showcase the challenges kids face. I am so grateful for #disrupttexts on Twitter and the organizers who help to provide different options to expand my classroom library. It seems like I might be mentioning them a lot lately but in the spirit of citing those doing the work #Disrupttexts is another venture of Tricia Ebarvia and Dr.Kim Parker with the addition of Julia Torres and Lorena German. The book recommendations that I have brought into my classroom based off the community they have created have provided my students so many more experiences than they would have previously had. The additional bonus is my own reading life has shifted and I am using these books in class where I might have used other more dated texts that do not represent the world.
Grievance #3- EduCelebrity Culture
It seems fame is a drug that even teachers want to chase. This year I have lost a lot of respect for educators I once looked up to. I am not going to be naming names here but if you are more concerned with pushing your next book or mentioning how famous you are and are not out their sharing actual teaching, advocating for kids first and doing the heavy lifting I am no longer interested in your message. #theEnd
Feat of Strength #3- Humble Lead Learners
The difference between a teacher seeking the celebrity status and one seeking to better the world of education is not hard to spot. I am so grateful for the examples I continue to see daily that centre the work around our students. The list is so long and they have books too but they are not turning teaching into a sales pitch. They are beautifully advocating for Reflective Readers, Book Access for All Kids, Writing Practices that are rooted in growth, actual teaching strategies and not feel good fluff that does nothing but fill teachers with a false sense of Superhero status when kids need teachers not people wearing capes. I am grateful for the examples of so many, it is time to make sure it is only those voices worthy of our kids that get the showcase in my work and timeline.
Grievance #4- Things being out of my control
This year is the first time a feel a little bit under water. The work load is not more, I am trying to do cool things that I am excited about but it just feels off. I will keep pushing through, treading water until I find myself again but it has been a weird year and I am tired of feeling weird. I can’t control the direction of a school, I can’t control the things out of my classroom and feeling as though my voice is being lost has caused me to question what I am doing. I love teaching, I love building relationships with my students and helping them to become critical thinkers and learners. I am tired of the everything else that gets in the way.
Feat of Strength #4- What matters.
My students are some of the best things that have happened to me. I get to listen to raps crafted by a few basketball players in a response to a Whole Class Novel we have read, Students discussing their connections to characters they at one point saw no connection to. I get to read their beautiful words, hear about their weekends and holiday plans. But most of all I get to learn with them. We are challenging each other this year and I know we will all come out stronger because of it.
I have a lot more that I would love to share a grievance about but as I reflect on these Feats of Strength I have so much to be grateful for. Sure there seems to be a flood of people sharing nonsense like it is educational gold… but there are others actually doing the work. There are students in the world doing great things and teachers walking beside them. I need to shift my focus back to what matters.