This four word phrase is as offensive as a four letter word, people; and I want it to exist as much as a first generation ipod in the era of streaming music. (Do you even know how out-of-date, off-the-radar, so-vintage-you-can-find-it-in-a-thrift-store old those things are??)
I have spoken to so many teachers who have said, “S/he won’t listen to me. I’m just a teacher. What can I do?” This is the saddest, most pathetic thing I have ever heard. So, please, for the love of old ipods, stop saying it! Instead say, “I’m a teacher and I know what to do, so you need to listen to me.”
Teachers; dear, tired, over-worked, under-paid, busy, caring, loving, helpful, sincere, funny, optimistic, energetic, smart, and kind teachers, you can be the reason things change. Here is how you do it. (Note that despite the linear fashion in which the following is written, such things do not occur linearly, and should not be taken as parts of a list that have to happen in order, but rather, as parts of a whole–the “whole” being to influence positive change.)
1.) Show your professionalism: YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL (despite what the government, media, or even parents may say). You know your stuff. Support your thoughts and ideas with logic, evidence, and research. (And this is not to say that if something isn’t published in a book or article then it’s not worthy of being cited…action research and evidence gathered from experience is valuable, too.) But remember, if you have an idea and it cannot be supported, you need to revise that idea.
2.) Be a wo/man with a plan. If you see that something is not working, find a way to fix it before you barge into someone’s office and barrage them with complaints about the system. (I’ve been here, and it’s not pretty. I have learned that I need to have some leverage before I go on a soapbox rant.) Of course, support your well-structured and duly-outlined plan with logic, evidence, and research.
3.) Find a friend. Guaranteed, there are many other teachers that feel the way you do about how something is being implemented or run in your school or district. Find like-minded people to help you in your pursuit to make positive change.
4.) Open your mind. Sometimes, even when we disagree with a new initiative or idea, we need to find a way to accept it and integrate it into our work. Distinguish the parts of the plan or idea that work for you and your students and work on tweaking the other parts to work in your classroom.
5.) Speak up. If you see something and you know it’s not right, say something. I’ve discovered that some issues that mean a lot to me are not on the radar of my superiors. And why should they be? Principals and other administrators are busy running a school and don’t always have time to talk to me about the significance of writing folders–which, if you ask me, is of utmost importance to me and my students–or the minute issues of various departments in general. If you want something changed, say something.
Remember, you are not “just a teacher”. You are a teacher, and sometimes that means schooling others about issues that you believe deserve attention. Your thoughts, ideas, and opinions are valuable. Do you know why? Because you’re a teacher. Go you.