by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.
I am ending this year of 2013 with a blog post about having a voice for social change; for social good. Social media has given us all a voice as well a potential audience. We are living in unprecedented times. At no time in history has there been this opportunity to reach so many people with our own unique voices using social media.
How we use that voice is up to each individual. Social media users can choose to tweet about what they had for dinner or post selfies of their party life. Since I have this mission-vision of making a difference especially in the field of education, I choose to use social media to disseminate my own ideas for a better educational system via my blog User Generated Education; using Twitter daily to tweet out ideas for educational reform and to share educational resources shared by the many great educators using Twitter. I am finishing 2013 with close to 15,000 Twitter followers and almost 435,000 views of my blog with close to a quarter of a million in 2013. The reason that I mention these statistics is that they provide at least a little evidence that my voice, my ideas have an audience . . . and I am very grateful for this audience.
I also am a bit biased and opinionated in that I believe educators, counselors, social workers, and other service oriented folks should use social media to help create change in their respective and related fields. I am guided by some powerful commentary that I heard during a Gloria Steinem keynote at a mental health conference. She discussed that when those in the service field (I include educators in this) just work with individuals to resolve their specific problems, they are not treating the larger systemic issues. She compared it to doctors only treating individuals in the case of a pandemic rather than trying to figure out and cure the larger epidemic. We are living in a pandemic of bad, often toxic practices in public education where scripted curriculum, tests, and overwhelming accountability practices have taken over classrooms, where teachers and students are losing their “selves” as standardization is norm and creativity, uniqueness, and innovation are not rewarded; and being in the classroom has become painful for many teachers and way too many learners.
Many educators I know feel as though there are way too many initiatives, practices, curriculum, and assessments forced onto them that are contrary to their own beliefs, philosophies, and practices. Some try to use their own voice and practices within their own schools and classrooms. Others just go along for the ride as teaching through someone else’s lens and world is better than not teaching at all . . . and still others have given up and left teaching completely (e.g, Teacher’s resignation letter: ‘My profession … no longer exists’). None of these actions results in changing the system; of helping to cure the pandemic of bad practices in education.
So in this end of year blog, I am putting out this call to action. If you, as an educator or a supporter of a “good” education, believe that the educational systems could better meet the desires and needs of educators, administrators, learners’ families and most of all the learners, themselves, then use your voice to express your concerns and your proposed solutions to a better system. This (educational) revolution can be Tweeted! This comment is in reference about the political movements that use social media as a voice against oppression and injustice.
The internet has opened a new arena, perhaps the purest democracy in the world. It is building bridges across continents, connecting causes, creating relationships, and raising consciousness to the point that the traditional role of the state in this area (of education) and many others is being slowly renegotiated and not on its terms. On ours. (The Revolution Will Be Tweeted)
Keeping silent might (emphasis on might) help a teacher keep his or her job, but at what cost? What are the costs to the educational professional, to oneself, to one’s own and future learners of keeping silent?
Having a voice for educational reform also connects to teachers regaining their agency as I discuss in Teacher Agency: Educators Moving from a Fixed to a Growth Mindset – with a short except here:
The bottom line, is that teachers need to reclaim their perceived and real teacher agency, voice, and empowerment. They need to develop a growth mindset that they can and do have agency in their profession.
With all that is happening in the education profession today, it is important to remember that teacher’s have power to change the system. This power for change can be called “Agency” which is defined as the capacity of teachers to shape critically their responses to educational processes and practices (Biesta and Teddler, 2006). With all the external push from various sectors, ultimately teachers are the ones that can cut through all of the cross-purposed mandates and transform their own process and practices to ensure the best educational experiences for their students.