Tacoma high school teacher Nate Bowling has been sharing some pretty hard-hitting pieces on his website these days.
First there was this #RealTalk Gold, “The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having,” which was as pitch-perfect a Hot Take Viral-worthy Piece as has ever been crafted.
Anyway, so then there was this straight-up flame emoji, crystal ball, 100% emoji followup, “Just in case things weren’t clear.”
The cited letter in that second post got me thinking. I’ve been interested in researching primary sources ever since I started reading the American Girls books in first grade. I spend most of my energy in the education world advocating for math-related stuff, which isn’t mutually exclusive from being an English major at heart who lurrrrves annotating documents. What if part of open sourcing education looked like large-scale World Game-like voluntary collaboration? What if this was part of a current larger effort on behalf of educators to tell our stories?
Nate’s first post had already shoved my mental ball rolling in the direction of using historical primary sources to ground an education conversation. A few weeks ago, I created a tangentially related lesson plan that taught a close reading annotation lesson using a recent widely circulated public document. It was good fun and genuinely had me thinking more critically and in a deeper way than I usually do in the “real world.” It was a great example of Project Based Learning. So then what’s holding us back from sharing our stories and then leveraging them to find solutions?
Earlier today, Jose Vilson posted this:
.@shevtech If you're a teacher, and you want respect for your story, you almost have to leave the classroom. Glad I didn't have to.
— Jose Vilson (@TheJLV) February 18, 2016
This resonates with me. I’ve been approached by a number of teachers looking to process how nervous we are about being open about our classroom experiences for fear of backlash. I’ve hesitated at uploading lessons and essay reflections for fear of creating drama. (I think my personal concerns about sharing stories from my experience are compounded by knowing what happens when the Internet decides to lash out against a woman. Not ready to unpack this bit yet.)
This isn’t a new phenomenon, either. Three years ago, when I posted a YouTube video explaining recent changes to grading practices, I was contacted by the president of an organization that represented me indicating that “a few dozen” members complained about the video and that I should take it down.
I consider myself lucky to be employed by a school district that values teacher leaders engaging in dialogue on important issues. I consider myself lucky to have worked for administrators who walk the walk regarding whole-child education and teacher self care. I have been lucky, but all our kids and teachers deserve better.
Tomorrow there’s a Walk-In at schools across the country, and you should totally participate! I’ll be attending at my neighborhood high school, Garfield, at “30-50 minutes before bell time.” First bell is at 7:50, according to Garfield’s website.
“There’s an infinite inkwell high above the city.”