Wishing to keep calm and thoughtful more as I remember to breathe in silence.
Wishing to keep calm and thoughtful more as I remember to breathe in silence.
First concert in over a year — best friend of 7 years.
It is well known that the STEM concentrations are prioritized far more than the arts. It is a question of whether or not I feel as though advocacy for the arts is lacking in schooling nowadays, and the answer is yes. It has been lacking for many years and continues to decline every year. Our society seems obsessed with the sciences as the only way of progress that the arts are often forgot and pushed aside. It is the arts that keep us creative, however. They are what continue to inspire us — to push us toward the new, the creative, and the innovative. Neither should exist without the other, as we will always need the sciences for factual progression, while the arts are there for creative progression. Both are necessary.
Schools often sacrifice creativity to follow common core standards and rubric culture. You cannot expect creativity to live within the restricting structure of rubrics and common core. That goes against the core nature of what creativity is. Creativity pushes boundaries, strays far outside the box, and the emphasis on rules and ridged structure is severely hindering to its process.
In my own experiences in high school, I saw the direct neglect of the arts. While math and science classes were continually getting new textbooks every two years, English and art classrooms were still using materials from over ten years ago. I was consistently pushed to take advanced science and math courses instead of those associated with the humanities because they would “push me in the right direction.” Even from these final years of my required education, I was taught that the STEM concentrations were to be immensely valued above the arts and humanities.
There needs to be someone who is willing to advocate for the importance of the arts and humanities before schooling phases them out through a lack of funding and a lack of attendance. The humanities remind us to value inspiration and creativity. Our society cannot live on pure fact. We will always need something there for expression. It is in our nature to want to express what we are feeling; facts are not able to convey emotion, but the arts can. By removing funding and attention from the arts, we are directly hindering students. They need a place where they can express who they are — where they are allowed to feel rather than prove.
We as humans are neither completely based and centered around facts, nor are we completely grounded in creativity and feeling. There needs to be a mixture of both. Advocacy on behalf of the arts is needed. Let our voices be heard.
“One significantly comprehensive multi-state study found that 17 percent of charter schools outperformed traditional schools in reading and math on state achievement tests; 37 percent performed worse; and the rest, nearly half, performed about the same.” (Source Carr).
Recently, the House of Representatives has introduced a bill, known as the “Choice In Education Act” which would allow vouchers to be used in order to send a child to any school of their choice, using federal dollars to cover the expenses. Personally, I find there to be little benefit in charter schools, specifically after reading the above statistic. I find that many people seem to be roped into charter schools by the rumors and promises of a better and more specialized education, but this doesn’t seem to occur for the majority of the time.
Beyond that, the voucher system can cause more problems that many may realize. If a parent doesn’t want their child to go their general school, it may seem as though it is the proper, and better, option to send their child to the best school possible. This, however, can bring up issues of transportation, segregation, and unevenly distributed funding. Many bus routes have been canceled due to funding cuts, so just getting the child to school can be a large problem. Also, if you are able to take out these vouchers, and desire to send your child to an excellent school, they are often found outside of urban, low-income areas, and are often predominantly white. The voucher system could make this segregation even worse. And finally, the most important day for charter school is the head-count day. This is when they try to get as many children to attend as possible, as they are paid thousands of dollars per child. This is not the case for public or private schools in America.
Overall, I don’t support charter schools as they show no real improvement when compared to public schools, and it often seems to be more related to a business rather than a place focused on the students (ie: head-count day). This voucher system seems as though it will cause more issues than problems it may solve.
After meeting with Cathy Fleisher, an expert in advocacy in education, I was able to broaden my ideas surrounding advocacy and the ways in which I am able to act to cause change. I greatly appreciated much of the things she talked about, specifically centering around the advocacy we are able to create and the broad horizon to which is applies. The central idea in all of her ideas about advocacy is Community Organization, something that shows the joining together of a community toward a greater goal of change. It is key that there is a sense of unity and alliance in order to make change possible. This idea bled into the concept of Everyday Advocacy. It matters to know what you can do in your community and make those small changes. The small changes are the ones that are able to bleed into the larger changes.
Cathy also spoke of having patience, as much of the issues we are passionate about are lifelong journeys. It is easy to become frustrated, using one tactic after the next, without causing any true change, or using them as a way to claim advocacy doesn’t work if one tactic fails. Really, it is about setting both short term and long term goals and being proud when those goals are met. It is okay if we aren’t able to fully meet our goals or change the world.
The biggest takeaway from this meeting with Cathy is that involvement is key in all aspects of advocacy. You must learn how to involve yourself in the community you are surrounded by, understand what that community needs to hear in order to gain them as allies, and then act. Change small things that will lead to bigger things. Beyond that, understand that advocacy and being an ally go hand in hand much of the time. You will sometimes need to be the voice of a movement or sometimes be an ally to such a movement.
Know the situation, know your cause, and act.
If you can do this, you are well on your way to becoming an advocate for the profession.
I recently took the Leadership Compass Self Assessment in order to determine what my specific leadership style was. Not surprisingly, two of the types tied: Analytical and Vision. These two leadership styles seem to conflict with one another, but it makes sense. I am both very creative and emotionally driven, while remaining detached and analytical of situations. It really all comes down to the situation in which I need to lead. I seem to take strengths from both; I am very dependable like an analytic think is described as, while often thinking and living in the future (this can often act as a hinderance however and I am working against it).
I do realize that I may appear cold and withdrawn, but I can also become very emotionally engaged. It all depends on the situation. Really, as much as this quiz was fun to take, I am not taking it very seriously. If I completely invested in the results of this test, I could close myself off to other leadership approaches. That would not only hinder myself, but also my coworkers and students because if I am hindered, I impact all those that I interact with.
I like to think of myself as flexible above all else. I have grown beyond my younger, closed-off mindsets and hopefully the resistance to other kinds of leadership styles. I can use both of my leadership styles, so long as I mix them properly, and create a successful environment for me to work within.
Any change in the near future gives me a fair amount of anxiety. This included my future job. As much as I may spout about my confidence or excitement to teach, I can say it also worries me like crazy. My biggest anxiety comes back to my fear of failure. I don’t want to completely bomb my first year because it isn’t just about getting a bad evaluation; it comes down to the fact that I would be failing my students as well. I just hope that I am successful enough in my first years that my kids will gain something from me. If they don’t that says something about me. Which would explain my other large worry about going into the education profession: what if I wasn’t meant to be a teacher after all? What if everything I have studied thus far was purposeless? That would leave me feeling incredibly lost.
I feel that I will struggle the most in becoming comfortable in front of a large group of people that are expecting me to educate them all. It is incredibly stressful to feel as though people are looking to you as an expert. Admittedly, I’m sure that I’ll be able to teach general English, as I have read To Kill A Mockingbird and Romeo and Juliet enough, but that isn’t really the most important piece of teaching. Yes, I need kids to show improvement and comprehension, but I want them to take more away from it than that. I feel that my struggle to become comfortable may negatively impact them. That scares the hell out of me.
I think the easiest way I can get over this is by talking to my aunt who is a teacher. She has several years of experience beneath her belt as well so I’m sure that she would be able to ease some of my apprehensions. Also, when I do my student teaching, I can lean on the teacher I am working with to gain some insight and advice to the profession. That will allow me to work through the biggest bumps of all my worries, as it will be my first true experience educating, and hopefully, I will be able to go into my true job more confident. I think the only other way to deal with these stress and worries is to put a great amount of faith in to myself. I know that I am capable of this job and all that it requires of me. If I wasn’t, I would have already dropped the major.
I know that I am capable, and even writing like this has helped me work through some of my largest anxieties. I won’t know until I step into that classroom on my first day how things will go, but I know that I am capable and competent. I will succeed, even if it’s a rocky start.
As I have discussed thus far, I have come across the question of how young teachers are meant to use their voices in a way that is both beneficial to them and to their schooling. I think it comes down to passion more than anything and the drive to cause action. You have to be motivated enough to want to cause change in the system you become a part of. Moreover, you have to understand how important your voice is, even if it feels like you’re one small piece in a sea of millions.
When thinking of how I can act as a leader within my own community or future communities, I think of becoming a part of a group that will allow me to send my voice farther out than I can alone. As an educator, I will be surrounded by like-minded individuals that can act as a support system for me. This sense of support can allow me to begin the process of joining/starting a movement. With enough voices, any message will gain the attention it deserves (be it good or bad really depends on what you are trying to say).
Beyond that, I also understand that my voice has limits. The world we live in has never been one that allows change easily. I understand that what I am trying to change or what I am attempting to say may face serious opposition at times. The key thing is to not get discouraged. My voice is stronger than I will ever assume it to be and when I band together with other voices, perhaps the voices of this new generation of teachers, we will be able to stand tall against the oppositions placed against us. We can make change happen. Anything is possible when you learn how to use your voice to advocate and lead people toward change.
I am strong. My voice is powerful. We have the capability to change what no longer works. I will go out and do.
It seems to be a large point of confusion when attempting to understand who is an advocate within the system of education, why they are considered advocates, and how young teachers, including myself, are meant to become advocates themselves. It is common for a new teacher to feel unsure of themselves or feel as though they don’t have enough power to question authority. There are times when it is smart to follow the rules put in place, but there are other times that require action—any teacher, of any age, is capable of this.
After reading How Do You Know If You’re a Teacher Leader? by Precious Crabtree and How to Become a Teacher Advocate by Jessica Cuthbertson, I was given a new outlook on what it means to be a young teacher advocate and how leadership plays into this. As a young teacher, it is most important to understand that advocacy can occur in both large and small ways. As Cuthbertson explains, “Advocacy can be as informal as a one-on-one conversation with a parent or as formal as preparing public comments and testifying before a local school board, state board of education or other governing body.” Advocacy begins where you want it to begin, but know that you must begin.
Aside from beginning, find a source of community that will back you and support you through your journey through advocacy. This community can allow you to feel confident enough to share your thoughts and opinions on helpful change within the education system. This ties in the importance of finding the leader that is within us all. When you are able to find this, advocacy seems to come easier. Crabtree explains how leadership allowed her to find her own voice, specifically after finding a mentor that helped her along the way. Her article allowed me to understand how it is okay to not feel comfortable right away when thinking of how I can fill an advocacy role as a teacher. Crabtree mentions, “You see, as a young teacher I didn’t realize my voice mattered – but even if I had, I would have been afraid to use it.” This quote really stuck with me because I realize that it is both applicable to me and other young teachers within the profession.
It seems that is the most important thing to understand that your voice, regardless of how long you have been teaching or how young you are. This voice is what can be used to inspire action within others; it is what will spread the important issues that are effecting the educational system as a whole. Many may get wrapped up in the specific school they are located in; as an advocate, young or old, you should look beyond your current situation to the larger situation. Essentially, an advocate uses their voice to impact both their immediate and removed community.
These articles showed me that anyone can be an advocate, specifically young teachers that enter the profession with a strong passion for current issues effecting education. It is important to understand how important your voice is and to know how to use it.
Go out and advocate!