What if… Reflections from 35,000 feet between St. Louis and San Francisco
What if we open the lines of dialogue and ask more about where each other is coming from instead of waiting for our turn to talk or becoming defensive in moments of disagreement?
What if we considered the Patterns of Power in literature and our students’ own writing when teaching grammar instead of the harsh rules, exceptions, and limitations found on worksheets?
What if we arm our students with strategies and a platform for writing rather than assigning a topic that will only live on the teacher’s desk and in a folder?
What if we asked our students what they feel is important instead of forcing importance on them?
What if we taught students how to choose books instead of limiting them to a humiliating level label?
What if we viewed the books in our classroom library through our students’ eyes? What will happen if we ask who is represented, who is misrepresented, and who is missing?
What if we stopped to ask students “what can you try?” when they come to difficulty instead of Doing the Work for them?
What if we look at our students’ writing with an admiring lens instead of a deficit lens?
What if we speak up and call out a colleague when they put down a child? Who will stand up for that child if we don’t? Every child deserves a hero.
What if we show our children that they can be their own heroes? What if we empower them to advocate for themselves and others?
What if we ask our students who they are and accept all of their stories instead of forcing the single story upon them?
What if we speak up when we hear or see prejudice in action? Our silence is acceptance.
What if ALL teachers had access to professional development that inspired them to ask these questions instead of PD that simply shows them how to regurgitate a prescribed curriculum?
I will never stop asking what if. It may not win me any popularity contests, but it will cause some to think a little differently or to challenge their own views. I may not change everyone’s mind, but I may plant some seeds that have the potential to grow into change at some point. Friends, I hope you’ll join me in asking what if…
As teachers, and as teacher leaders, we will never truly know the reach of our influence, but as long as we keep publicly asking what if? and challenge the oppressive and unjust status quo, we are making change. Thank you to everyone who inspired me to ask what if? this weekend at NCTE 2017 in St. Louis: Joanne Duncan, Jan Miller Burkins, Kim Yaris, Gravity Goldberg, Renee Houser, Kari Yates, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Nancie Atwell, Jeff Anderson, Whitney LaRocca, the entire crew at Stenhouse, Justin Dolcimascolo, Sam Fremin, Susie Rolander, Kathryn Hoffman-Thompson, Kara Pranikoff, Colleen Cruz, Pernille Ripp, Chris Lehman, Heather Rocco, my table of open-minded elementary educators who willingly asked questions and challenged books, Chad Everett, Dana Stachowiak, my dear G2Great cousins, and all of the incredible educators who led and participated in roundtables around conferring first thing on Friday morning. My teacher and change-agent heart is full. There is work to be done, friends.
What if… This, I will never stop asking.