My Vow to Be a Disruptive Educator

Enlightened Path

I love the power of a good idea. I love how a great book passage, an insightful quote, or an inspiring talk can stop you dead in your tracks and slap you across the face. An idea that leads to the proverbial “aha moment” as teachers, and Oprah, like to call it.  And I often find that these ideas aren’t necessarily new, but instead articulate and unearth an internal truth you already had hidden deep inside. It’s like hiking. You can see your path but your sight is limited, blocked by the trees and hill tops surrounding you. Those ideas, those ‘aha moments’ temporarily raise you up and give you a birds-eye-view of your path and give you a whole new perspective on where you are going.

As happens more than I’d care to admit, I got lost down the rabbit hole of YouTube watching various TED Talks, when I came across Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable by Luvvie Ajayi, and experienced one of these ‘aha moments.’ Her talk explores her journey becoming a “professional troublemaker” and how she has found the courage to speak truth to power and highlight what we can do better in this world. And while this idea was nothing new to me, her words articulated what I’ve been thinking and feeling in a way I couldn’t before. She gave me new perspective on the direction I was already heading, and in doing so, helped enlighten my path.

Not the First, Only, or Last

I know that I am not the first educator to think this way nor the only one thinking this way now. John Dewey (man do I love me some John Dewey!) and Sir Ken Robinson have been speaking truth to our education institutional power long before me. I am surrounded by countless educators, both famous and not, that are the voices in the room demanding we do better. And many of these education innovators aren’t just talking but are acting, blazing new and inspiring trails for the rest of us to follow. I also know that I will not be the last, that many educators around the world are committing every day to lay a foundation for something better.

So why this post? I want to join those around me and add my voice to their ranks. This post is my personal and public commitment to being a disruptive educator.

Confront Confrontation

Now, to be clear and upfront, I hate confrontation. Or rather, I’m afraid of it. I typically avoid it at all costs, despite my better judgement and adult meta-cognitive acknowledgment of how ridiculous it is. I will knowingly put off the inevitable, while simultaneously recognizing that it will only be worse the longer I wait, just to stave off for a moment my dread of confrontation. But as Lovvie says, “we must attack our fears.” She pledges:

“I am not going to let fear rule my life. I am not going to let fear dictate what I do…Anything that scares me, I’m going to actively pursue it.”

She’s amazing, right?!?. But how? How do you attack your fears? Well, again I’ll follow Lovvie’s lead. Her ability to confront her fears stems from her core values of honesty, integrity, justice, and shea butter (watch her explanation here). She sees no other option but to speak out because it would go against who she is and what she unwaveringly believes. So I set out to define my educational core values – my non-negotiables as an educator. Now this wasn’t easy. I began with a list of over 20 ideals and slowly, through several drafts, condensed it down to these four:

Educational Core Values

My commitment to these Educational Core Values will help me attack my fear and be a disruptive presence in the room. These core values will help me confront confrontation.

What It’s Not

I am not sure what this committed new journey will be exactly; however, I do know what it’s not. It is not a commitment to attack individuals but instead a vow to challenge institutionalized ideas. I know the field of education is filled with committed, passionate, and smart educators, and sometimes these people tow the line (myself included). My challenge is not against them but instead alongside them, challenging us all to do better.

This journey is also not a space to merely point out what’s wrong in education without offering possible solutions. That would just be complaining. Instead, I am dedicated to pointing to solutions, whether they be my own or belonging to others. I am also committed to asking for help and admitting when I don’t know how to make it better. I will lean on my in-person and digital PLN for support. While it’s not crystal clear what this path before me is, I also know I don’t need to know the destination to be sure I’m traveling in the right direction.

Will Not Sit Idly By

One of my favorite quotes is from historian and social activist Howard Zinn. He boldly proclaimed that “you can’t be neutral on a moving train.” Nothing speaks louder to me than this idea. The education train isn’t always moving in the right direction. At times it’s being conducted by misinformed and misguided individuals, both well intentioned and not, proposing imprudent policies. If we don’t speak out we are in practice condoning these actions. This compels us all to be disrupters!  Not to speak in hyperbole, but as an educator is there any cause greater than shaping the way we educate our society?

And with that said, I am personally and publicly committing to being the voice in the room, asking the questions, and being the domino that falls first. The domino that knocks down other dominos and eventually knocks down the outdated practices and leaves room for new innovative ones. I will not sit idly by.

This is my pledge. Will you join me?

2 comments

  1. This is a fantastic read and something I desperately needed to hear after my past week of my student teacher practicum. I should be thinking about this kind of thing now and setting a baseline so I can hold true to myself and to my students.

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    • Thank you Jess! I am glad it was helpful to hear. There is no doubt there are many external challenges to being a teacher; having a strong set of core values seems like a great way to “set a baseline” like you said. Thanks for commenting and adding to the discussion! Good luck in your practicum.

      Like

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