My #oneword2018 is voice.
When I was a junior in high school, I entered a school-wide oratorical contest. Students who entered the contest had 3 minutes to speak on a topic of their choice. I chose to talk passionately about influential people of color. At the age of 17, I remember being frustrated by the obvious biases within my school, and I was determined to find a way to speak on it. I presented my speech in front of my peers, teachers, administrators and even community members. I will never forget the response I received after I said my last word and the pride that I felt when I walked off that stage. It was amazing!
Well… I came in 2nd place that day. However, before the winner was announced one of the judges went up to my mother and apologized in advance. He wanted to prepare her for the fact that I was not going to win that day. I may have been the most passionate, creative and well-prepared speaker, but I’m not quite sure the judges could fully embrace my topic.
Even though this happened well over 2 decades ago, it reminds me to believe in the power of my own voice and not allow my passions to lay dormant. Sometimes, we have to reflect on past experiences to remember the power that is within us. By the way, I felt like a total winner that day.
Think of a time when you were challenged to speak your truth. As you know, your response rarely comes in the form of a well-written speech, but as educators we have a variety of forums to use. Most importantly, we have to exercise the power of our voice each day to challenge, agree, redirect, support, affirm, delegate…and the list goes on. As a school administrator, it is essential that I reflect on how I use my voice. I enlist the help of thought partners and mentors for support and feedback in this area. I watch folks in action. I also read and study the perspectives and experiences of others.
It is safe to say that for most of us this is an area that is always a work in progress. If you are anything like me, you have those fist pumping, nailed it type of moments as well as those gut wrenching, lay in your bed and put the covers over your head kind of times. We continually work toward developing our voice because it has such an impact on our lives and the lives of others.
Now let’s consider how this spills over to the classroom setting. As educators, we help shape and empower our students’ voices. Like us, they are a work in progress. How do we respond when their voices express that they are tired, confused or dare I say bored? Do we react with frustration? Are we dismissive? Do we attack their character? How much time is spent each day telling students loudly to quiet down and use their inside voices? Do we embrace those social butterflies and those students who have that internal fire, while being persistent and intentional about finding ways to ensure that our quiet students find their voice in the classroom? Our learners are the current and future makers and their voices matter.
This year, give yourself permission to speak your truth and embrace the voices of others. Connect with others who are willing to provide honest feedback, alternative perspectives and ideas that challenge your thinking. Share your knowledge in a manner that inspires others to reflect and shift their way of thinking or course of action.
I look forward to learning and growing with you in 2018.
Happy New Year,