Indiana recently passed legislation that will greatly change the scope of graduation requirements. While I agree with many of the ideas behind this proposal, I struggle to see how this sweeping change will positively impact and support ALL students at ALL levels. This week I went way out of my comfort zone and decided to attend a State Board of Education meeting. I signed up and gave testimony about how this new graduation legislation would create challenges for our, already, most challenged students. I am completely comfortable sharing ideas and leading in my building, but speaking at a state board meeting was a little intimidating.
Attending this meeting, and speaking on top of that, made me think about a TEDTalk I saw a few years ago. The video below is by educator and poet Clint Smith. Listen as Clint describes the danger of silence.
“I spent so much of my life telling people the things they wanted to hear instead of the things they needed to; told myself I wasn’t meant to be anyone’s conscience…unaware that my validation doesn’t need words to endorse its existence.” Our voice has great power, but our silence may have more.
As I am writing this, I am also reminded of a Matthew West song, “Do Something.” Here is the chorus of that song:
If not us, then who, if not me, then you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when, will we see an end, to all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing, it’s time for us to do something
If there are things we need to see happen in education, it is time to do something about it. I am not sure if my voice will create the needed change, but I refuse to sit silent. As I said, I am comfortable expressing my views in my own building, and in front of my own staff, but I need to become a voice outside of my immediate surroundings as well. If I don’t speak up now, then when?
I love the passion and power in the words of Matthew West and Clint Smith. If we want change, we must stand up and make that change; problems rarely ever fix themselves. I am not against change, and I am not against raising the rigor for our students. But, I also feel I need to speak up against change that does not support ALL of our students. Kids who come to us smart, leave us smart, and we pat ourselves on the back. What about the students who come to us with so many challenges either cognitively, as language learners, or those who are asked to take on more roles that any child should have outside of school? How do they leave us? Better? The same? Able to face challenges in an ever changing world?
It is time to stop the blame game. It is time to stop making excuses. I don’t care whose fault it is; our students need us because they are our future, and we hold the keys to that future being better for them and for all of us. We cannot stand silently on the sidelines, hoping for someone else to take the lead, hoping for an easy answer… There are no easy answers. It’s not enough to do nothing, it’s time for us to do something! Regardless of the legislation, we will continue to do what is right for students and fight for the kids who have no one else is fighting them. These kids are looking for the voice of a champion, and we are that voice. Let’s use it to make sure all kids have the best chance possible.
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!