On Behalf Of [The Difference Between Collective Voice and Individual Agency]
In the last week, I’ve given lots of thought about your responsibility versus accountability post, and wondered how vocal we are about the ins and outs of our profession.
Frankly, there’s a whole list of things I’ve rather not be held accountable for, including but not limited to student attendance, adult comportment around students, and an education system that cares much more about its bottom line than its students most in need. Yet, I feel responsible for all those things because a) I came in with the ideal that I would help move the needle towards progress and b) I still believe it.
The optimist in me wants to believe everyone involved understands this dichotomy; the realist in me knows too many people in positions of power who ignore this purposely.
That’s why, at every chance I get, I remind people that one of the ways we’re going to push the profession forward is to take responsibility for their own advocacy as well. I do believe in a collective voice, so naturally, I love having a union (or in my case, unions), and their work matters now more than ever for us having a say in how teacher evaluation and contracts are formed.
However, in other spaces, I’ve found that, in the midst of trying to advocate “for teachers” or speaking on behalf of us, people completely neglect us and / or play to a similar power structure that their detractors do. They might think they’re speaking as part of a collective, but not quite. While people don’t always intend for this to happen, it’s hard for me as an advocate to sit there and wonder why teachers still get the fewest amount of seats (if at all) even in spaces that proffer us, physically or virtually.
Mike Klonsky said once that we might need to destroy the whole flippin’ table, and I tend to agree with him.
For, whenever only a couple of us feel responsible for the children we teach (and these tend to also get held accountable), those moments become part of our experience, moments no one can take away from us. We can speak collectively about our concerns, but we root it in the experiences we have as teachers on a daily basis.
Now that I mention it, I also don’t want to be held accountable for our honesty, but I’m well aware of my responsibility towards it.