Teaching Activism

Imagine publicly advocating for your chosen profession prior to actually joining it.

Two bright, eloquent about-to-be North Carolina State University graduates marched this week with future teaching colleagues at the state capitol demanding better pay and greater school funding.

Cristina Chase Lane and WinnieHope Mamboleo joined a collective voice of teachers who are rightfully asserting their demands for income aligned with the responsibility of teaching our children. Lane: “I know part of my philosophy of teaching is to teach students to have a voice… and to be activists for what they want. And I feel like I can’t teach them to do that if I don’t do it myself.”

Teaching epitomizes service. A recent NPR/Ipsos poll disclosed more than 9 in 10 teachers said they entered the profession to do good work. We each serve one another. Teachers exemplify service.

As a former mentor to a young teen through the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, I was shocked to learn how deeply immersed in students’ lives teachers and administrative staff were. Inner-city teachers know students’ tenuous family situations. They know whether their kids had dinner the night before. Boxes of clothing, along with a washer and dryer, were stored in the vice-principal’s office for kids whose clothes were not clean. Staff actively looked for children who failed to show up for class.

Financial support for dedicated teachers in this country continues to be stale, as does appropriate school funding. Hope Mamboleo has $20,000 in student loans. Of teaching she says, “I can breathe and learn and be myself in this space. I just have to be humble and know that the main difference I’m making is going to be in the class. I’m just not going to have a lavish life.”

It’s time for us to stand beside them.

 

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Having a Voice can Include Silence

Silence takes many forms. Recognition of inner stillness, the stillness we all share. A chosen absence of speech, which is often quite powerful in conversation or debate. A reaction to circumstance or event.

Silence, I was reminded by Gaston Bachelard, a French 20th Century non-conformist whose interests and education spanned from mathematics to philosophy to chemistry to physics to poetry to architecture, is also “the source of our first suffering… and lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak.”

The world is full of talk today, yes? Little of it, though, is other than superfluous banter at others and not genuine conversation with them. It’s often disparaging, disrespectful and even demeaning.

Frequently, our most important conversations lay dormant, remaining latent as a result of the fear of any number of things, including perceived lack of qualification or authority, or the risk of humiliation.

Herein lies Bachelard’s point. A voice suppressed or withdrawn or belittled is, indeed, a form of suffering. It’s a missed opportunity to connect with others in ways that promote growth, understanding and acceptance. It’s the most important vehicle of self-expression we have, and far more important that any superficial expression.

I have many interests, and I can even muster an opinion. But bigger topics, even risking areas of disagreement, are what intrigue me because there is no one right answer to any question.

I respect courage, self-reflection, equanimity and, yes, silence in its most powerful context. They’re all wonderful tools to build relationships and societies of fairness and diversity. One conversation at a time.

Welcome to SilentThingsWithinUs.