- We teach our students to advocate for themselves and voice their ideas and opinions.
- Often, we hesitate to do the same for ourselves.
- It is important to be an advocate for ourselves, our colleagues, and our students.
Your Voice Matters
I am a hypocrite.
I also teach fifth and sixth grade. On my classroom wall are letters, each a foot high, which spell out, “Your voice matters.” I am immensely proud of having these words as part of my physical space and my class culture. I try to instill in my students the importance of expressing themselves assertively and respectfully to others, especially their peers. Self-advocacy and giving their opinion about important issues are skills I believe are genuinely essential, and my students have known this since the first week of school. We work on these skills through class activities in talk and writing. I also make them a priority on an informal basis.
I expect my 11- and 12-year-olds to state their opinions in class meetings, debates, and discussions. They learn to create presentations and speeches about topics close to their hearts. I talk them through their anxiety and help them to set goals for sharing their voices. Respecting others’ ideas is at the foundation of our class culture, and I aim to foster the confidence my students need so they can share effectively.Respecting others’ ideas is at the foundation of our class culture, and I aim to foster the confidence my students need so they can share effectively. Click To Tweet
Bringing My Voice to the Table
Meanwhile, I don’t always bring my voice to the table, even when I am passionate about the topic. There usually seems to be someone with a more emphatic opinion, a bigger voice, a more compelling argument. I have strong ideas, but I don’t model the courage I hope my students will have…at least not on the issues which will bring about true, positive change.
I often hesitate to speak up about aspects of education that leave me concerned and frustrated. I stopped writing publicly for a few months because a reader reacted to one of my submissions in a way I had not anticipated. Pleasing others, rather than speaking up, has been a priority for me in the past. This is certainly not the example I want to set for tomorrow’s leaders.
For years, I thought of my classroom as my only educational environment. I had a comparatively large amount of control over how things ran beyond that threshold, and I used that as an excuse not to try to change anything outside of it. Since meeting the Teach Better team, that philosophy has changed.[scroll down to keep reading]
Being an Advocate
As an educator in 2023, it is my responsibility to advocate not only for my students but for myself and my colleagues. Addressing tough topics in schools can feel like a daunting task. Then again, so is educating students with an infinite variety of needs, and this is something we all do. Every. Single. Day. I make hundreds of decisions a day, big and small. Surely, I have the skills to hold important conversations. I am also fortunate to have a PLN that will support me in planning and practicing these conversations as needed, just like I do with my students.
This January, I am setting a new purpose. My classroom still belongs to me and my students. This year, when I look at the words “your voice matters” on our wall, I want to feel forthright, honest, and articulate…an advocate. The education system doesn’t need hypocrites. We need champions, and I intend to be one.
About Sandra Weir
Sandra Weir lives in Québec, Canada. She taught every grade from Junior Kindergarten to Grade Eight. Sandra is currently a Grade Six English and Math teacher. She is a wife, mom to three wonderful adults, and a definite dog person.