As I mentioned in last week's post about finding good partners, one of my doctoral students posed some intriguing questions to me that I have been carrying with me these past two weeks. In this post, I share more of her specific questions and give my second of several recommendations.
One of the individuals in the class shared a powerful way in which she was feeling inspired to communicate online. However, she had concerns about some of the dangers of doing this kind of sharing online.
I gave her a few suggestions right away, but suggested that she follow up with me with an email, as there was a lot more I could say on the topics. Her emails have been edited to protect her (and her students’) identity, as well as for context.
How do I blog about controversial topics safely online?
For example, I work in an urban school where a lot of teacher abuse from students occur. How can I create a safe atmosphere for others to discuss these experiences without being judged or shamed by others who don't understand what it is to support students who have been identified as traumatized?
In addition, to the societal view that you must be a “bad” teacher or doing something wrong if you don't have classroom management or positive relationships with others.
I am also interested in developing powerful dialogues and relationships amongst parents and teachers. A partnership that will create collaboration and supports for students, specifically in the areas of special education, (moderate to serve and emotional/behavioral disorders). Again, pertaining to parents in urban areas (i.e. uneducated, multiple jobs, single parents, foster parents, grandparents, etc.)”
Sharing Their Stories
One of the most powerful ways you could have an impact is to share the stories of those you are looking to serve. When Clint Smith was on the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast on episode 141, he shared about the dangers of silence and how important our voices are. He spoke so proudly of his students and their capabilities and capacity.
The Ear Hustle podcast is another tremendous example of sharing context for people who want to learn more about life inside of a prison's walls. An episode that made me laugh was episode six, entitled “The Boom Boom Room,” about conjugal visits. Episode nine made me weep, as they shared about death and dying in the prison.
Jesse Stommel is another person who regularly challenges us to respect our students. As Jesse explains why he no longer grades, he stresses the importance of starting by trusting our students. Even though the main topic of episode 57, when Jesse was a guest, was about Twitter, the thread that went throughout the entire episode was regarding the importance of kindness in our teaching.
On episode #148, Bronwyn Harris shared about her book, Literally Unbelievable. Despite describing incredibly challenging situations, Bronwyn displays a profound respect for her students, their families, and the people who seek to improve such devastating circumstances. The Deeper Learning podcast, produced by the Orange County Department of Education, is another example of powerful storytelling about people making a difference in the educational community.
One of the common characteristics about all the examples of exquisite storytelling is that there is no place for venting about frustrations regarding students. Anger over the difficult environment that they have to navigate? Yes. But, venting about any challenges related directly to the people that they serve is off limits.
An empathetic voice is present throughout all of these wide-ranging stories. The more empathy we can create toward those we are trying to serve, the more we can do the difficult work of coming up with sustainable solutions.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for you, as you reflect even more on your digital identity, is to determine who your work will be targeted toward.
Are you creating content to help other teachers have greater empathy for their students? Or, do you want to tell stories and provide resources to help families better navigate their children's educational paths?
Once you have a narrow focus on who you are going to be talking to, finding stories to share becomes a lot easier.
One of the best resources I have found for storytelling, recently, is the Power Your Podcast with Storytelling course by Alex Blumberg for the CreativeLive site. If you are interested in taking the course, use this link to get $15 off (and I will also get $15 for the referral).
Alex used to be a producer for the This American Life podcast and is one of the most phenomenal storytellers I know. The episode of his StartUp podcast called Shadowed Qualities was one of the most poignant examples of the “stuff” we bring into our work communities I have ever heard.
I am thrilled that you are asking these questions and look forward to seeing where this all heads, as you create more content in the coming weeks on your blog.