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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

3 Reasons Why We Seem So Angry

By Peter DeWitt — June 30, 2015 3 min read
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If you spend anytime on social media you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of angry people. I don’t think social media causes their anger. Angry people have been angry long before social media came into our lives. It’s just that they have a format, and an audience, to be angry.

Usually, we just shrug our shoulders, say “how sad,” and move on about our day thankful that we are not having the day those people seem to be having. Don’t get me wrong, because there are many reasons we should be angry or upset with what is happening around us, but I believe some people spend too much time in the anger stage. They swing constantly...and swing often.

Perhaps they don’t know how they come off on social media?

As educators, we have seen many changes in accountability over the last few years, and that has been a source of anger. NY State is presently going through a debate about increased accountability on teacher evaluation, and many people continue to be angry about the misdirection the state is taking. Some of us warned it was coming, while others wanted to bury their heads in the sand or just accept that this was inevitable and move on about their business.

This may make me seem like Captain Obvious but whether it’s politics, education or something else, there are at least 3 reasons why educators are so angry. I say “at least 3” because I’m sure people reading the blog can come up with many more reasons.

1. People Feel They Don’t Have a Voice - We often feel like we are on the outside looking in, even if we have voices through blogs, articles and social media. One of the reasons why social media is popular is that it gives the real or perceived voice to the voiceless.

Commentary on education, changes being made to Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR), and increased testing accountability in education all feel like something being done to educators and do not seem to include dialogue around making schools stronger as much as they seem to focus on holding teachers accountable.

All in all, I wonder if we lack a voice or we just are not using our voices in the areas where they could do most good. For example, we may not control the state dialogue around education, but we do control it in our own school communities. Perhaps we will feel like we have more of a voice if we use it there. However, that means that all stakeholders have to be open to listen to the voices of others.

In a recent blog about Teacher Voice, Don Bartalo commented,

In my 50 years as a public school teacher and administrator, the only time there ever was a genuine, strong teacher voice was during the Whole Language Era that emerged in the late 1970s and flourished until the mid-1990s. Led by such language arts notables as Marie Clay and Kenneth Goodman, whole language teachers rejected traditional instruction that used phonics, spelling lessons, and reading skills workbooks. I know, I was a principal of such a school. Working on their own, many teachers back then embraced an educational philosophy that ran contrary to traditional reading and writing instruction and paid a price for their stand on student and meaning-centered learning. It was a grassroots effort that often found hundreds of teachers traveling to after-school teacher-led workshops. These teachers created their own professional learning and developed their own professional voice. Why should we have to look back in order to find something good in teaching and learning? Teachers must find their own voice and that voice must be grounded in what is best for student learning, not what is best for teachers.

2. Being Treated Like Failures - This is more concerned with education than the first one. The commentary around education in particular has never been kind. We can go back to A Nation At Risk in the 80’s to show an example of educators being treated as though they are the reason for all of the woes in our country. When teachers and principals bring up things like poverty, social-emotional growth of students, and over-testing they are accused of making excuses.

The monologue around education seems to focus on what is wrong with it and not what is right with it. Treating people like failures only adds to the anger that people feel. If we really want to make things better, we should probably change the negative dialogue around and stop swinging at each other.

I fear that won’t happen for a very long time. We are all so divided.

3. We Don’t Get What We Want - Adults, like children, want what they want, and when they don’t get it, problems occur. Nonsensical accountability measures in education certainly don’t help this issue because a majority of us don’t want those. However, more than just what is being done to teachers, principals, and therefore children, we have a larger issue of figuring out how to find situations that offer win-win solutions in our personal and professional lives, so we all understand that in life we get some of what we want rather than all of it.

Until then the vilification will continue.

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Creative Commons Photo courtesy of Ryan Hyde.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.