To date, I have written over 700 posts for Finding Common Ground. Truth be told, I never thought I would get passed 10 because I didn’t realize I had all that much to say. 4 years later I realized that somewhere along the way I found my voice. Unfortunately, I have come to realize that I didn’t always provide opportunities for all stakeholders to have a voice.
Don’t get me wrong. I worked hard as a teacher and principal to communicate well, but I made some of the same mistakes everyone else made. There were times I used too many worksheets. There were also moments that I didn’t react well to the feedback I received from parents or colleagues so I tuned them out.
I made mistakes. Lots of them. Fortunately, I wanted to change and had great role models around me to help me in that change process.
The other day I posted 10 Reasons Why Students Should Go On Strike, which was a blog I co-authored with my friend and colleague Russ Quaglia. The first two comments at the end of the blog were from readers who will probably not read this blog again. No, seriously...one reader commented that she will never read a blog from me again. It’s not the first time that has happened.
Respectfully, I think those reactions, although extreme...are important.
Funny thing about a blog. You can write 650 that support a cause, and as soon as you write one that people think no longer supports the cause, you’re on the receiving end of negative comments. It helped me realize that there was an opportunity in all of this criticism, and that opportunity centers around this blog. I have no intention of always writing blogs that will make readers feel good.
Basically, there are 5 reasons why some people shouldn’t read this blog. Yes, some of you can think of more than just 5 but it’s a start.
The 5 reasons you shouldn’t read this blog are:
I won’t always write what you want to read - If you’re looking for another member of the dual admiration society, please go elsewhere. I like support as much as the next person, and want to support education in every possible way but I can’t always support a cause because my friends like it.
In a weird way it reminds me of some of my friends who are liberals (yes, I’m a liberal). They only like things other liberals say...which means they’re not really liberal. I like to write things that poke the hornet’s nest, and more importantly, write things that challenge my own thinking. Writing helps me think it through.
I don’t think the teaching profession is without its issues - Just because I write about the negative side of the profession doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the profession. If you’re looking for someone on the anti-reform side or the reform side, it’s not me. I don’t think every teacher and leader who walks into a school is perfect (I certainly wasn’t!), and I like to write about that. We are supposed to be focusing on continuous improvement.
Public education needs to change...even in the days before it changed - Yes, mandates and accountability are bad words, but I don’t think it’s all bad. Public education was not meeting the needs of every student who entered into it. Poverty and all of those others issues are definitely a piece of that puzzle, but even the best schools are not meeting the needs of all students. I think we can do better, and accountability, mandates, and NCLB...although misguided...are not the only culprits. We needed to improve long before they entered into the picture.
I’m looking for dialogue not support - You don’t like the blog post? Awesome! I want to know why! Explain where you are coming from on the issue! Change my mind! I’ll bring my research and opinions, and you can bring yours.
People you don’t like will write guest posts - I like when the people I don’t agree with write posts for Finding Common Ground. I have had my share of people on the receiving end of my rhetoric reach out to tell me what they didn’t like about the blog. I asked them to write a guest post...and they did. Why? Because I’m not here to silence someone...I’m here to understand them.
In the End
If you’re looking for an education blog that is going to tell you everything you want to hear, then this is not the one. I want to write a blog that offers ideas from some of the best minds in the field, which means those who write books, teachers who are in the classroom doing amazing things, and principals who are innovative leaders. However, I also want to write about things that seem like they will inspire dialogue. We need to talk about issues and model what we teach our students about getting along.
We spend way too much time vilifying the other side. I understand there are some real reasons why that happens, but if we want students to stand up to bullies, then we need to make sure that we’re also not modeling the bullying we want to stop. Students...our students, need to understand that sometimes we can argue and still be friends. That we don’t always have to pick a side, and that sometimes we’re fallible. If you’re looking for blogs that will always make you feel good, this is not the one.
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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.