A couple of weeks ago I posted a Teaching Out Loud entry asking readers to identify some of the elephants in the room when it came to talking about change in education. The conversation was brisk and engaging, resulting in one or two subsequent guest posts by some pretty passionate writers.
While there is something very important about honestly acknowledging the things that hold us back from the types of authentic conversations that we need to be having around change, there is a sense in which naming the elephants is just the first step. Since the flurry of activity around those “elephant naming” posts, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the “now what” question. How do we address the elephants now that we’ve named them?
This is a little more risky and, as the Canadian Education Association’s CEO Ron Canuel reminds me frequently, requires that we draw on a good deal of courage to move beyond rhetoric and conversation.
Naming what holds us back is a rational act. It takes place at the level of cognition and re-cognition. It seems to me that courage, on the other hand, is an act of the heart and requires a depth of personal commitment, rooted in integrity and the desire to act on what we know to be the right thing to do. Naming is imaginative work but the actions that come from courage are creative, purposeful and visible. Naming is fairly safe and doesn’t necessarily alter the status quo. It takes courage, however, to disturb, unsettle and uproot people, ideas and assumptions.
So the question that I find myself carrying with me today has to do with courage. If I look back on the roster of elephants that we’ve identified over the past couple of weeks, which ones am I courageous enough to address directly? Which ones are appropriate for individual action? Which are best suited for then energy of a larger group? Where do I/we start?
As we move deeper into negotiations surrounding relating to teacher contracts here in Ontario, the tensions are bound to build. I don’t have a huge history of political activism or union involvement but I’m thinking that this may provide the perfect opportunity to be courageous, communicate clearly and confidently with my own union leadership and attempt to build some energy around different ways of addressing the elephants that continue to hang out in the room.
Advice and insights are always welcome!