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Hearing Voices

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I hear so many voices every day. I hear students calling loudly to friends in the hall, and students whispering confidentially to me in class when they need help. I hear teachers complain and celebrate. I hear administrators express exhaustion, and in the next breath, explain plans for the move to excellence. Sometimes I hear myself in the cacophony, but it’s all too rare.

I’ve been reading the other blogs. Jessica Shyu let her voice express her guilt over leaving the classroom. Then, listening to herself, she was convinced she had made the right decision. She has the voice of a leader. Emmett Rosenfeld’s voice led him through the National Board Certification process, shared pain when the goal was not met, and then talked him through the reapplication process. He is now talking about his many other goals and projects. He has a loud voice, one worth listening to.

Dr. Kevin Maxwell, my district superintendent, spoke for three hours about his experiences as a leader to a group of “aspiring leaders”. I was in the audience. He shared his frustration about funding constraints and politicians, of course. But he also shared his excitement about being part of an educational team, and about his vision for excellence. When he was done, I felt optimistic about his leadership. His voice was sure of its direction.

I’m trying to listen to my own voice, which I have kept quiet this year. I’m in a new school, in a new position (department chair). I’ve paid attention to what everyone else in the school has been saying, to identify the school culture and climate. Now I think I have a handle on it – but the principal is retiring and the leadership will change, so perhaps the culture and climate will also.

If there is to be change, there is an opportunity for me. I have to voice my ideas. I believe my school has a distance to travel before we reach the levels of excellence our students need. I think we can achieve excellence, with all our students. I will work for it. I’m listening for my voice to tell me what to do.

I believe I’m going to start speaking louder.

4 Comments

Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Hanne. I feel similarly often. I've been at my school for two years, and have been listening much more than speaking. But I think I need to speak more. If not, all those other voices will overpower mine. It feels hard to speak up, as the "new kid" and in my case, youngest staff member. But change is needed, and if those of us with a fresh perspective only listen, that change will not come.

Speak up! And best of luck with the Boards this year. Remember that the ones who are listening to your voice the most are the kids in your classroom.

With as many voices as we hear in hallways, classrooms and other spaces we occupy in any given day, imagine how our students must feel with the cacophany of noise they absorb! I have been teaching in special education classes since 2000 - first in high school (6 years), now in middle school (2 years). After becoming comfortable in my role within a high school setting, I moved closer to my home in the position at my kids high school/middle school. The drive was cut from 35 miles one way to 6 miles from my home.

But the listening and "hearing voices" has become part of my life as well. I remind myself that God gave me two ears and one mouth - I should listen twice as much as I speak! I am not afraid to speak up for change that I feel is necessary, nor am I afraid to put in hours workingon a goal that will enhance our educational community but for which I receive no compensation. (Who was it that said,"There is no end to what we can accomplish if we do not care who gets the credit.")

All of these noises remind me that our students are facing the same challenges: theymust also sort out the sounds worthy of their time and attention, and then respond accordingly to what is required of them. Yet they havenot had the same amount of life experiences we have had, nor have they had the training to always make the right choice. Knowing that my students AND I are both hearing a babble of voices and choices each day should make me experience more empathy for their needs. I hope that teachers everywhere will find the time to step into the noise of a student's world and encourage them to sort through the voices, making choices that will bring them success.

Thanks for your post. We look forward to learning how you increase student learning through special education programs, especially how you prepare them for college, even though that's outside many sped curricula conventions.

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