Now along comes #occupywallstreet and all the offshoots. (When I saw on Twitter last night that there was an #occupyLexington – where I grew up – that kind of surprised me, and that ultimately spurred this post.) While not only comprised of young people, they are certainly a significant portion of these protests, and I think we’re beginning to see protesters in this country leverage many of the same online tools that folks in Tunisia and Egypt, Yemen and Syria are using (although thankfully without the violence associated with those efforts).
But when I first saw the hashtag #occupytheclassroom in my Twitter stream (can’t recall exactly where or I would link) I smiled . . . and then dismissed it. I was skeptical that any kind of grassroots movement by teachers could have any effect on the current reform juggernaut. Plus teachers, despite our reputation, are generally a conservative lot when it comes to schools – we may want to change a few things, but we generally don’t want to change too much. And, historically, I don’t see much evidence of teacher-driven reform being very successful.
Well, I’m still skeptical, but I keep hearing this little voice in my head. A little voice that says that, in the end, teachers are the ones in the classrooms working with kids each day. After listening for a moment, I remembered whose voice that was. Mine.
About five years ago in some staff development we were doing in my school, I suggested to (argued with?) folks in the staff development that we did have the power to change things. That if we, as a group of reasonably respected and successful teachers in our school, got together and said, “Here are some changes we’d like to make that we think would be beneficial to our students, and here’s why,” that we’d have a pretty decent chance of being listened to.
That instead of blaming “the system,” we should realize that we are the system, and we should advocate for our students when we see things that we don’t believe are in their best interests. And that we, just like the protesters in the middle east, and just like the #occupywallstreet folks, have access to tools that Clay Shirky has shown us make it much easier to not only organize, but to actually effect change. That, really, this thing we call school doesn’t happen without us.
What if we just said, “Enough.”I’m still skeptical. But a little less than I was. And maybe, just maybe, a little hopeful.
What if we just said, “Your reform is bad for our students. We need to transform.”
What if we just said, “Not in my classroom. Not to my students. Not to my own children.”
What if we did #occupytheclassroom?
What if I #occupiedmyclassroom?
What if you #occupiedyourclassroom?
Update: It looks like this post by Jose Vilson was probably the source of the #occupytheclassroom hashtag that eventually appeared in my Twitter stream.