Back in the old days, when I had the original Things Mr.G Says blog, I would write an annual Airing of Grievances post. For the last few years, as we worked through a pandemic, I was trying to focus on being grateful. Well, 2023 has been a doozy, and I think it is time to dust off the tradition. So here we go.
The first of my grievances is reserved for the gift I received this year of my anxiety becoming less manageable. Hypochondria has always been a part of life, and anxiety, too. I actually always felt that both made me better at managing things. I focused on trying to do my best at everything because I was worried about disappointing people or myself. I was always hyper-aware of avoiding sickness... I actually avoided everything but simple sniffles for close to ten years. Then I caught COVID-19, and I get sick more often, then some friends and family got sick from other things and passed away quickly, then I started noticing people talking about illness more and more. Then things became unmanageable without a little help. Some days are worse than others, some days I can't focus on my work, or even my workouts that I once loved because everything is too much, but I am learning to figure it out again. Anxiety is the worst, folks often can't understand it and dismiss it as something we just have to suck up and move on from. I am grateful for the lessons it has helped me learn, but I am not grateful for it, so Anxiety is number one on the list.
Folks who do not respect kids
My land, I am so lucky to do the work I do. I get to read the words of brilliant young writers, I get to discuss excellent texts with them, and see how they think and make their way through this mess of a world that they will inherit. I think the blessing of spending so much time with them is why folks who do not respect them fall high on the list. I have been a teacher for 13 years now, and I coached High school-level sports for a while before I even entered the profession. I had the best example of a coach growing up. My dad was an incredible coach; he instilled so many lessons in the lives of his players. Number one, in his mind was sportsmanship and making kids feel part of the family; that is how we acted. The Warriors were a family, The phrase Once a Warrior, Always a Warrior was one said by many. It was quite a shock moving somewhere and coaching outside of his example. The belittling of kids when they made mistakes, the shouting from the stands at the kids and refs when people were unhappy with performances was not something I was prepared for, and I left coaching for a long time after that first effort in this new place. Over the last 13 years, I can't even begin to count the number of times I was told, "You just don't get it" or "You just are not intense enough to coach down here" or "This is our culture". That last one is my favourite. I am concerned about how student-athletes are treated and I am told it is the culture. If that isn't the highest condemnation I am not sure what is. Parents will sit in the stands and heckle other folks' children, a few weeks ago, a friend had to leave because they were sitting too close to someone who was tearing down their child. Imagine that, having to listen while an adult trashes your kid while they are on the court. Maybe my skin is too soft, maybe I need to stop worrying about the kids, or maybe the adults need to BE BETTER. I know I am talking to a wall in these conversations, I know I won't get anywhere because "this is just how we do things" but maybe I will get back into coaching, and maybe we build a little "family" of our own, and we show folks we can succeed without having to step on others. To those who can't, I am sad for you.
The term "Expert" in Education
Heaven help me, this one has been a thorn in my side for many years, but lately, more and more, I see the term expert being applied to folks with literally 0 evidence of scholarship of their own. Books are being published that are largely void of pedagogy and authors claiming expert status in the VAST field of literacy because they can collect some resources and put a pretty title on it. This might sound like I am bitter and it is because I am. I know people who are experts in their field, they have unique scholarship or have elevated the work of others in new and exciting ways. Most of those folks will also push back on the term expert because they find it pretentious. I have always wondered what determines expertise. I remember hearing some kind of statistic like 10,000 hours of practice at anything, and one could become an expert. I see so much online in the teacher social media world from self-proclaimed "experts" that is nothing more than the repackaging of other people's ideas, sticking a new cover on it, coming up with a fun title, and a few easy steps you too can become an expert. It is dangerous to use terms like expert when they are not earned. People trust the word. We are learning we maybe shouldn't. Especially when it seems too good to be true. I will continue to ask these folks about what they are actually doing in the classroom, and what teaching is happening. Anyone can create a list of activities, heck with Chat GPT and other A.I we can do it in seconds, being able to respond to students is entirely different, perhaps that is where we need to start looking for "experts".
Speaking of A.I
Listen, my views on A.I are evolving, I am seeing some great ways it can be used. My grievance with it is that I already know that there are folks out there who will most certainly use it to "make the job easier" but not be better teachers and certainly not to better serve our students. I was talking to a friend the other day and we discussed how there are folks she has already talked to that plan to have A.I provide them with synopsis and questions for different texts so they don't have to read them anymore. I get using A.I to help but to completely remove being a participant in the work you are asking students to do? Then we look at how A.I is able to take rubrics and analyze student work... I think it is a really slippery slope that I am not in a rush to jump on. A.I as a tool to help yes, A.I as a means to "just make it easier to not read all their work" ...You just made the list.
Advocates who selectively advocate
Last on my list for this year is brought to you by the folks who have found themselves in the judgment seat over the years, telling folks they must do better for X and Y but are silent on Z. This could apply to a handful of topics. I see the quote "None of us are free until we are all free" attributed to multiple folks so I am just going to say a brilliant person said this once, and it seems many folks have said it since. It is true though. We can't advocate for one group's freedom while turning our backs on the oppression of others. Folks who have profited as Social Justice advocates in the world of education who are silent when it comes to LGTBQ rights are telling us what they truly believe. I imagine it is the same reason we see so many silent on what is happening to the children of Palestine. We should all be able to agree that one child killed in senseless violence is one too many, let alone thousands. The silent folks and the "yeah but" folks are certainly making this year's list.
There, I got it all out. I think I will save the feats of strength for Monday. Maybe get back to blogging about education more again, get after that elusive Expert title lol
Happy Festivus and I hope you all have a happy holiday season however you celebrate.