How often did you ever sit in a district-wide meeting and think, “You know, if I was up there, I would probably do a better job than this?”

The PowerPoint presentations with the tiny lettering and chop shop imagery slide through in a soporific rhythm, as if you haven’t heard it all before. Common Core this, teacher evaluation that, SMART goals and the other. You’ll grab your bagel and orange juice and you’ll jot down a few things. When your principal asks you how it went, you’ll say “Good.”

Generally, you get the idea, but you’re left wondering, “How can we do this better? How can I do this better?”

Yet, when it comes down to it, too many of us are still waiting for someone to hold their hand into their voices, usher them in as the chosen one, or some movie-made accident that puts them in the seat next to a mayor, governor, or president. More and more, though, I’m starting to see the value in building a groundswell for yourself that doesn’t leave those high-ranking officials with much of an option except to know you.

It also goes without saying that our current structures are such that people at a district level sometimes have a hard time relinquishing expertise to teachers, because that’s just how we do things. They might give a teacher a pat on the back, perhaps an award, but if the teacher doesn’t validate / endorse whatever the leader at that point says, then their voice ought not be shared. Sometimes, it takes a courageous person to step aside and relinquish some of the mic time.

But in case they don’t, let’s build ourselves up. As educators, we are in front of the students, and so, our voices are extremely valuable in how things happen in the classroom. Otherwise, why would we be in it? People use the word “ownership” as if teachers’ every waking hour isn’t spent grading, thinking, asking, giving, giving, giving, listening, teaching, not sleeping because of thinking, and forgetting their person in favor of their teacher selves. I propose we see “ownership” as a vehicle for taking on things that already belong to us, separate from whatever agenda our higher-ups believe we should take on.

Unless we make ourselves a viable option for speaking up, we get more of the one-way directives instead of a truly collaborative culture amongst all invested members of the school system. Until then, the majority of us will sit through more speeches, more goals, more slides, and more on teachers’ shoulders. It won’t be all your fault, but you’ll be left wondering why, too.

Part 2 coming Wednesday.

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