This #blog4nwp guest post comes from Peter Shaheen.
Sometimes the messenger is more important than the message. We tend to identify with people who represent our point of view. We root for sports figures and against them based on personal and sometimes ambiguous feelings. Yesterday during the Masters, I openly rooted for Tiger as he made his charge. Others could have delighted when his efforts fell short. I never met Tiger before and have only read about his exploits on and off the course so I have little knowledge of what he is like. Still I root for him.
The same is true for my NWP self. While it’s not quite the same, I identify with the people whose books have inspired me. While these folks are not quite rock stars, they do enjoy a following. Their faces are unlikely to grace the cover of The Rolling Stone or Sports Illustrated (except for perhaps the charismatic Paul Oh who would win both my rock star and jock star vote at NWP). However, educators with a leadership role in education, but not directly tied to NWP, have a very important role to play if our goal of 1,000 posts is to be realized.
Their participation as authors – if applied to the 1,000 blogs grass roots effort – is essential to more than this effort. We are in a transitioning time when the politics of education and the needs of students are being discussed in a variety of circles. There is no doubt that our public education system is in need of reform. There is also no doubt that teachers need a voice that is listened to. Chad Sansing appears to be a reasonable person with a desire to work in a community towards a future with better schools. By providing his effort with credibility, we can begin to recognize that we need to listen to classroom teachers as much as classroom teachers listen to – and take inspiration from – the important names in our field.
Educators who have benefited from – or see benefit in – the NWP community and its work at universities and in professional development across the country need to be counted now. They need to speak frankly and fairly. There is much to criticize and hopefully one or two things to praise. Teachers need to be called out by people they trust. Teachers like me would appreciate hearing from the people whose books I read that they are at least in agreement with the principles that the NWP stands for. Now is a crucial time because now, more than ever, we need to reflect on our practice and in order to do that we need feedback. We need to hear from those who can help us improve our practice. We also need these important scholars to listen to our concerns and help us make meaning.
To some extent, the credibility of the NWP and higher education is at stake for me. If the important names are not represented in these posts, I can’t help but wonder why. If our leaders do not believe funding for NWP is not a big enough concern to weigh in on, let’s hear from them. If they believe that education is not in crisis, then they certainly need to hear from the classroom teachers who see it differently. If the belief is that public education is the problem and that teachers are inherently corrupt – believe it or not I hear rumblings of that kind of talk exist in some universities – I want to know that to so I can leave teaching and stop doing damage.
The bottom line is that words have power. When those words come from leaders, they are especially powerful. We want to associate ourselves with the words people who have inspired and taught us. If we do not hear from our leaders, many of us will end up concluding that while words are powerful, silence is a death knell.