Facing The Tough Questions Together

We all need to be willing to look beyond the banners we are flying and face tough questions together


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

If you were on Twitter Monday night and are involved in education, you probably noticed the #ResistTFA hashtag gaining momentum.

I certainly did, and was mostly quiet. The biggest part of my job is to listen to people and share those thoughts with the larger organization. I wrote in my blog that part of my kuleana is to listen to everyone—including people who don’t agree with the organization. I will say this: one thing people can’t claim is that people are no longer passionate about public education.

Parts of the conversation were really worthwhile— if you’re on the internet a lot, you come to find a group of folks who, even/especially if they disagree with you, are worth listening to. Seeing those folks (and some new ones) bubble up what they think is important, and appreciated.

For people invested in education—parents, teachers, organizers, NPO workers, the general public—I hope there are some questions we are all asking ourselves and listening to responses about. When our work is not (or no longer) in the classroom, the work is to do what we can to for the people who matter most in those classrooms: students. Are we doing right by them? Are we—TFA andtraditional education programs—providing the best quality education for teachers and holding them to the highest standard? Where should money to try and fix education problems come from? Are we having the really tough conversations about the disparities in race, class, gender (which led to a lot of the problems that need fixing), or are we running away because they make us feel bad? I am consistently questioning if I’m on the right side. I am constantly asking Teach For America the same thing.

Then, I go into the office, and one of our directors talks about the Native Alliance Initiative work we’re doing. That feels right. Or I see what happens when someone goes back to his community and leads with listening. That feels right too. Some of the questions and the criticisms asked of us are the right ones, as well.

When I see these conversations like this—as a lens into what are the things that to take away from this moving forward (and not just how many clicks did one conversation get versus another)— they seem so much bigger than sides, than winning, even then the takedown of the banner hanging above the work that I’m doing or seeing.

So, FYI, we’re asking these questions of ourselves. When I see some of the work happening, I think we have some answers and the organization is moving in the right direction. I think we have some work to do. I really hope, though, that everyone is stopping constantly and asking those questions. We all need to get better. We all need to be willing to look beyond the banners we are flying and face tough questions together. I hope you are. I’m standing right here, ready to listen.


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