I just returned home from my second ISTE conference, which translates to the "International Society for Technology in Education." (So, basically, "teachers," because, really, technology is no longer optional for the future of our students.) For those who are unaware of the magnitude of this event, there were over 16 thousand attendees at the one in Atlanta that I attended last year. The numbers in Philadelphia this year had to meet or trump that. On both occasions, I was blown away by the sheer number of people in attendance. What I realized quickly, however, was that the magic of ISTE wasn't the number of attendees, rather the set up and opportunity for small conversations, connections, and people with so much enthusiasm for education that you could almost see sparks flying off of them. I was honored, I was touched, I was overjoyed, and I was totally "geeking out." Becoming an educator hasn't been a process that has made me feel like I was making great decisions. Everyone seems so proud of me when I say I am a teacher but then there is an immediate sigh and that annoying undercurrent of pity. And I don't blame them. I get it. Even at a conference that celebrates educators and innovation, I heard myself saying "I'm just a 5th grade teacher." I went back and got a Masters to do this job. I took a paycut for my passion. I went into the classroom when others were walking out because their hands were tied by poor policies, ludicrous lawmakers, and lack of funding. I should have walked in wearing a cape, holding a boombox, and shouting to the convention center "BEHOLD, I AM HERE, I HAVE A VOICE, AND I AM A TEACHER WHO ADVOCATES, INNOVATES AND ENCOURAGES CHILDREN TO BELIEVE THAT THEY CAN CHANGE THE FUTURE OF OUR PLANET BECAUSE I HAVE TOLD THEM THEY CAN."
But I didn't. Like most of the other women I saw walking around in comfortable shoes, I gazed wide-mouthed at all of these people making a difference. Then, it hit me. At a conference of educators, a profession made up of an overwhelming majority of women, it wasn't women who were doing the talking. The men were the networkers, the people at the tables and in the sessions that spoke up and were willing to talk out loud and challenge the traditional notions of classroom seating and settings. I went to Twitter and looked at the chats I love, lots of women, led by men. The voice of education sounds like a man! Which is weird, because I have read countless articles that discuss how the education gap is growing because the staus quo is that the audience is growing more diverse but the people on stage are white women. To the point, ladies and gentelmen, that I have started feeling guilty. YUP. How can I possibly have a voice? I am just like everyone else in my field. How can I change the face of education when my face is the majority and it feels so broken already. However, here I am at one of the largest gatherings of people in my field and what do I see? MEN. Who are the educators that have the most followers and the most chats on Twitter? MEN. What gender is predominantly working at state and governmental levels to write laws determining school decisions that are handed down to administrative teams mostly made of men? MEN. Also, guess who owns most of the testing companies and who was there to market all the robotics and ed-toys? MEN. We may be the majority, Ladies, but we aren't the voice.
How did this happen? Women make up this profession with an overwhelming majority, yet we have allowed the powerful key positions to be filled by the minority. And, if you're like me, you didn't even realize it was happening. If you're like me, you think of yourself as just a teacher and you are happy that someone is talking about it, whether they pee in the same bathroom as you or not. Despite what you may think up until this point, this is not a post to bash those men, I want to thank you. And also, join you. The innovators and educators of your bunch have done well. You've primed the platform, but it's time for us to stand up and speak out, as well. We are the majority and if we all start talking, it's going to be real hard for the world not to listen.
WAIT. Let me stop you right now. I know that there are some amazing, outstanding, hard working, and overwhelmed female educators and advocates of education out there already paving the way. And, I thank you tremendously. I am just tired of saying "I'm too tired," and not walking proudly behind you. If you're like me, you come home so tired and with a bag full of more work to do and you put the kids first so you don't use your voice, you use your pen to make notes on tests and papers and make a difference in the lives of the kids that you promised to teach. However, let's not waste time, let's make time. Let's demand policy change about best teaching practices, where federal money is spent, and how we determine growth in our schools. It's time for us to be the voice of transformative teaching practices, it's time for us to shout with the MEN! It's time for us to speak out as the majority and demand that "WE ARE HERE, WE HAVE A VOICE, AND WE ARE TEACHERS WHO ADVOCATE, INNOVATE AND ENCOURAGE TEACHERS WHO WILL BELIEVE THAT THEY CAN CHANGE THE FUTURE OF OUR PROFESSION BECAUSE WE HAVE TOLD THEM THEY CAN." One of the majority has spoken, let's not stop now.