Friday, August 15, 2014

Voice is Power: Are You Using Yours?

This post is a featured guest post on The Media Specialist's Guide To The Internet.  A special THANK YOU to Julie Greller for asking me to guest blog on her site.  Julie's blog has been an inspiration to me for years!

Summertime immediately brings to mind the raspy, soulful voice of Janis Joplin, sleeping in, and sand between my toes.  In reality, though, summertime is a flurry of professional development sessions, educational conferences, lesson planning, and connecting with other educators.


This summer I attended four conferences, five professional development sessions, one 3 day workshop, moved, visited my new granddaughter in Kansas, got married, went on my honeymoon, and started a new job and I have loved every minute of the non stop action!  

As a connected educator, cofounder of EdCamp Atlanta, a “groupie” of all things EdCamp, a blogger, and a Twitterholic, I take for granted the fact that I speak up and contribute to educational conversations on a regular basis.  But many educators do not feel comfortable following suit, and this is a problem.  It is a problem because if we fail to speak up then who is doing the speaking for us?

Quote by Vickie Davis (aka: Cool Cat Teacher) Photo:

It is a problem because if we fail to speak up, connect, share, and learn from others how are we going to continue to grow professionally?  Is passively waiting for our school district to provide us with timely, relevant, professional development good enough?  Do YOU want to be just “good enough”?

At one of the conferences I attended this summer the failure to speak up and it’s consequences became glaringly and embarrassingly obvious.  An amazing speaker had just finished talking about the importance of making our voices heard and how each one of us has a story to tell.  Immediately following this riveting speech that received a standing ovation the conference transitioned into a SmackDown session.  For those of you not familiar with a SmackDown session it is one of my favorite things!  During a SmackDown everyone in attendance is encouraged to come up to the microphone and share, in two minutes or less, an app, website, lesson, etc., that they used or discovered that year.  There is usually a long line of people waiting to share their great finds and often a cut off point is determined by the moderator of the SmackDown.  It is fast, energetic, exciting, and you learn a lot of new, cool things in just a small amount of time.


At this particular conference for school librarians, however, no one shared during the SmackDown session.  

NO ONE.   

Yes…. NO ONE.  

As moderator, I and a few board members modeled how a SmackDown works.  I then encouraged the attendees to share some of their great tidbits.  


I encouraged attendees, saying, “Certainly everyone here has at least one thing they did in their library this year that they can share (big smiley face)”.  



I was aghast at the deathly silence that engulfed the room filled with school librarians from around the state.  Librarians who had earlier expressed grave concerns about zero funding of their libraries for the last nine years.  Librarians who had just lamented the firing of all school library aides throughout the state.  Librarians who recounted horror stories of school districts that had received waivers from the state department to do away with having a school library at all.  Yet, these same librarians couldn’t find even one thing to share during the SmackDown session at a conference for and about school librarians.  

If this group of school librarians couldn’t think of anything worth sharing with others in their field is it any wonder that the state legislators don’t see school libraries as valuable enough to fund?  

If this group of school librarians couldn’t think of anything worth sharing with others in their field is it any wonder that principals and superintendents don’t allocate local resources to help fund their school libraries?

If this group of school librarians couldn’t think of anything worth sharing with others in their field is it any wonder that administrators don’t see libraries as valuable enough to even have at their schools?

At another conference later in the summer I asked a librarian friend of mine who was there that fateful, silent day, why she had not shared during the SmackDown.  Her reason for not sharing was that the other librarians in her district were jealous of her and “bullied” her when ever she spoke up about anything so now she just keeps her mouth shut.  Seriously???  She was “mean-girled” into silence by other librarians?


This time I was silent.  I simply couldn’t think of anything to say in response.

Now that I have had time to recover from the shock, this is what I want my friend and all the other librarians to know:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson

I challenge you, whether you are a school librarian, teacher, administrator, Instructional Technology Coordinator/Facilitator, Superintendent, etc., to share.


Your voice matters!  

I also challenge you to ask yourself this question:  

Have I done, taught, discovered anything today, this week, this year, that is of value in my school, in my classroom, in my library, in my district that is worthy of sharing with others?  

If your answer to this question is no… turn in your letter of resignation.  You are hurting the rest of us and more importantly you are hurting children.

Yes. Speaking out and sharing is scary. What if people don’t like what you have to say? What if someone criticizes your blog? What if you sound stupid?  What if you aren’t as great as someone else?  The stakes in education are too high for the barrage of negative “What ifs” we cripple ourselves with and our students are too valuable for us to cheat them by giving into the fear that the negative “What if’s” bring.


If nothing else in this post has yet convinced you of the power of and importance of your voice, please watch the video, Obvious To You-Amazing To Others by Derek Sivers.  It does a great job explaining why you should share.


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