being a teacher

What We Owe

As our kids are getting older, we talk a lot about healthy relationships, boundaries, and consent. Not just in romantic relationships, but in all the ones they have – with friends, with authority figures, with us.

And one of the lessons we are teaching them is that they have the right to answer no. To withhold information requested by others that have no business asking for it. To not give the full story, or stay silent if needed.

Too often, we teach kids that when someone asks you a question you answer it, but at what expense? When do we teach kids that just because someone answered doesn’t mean they have to give an answer?

Because our kids don’t owe anyone their truth. They don’t have to share about themselves just because someone asks.

The truth in our classrooms

And we need to remember that in our classrooms as well. That just because we survey kids, doesn’t mean they have to answer. That not answering is an answer in itself.

That we build trust, not demand it. That we recognize when something is not our business. That we consider what we are actually asking BEFORE we ask.

And that if a child says no, IDK, or leaves it blank that perhaps it is not because they are obstinate but because they are exercising their right to not answer.

As I wrote through Passionate Learners 3rd Edition, the idea of control and power were ever-present. The way we demand acquiescence. That we demand to be followed blindly. That we don’t take the opportunities that present themselves to dive into the power dynamics present within our teaching and consider how we can shift power back to students.

But we demand their words. We command their attention. And we label them when they don’t bend to our will.

What about the adults?

And it also happens to the adults. We are coerced to share in the name of collaboration, of being team players. We are asked to hand over the things we have hidden in the name of building community, of building understanding, of building trust. We ask personal questions without considering what we ask and how people feel in the wake of our unravelings. Offer up platitudes to somehow make it okay to build up the foundation on the undisclosed scars of others.

And if we refuse to explain or elaborate we are labeled as difficult or uncooperative.

It turns out trading in information that was never meant to be known by many is a hot commodity in our education communities.

Shifting our power balance so that the people in our care also get to have power while also functioning as a community is not always easy. It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes trust. But it is possible.

That’s why I wrote the 3rd edition so that I could share ideas of how we respect all members within a functioning co-created classroom.

To offer up the small and big ideas that meant that control was shared, that power was given, that there was room to say no and not get in trouble.

Whether you read the book or not, please consider your demands. Please consider who you are asking to share what. Please consider what happens when we ask kids to share beyond their comfort levels.

What model are we creating for them when it comes to autonomy, power, and respect? What model are we creating for ourselves?

Saying no takes courage. Staying silent can be an act of strength. Not something to be punished. Not something to be yelled out of a child or frozen out of an adult.

So how do we create communities that support that?

PS: Are you looking for coaching, in-person support, or virtual presentations? I am available and would love to support your work. Whereas I am physically located in Denmark now, I can travel if needed. In fact, I was just in North America in February 2023 and bounce back and forth. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help. For a lot more posts, resources, live and recorded professional development, please join my Patreon community where most of my sharing takes place these days.

2 thoughts on “What We Owe”

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