Every child grows up following rules. They follow the rules of their parents, they follow the rules of their teachers, They follow their friends, and there’s a reason for that.
We all want to be accepted.
We all want to be loved.
We want to be good.
We want to be seen as good in the eyes of our community, our peers, our family.
Of course, that’s what we all want, so we follow rules.
I have realized recently that it’s important to break rules too, and how hard that can be for a lot of us to do. That’s what this episode is about. It’s about considering reflecting on how are we in our classrooms, in our schools, blindly following rules without questioning them.
In what ways are we doing that as teachers to protect ourselves, of course, from adversity? In what ways could we possibly start to break some rules?
The reason that I’m creating a podcast episode about this topic is actually, because I was reading a book with my daughter. She’s a huge Wings of Fire fan and so am I, now. It’s a really popular book series. I’m sure you’ve heard of it if you’re a teacher. We were reading book 11 which is The Lost Continent. We were reading the end and I started crying during this part that I’m going to read to you.
At the time, I didn’t really know why, but then I started thinking more and more about it. And and that’s why I’m recording this episode, so I’m going to read this to you, and just uh, maybe you might read it to your students. Maybe you might talk about this topic with your students. As teachers, I believe it’s our duty to teach students how to think critically and independently and to question things. And I really really think this is a very, very powerful passage to read to students, and to start to to have those discussions about when we speak up about rules, and maybe that that they’re unfair, and that we need to change them and that maybe they need to be broken.
So here’s here’s the passage. Just a little context first, So Blue is the main character, Blue is a silk wing, and he’s been captured. He’s in a cave. His father has been in this cave all of his life. All of Blue’s life. He’s never met his father before until he was captured and put in this cave along with his father and a whole bunch of other Flamesilks, and they’re very special dragons, because they are the only dragons that can create fire and light for the other dragons, and they’re very rare, and so the Queen has taken them prisoner. Basically put them in this underground cave. Their only job is to create fire, but Blue. Throughout the book, he was very much a rule follower, very much followed all of the rules of the Hive wing queen. As time goes on, he starts to realize that the queen is manipulating everyone. The queen is not helping the colony. The queen has actually imprisoned everyone and they are there mindlessly following her, including Blue’s dad. So, Blue is trying to escape and trying to get his dad to come with him and his sister.
“Oh no”, Admiral said. “You can’t. You’ll undo all the progress I’ve made with the Queen. We have rules for a reason, you know, and she’ll be so disappointed.” “So escape with us.” Blue said. Blue couldn’t give up. He couldn’t just leave his father here, “Father, you don’t have to follow rules that are unjust and you don’t have to do everything the queen says. Don’t you feel like there are rules in your heart that are more important about helping other dragons and standing up for anyone who’s been treated badly and loving whoever you want, and choosing to live your life in your own kind, peaceful way.”
So powerful. What a powerful thing to say, and a powerful theme from a children’s book. So, I decided I have to create a podcast episode about this because I think it’s so important for everyone to listen to their intuition and to question things that might not necessarily align with their values, their beliefs, and their heart. I can think of many many instances in my career as a teacher where I felt what we were doing in in our school was not good for kids.
There were many times when I felt in my heart that there were rules that were harmful to kids and even oppressive to kids. You probably can think of some on your own right here right now. What are some rules that your school has, that just don’t make sense anymore? These rules were created maybe a hundred years ago, and yet we’re still following them even though so much has changed in our society, so much has changed. What rules? Standardized tests, dress codes, the core subject areas, the way that we assess students, the way that we grade students. All of these are rules. These are rules that were set up by someone and the bureaucracy of education is so…no one’s in charge. Everyone is deferring to someone else and that someone else no one knows. You know. they just everyone. Everyone’s pointing at everyone else. Well, how how are we going to make change? How are we going to stop blindly following these rules that were developed hundreds of years ago? How do we do it?
Tap into a Support System
Well, we have to start first by tapping into a support system because I don’t think that we can really speak up, when we’re not supported. When we’re not supported by maybe our family or a friend, even just one friend or a community of people, an affinity group. An affinity group is a group of people who all have similar identities, specifically marginalized identities, and they can talk to each other about their experiences and the things that they’ve gone through and help each other out by just being there for each other.
I don’t think that all of the change in education that needs to happen should be placed on teachers’ shoulders alone. I really don’t teachers have so much already on their shoulders, but I do think that when teachers encounter rules and just ways of doing things that have been done for years and years and years, and no one knows why we do them anymore, we just do them because that’s how we’ve always done it. When we encounter these rules and these ways of doing things and they just break our hearts really, they don’t align with what we know in our hearts, what can we do?
Well, we have to speak up, but in order to speak up, we have to have support. We have to have someone who also feels similarly in their hearts. Sometimes there’s no one. There’s no one in your school community or on your collaboration team. No one at your school. And so maybe you take a risk and you speak up and you start to question the way things have been done. Change the dress codes of our schools, so they’re not oppressive to females.
I think that when a teacher is all alone and is speaking up, not much is done except draining that teacher.
This is why I think the step one is finding a community of like minded teachers. Other teachers who also believe that things need to change and they are out there. There are many many teachers out there, including me, and if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re part of my community. You’re part of this podcast community and you are listening for a reason. Maybe you are getting your support from this podcast and that just gave me goose bumps, because that’s why this podcast exists to support teachers like you. Being on this journey of trying to change the way that we educate are children so that they’re empowered and don’t feel like they’re lacking in so many ways.
A lot of students you know they see how can they survive in a school environment? Following the rules. The kids that break the rules. They get in trouble right.
But, couldn’t we approach those kids that are breaking the rules and listen to them and wonder and get curious. Why? There must be a reason. There’s a reason that people break rules. If we could just dig deeper into that to find out more about what’s going on, I think that it could be really really powerful if we start to listen to those rule breakers. Step one is join a community of other rule breakers…other people who believe that education needs to change.
Get in Touch with Your Intuition
The other thing is tapping into your intuition, because I feel like a lot of us. We just kind of follow along, everyone else. We just our rule followers, because that’s how we’ve survived to get the love that we need and want to follow along with what everyone else is saying and doing, and I’m raising my hand right now saying yes. That’s me. I have done that for many, many years, forty years. I’m forty years old, so I think that it’s important to develop some sort of way of tapping into your heart into your emotions to know when when something is not right in there, because sometimes we just suppress it.
So let me just give you an example. I’m obsessed with reading and writing workshop. I think I don’t think that’s I don’t think that’s a secret. For a long time I felt there were problems with it. I did and I felt that it was engaging and I loved it because of the helping students feel like what they were doing was real world, and worthy and they were publishing publishing their writing. It was authentic. Same with reading. They were developing identities as reading as readers. So I really really latched on to workshop because of that, because it felt very meaningful for students and for myself in my class room. I didn’t feel like it was just busy work. That I was empowering my students and I was giving my students voice and choice.
But, when I would send my students off to work independently, that’s when things just went ary. It happened all the time and they did have this feeling like. In my gut, my intuition was, I don’t think they can handle this independence…but this is part of workshop. If they want to become better writers than they need to write a lot. If they want to become better readers then they need to read a lot. I mean that is what Lucy Calkins said a lot. I followed her and I did so a little bit blindly, because I wasn’t listening to that intuitive voice that said, I think they (the students) need a little more guidance. I think they need a little more direct instruction. They need a little more modeling. They need a little more whole class practice time. Not so much like okay writers go write or go read, here are your choices for the day…
Then chaos ensues and so this is one example of a time when I blindly followed a curriculum even though it was problematic in many ways, and maybe some of you can relate. So, there are parts of workshop that are beautiful, but there’s also parts where we need to kind of adapt and and change the way that this system works, so that our students are getting the support that they need. If they’re not able to work independently then that’s time is being wasted.
I think a lot of teachers did speak up about that problematic aspects of of workshop, and just the impossibility of conferencing with every single student every week or every two weeks, and then following up whatever, no way. That’s not going to happen. It really never did as much as I tried. That’s another place where workshop was problematic and something needed to change and nothing did because I mean people would say this is a problem, this is a problem, but no, this is the coriculum we have, so we need to follow it.
As teachers when we are in our class rooms and we’re noticing these problems that keep coming up over and over and over again, that is a moment where you can tap into your intuition. Sitting still, letting yourself feel whatever is coming up. Writing, journaling. These are ways that you can tap into your your intuition and really getting clear about What’s wrong here. Why do you? what do I think could be helpful in this situation to to help solve this problem? Who? What resources might I need? Who might I need to talk to to solve this problem? What resources do I already have within me that could solve this problem?
So, tapping into your intuition is really important.
Pick Your Battles & Moments
Then third, how to follow the rules of your own heart? I think you really need to pick your battles and pick your moments. So, when you find something that is not a rule that you think you should follow, or if someone’s telling you to do something that you don’t agree with, and you know, and even you’re administrator, or you’re teaching team. When someone is saying things that you don’t agree with you.
I don’t think that speaking up in the moment is always the best strategy. I think that we really, we all have what’s called social capital. When we use our social capital, so like our reputations in our schools. When we start to become oppositional, or we start to speak our minds and share our opinions, and they’re not popular opinions we’re using our social capital, and so we really have to be careful about what battles are we willing to fight? What what are we willing to speak up about?
If it’s a curriculum that you’re being forced to follow…is that going to be your battle this year? Or are you going to silently fight within your own class room and choose some other lesson materials that your students are more engaged by. I did that for many, many years. You have to follow this curriculum. Okay, I’ll try and then off I go into my own lesson lesson planning land in my Google drive. Reinventing the wheel. No, not really. I definitely put my own spin on things.
I know a lot of people out there think that teachers should not be writing their own lesson plans and they should not be “Reinventing the wheel”, when these curriculum companies have already made all of these things for you, I think that teaching is a creative artful, endeavor, so go for it. If you’re not going to, if you’re not going to speak up in a staff meeting or in a collaboration meeting with your teaching team, then maybe you’re going to fight that battle in your own classroom by breaking the rules in there.
But, speaking up to a room full of your colleagues…How do you do that? Once you’re ready to speak up.
Well, I think you have to be really wise about the moments that you choose to speak up. It’s important to speak up with compassion. So, I mean we teach our students this when we teach argumentative writing, we want to speak to the other side. Help whoever wants this rule to be followed, to be seen and to be validated. And so you really want to validate the other person, and this can work with a spouse. To you know, really validate the help them be seen, communicate that you understand why they want what they want. Why they want to follow this rule or why they want to want this thing to happen. You know, really, speak up about that and then share your side in acompassionate kind way.
Lastly, listening, listening to others and trying to not get to emotional in the moment that you’re speaking of and trying to maybe change a rule. Uh, I mean, that could be really really hard, and that’s part of the reason that I have spoken up so few times in a school setting, and why I’m choosing to speak up more within my own little podcast and blog world. So, this is one of one of my outlets. This, this is one of my ways of trying to change the system outside of the system, because right now I’m not within it. Lastly, I think choosing where are you going to try to change the rules? And it doesn’t always have to be within the school system. It can be with your own kids. it can be with your own community, with your niece, with your nephew. It can be you know, conversations with your family. It can be listening to this podcast. Really, and I appreciate you listening to this podcast.
This episode was a little bit different. It was off the cuff. I’ll provide the transcript in the blog post on amandawritenow.com. I’m changing things up. I’m following the rules of my own heart, and I feel a calling to just speak my mind on this podcast, rather than always coming up with concise blog posts with links and things. This, this episode is a little more just me speaking from the heart and I appreciate you listening. If you want to see the transcript, you can go ahead and go to amandawritenow.com and I’ll try and organize it up a little bit for you. Thank you so much for listening today and make sure to rate the podcast. If you haven’t done that already, I really really appreciate it.