Learn, Good Soul

This has been a difficult and amazing couple of weeks. I went from a small audience of teachers, parents, and writers to a larger audience of the same, and while I'm happy about most of the thoughtful rebuttals I've received, some have cut deep. The pieces I compose late at night, after my kids are asleep, are precious to me. But I asked for it, and I have received. I dreamed of a dual career as teacher and writer, and here it is, spread out before me. 

That said, I was not prepared for the HUGE number of responses to the article I posted last week at The Atlantic that are based on either a topical reading of the title, or a surface reading of paragraphs one, four, or eight, and nothing in between. While I generally appreciate any responses to my midnight scribblings, many have been downright mean. Not thoughtful, not intelligent, just mean. Conversely, and interestingly, the most thoughtful rebuttals I've received this week are from the very smart authors who penned responses to my article in The AtlanticSusan Cain and Katherine Schultz are class acts. Seriously. Amazing women and thinkers. Women who reach out rather than strike out. Writers who understand the difference between clear-eyed response and blind retaliation. Writers who understand that words have weight, no matter how many of them float out there, unedited and misdirected, in the ether of the internet. 

I love thoughtful argument; I even teach it. The Roman's word for 'argument' does not derive from anger or dissent, it signifies persuasion and open debate. That, I respect. That's the definition of argument I teach my students. Extroverts and introverts alike. 

I truly believe in my position regarding class participation and teaching self-advocacy, and Susan Cain and Katherine Schultz truly believe in theirs. And yet - shocker - they are open to discussion where so many of their devotees are not. So many want to hurl insults while the women who lead the charge of the introverts/shy/social anxiety audience are the most open to dialogue. 

I am a teacher. I love what I do, and when I write, it is to open dialogue. I write to learn. I write to become a better teacher. I've read every comment to every post I've ever published, and I take most of them to heart. Some - the mean ones - I try to brush off, but even that is hard. A few of my nearest and dearest know I've shed tears over the most vitriolic comments and blog posts, and I've even lost sleep over the ones that have accused me of not respecting and my students with everything I am.

I've had great writing mentors who have instructed me not to read comments at all, to have someone I trust read and give percentages regarding positive and negative opinions, but as a teacher, I feel obligated to learn from what I write. I tell my students to be open to criticism, and therefore, I model the same. 

This week, I have a new article coming that will open new discussions, because that's why I do what I do. I write about the art of teaching and what makes for a good teacher. I have my dream job, and frankly, it would be much easier for me to keep my mouth shut and teach.

But if we are going to improve what we do, if we are going to become better educators, we need to talk publicly about our practices and find ways to learn from others.

And that's why I do what I do. So take your best shot. I'm here, and I'm listening.