How Do We Use Our Powerful Words For Good?

This morning, my teaching partner, Paula, texted me this wonderful poster.

I’m not sure where she found it, so I apologize in advance for not citing the source. This message though really resonated with me, especially this week.

I’ve published numerous posts on my professional blog. I’ve been blogging on here for over nine years, and published at least one — but often two or more — posts a week. I realize that I have a varied reading audience, including educators, administrators, and parents, and I know that some of my colleagues read my blog posts. In fact, I “met” some of these colleagues though my blog and Twitter before I ever met them in person. For years, I’ve proudly referred to myself as an “educational troublemaker,” and I know that at times, I take on some unpopular views in my posts. I’m okay with that, as I do like and appreciate the discussions that these posts generate. Often, I think that we all then end up with some new thinking and learning.

That said, many years ago, I had to question if I really felt this way. I found out from a colleague that another educator at my school read one of my posts, and she was upset with what I wrote. She saw herself in my words, and while I never made this connection, she was angry with what she read. This teacher didn’t speak to me for years, and even when I tried to find a personal time to connect, she avoided doing so. She only spoke to me years later when she found out that I was leaving the school, and we still never discussed her issue with the blog post. While I stand behind what I wrote, I think that this issue changed me as a writer for many months. It’s almost as though I lost my writing groove. I was afraid to push things too much, as I didn’t want others to get hurt. Every post that I wrote, I read through the lens of every single person that I thought might read it. If I felt that it was controversial, I deleted the post or toned it down so much that it lacked opportunities for discussion. I used to get at least one comment on each of my posts, and for months, I got none. And you know what? I missed these interactions, but most of all, I missed the feedback that I received. I missed being pushed to think differently. With this in mind, I became brave once again, and my posts went back to normal. I began to get comments again too, and I was happy.

Recently though, I’ve come to understand what this teacher was feeling, as I read some posts where I saw myself in them. And I did not like how my actions were portrayed.

  • I was mad.
  • I was upset.
  • And just like this teacher from years ago, I stayed quiet. 

I’ve taken a lot of time to think about these blog posts, and while I was very tempted to respond to them, I didn’t. Instead, I’m trying to see things from this blogger’s perspective. I’m trying to read the words differently, and realize, that this blogger is eager for a conversation on some very important topics. We have different experiences, and I think that our views are too far apart to meet in the middle. While I’d like to question some of this blogger’s thinking, sometimes maybe we need to know when to stay silent. Is this what the teacher from years ago was also doing?

I think that there’s a lot of value in acknowledging various viewpoints, and the conversations that these viewpoints generate, often lead to new learning. In a world of social media, words are no longer just spoken ones. Power also comes from what we write. While discomfort often breeds change, how do we ensure that our words don’t stop discussions, but continue them? For words can hurt, even when they’re written down, and some hurtful ones, have me doing a lot of thinking these days.


2 thoughts on “How Do We Use Our Powerful Words For Good?

  1. I shared my math blog with parents this year, and though I’m not sure any of them read it I am blogging differently. I wish they’d comment so I would know who’s out there! I have another blog -the one where I do most of my writing- and I never share it in Twitter because I don’t want people I see in real life to read it. I’m not saying anything bad! I just like being able to say what I like without worrying who is reading!

    I hope you’ll keep writing without worrying. I like your style! 😉

    • Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I find it interesting how you don’t tweet out posts from one of your blogs. With a name like Aviva, I wonder if my blogs would be easily searchable even if I didn’t share them. I’ll definitely keep blogging, but I will admit that this experience from years ago makes me even more aware of my audience. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; just a reality. I always try to be understanding of various viewpoints even as I express my own. Hopefully this will lead to comments and conversations versus upset feelings. I do hope that you start to get some discussion from parents on your math posts. It’s always nice to know what people are thinking.


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