Election cycle is upon us, but don’t worry, this post is not political. However, this time of year reminds me of a conversation I had during the last presidential election. We were talking about the candidates and I said something to the effect of:
“I’m researching the Libertarian candidate right now. I like to know all my options”
The other person scoffed before replying with:
“That’s throwing your vote away.”
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I do remember feeling hurt and angry because that statement is simply not true—but it is shared by a large portion of the population! That’s a shame because the way change happens in a nation, government, institution, and society is always the same. All it takes is one voice. One person who is willing to go against the established norm. Sometimes, exciting times, that one voice catches like wildfire and society shifts.
And sometimes it doesn’t.
Regardless, things CAN’T change if people aren’t will to at least look for alternatives, and they certainly CANNOT change if we keep perpetrating the LIE that our singly voice is TRASH!
Currently, I am in the midst of the Night unit with my E2H kids, so we talk a whole heck of a lot about voice and speaking up when something is not right. One of my favorite diagrams is the pyramid of hate.
Students are asked to study the pyramid and decide where one person (presumably the individual reading it) can stop the upward movement. In other words, where can one voice pipe up and stop society from reaching the zenith? There is a lot of mumbling, but not a lot of confidence here. So I ask this question:
How many of you have heard a racist, prejudiced, or stereotyping joke lately?
They squirm. No one raises their hand, but there is a lot of murmuring, indicating that it was probably 20 minutes ago in the hallway. So I ask a second question:
How many of you have laughed at or made one of these jokes lately?
Now the squirming is uncomfortable and all eyes are looking at the floor because they know that I know. Earlier that week a kid made a blonde joke, you know all in good fun, but I called him out on it. I asked why it was so important to him to make the girl in question feel bad about herself?
And that’s where it (hopefully) hits them: jokes at others’ expense lay the foundation for hate. Your voice, speaking up when others are doing wrong, matters. It doesn’t have to mean putting your life on the line like the thousands of unnamed heroes who saved as many lives as they could during the Holocaust. Speaking up starts with your own sins, then your friends and family, then your school. Our voice matters because it can have a ripple effect.
I have been teaching for 13 years now. At approximately 6 classes per years (a couple of. Years I only had 5–I miss the 7 period day…), that’s 78 classes of students. Most had at least 25 (sometimes as many as 36) individuals. That makes for 1,950 students, give or take, who have come through my classroom over the years. Have I changed every one? NO. But I have impacted some and they’ve gone on to do amazing things in the world! So, I have to believe that one voice matters, because if I don’t, every day of my adult life has been a complete waste.
Which is where I challenge you to find your voice and use it to make a real difference. No, I don’t mean posting a rant on social media in which your opinion is meant to make other people feel bad, I mean a real difference. First in yourself, then in others around you.
Because who knows? Maybe your voice is the spark the world needs.