A Reflection on Raising New Voices (About These Guest Posts)

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose, Writing

The last couple of weeks on this blog have been nothing short of amazing.

When I asked  guest bloggers to contribute one piece to this little blog, I was hoping to showcase some new voices that needed to be heard. I still have a couple more to introduce everyone to. What I didn’t expect was that they’d put some of the best, most heartfelt pieces of edu-writing I’ve read this year.

What’s difficult about asking for guest posts is that I don’t get paid for writing this blog. This website, from the hosting to the web design, and all the writing (and yes, all of the typos and factual errors) are all mine. By some measures, my blog is one of the most well-read in the world. For someone who doesn’t have a machine behind them, I’m privileged to have a voice that resonates with hundreds of people across the nation.

But what good is this privilege if I’m not able to cultivate other writers to excel as well?

What if James Ford doesn’t speak to a much-needed revolt in the education space? What if Brent didn’t explicitly call out the NYC Department of Education as a male teacher of color? What if Kassie Benjamin doesn’t share her experiences as a Native American teacher who teaches kids similar to her? What if Michael Doyle doesn’t have the difficult conversations with his fellow “pale folk”? What if Jozette Martinez-Griffin doesn’t tell us how it feels to be a teacher of color fired for her being?

The issue I’ve seen with so many spaces that pretend to care about new voices is simple. When they ask people to write, they don’t pay them for their services and traffic they bring to the space, saying it’s about “exposure.” Then, they also put a cap on the things they’re allowed to say or share in that piece they contribute. Then, if the space asks the person to write, they must have the cache to say what they want to say or they too get a cap because “we’re paying you to say what we basically want you to say.” But if they rarely get published, then how do they get the cache?

In some ways, I’m lucky this space didn’t get bought up. I’m OK with not getting paid if it means I get to say what I want. For so many of us, that level of freedom is priceless.

This complicates authenticity because, for too many people in this education space, they either need someone to give them a huge signal boost or they have to pretend to be like people who were already successful. This often creates edu-writing that doesn’t cut to the heart of the real, nuanced, uncut experiences of the people working for and with our children.

But, if we’re going to change the so-called narratives, let’s foster new ones. In the last couple of weeks, I hoped to inspire and invite more people to write, to share, to tread then stomp on the lines in the sand drawn as ridiculous ideas of edu-professionalism. We have to include more voices, not as a means of parroting others’ points of views, but to complicate and dig deeper than the shallow two-dimensional dialogues we have out there.

We aspire to have differentiation of perception for our children. Why should adults not model and aspire to similar vulnerability? Thank you, James, Brent, Kassie, Michael, and Jozette. I have a couple more coming, but in the meantime, clap for them because, if I ever have to leave blogging for any reason, we know we have people who can carry the message for another generation.