It is usually the second question they ask me. Where are you from?
If I am feeling saucy I say give the name of the small town in Georgia where I currently reside, but that isn’t what they wanted. They need to know what part of Yankee I am from and then I guess they silently wonder how close to Canada that place is, but exactly what they are thinking I do not know. And suddenly I am different; and that may help them allow for any number of differences between our goals. They may grant themselves the option to dismiss me, not measure themselves against whatever I was suggesting, whatever challenged them.
I can get around this, I can choose to support the culture because it is exhausting to continually fight this element of the culture; I just arrange for my ideas comes from a locally trusted source, or presented by another in a neutral way which invites the recipient to assign a local point of view to it. While it might be understandable or relatable, it is rather irrational that because someone is from different geographic location they cannot have ideas which might be useful. So I work around it. I work within the current culture. I decide if I want credit or I want something to happen and I gain “sponsorship” locally.
Usually I take my cues from those who have grown up in the system I currently operate within, how to respond to challenges from superiors or how to invite peers into new ways of teaching. But at a time when speed of change has never been so rapid around education – how does anyone know when to challenge the culture and when to support the current culture?
In education I can see a couple personal points of view which may eventually clash with the culture I working within, leading me to challenge rather than support the culture. First, the education of my own children. They attend a school which provides an environment supporting them in ways beyond my skill-set. However, I see some long-term challenges and wonder how I will meet them within the current culture and with my child’s best interests in mind. Second, my belief that school is at it’s best is social justice. And unless I positively contribute to that I will not be satisfied. I have also had the sorrow of negating potential social justice in a school, that experience haunts me, and I will not replicate that again or allow anyone else to do so either. So, I see where my breaking points will be with my current culture within my greater school system, but how will I strategically insert challenges to that environment to build my environment up to what I want – how will I know when to challenge, to push back, to ask more of a culture? I need this culture of school to expand its horizons, to open up to include more ideas and people.
But how do I know it is the right time to challenge my culture?
My plan is to be as consistent as possible with my own children. I expect them to be respectful but ask teachers questions, good questions. I am more interested in what my children understand than what the teacher taught. And I expect them to respect all people. I will hold teachers to task on teaching my child, but my child will know the janitor’s name and respect him as well.
But my plan also includes being myself and speaking up to ask the difficult/awkward/off-limits questions, holding hands/pushing teachers around me, and not jumping in to rescue every floundering professional whose path I cross – I want you to feel the weight of Wait Time – think for yourself! Not to feed into the stereotype of someone from a different geographic location who is genuinely different than us, but because that is the right thing to do in my heart. I want things to get better, and that is how I know to push through the awkwardness to the other side. That Yankee stereotype does not limit me – it limits you.
I run the risk of being too much of an outsider in my current culture to really impact the culture. But I know for sure I would die a death everyday inside that I do not push just a little.
Know that I am waiting to implement my plan, waiting until you aren’t preoccupied with our differences, but I won’t wait forever.