Speak Truth to Power and Be an Agent of Change In Your Local Schools

One of the most frustrating parts of being a change agent in any arena is the fact that the barriers to change are always apparent. Knowing this, how often do we have an opportunity or permission to call out people for being problems rather than solutions? It’s easy to blame the system for its failures, but often people are more at fault. Some of the biggest inhibitors of change are those who oppose it by saying, “but we’ve always done it this way!”

I know too many educators fighting the good fight, being beaten down for merely trying to do the right thing. They come into their roles full of life and energy, ready to change the world one student or classroom or school site at a time; only to be met with a system that is supported by people who are unwilling or resistant to change. They start off as fierce educators, fiercely advocating for what’s best for kids and end up isolated, eating lunch alone in their room away from the fray of teachers venting about the things they won’t be doing. They are scorned for volunteering to stay later than their contracts require them to because they make those who slip out right as the bell rings or just before look bad. I’ve been guilty of offering cynical advice to them, suggesting they make friends with the term “incremental change” and give up the idea of immediate systemic change or reminding them that Rome was not built in a day. I’ve been wrong for that.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Speak truth to power.” In other words, tell it like it is to people that can do something about it. This is a method people use to urge public or elected officials to take action on an issue. But how often do we call out the staff member that is standing in the way of necessary work needed to bring about change in an organization or within an institution?

Concerning schools, the people are the power; this is true of the school board, administration and district officials, teachers and parents. When will it be advisable to speak truth to people in power who are the problem? Some schools don’t see the necessary change or progress even though they have the correct policies, procedures in place for educational excellence for kids, but have an issue with culture. As a part of being harmful to the type of culture that best supports our kids, they are the people we know are working within school systems that are bad for kids. When are we going to explicitly say that to them and or do something about it?

It’s simple: the learning environment either supports educational success for kids or it does not. In that same vein, the people who are tasked with creating or supporting that environment either hurt or help. We should spell it out for them when they are an asset, but we should also do so when they are inhibitors.

Change dies in darkness and silence casts a shadow on the work, behaviors, and practices that need to be addressed. Far too many people have gotten away with doing more harm than good to our students. So, what do we do? Treat it like we are reporting an act of terror; if you see something, say something. Be less concerned with hurting feelings with the truth than with being silent and complicit with the status quo.

What do you think?

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Gary Hardie

Gary Hardie

Gary Hardie was born and raised in Lynwood, California.
He attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, majoring in English, with a minor in marketing and is pursuing his MBA in Organizational Leadership and Sustainable Business Practices at Pepperdine University.
Hardie currently works as a Regional Manager for a non-profit educational service provider in Los Angeles providing extended learning opportunities in after school, intervention, outdoor education and summer programming.
He also serves as a governing Board Member for the Lynwood Unified School District Board of Education, the same district he attended school growing up.
His work and volunteer experience in public school settings has provided him with expertise in financial planning, budgets, organizational development, staffing, personnel, parent relations, grant writing and program development.

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