One of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's famous quotes is one I SO wished I had coined myself.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,”
This is something that transcends our personal, professional, and social lives, as well as internally and externally. What does it mean to you?
In the Episcopal church, and likely many others, the word "justice" is brought up in the Baptismal covenant. It says in the Book of Common Prayer: "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?" and the entire congregation (not just the person being baptized) answers: "We will, with God's help." But, honestly, what am I doing on a daily basis to "strive for justice"? Reverend Debra, our priest, asked us this very question in church today. I know it might seem like a very tiny thing, but as I teach courses to up and coming school leaders, the notion of how principals represent their school and their own reputation matters a great deal. I often have a student or two in each class I teach who has difficulty with their writing. Maybe they overuse or underuse (but misuse, in any case) commas or apostrophes; maybe they can't seem to grasp the notion of subject/verb agreement; maybe, they spell principal as "principle" (this one grieves me greatly, by the way. After all, how can you become one if you can't spell it?).
I consider it my integrity-filled duty to help each and every student I teach become a more proficient writer but to do it in a way that preserves their dignity. Why? Because it matters. Like it or not, we are judged by the way we communicate (both in written and verbal form) with parents, teachers, and even students. If we send home a memo with multiple typographical errors in it, there will most certainly be what I call "ballpark talk" about our competence as a leader. "Why in the world should the school hold my son to a higher standard of writing if the school leader can't even write the correct form of 'their, there, or they're'?" And the hits typically keep coming, after that. It's actually really hard to argue with that point, by the way.
When I first started teaching at one of the universities at which I teach graduate courses for those teachers working on their master's degree in Educational Leadership, I got the occasional, extremely frustrated comment along the lines of "Dr. Arneson is way too tough on our writing." It would hurt my heart, and I also have to admit it hurt my ego. But I was fighting for justice as a general respect, for all involved, for anyone who was going to have to read this student's writing anytime in the future.
I am proud to say that the tides seem to have turned. This "term", I have received emails and even public forum discussion posts that say things like, "Dr. Arneson has pushed me out of my comfort zone" or "No other professor until Dr. Arneson has ever given me so much feedback. I now understand how important effective writing is in our future jobs." I couldn't be more proud of them. Even students who currently have a C going into the last week of our course are thanking me for giving them a swift kick in the..... well, you get the point.
I am so very happy to say that I believe that fighting for some of the things I care about are beginning to grow a following. It may not be across the board (one of my students a couple of semesters ago said it appeared I was "married to the rubric"----was that meant to be rude? I take it as a compliment, by the way), but it is much more respected than it was before. What has changed? I believe it has a lot to do with how I am giving them the true purpose in effective communication. We, as educators or educational leaders, are held to a higher standard, whether we like it or not. We can say "It isn't fair" but the fact is I actually believe it IS fair, as we should be modeling for our teachers what our teachers should be constantly modeling the way students need to communicate---in job interviews, in jobs themselves or even in personal relationships. Some people think too much back hair on a man is unattractive. I feel quite differently. I believe that when subjects and verbs are not in agreement, that is far more unattractive than anything having to do with hair.
Because I try to implement what I believe is the right thing to do every day I continue to work in education, I would like to share with you one of my favorite videos on the topic of writing. Jim Gaffigan makes me laugh aloud.
Just for today, share with me what Ruth Bader Ginsberg's words mean to you? Please share on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In! I want for us to spread the wealth!!
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