I acknowledge that there are times when I am a disruptive adult. I can be defiant. I don’t always do what I am told. I don’t want to be boxed in. I want freedom to pursue what I believe to be true. And yet I am also passive, sometimes afraid to speak, sometimes silent when words should be spoken, and sometimes I fail to follow through on actions that would help others. There are times when I should be disruptive, that I am not. Yes – I can hear some of you out there questioning, “When has that ever happened?” And I tell you – many times.
Brian Mendler in his session at the ASCD conference used the words “disruptive adults”, and it made me think. There are times when educators need to be disruptive adults if they want to make a difference in the lives of children. Educators are on the front lines of fighting for students. They are in the battle, and they cannot always just stand by and “do as they are told”. When policies come before children – disruption should occur. When programs come before children – disruption should occur. When decisions are made that do not put children first – disruption should occur. Disruption can be as simple as questioning the status quo.
My mind drifted off course a little bit here. But Brian Mendler’s session stirred up emotions for me. As Mr. Mendler talked about his own experiences… - his experience with having a learning disability, his experience with having severe ADHD and not being medicated, his experience with in-school and out of school suspensions, his experience with being a disruptive and defiant student in 4th grade, his experience with being labeled, his experience with being kicked out of school in sixth grade, his experience with being in a self contained classroom, his experience with a gambling and cocaine addiction, his experience with jail, his experience with recovery, and his experience now as a successful adult helping students and people who work with “difficult” children. Brian Mendler can tell his story much better than I can. I love that he does so in his sessions. I can begin to see things from the perspectives of children who are having “problems.” You can find you tube videos of Mr. Mendler. None can compare to seeing him in person, but you get good information and learning from the videos. Mr. Mendler also has written several books you may want to read. I do not know Mr. Mendler; I have only seen him at the ASCD conference. I give you this information, if you need some direction with students who need some “love and care.”
Mr. Mendler did mention, there are times when the “goal is to create discomfort – embrace it.” He also encouraged us to lead with our own struggles. This builds connections. In the past, I did not necessarily fear being a disruptive adult. I didn’t feel the fear of standing up for students. I have to admit that the last few years I know what it is like to be labeled “disruptive” and receive consequences for the disruption. Being “disruptive” does not make everyone pleased or happy. And yes, I also know there are “good” ways and “bad” ways of being disruptive. The point is, sometimes disruption is what it takes to make things better.
There are so many people who have been disruptors: Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Luther, Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, Susan B. Anthony… Jesus, himself, was a disruptor. He overturned the tables. He questioned the “wise.” Even his silence was a disruption. His death became the ultimate disruption in order to meet the needs of people.
I read and hear so many people write and say – it is better to be silent. I agree that there are times for this. There are also times when disruption needs to occur. In some places, there is fear of even questioning. This should not be in the field of education. The very essence of education is questioning.