What is the difference between being a teacher and being an advocate? Really, there should be no difference. If one is a teacher, one should be an advocate for those they teach. You would think that districts, schools, and administrators would want teachers who are advocates for children and for education. But in today’s world, in some places, being a teacher and an advocate is not in reality desired. Evaluations may even have the word advocate in them, but I think a true advocate might be rated low on the evaluation scale. I wonder if some understand what an advocate is all about.
I wanted to make sure I understood the role of an advocate. So I went to the dictionary and looked at the noun – advocate and the verb – advocate. One meaning for the noun: one who defends, vindicates, or espouses a cause by argument. One meaning for the verb: to defend by argument before the public.
Why wouldn’t school administrators want an advocate in their midst? What do you notice in both meanings? I noticed the word – argument. In some places, districts and schools do not want arguments about their programs and initiatives. They just want them implemented with fidelity, no questions unless those questions are about how to use the initiative in the classroom. They don’t even want any changes if teachers discover a better way to implement the program based on student needs. It is to be done the way it is to be done.
If teachers were allowed to be “true advocates”, we would understand the walk-outs that have taken place. Some districts do understand and actually work side by side with the teachers as advocates. Other districts and administrators – do not understand. If you are an advocate, you are not silent. You speak up, and you argue for your cause. This is sometimes seen as negativity and not being a team player.
I have said this many times before in my writings: Even the most peaceful advocates used their voices to argue. They were not silent. They may have been peaceful, but they were not silent. An advocate by its very definition cannot be silent. The advocate must speak up where they see injustice. Think about the words of Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Ghandi, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Maylala… - they argued. Not only did they argue, but they put their words into actions.
My hope is that teachers don’t have to experience the difference between being an advocate and being a teacher. My hope is that teachers can experience being both an advocate and a teacher without penalty. This is what our kids deserve – teachers who advocate on their behalf. The best teachers don’t simply teach; they find ways to advocate for their students and for education and for their profession.