I figured it was my duty as a Canadian to make this week’s post with an Olympic Hockey angle. We watched the men win gold pretty easily this morning and Thursday afternoon saw the Women do the same but not as easy, but in a far more entertaining and incredible way. There is a lot of pride rushing through Canada this week, and while I love this common cheering, I do have a problem with one sport convention that comes up around the Olympics more than any time of the year.
I am talking about those people who come into work every day saying things like, “We got two more medals yesterday”, or “We are going to kill the US tomorrow!” I have a problem with the “WE” part of these phrases. It never more annoyed me than when people we talking about how “WE” prevailed over the US in the women’s hockey final. WE did nothing. THEY DID. WE did not train tirelessly for 4 years without the million dollar contracts that their male counterparts enjoy. THEY DID. WE did not put many life opportunities, (including child birth), on hold just to have a shot at glory. THEY DID. I have a problem with the “LAZY WE” as I like to call it because it only seems to apply to victory. I rarely hear someone say, “WE were terrible today”, or “WE just failed a drug test” or “WE pissed away our 5 million dollar signing bonus on a heroin addication.” It is amazing how fast the WE is dropped when things go sideways.
While I am not a big fan of the WE in sports, it would be interesting to see the WE in education more. It would be great to hear more teachers talk about how WE are doing in a particular unit. Imagine someone coming into the staff room after marking a tough exam and saying, “WE were not ready today!” Imagine a principal looking over a set of test scores and saying “WE have to address how we approach this skill.” or even better, a student standing up in an energetic and misbehaving class to say, “WE have to show more respect!” These are some WEs that I would be happy to hear.
There is not much we can do about the student WE but there is plenty that can be done about the adult WEs. This is simply the skill of EMPATHY. The ability to see something from someone else’s perspective. Imagine how much this could inform and transform a teaching practice. If we can look at each classroom as a collective effort; a collaborative inquiry into a particular subject or idea, then WE will all be more successful. It is a natural human reaction to avoid and even distance oneself from failure so it is understandable when a teacher utters something like “THEY are just too distracted” or “SHE just can’t sit still.” If we, instead of avoiding failure, see it as a learning opportunity then perhaps the narrative will change to something more like, “WE need to change things up more so that everyone stays focussed”, or “WE need to come up with some more engaging activities so that the group is into the lesson.” What a change it would be.
Now I know what you are saying; another Principal putting it on the teachers. I know that this same logic can and must apply to administration. It is too easy for an admin looking to influence change to say stuff like, “The staff (THEY) are too old school, or stuck in their ways.” The shift has to happen to where the admin reaction to resistance is, “How can WE find a common ground that WE can work from?” “What do WE all see as important and necessary for OUR students?” These phrases truly can change staff relations and hopefully, transform education.
I will still cringe on Monday when I hear people say, “WE won 10 gold medals!” but I think I see an acceptable use of the infamous “WE”.