Sharing Our (Anonymous) Narratives Draw Us All Nearer

By Paul Hankins

October 2nd: 9:52AM: A Tweet from shea martin: 

“maybe my job today is just to tweet the things that teachers want to say but can’t because they don’t want to get fired. DM me your best “I want to say this but can’t” tweets.”

I might have shared collage work. I might have offered a poetry lesson using Jenga blocks. Maybe something out of the new “Letter Press” series I am creating. I might have talked about how an LMS is affording us the ability to continue to offer read-alouds to our students in the room and at home. But, none of these felt right. Or “write.”

As I draft this piece at the invitation of the curators, I wondered, “What might I offer?” 

I found what I really need to share. I’m centering it here. 

As I draft this piece at the invitation of the curators of the CCIRA Professional Development blog, I have been reading along as scholar shea martin (@sheathescholar) collects and curates the quiet concerns and holdings of classroom teachers all across America presenting them with a signing off that reads, “-an anonymous teacher.” 

After observing how martin’s efforts built over the course of the day, exhausting them by the end of the same day the work had started, my wonderings shifted:

“What could I center if I had an opportunity to write to a larger audience than the one I might otherwise experience?”

The intent and impact of shea martin’s efforts bring intent and impact together as a teacher like me coming to the thread with my identification markers begins to take a closer look at what classroom teaching looks like right now. For other teachers. For my colleagues. For the teacher next door. For the teacher on the other side of the building.

Photo courtesy of Chris Yang at Unsplash

We’ve come a long way from blowing on embers to ignite the morning fire. Classroom teachers are fighting against the extinguishing of their own light. It is not my intent here to showcase or to highlight responses from October 2nd. Rather it is to related the impact it has had upon me: a white, straight, cis, able, Christian male. I might suggest that I know that my story is not THE story of teaching in the classroom today. Or I could point readers to where real narrative is living presenting real fears, concerns, and needs right now. 

If the reader here were to go. . .right now. . .to shea martin’s Twitter wall, he, she, or they would find a stream of responses to their tweet coming right before 10AM on a Friday morning at the end of the classroom teacher’s work week with about four to five hours still together before they would collect their work to go back to their homes. The thread stretches through the day and into the evening, capturing narratives across district lines, across states, across time zones. This has been the level of response to an invitation to share our story. As I draft this piece at the invitation of the curators, shea martin is moving the collection and inviting more narratives from teachers at a Padlet-based, crowd-sourced initiative, “An Anonymous Teacher Speaks”

What martin has been able to collect and curate within the span of one day is a shared narrative. A narrative in multiple voices. It is the kind of collaborative piece that young slam poet, Adam Gotlieb, might have described as a “poem we all [are writing].” The question now becomes whether or not we can bring in enough readers who might counter that idea that  no one has a need for narrative. Like U. S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser might suggest poetry, it’s not like we can trade our narratives for a tank of gas. 

And, yet, in the past three to four months, we have seemingly traded a narrative of heroism within education for one that pins the profession in at all sides with suggestions of selfishness, letters implying laziness, and insinuations of inculcation within the classrooms. 

I was invited to share some of my work here in being a guest at CCIRA. I hope that I can be invited back for another opportunity to share what we try to do in Room 407 at Silver Creek High School in southern Indiana. 

But, I felt compelled to share this work that shea martin has been doing. Born of a single tweet to invite response, we have an opportunity to read and to observe what is happening at the teacher-heart level of our profession in this moment because of their genuine concern for all of us. The teachers have been invited to talk by them. To share. 

Perhaps this invitation should have come from any one of us.  

Now they are sharing: 

Vulnerably. Bravely. 


I am centering martin’s work and their earnest effort here. If only to bring more of you to their work that is actively happening in the collecting and curation of the voices in chorus right now. What might we do today and in the next few weeks that could feel like the right response to these stories? What might feel like the “write” response?


-This Classroom Teacher

Paul W. Hankins is an English Language Arts teacher at the secondary level. A firm believer in inquiry-based strategies and approaches, Hankins believes in most cases that teachers have “questions,” but students have “wonders.” Meeting in the middle addresses the standards while embracing the natural wonder and curiosity our students bring into the room. Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulWHankins.

Author: CCIRAblog

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