Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Speaking out... even if my voice shakes...

My usual m.o. here at the university is to try to fly under the radar. I figure if I work my butt off, teach the heck out of the stuff I'm here to teach, and keep my head down, everything will be fine. If the administrators here hardly know my name, that's okay with me; I'd rather not be the subject of discussions, opinions, etc. I don't like the idea of people saying negative things about me, of course, but I also think it would turn my head too much if I knew they were saying positive things about me.

(A side note: I almost feel that way about student evaluations as well. They are certainly more useful to me in terms of knowing what's working in my classes & what's not, so I pay attention to them. But I get really uncomfortable being evaluated. Unlike my colleagues, I have never checked my reviews on the "rate my professor" web site.)

I'm working very hard--and have been for some years now--to develop that inner knowing that Emerson writes of (I'm teaching some of his essays this week), that voice that tells you whether something is good or not, true or not, and doesn't need to listen to the opinions of external voices. It's hard for anyone to develop this skill--that's why Emerson had to argue for it!--but I think it's especially hard for women, or at least women of my disposition and my generation, to turn off the voice that says "don't do that, it might make people upset/unhappy/angry."

So today is a big day for me because I'm stepping out of the shadows, stepping into the public square to speak my mind, and it scares me a bit. I've written a letter to the editor of our school newspaper, which covered the story of my colleague's incident last week (the incident I described in my last post). Maybe in a future post I'll share that letter; suffice it to say it's critical of the actions of the police, both during the incident and since then.

Have I just made a huge mistake? Maybe. Will it come back to bite me? Maybe. But those things are less important to me, at this moment, than doing what I think I need to do. I'm drawing strength from my guardian angels (ignoring, of course, the question of whether they're there; I need them, so they have to be!), walking carefully forward, and doing the best I can. And if it was a mistake--if I have to deal with a mess later--then I will ask for help and walk carefully then, too.

Tomorrow I might have different advice, but today it's this: Stand tall! Walk strong! Speak out, even if your voice shakes!