Career Questions: My Opinion Matters
Q: Sometimes I feel like a pushover in our grade-level meetings. Decisions are usually made by a couple of people with strong opinions, and I often feel like I’m not being heard. How can I make my opinion count?
A: Teachers in general like to be collegial. However, feeling that your ideas don’t matter can lead to resentment and even anger rather than collegiality. This is a truism that applies to grade level meetings, faculty meetings, or meetings in general. No one likes to feel that what he or she thinks isn't important.
First take a look at how you present your own ideas. Some people have great ideas, but they present them in a questioning, almost apologetic way. You need to be straightforward and succinct:
Effective: “We need to alternate playground supervision weekly because everyone should get some good weather and some bad weather.”
Another strategy is to voice your idea or opinion early in the meeting rather than always being reactive to someone else’s idea. And be a little tenacious; don’t abandon your ideas if challenged and be sure you have reasons to support your ideas. Look for ways to compromise.
Sometimes people in meetings just assume that everyone is in agreement because no on speaks up. Protect against the “steamroller effect” by interrupting the flow and saying politely, “I’m not sure if I agree with that.”
Finally, if all else fails, screw up your courage and say the following at the meeting: “Sometimes I feel as if not all opinions are heard, and I think that’s important.” This is what I call “delivering the message.” The important thing here isn’t the response to your statement, but that you’ve said it. It’s a shot fired over the bow.
My guess is that you need to be a little more forceful. You owe it to yourself and you owe it to your students to have your ideas heard.