Review “Rocking the Boat: How to effect change without making trouble” by Debra Meyerson is written for all professionals who are in disagreement with their organization or work place. The author recognizes the existence of differences inside any organization and the lack of space within its structure for recognition and discussion of these differences. Debra Meyerson presents various stories of individuals who changed their organization from the inside out. Her research is well organized and systematic. She gives hope and strategies for these individuals who would like to change their working conditions and atmosphere. She uses the term “tempered radicals” for individuals who are the change agents within the organization. Debra Meyerson emphasizes keeping balance between maintaining original identity, culture and systems of values of the individual and the culture of the organization. She also brings up situations when “tempered radicals” cannot act because they would jeopardize their employments.
How am I different? Debra Meyerson in “Rocking the Boat “presents three types of differences that members from outside the majority may experience within the organization: 1) social identities that alienate the individual from the mainstream, 2) social identities that do not create a major division between the individual and the organization, 3) philosophical values and beliefs which create resistance of the individual whose set of values and beliefs differ from the one being pursued by the majority. My major differences come from the fact that half of my life experiences are not the same as my American peers. My social and ethnic identities were created under distinct circumstances and my view of life, including my perception of the educational system and its role differ from those of my peers from the United States. This has made me struggle throughout my teaching career. Sometimes, I have to fit in and adjust to a situation that I cannot control. Even though I have not changed my social identity and system of values, my perceptions of the educational system have evolved and adjusted based on my experiences. This adjustment has not necessarily meant following through on policies and implementations to the fullest extent, but rather has involved finding the balance that has allowed me to stay true to myself and the organization concurrently. This constant adjustment arises on a day to day operational level in the school as well as in thought and reflection, yielding personal and professional growth. Referring back to Myerson’s differences types, I find myself relating to the second and third experiences of “difference” from the majority. I do not necessarily see them as negative characteristics but as a privilege to see things differently.
Becoming a Tempered Radical. A tempered radical is an insider of the organization who is seen as an outsider due to their operating against the dominant culture within the organization. The spectrum of strategies of how tempered radicals go about impacting an organization given by Debra Meyerson in “Rocking the boat” are continuous, overlapping and unrated. It means that none of these strategies is better or worse than other and they can be used jointly. During my professional career, I have been using some of them at different times and situations. One strategy that I have never used is organizing collective action, but I have on the other hand participated in collective action. Most of the time if a decision made within the organization jeopardizes my system of values or my professional integrity, I resist quietly and keep true to myself. On one occasion, I initiated negotiation to find common ground. I did not participate in the negotiation but I presented my point of view within the professional setting which ultimately led towards negotiation. Moreover, several years ago I felt alienated and unwanted by an organizational leader who asked my colleagues to teach a certain class. One of them agreed but did not fulfill the commitment, so in the beginning of the school year my schedule was changed and I was required to teach this class unexpectedly and without previous experience, preparation or training. From today’s perspective I am grateful because I turned my one year struggle into growth and I expanded my teaching credentials and opportunities. Consequently, two years later I started teaching IB DP Program because of the range topics I had experience in teaching throughout that same class. I believe evolutionary changes are necessary to improve individual schools and the educational system in general. Nevertheless, I think that the educational system needs stability most, only then will improvement take place within the system. Therefore, I see myself applying the “deviation amplification” (p.44 Alan Levy’s story) process or standing firm on my personal values despite managements’ expectations and values that are being enforced (John Ziwak’s story). Facing challenges According to Debra Meyerson, tempered radicals face at least four challenges: ambivalence towards issues within the organization, co-optation or conformity dilemma, damage of the reputation, frustration and burnout. Teaching has always been a stressful profession due to the tremendous responsibility taken for others’ children. It used to be a very noble profession. Many different factors have infected the educational system and how teachers are viewed, resulting in an undervalued perception of educators. Nowadays, many think that anyone can teach. Somehow, everyone is an expert in education. For profit firms come and advise how schools should be run as well as how and what teachers should teach. The same standardized test is being used for highly selective enrollment schools and schools in which social injustices are seen on a regular basis. Teachers have been fired or displaced for so called “failing schools.” Endless administrative and academic changes without follow up, and a lack of stability is the reality of today’s inner city schools. For the past seventeen years, I have been trying to separate my personal and professional lives. It has been very difficult because I always have work obligations as well as to classes that I have taken on my personal time. Talking to some of my colleagues and participating in various workshops and programs help me cope with frustration and anxiety. Learning new things and stimulating my personal growth takes my mind away from work. In addition, I try to travel, read, play Sudoku and trivia games for pleasure when time allows.