03 April 2020

The I Is Silent

I have blogged before about my absolute hatred of the word team, but today's tweet (full list here) is yet another reminder:

A few weeks after this tweet, I wrote

Which brings me to my current thinking about the word "team" as it applies to the educational workplace. As I've mentioned here before, I find its use somewhat offensive. I'm a person—not a thing—I don't want to be referred to as a collective noun. More importantly is the association of the word "team" with "competition." Education is not a game. We are not out to beat anybody and run up the score. We are here to do the best we can for each child. Meanwhile, "team" implies that there is a "captain" who gets to do as they please while the rest of the group works to satisfy his/her goals—rather than goals in common for student ends. Education is about collaborative action on behalf of a student. A collaborative effort means that everyone's voice is important and each person brings value to the discussion. In a team, one person's voice will always be important and the rest only have value inasmuch as they agree with that person and or can do the specific work s/he wants.

And I have to say that I have not changed my mind in the intervening years. This word grates on my nerves more than any other. I have noticed that I hear it most often from the men in my orbit to reinforce their bro culture. I keep tally marks at meetings of how often my humanity is erased...how the word only adds to the sense of being owned and used.

Until recently, I thought that maybe I was the only one who didn't like the word. As it turns out, I am not.


In addition to this tweet I saw last year, I discovered that the wife of one of my co-workers is also not a fan and finds it incredibly demeaning. While it is not specifically referred to in Kate Manne's Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, the word is noticeably absent and she does write about how these sorts of terms can be misogynistic. (My book is at the office...but I will try to remember to get it the next time I stop by.)

I know that stomping out this term isn't a battle I'm going to win. There are plenty of people for whom it's not an issue. But I hope that more and more, we continue to be mindful of our language and its impact on others...that we look at it to see who it benefits...and remember that we are people-first.

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