Dorit’s note: Hosting Shannon Hernandez on Giving Voice to Your Story gives voice to what I call, one of the biggest challenges facing teachers worldwide and not just in the US though the US has its own fair share of specific challenges. Shannon gives a voice to all those silenced teachers who are underpaid and overworked – one collective tribe. The biggest theme that’s coming up for me is voice.” When I worked as an EFL (English as a foreign language teacher) in Israel, I often kept silent in the company of my Israeli and native English speaking peers because I often felt I wasn’t taken seriously. I didn’t allow myself to ahve a voice because I intuitively felt that no-one would listen to me.
So it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Shannon Hernandez, a former public school teacher who has the courage of heart to write about her story – writing a memoir as a way to give voice to others.
As memoir authors, it is our hope then when we publish our books, the words are moving, and connect deeply with our readers. I remember that when I was working through the edits in my manuscript, Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher, I paid special attention to the way I used my words to carry out the two main themes of my book, as well as to invoke a sense of personal responsibility in my readers. At times, it was a daunting task, as our language plays such a key role in how others perceive our stories.
My editor was monumental in helping me stay consistent in tone throughout my heart-wrenching story of leaving the teaching profession after 15 years. To be honest, my goal was to tell the story of my final forty days as each one unfolded, and to do that with raw feelings and emotions, and vulnerability. I am happy to say, looking back, that I did do that, but what happened following my book’s publication wasn’t expected.
Teachers from across this country continue to email me, after finishing my book, and thank me for the honest truth of what was revealed on those pages. You see, teachers are in a tough place right now. Many wonderful teachers, love the work they do, but have been “beaten-down” by a system that is more focused on data and test scores, rather than students as individual, creative learners. This is heartbreaking; and to make matters worse, teachers can’t talk too much, or too openly, about their disgust, lest they be punished or fired. This is common knowledge in the teaching field, but the general public doesn’t realize just how closed-mouth we must remain to keep our jobs.
So, when I left, I decided I would speak openly about why I was leaving a career I so dearly loved, and what it took to come to terms with that, and to reinvent myself after 15 years as a teacher. I left because I never wanted to become that bitter teacher who just stayed because of the benefits or pension, so I dug my heels in deep and got to work building a business.
My book has resonated with the teaching community and created quite a movement. I am now in a position, from the “other side,” to write and speak about the problems in public education that are not best for students. I can advocate in the schools I consult with, because I don’t have to be worried about getting fired for my student-centered views. All of the emails from teachers, thanking me, commiserating with me, congratulating me, inspired me to take this message even farther.
The Transforming Public Education Podcast was born in early March. Within 4 weeks of its launch, it has hit #3 in the Kids & Family section on iTunes. This podcast is a place for teachers, parents, students, and administrators to talk openly about how they are infusing their classrooms and school buildings with more love, compassion, and gratitude on a daily basis. I believe these are three ingredients that are completely missing in public education reform. The podcast has been called “a much needed voice for education reform” and “a show that gives practical tips for teachers to find the joy of teaching once again”. These, among many other comments, make my heart sing; and show that there are many, many great things happening in public schools across this country, if only the mainstream media would choose to report on those aspects, and not the negative.
It is humbling to think that my personal story of why I had to leave education has now created a movement of teachers who are taking action, in whatever ways they can, to save our public schools, and to speak out about the many great things happening in them. This is the power of a memoir that is written from the most raw, vulnerable, heart-centered position. This is the power of words that unite and connect readers from one coast to the other. This is the power of truth.
As I prepare for the future, as a podcast host, author, and Huffington Post writer, I remember to start each day with gratitude. And after counting the many ways I am grateful, I set an intention for the day, one that will continue to inspire those invested in the public school system of this nation, so that we can work towards a better future for our youth. Our students deserve an education which is engaging and empowering, our teachers deserve to be treated with the upmost respect, and our nation deserves leaders who are critical and creative thinkers.
About M. Shannon Hernandez:
M. Shannon Hernandez is the founder of The Writing Whisperer, and her mission is to help heart-centered entrepreneurs and heart-centered authors find their brand voices, share their unique stories, gain more visibility, establish themselves as experts, and create authentic marketing messages, all through the use of smart content strategy and engaging copywriting. The Writing Whisperer was named one of Top 100 Websites for Writers by The Write Life in both 2014 and 2015, and Shannon has been featured as a content strategy and copywriting expert on many prominent podcasts and websites. She is a leading voice in the world of authentic business writing and heart-centered education reform, and she writes regularly for The Huffington Post. Shannon’s memoir, Breaking the Silence, chronicles her exit out of public education, after 15 years, and provides readers an intimate view of her journey to business ownership, finding happiness, and reinvention.
About Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher:
America’s public school system is broken and M. Shannon Hernandez knows why, firsthand. After fifteen years in the teaching profession, three gut-wrenching realizations forced her to recognize that she must leave the career she loved so dearly. She knew that if she continued to work for a failing system, she would also continue to lose a little piece of her heart and soul every day.
You are invited into Hernandez’s classroom for the final forty days of her teaching career to understand the urgent need for school reform, clearly demonstrated in each story. You’ll witness the intelligence, vulnerability, and humanity of her students, and the challenges teachers like Hernandez face as they navigate the dangerous waters between advocating for and meeting students’ needs, and disconnected education policy.
This book is not only a love letter to her students, her fellow teachers, and to the reformed public school system she envisions, but also a heartfelt message of hope, encouragement, and self-empowerment for those who feel they are stuck in soul-sucking careers. It is an essential read for each citizen who is seeking a life comprised of more purpose and happiness, as well as parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers who know our nation’s education system is in desperate need of an overhaul.
Where to purchase Breaking the Silence: My Final Forty Days as a Public School Teacher
Find Shannon online: