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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Teaching Next Year: Stay Strong and Focused

My voice, research, creativity, and effort are not regarded well by the leadership in the system where I teach. They essentially degrade my ideas, ignore my achievements, and disrespect my efforts. This has been a long standing experience, and anyone who reads my blog knows that I've been working with administrators who do not value me for a long time.

Fortunately parents, students, and community members value me. They see my work upfront and know that I am invested in teaching students well. My family members similarly value the work I do, and support me. This is all good.

I can't continually get down by the way I'm disrespected on a daily basis, and while some advise me to leave my position, that is not a good choice at this time in my career for a number of personal and financial reasons.

So what's a teacher to do?

First, I have to distance myself from the disrespect. I have to follow the dictates of a large number of administrators, and as much as possible, going forward, I'll do what they tell me to do as long as it does not include anything that will harm a child. If their requests cross the bar of safety to children or contractual agreements, I'll seek union support.

Second, I'll work to contract. Thank goodness we have a contract that outlines our professional responsibility--I'll follow that.

Third, I'll dedicate myself to what I can do in my classroom with and for students, and I'll gain my learning and growth from my many education-related activities outside of the school as I'm a member of many teaching/learning groups.

Fortunately I work with a dynamic team and I'll continue to work with and learn from these dynamic educators. I also work with wonderful families and terrific children who are ready and willing to collaborate with regard to serving children well.

While I note injustice around me, I will not speak up about it unless it is illegal, affects human dignity or challenges safety for children or colleagues. As for all the ridiculous things that happen, I'll turn my cheek in another direction. Earlier this year, I had to speak up when our contract was illegally broken by administrators. Fortunately our union was able to confront those that broke the contract and remedy the situation.

Teaching well is challenging and rewarding work. At its best it's a team effort that's well supported by many. Unfortunately in many school systems, there is undue pressure, oppression, and quieting that occurs which keeps teachers down, limiting what we can do. I hope that families, citizens, educators, and others will advocate for more modern systems of leadership and effort--flattening the hierarchies that exist and replacing them with learning communities that value the voice and choice of all stakeholders.

In the meantime, and over the summer, I'll find some reprieve and a chance to research and study to continue honing my practice and serving students and families well on my own and with my colleagues. Onward.

Moving Beyond a Discouraging Last Day

I teach in a wonderful school. The educators give 200% in time, effort, creativity, research, and care. Our students are happy and typically skip down the halls. The parents are supportive. There's lots of smiles and cheer, deep learning, and success. It's generally a good place to teach and learn.

Yet today, on the last teacher day of school, it was very discouraging. We spent a long time talking about cabinet orders--there's been numerous emails exchanged about the cabinets. Cabinets have been proposed and denied. In the end, there is one cabinet choice that appears acceptable, and that cabinet will be filled with supplies mostly chosen by administrators. The cabinets seemingly paid for by extra dollars from the after school program will house materials for school, after school, and summer school. I estimate that there's been about 100 hours or more collectively spent on the cabinet discussion/research when in fact there's been little to no teacher voice and choice in the matter. In hindsight, it seems like the administrators should have just told teachers that they are ordering cabinets and the cabinets will be placed in our classrooms. That would have saved a lot of time and frustration.

Also, there was a discussion about the order in which to teach standards. Administration essentially told me that it's my job to follow the order directed by them. I believe in responsive teaching which means teaching the standards in ways that match the children that come to your class. I like to order the standards in meaningful, engaging, intersecting ways that build excitement and capacity for learning. But to keep my job, I have to follow the rules with no real professional voice or choice.

Further, at the end of the meeting, teachers were essentially chided. I'm not really sure what we were criticized about as I didn't understand the references made, but it wasn't a positive ending message.

This is all very disconcerting as I am a big fan of distributive leadership, flattened hierarchy, teacher leadership, learning communities, responsive teaching, and researched-based development and growth, but today it seemed so old fashion as about 50 women sat in a circle and listened to ridicule and choices made for them with little to no chance for discussion, exchange, or debate.

What's a teacher to do?

To keep my job, I'll follow the many rules and dictates set for teaching and learning, and find ways to serve and support students with as much care, creativity, and kindness as I can within the tight boundaries set. I'll continue to advocate for change in respectful ways that I can find as I continue to think that some of our mandates mirror old fashion ideas about what works in classrooms and schools rather than new research and methods for powerful, passionate teaching and learning.

I will also continue my research, create a warm and inviting classroom environment, and support my talented and dedicated colleagues who give so much of themselves each and every day to teach children well.

It's My Idea

For some, only their ideas matter.

In fact, for people like that, there's almost no use in trying to share ideas or have voice, because no matter what you say, their idea will trump.

This is problematic when people like this are leaders because that means few to no are represented in decisions, and when there is little representation, there is often little buy in or valuable success.

It is troubling to face situations like this in both small arenas and large arenas as large as a state or country.