Thursday, December 13, 2012

Teaching: Quiet Work

The most important work a teacher does is quiet work.  Work that matters is much more than an elaborate celebration, a beautiful bulletin board, a news article or an award. The most important work is the quiet, daily coaching dedicated teachers do every day.

That work begins with observation.  The talented teacher takes time to observe.  She/he watches her students' posture, affect and activity, and responds accordingly.  If a child enters the room with shoulders drooping and teary eyes, a conversation will take the place of morning work.  The best teachers make time for student relationships and support.

Good teachers spend countless hours crafting responsive lessons to coach their students forward. That's quiet work which takes lots of time and care.  These teachers assess student work, provide feedback regularly and prioritize constantly between competing curriculum interests always choosing a child's needs first.

Since the teacher's work is mainly that of giving and not taking, it is essential that the support network surrounding teachers is strong. The teacher's job is that of everyman/everywoman--a limitless set of potential and possibility.  There is the risk for burnout and exhaustion if the support network is not there to cheer teachers on, counsel when necessary and provide the needed resources and reasonable routine.

A teacher's support network includes families, administration, colleagues and the community.  When the support community is positive, truthful and collaborative, the teacher's energy soars and the children benefit.  Sadly if members of the support network serve to undermine or challenge a teacher in unfair ways, then that teacher is less available for the children he/she serves.

As I think about the essence of a teacher's job, the quiet daily work, I wonder how I can best embrace this tempo and focus.  I also wonder about the ways in which I can better support the colleagues I work with.  I am further struck by how positive my year has been this year and the outpouring of family, administrative and collegial support I've received.

A teacher's work is quiet work, and it is in the best interests of children if society supports that work with adequate resources, a reasonable schedule and care.  Don't you agree?