Monday, October 24, 2016

Compliance and Thirty-One Years of Teaching

It would make me so happy to see ECET2 ingredients
a part of every professional learning effort.

Over the the past thirty-one years like most veteran teachers, I have devoted multiple hours to reading and studying about good teaching. I truly enjoy the challenge to think about this, employ strategies, synthesize what I learn, and teach well.

Recently the topic of "compliance" has come up. In many areas of teaching there are tight protocols for the time, order, and topics to teach. Unlike the standards that serve as meaningful goals and are meant to be used by experienced teachers to teach in student-centered ways, some of the protocols I'm ordered to follow are extremely tight and don't always represent the research and reading I've done and the experiences I've had over the past thirty-one years. This situation puts a veteran teacher in a tough spot. While I want to be compliant to school/system rules and protocols, I also want to teach well.

I often reach out with questions that go unanswered, and I seek dialogue about the issues I face--issues of rules that don't match up with the study I've done. It's truly a situation of being put "between a rock and a hard place." Several years ago when I came up against an issue like this I got so frustrated that I raised my voice in advocacy for programs and protocols that I had read about to serve children well. That led to severe consequences that cost me extra dollars and considerable years of stress. I know it's wrong to raise your voice in the work place, but I also know that it's necessary to have dialogue, advocate, ask questions, and collaborate to do good work. Again that space "between a rock and a hard place."

So what's a teacher to do. I don't want to lose my job and I want to teach well. If I don't comply, I'll lose my job as I have been told to follow the tight protocols set--protocols that don't match up with research I've done, but protocols that I can follow without any great personal harm to children so I can do it and it's worth it to my family to do this.

It's discouraging to be in this place as I truly believe in the strength of collaborative teams, distributive leadership, and voice and choice in educational settings. I am a strong advocate for teacher leadership too. I am a fan  of collaboration over compliance, but to keep my job, compliance comes first.

I will continue to think about ways to make this work well. This always happens after great professional learning experiences. I go out and learn a lot about how to teach well, and then I come back where the new ideas are often not embraced. That's true for many educators. It's the landscape many of us work in, a landscape unlike what this week's ECET2-MA2016 is based on.

If you've got advice for a discouraged teacher like me, please send it my way. In the meantime, I'll try to figure out a way to make space "between that rock and a hard place" for promising collaboration that helps every educator to work together with respect and honor to teach well. Onward.