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Sunday, April 02, 2017

Teaching In the Face of Impossible and Troubling Expectations

As I think deeply about how to navigate expectations that equal more than the time or energy available, I am thinking about what's most important.

Student Service and Care
When educators are given unrealistic or troubling expectations, it's possible for those educators to become anxious, worried, and upset. The educator's sense of worry arises from his/her desire to do a good job and serve all well. Yet, some who lead educators don't care about what's good or realistic, and instead just layer on the expectations without sensitivity.

In cases like this educators have to recognize the reality of the situation--no one can do the impossible. And in the face of the impossible, educators have to prioritize the good care and service to students, their families, and colleagues as the most important priority. Educators can't let unrealistic, troubling expectations hinder their ability to stay calm and serve well. I learned a long time ago from a bright colleague that sometimes you have to give expectations that don't matter only surface attention in order to check the box and better use your time and energy for meaningful, important effort and care. I have to remember that important lesson as new expectations, some valuable and some not so valuable, continue to come my way from many areas in education.

Data Collection and Analysis Scrutiny
Impossible and troubling expectations often come with data collection and analyses. It's very important for educators to meet data with scrutiny as sometimes that data is used more for marketing purposes than true educational value. When used primarily for marketing, the data is often skewed in ways that don't represent the real story. Typically educators know the real story of what is happening day in and day out since they are with the children and see the big picture with regard to the data, and with this in mind, I recognize that we have to review data carefully for truth and good intent. Further, as educational teams, we have to lobby for data transparency. Sometimes data is kept hidden from educators, but used to make decisions for them. If data is being used to discuss and decide for educators, then those educators should be able to access and analyze that data upon request.

Teacher Contribution, Honor and Respect
Many educators are disregarded in their schools and systems for many reasons. This is why it is imperative for educators to share their own good news about the work they do, the learning they engage in, and the contributions they make. For example, recently our district sent out a request for educators to share their triumphs and good work in the past year. Many educators are very humble and don't respond to requests like this, but it's important that they change this practice and highlight all the good work and effort they were involved in because when the public sees lists like this, they realize just how much commitment, care, and effort educators contribute to their systems, schools, students, and education in general. Telling the good news about our efforts and work uplifts the entire learning community. So don't be shy about sharing the good news of the work you do.

In summary, when faced with the impossible, instead of getting anxious, upset, or indignant, remember the good work you do day in and day out. Don't forget that typically those who request the impossible have lost touch with what is really happening in classrooms, and what students and teachers truly need. Further, it's okay to meet impossible tasks with surface attention, particularly if those tasks do not serve students, their families, or your colleagues and school well.

I wish I had realized this a while ago when I faced some impossible expectations. I wish I was able to say to myself, "What is being asked of me is virtually impossible at this time, and I can lessen the task to meet the expectation, but not affect the good work I'm doing right now and in the days ahead." I hope to remember this next time the impossible comes my way--onward.