Google+ Badge

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Do What You Can: Ally with Energizing Individuals and Groups

Yesterday I was caught by surprise. I had offered my idea happily only to be told it was not welcome. I forgot that there will always be people, places, and groups that don't welcome who you are or what you think or know. That's the way life is.

You can give these arenas good effort, rationale, and outreach, but after consistent pushback, you may decide that it's just not worth the time or effort to share your thinking in these arenas, and better to just do as you are directed as long as those directions do not hurt or harm people. Last year a colleague shared this thinking with me after she had been chided for sharing her ideas in the same arena. I countered with words like this, "How can you not speak up. You're a great teacher with so much knowledge--you've done such great work for so long." I was sad to see such a talented colleague demeaned and quieted--it was a loss for all of us not to be able to hear her voice and listen to her good ideas and experience.

The quandary that exists is that it is hard for me to imagine why others wouldn't want to entertain ideas for betterment or discuss what a classroom teacher knows and desires for his/her classroom and learning environment to better the experience of school for children. There are some, however, that I fear see classroom teachers more as "robots" or "do-its," not professional educators who have and continue to spend considerable time reading, researching, and reflecting about practice. As you know, one reason I'm a big fan of distributive leadership models is that those models give voice and choice to educators on the front lines of teaching rather than treat educators as the assembly line workers who are told what to do and are not allowed to think or use their own ideas and knowledge.

That being said, the lack of voice and choice does continue in pockets of education everywhere, and when possible, one needs to minimize the connections to those arenas as it's very difficult for educators to do their jobs well with little voice and choice--that's not how true learning and teaching works. True, effective teaching and learning is not a passive activity, instead it's an active, thoughtful, and evolving endeavor where educators collaborate, read, research, reflect, implement, and adapt countless ideas, knowledge, and response to best teach every child in their charge--this is the good teaching work I am committed to.

I am disheartened by old factory models of educational leadership and work--the kinds of models that don't regard educators with respect, good communication, debate/discussion, and care. Fortunately I also work in multiple arenas where educators are respected and work with terrific collegiality--these are the arenas that nurture terrific teaching and learning work and practice. These are the arenas where our service to children grows exponentially as we are seldom worried, demeaned, or unheard, but instead mostly valued and listened to as we work together to elevate what we can do with and for others. This is real teaching at its best. The new shared model I work in is an example of a teaching/learning arena like this--what we're able to do with this model is incredible and growing all the time.

I see setbacks like the recent surprise as a reminder that it is important to ally oneself to those that empower and energize the good work possible and steer clear as much as possible from those that continually demean, disrespect, and disregard you--those that rarely answer an email, don't enlist your thinking about decisions that impact you, withhold important information, and look down on you regularly.

Our detractors, when considered well, can serve as the sandpaper that refine our edges. They can also lead to our demise if we are not observant and thoughtful about how we handle their response to our words and acts. It's best to keep track of what happens in writing in order to understand and also to be able to represent one's rights if needed.