Thursday, June 14, 2018

Bad Teacher

Yesterday I shared my feelings of exasperation with colleagues via email. There were no improper words or criticism, just my personal feelings.

I expect that I'll be chided for the share today.

Essentially I shared that I felt disrespected by an additional expectation that I didn't plan on or fully understand. I mentioned that this was disconcerting as my team had planned the end-of-year carefully only to receive this expectation which upsets the plan and will result in poor performance due to students' end-of-year mindsets and levels of exhaustion.
  • I'm sure that some will see me as the martyr trying to toot my own horn, and will further suggest that I don't do any extra work if I'm going to get upset.
  • Others will think why is she complaining as the rest of us just put up with it, do our best, and don't speak up.
  • Some will say it was my fault that I didn't infer the mandated expectation in September and June communication. 
  • More will say why does the teacher feel she has leadership over her choices as it's her job to follow, not lead. She is not the expert.
  • Few will support my feelings and most will stay clear of me today as a show of emotion is still seen as weakness by many, and the image of the good soldier remains a mainstay with regard to what is expected of the good teacher.
Of course while I believe it is honorable to be humble, persevering, stoic, and at times, obedient, I don't think that the good soldier model is a good model for teaching in the modern day. In fact, I think the good soldier model has a lot to do with the fact that most elementary school teachers are women and women are often not treated with respect everywhere in our world.

Rather than the good soldier, I prefer the following attributes of good teaching and learning:
  • Plan ahead with good lead time and communication
  • Communicate regularly, inclusively, honestly, and respectfully
  • Speak up when you see opportunity to teach better
  • Advocate for all children so every child gets what he/she needs
  • Teach with a focus on children's needs, interests, and challenges first
  • Build positive relationships
  • Flatten the hierarchy in schools
  • Most people in schools should be spending significant time-on-task with students daily
  • Elevate teacher voice, choice, and leadership
  • Limit numbers of administrators in favor of more time-on-task professionals
  • Use technology effectively to streamline onerous tasks and record keeping
  • Revisit programs and plans regularly with assessment, reflection, revision, and enrichment
  • Work for optimal collaboration with process that is honest and process that matters when it comes to teaching and learning better
  • Be careful about narrowly defining who any individual is and what he/she can do
  • Beware of hearsay, conjecture, and rumors. Instead foster honest, regular, targeted and inclusive communication
It's true I get emotional--that's who I am. When I feel that my deep work has been disrespected or destroyed, I become upset. This has happened a lot to me. For example I spent countless hours perfecting the use of a good tech program, a program that resulted in students acing a test that is valued by administrators only to be told that I can't use the program. I spent hours crafting an end-of-year program that's engaging only to receive word that I have to change plans to include an unexpected task. I forwarded countless ideas to improve my classroom only to hear that there was only one choice for change at one point. At times there seems like there are more roadblocks than supports, however there have been supports too such as the support to teach in a shared model which is the most powerful model of teaching and learning I've experienced in my career.

That deep emotion that irritates my administrators is the same emotion that helps me to teach well and create good projects that engage and excite students. There's little to no time during the school day to build good programs and improve your craft--that all happens on a teachers' personal time, and that is fueled by passion and emotion. Some feel it is not the teacher's job to think, research, plan, or create. I believe those that believe that are misguided as my research shows me that when teachers are leaders, their students do better. Even the Massachusetts Commissioner of Education recently shared his efforts to reduce administration and increase teacher leadership to improve students' experience of school in the system where he last worked. He further went on to say that he supports teacher leadership. Similarly teacher leadership is supported in the latest research as is flattening the hierarchy of organizations with greater distributive leadership, a kind of leadership that supports autonomy, mastery, and purpose for professionals rather than top-down directives that strip employees of their passion, knowledge, and drive. 

I don't want to be a bad teacher. I don't want to be an anchor with regard to my colleagues' good efforts and clear thinking. But I also don't want to be chastised for being a caring teacher who believes my professional experience and efforts deserve the right to receive good communication, make decisions, and lead my professional work on my own and in conjunction with others. Onward.